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2016 NFL mock draft: Reggie Ragland to Buffalo Bills

Is Ragland the type of linebacker that Rex Ryan needs in Buffalo?

Just a few minutes ago, our Buffalo Bills selection in the 2016 NFL mock draft put together by the NFL bloggers of SB Nation published. With the No. 19 overall pick in the first round, we took Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland.

The official announcement post is right here, where you can cast your approval vote (or lack thereof) on the selection, comment with some fans of other NFL teams, and read the top-level explanation for why Dan Lavoie and I decided on Ragland over some other available names.

Who was on our short list?

Dan and I didn't start thinking about who we might pick until the No. 10 overall pick had been made, at which point we put together a list of nine names - knowing that we'd end up with one of them.

You can see the Top 10 picks here, but to quickly recap: quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, running back Ezekiel Elliott, offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ronnie Stanley, defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, pass rushers Joey Bosa and Noah Spence, linebacker Myles Jack, and defensive back Jalen Ramsey were all off the board.

The nine names on the short list that Dan and I put together for our Bills pick were, in no particular order: wide receiver Josh Doctson, offensive tackle Jack Conklin, defensive linemen Sheldon Rankins and Vernon Butler, pass rusher Shaq Lawson, linebackers Ragland and Leonard Floyd, and cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander and Vernon Hargreaves.

No, we did not seriously consider drafting a quarterback. Feel free to single me out if you want to rib anyone for that in the comments section, because I feel like Dan would've been more open to the idea than I was. (They're not going to take a quarterback in Round 1, y'all.)

By the time pick No. 18 was off the board, Conklin, Lawson, Hargreaves, and Alexander had been selected by bloggers in front of us. We had also eliminated Doctson and Floyd as serious contenders for the pick. That left us to decide between Ragland, Rankins, and Butler.

Why not [this other guy]?

We've covered the quarterback thing.

Wideout was considered - Doctson would have been the front-runner there - but it felt a bit too luxurious for a team that has major concerns on the defensive side of the ball.

Conklin would have been mighty tempting had he fallen; no other available offensive lineman was seriously considered.

Jarran Reed was exempted from our short list because of his limitations as a pass rusher. He'd be a two-down guy for Rex Ryan, and the Bills won't draft two-down guys this early.

Dan and I are both cool on Darron Lee, who is more athlete than linebacker right now, and who still needs time to further grow into that position. It also felt a bit too early for Su'a Cravens, who would be able to play right away in the Ryan defense, but is a more limited prospect than others.

Okay, so why Ragland over Rankins/Butler?

The depth of the defensive line class was certainly a factor, at least in my mind. Rankins and Butler are both excellent prospects; if we hadn't taken Ragland, we'd have taken Rankins, who checks all of the Bills' boxes and, frankly, might hold more appeal to the actual guys pulling the trigger on this pick.

Need, however, won out. The Bills are in terrible shape at linebacker, where the only returning starter, Preston Brown, has been called out multiple times by his own head coach this offseason.

Most importantly, Buffalo lacks identity on that side of the ball. Ragland appealed to us because he not only fills a need with a quality, pro-ready prospect, but he also supplies identity. He sets a tone. Ragland is a throwback player, highly physical in how he approaches the sport, and Buffalo badly needs that type of presence somewhere in their lineup.

Yes, Ragland has shortcomings. He is not a quick-twitch athlete, which is why many people prefer the likes of Lee and Cravens to Ragland. But let's not short-change the athletic traits that Ragland does offer; he has above-average lateral range and enough speed to survive in the league. He can run with backs and tight ends, even while he may struggle to stop them in base. He's also assignment-sound in his drops, despite lacking the quicks to make plays on the ball in those situations.

Ragland is a force against the run; people ding Ryan's 2015 Bills defense for their inability to rush the passer, but they also noticeably slipped against the run, giving up 4.4 yards per carry last year compared to 4.1 the year prior. Ragland addresses that shortcoming. Don't forget about his rush ability, either; Ragland is a quality blitzer with some genuine ability to rush off of the edge. However you interpret his coverage ability, Ragland still offers versatility as a prospect, and we all know how highly Ryan values versatility.


That's why we went with Ragland. He's a flawed prospect, but he brings a lot to the table, and he's an instant starter at arguably the Bills' biggest positional need entering the draft. Dan and I think we made a sensible pick. How about you?