The Buffalo Bills have made it through the first half of their season, currently positioned to be playoff contenders if they keep their current pace. Quarterback no longer looks like a dire need for this team, as Tyrod Taylor has settled into his new offense, and the Bills have mostly played their way out of position to draft one of the top names. So who could the Bills take with their picks?
As alumni of the Carolina Panthers franchise, both McDermott and Beane are familiar with the cliché of building in the trenches. Beane was promoted to Director of Football Operations in 2008, and was Assistant General Manager from 2015 through his Bills hiring in 2017. The Panthers had 19 first- and second-round picks in that span, and spent eight of them on offensive and defensive linemen. While McDermott was coaching the team, that proportion was even higher: five out of eleven.
In McDermott’s first draft with the team, shared with lame-duck GM Doug Whaley, the team showed brand new preferences: experience (every draft pick was a senior, and most had started for multiple full seasons in college) and character (first round pick Tre’davious White was his high school valedictorian, Nate Peterman was working with charities while in college). Elite athleticism or program pedigree wasn’t the differentiator it had been for years under Whaley. We can debate about how much of the draft was controlled by Buffalo’s new head coach, but if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
That’s the prototype we’re looking for in this draft - experienced starters who love the game of football and don’t have issues with motivation or off-field distractions.
Round 1: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Kyle Williams will be the heart and soul of the Buffalo Bills as long as his body can continue playing football, but it’s time for the Bills to start thinking about the future. Jerel Worthy is a solid backup piece for the team, but at the halfway point of the season, the Bills have only seen three sacks and six tackles for loss come from their defensive tackles. They need a one-technique (though ideally Adolphus Washington can continue to grow into that Marcus Stroud-type role), but the more crucial need is a pass rushing three-technique tackle.
Hurst is a first round talent, but he may end up overlooked because of his size: six-foot-two but “only” 280 pounds. He’s been a rotational player at Michigan for three years before claiming a full starting role this season, but at this point in his career he’s still racked up 30 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. This draft doesn’t look like it’ll have many great pass rushing defensive tackles, but Hurst could be McDermott’s new Kawann Short.
Round 1: Billy Price, OL, Ohio State
This year, 41 offensive linemen have started games at age 30 or older. The Bills have three of those, all on the interior offensive line: 34-year-old Richie Incognito, 31-year-old Eric Wood, and 30-year-old Vladimir Ducasse. Incognito’s contract expires after the 2018 season, and the other two are signed through 2019. With Buffalo’s line struggling to block on the move, and third-year pro John Miller relegated to the bench, the Bills could use an infusion of young talent on the offensive interior.
Enter the 6’4”, 312-pound Price. He’s a redshirt senior who will break the Ohio State school record for starts and consecutive starts this weekend with his 51st appearance. Price has played both left and right guard (mostly left guard) for the Buckeyes, but switched to center as a senior to cover up a weakness on their offensive line (as well as follow in the footsteps of Pat Elflein, who showed off his versatility by doing the same thing last year).
Before long, the Bills will need three new starting offensive linemen. Price could be any of them, and he could start immediately as a rookie.
Round 2: Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
Jewell is the prototypical McDermott-Beane player. He’s set to pass 400 career tackles before the end of his senior season, and he can help in multiple avenues; 7.5 career sacks, 24 career tackles for loss, five career interceptions, and twenty career pass breakups. The 6’1”, 230-pounder may not run a 4.50 forty-yard dash in February (he’s projected closer to a 4.78), but he’s the type of smart, productive, capable leader that fits Buffalo’s #process to a T. Preston Brown and Ramon Humber are set to be free agents, and Lorenzo Alexander is the oldest player on this team. The Bills need to replace these players, and Jewell can be a day one starter.
Round 2: David Sills V, WR, West Virginia
In a story like something from a sports movie; Sills was offered a USC scholarship as a quarterback at the tender age of 13 years old. Coach Lane Kiffin ended up leaving the school before long, forcing the Maryland native to look elsewhere. As a true freshman at West Virginia in 2015, he wanted to play quarterback, but was pressed into receiver duty by injuries at the position. He transferred to a junior college in 2016 to pursue his dream as a passer, but when most teams weren’t interested in giving him an offer, he decided that fate wanted him to return back to the Mountaineers.
Sills has flourished since dedicating himself full time to the new position. He leads the nation with 16 receiving touchdowns, a market share of over 50 percent of his team’s receiving touchdowns. Sills has great body control and raw athletic talent, and his quarterback mindset helps him connect with the player throwing the ball.
With only a year and change of receiving film, Sills may want to return for another year of seasoning, but if he keeps his current pace, he’ll have plenty of calls to declare for the draft. He may not have the full resumé that Beane and McDermott look for, but his selfless mentality (and impressive size) will make him a desirable addition to Buffalo’s receiving corps, especially if Jordan Matthews departs in free agency.