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Hypothetical Buffalo Bills “protected players” list

Borrowing from the NHL ahead of its expansion draft, let’s create a hypothetical, and pick the Bills “protected players” list.

On Sunday, NHL teams released their lists of “protected players” who won’t be in the expansion draft for the Las Vegas Knights to potentially select.

Just for fun, let’s imagine there was an expansion team coming into the NFL this season, and the league used the same rules as its hockey brethren.

Here are the guidelines from

“Each team had the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. All players with continuing and effective no-movement clauses had to be protected. All first- and second-year professionals are exempt from selection, as are unsigned draft choices.

Of the 48 players currently in the Sabres system, Buffalo protected 11, which equates to 22.9%.

With 90 players on the Bills roster right now, protecting 21 of them (right around 23%) would be easy. Instead, let’s use that same percentage and the above guidelines from Buffalo’s (likely) 53-man roster to make 12 “protected player” selections:

(Edit: Initially, John Miller and Ronald Darby were “protected.” But based on the NHL rules, as players with just two accrued seasons, they'd be exempt. Therefore, 2015, 2016, and 2017 draft picks are exempt and don't need to be “protected.)

  • Sammy Watkins
  • Tyrod Taylor
  • LeSean McCoy
  • Marcell Dareus
  • Cordy Glenn
  • Charles Clay
  • Andre Holmes
  • Eric Wood
  • Jerel Worthy
  • Gerald Hodges
  • Micah Hyde
  • Jerry Hughes

This was considerably more difficult than I originally expected. Yes, there were obvious players that were typed instantly, but the last few picks were tough.

Kyle Williams is one of Buffalo’s best defenders but just turned 34. Richie Incognito was kept off the list for a similar, age-related reason despite his standing as a stud offensive lineman.

Jerry Hughes is just entering the twilight of his career — he turns 29 in August — but is an ideal fit in a 4-3 defense. It’s not crazy to assume he can have 2-3 more highly productive seasons, and the Bills are relatively thin at edge-rusher.

As you know by now, I prefer “big” receivers, and place a relatively high emphasis on athleticism in initial play evaluation — which is why you see Andre Holmes on the list. Also, in today’s NFL, a bevy of pass-catchers are almost a necessity for offenses of any kind to succeed.

Picking between Preston Brown and Gerald Hodges was the most challenging, and I’ll admit, my selection is risky.

Brown did have a fine 2014 in a 4-3 defense — which I recently wrote bodes well for his 2017 campaign — but I think Hodges is better suited to be Buffalo’s run-and-chase linebacker this season, and he’s only 26 years old. Brown very well could rebound this year from back-to-back poor seasons. Hodges hasn’t been relied upon for as many snaps as his new teammate in the past... however, he had a much better 2016, so I wouldn’t have to ask for much improvement. That’s not the case with Brown.

The Eric Wood - Ryan Groy decision wasn’t a breeze either. Groy is younger, and isn’t coming off a broken leg. Wood is somewhat of a liability on “power” plays, but he thrives on the run. The former first-round pick routinely gets to the second level quickly, and is accurate locating and latching onto linebackers and defensive backs, not a simple task for interior offensive linemen. That’s how he’s been for years. Groy is effective on plays that involve his sturdy anchor or strength at the point of attack, yet he’s not nimble to the second level nor is he refined when asked to block beyond the line of scrimmage.

Wood’s a better fit for Buffalo’s new zone-blocking scheme.

Worthy is the big surprise here, but he was tremendous in his minimal playing time a season ago, is a perfect fit in McDermott’s system, and I prioritize defensive linemen over secondary members. Worthy is primed for a productive 2017.

So who would make up your “protected players” list for the Bills? Leave a comment below or tweet at us @BuffRumblings.