This will be Brandon Beane’s first full offseason as the Buffalo Bills general manager. By now, astute Bills fans should know that Beane has shown zero loyalty to Doug Whaley acquisitions. While a player like Jerry Hughes has a history of production, the team could easily decide this offseason that he is not earning his contract and either cut him or ship him off via trade, replacing him with a younger, cheaper option through the draft. If that scenario comes to pass, here are some prospects, divided into tiers, that the team will likely be evaluating as the pass-rushing heir to Hughes.
Bradley Chubb, NC State
Harold Landry, Boston College
Arden Key, LSU
These three all offer first-round talent at the position. Chubb and Key are athletic specimens that offer the versatility to line up in a three-point or two-point stance. Landry is the quintessential speedy edge-bender; able to quickly burst off the line, get low, and tackle the quarterback in less than 2.5 seconds. While these three will likely cost a first round pick, they would be able to start immediately and provide the Bills with a long-term foundational piece for the defense.
Marcus Davenport, UTSA
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest
Dorance Armstrong, Kansas
Josh Sweat, FSU
The second tier is made up of prospects that aren’t ready to be the top pass rushers on the team, but should be able to contribute their rookie year. Some are athletic specimens that are going to test off the charts (Sweat, Davenport). Others are pro-ready technicians that can get to the quarterback with more than just speed or strength (Hubbard, Armstrong). There’s a chance that a couple of them make it into the first round, but it’s more likely they are chosen on the second day of the draft.
Chad Thomas, Miami
Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State
Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
Kentavius Street, NC State
Travon Hill, Virginia Tech
Third-tier prospects all come with some sort of flaw. Some aren’t the twitchy type of athlete you want at the position (Lewis, Thomas). Others are your classic tweeners: too small to play defensive tackle full-time but don’t necessarily have the body type to be defensive ends (Lewis, Mata’afa). Regardless, they have a history of production and can likely be had on the third day of the draft. These players would likely compete with veterans Eddie Yarbrough or Ryan Davis to start at the position and would become part of a healthy rotation.
- Hughes’ 2017 season successful beyond stats
- Salary cap ramifications of releasing Jerry Hughes
- No Bills are ready to step into Hughes’ pass rushing shoes
- Intriguing free agent options to replace Jerry Hughes
- State of the Bills roster: defensive end steady but needs 2018 upgrade
- Where did the Bills’ pass rush go in 2017?