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Options for replacing Buffalo Bills free agent cornerback E.J. Gaines in the 2018 NFL Draft

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If the Bills and free agent CB EJ Gaines part ways, the team may look to one of the players below to fill the void

After being considered an afterthought/throw-in when the Buffalo Bills traded Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams, E.J. Gaines put together an above-average season despite limited playing time due to various nagging injuries. In spite of those injuries, Gaines has likely earned himself a decent raise, a raise Bills general manager Brandon Beane may balk at giving to the scheme-limited corner. If the Bills choose to let Gaines walk, they will find themselves in the market for a No. 2 corner and could look to expend some of their draft capital on a young talent.

This year’s cornerback crop lacks top-end talent, but it is unquestionably deep. There will be some serious talent at the position available on Day 3 of the draft. Below are some of the cornerbacks the Bills could have their eyes on in late April.

Tier I

Denzel Ward, Ohio State
Mike Hughes, UCF
Josh Jackson, Iowa

With a physical, tough demeanor and blazing speed, Denzel Ward will be able to handle man-to-man coverage in the NFL. At only 5’10”, he can be outmuscled at the catch point by taller receivers. Although he flashes some very sloppy footwork on tape, you have to like Mike Hughes’ upside and the energy he brings to the field. Jackson has the size and ball skills you want in a corner, but he’s much better when he can keep his eyes on the quarterback instead of when his back is to the ball.

Tier II

Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
Jaire Alexander, Louisville
Carlton Davis, Auburn
Anthony Averett, Alabama

Oliver lacks some necessary short-area quickness, but may be the most well-rounded corner prospect listed here. Despite an injury-plagued year, Alexander still flashed elite instincts and awareness for the position but does tend to get caught guessing a couple of times a game though. Davis is a press-coverage specialist; if he can get his hands on a receiver, he won’t get beat. Averett reminds some of Tre’Davious White with his loose hips and mirror-skills, but his awareness in zone is lacking and he may become a full-time slot corner in the NFL.

Tier III

Holton Hill, Texas
Kevin Toliver, LSU
Donte Jackson, LSU
Duke Dawson, Florida
Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
MJ Stewart, UNC

Both Hill and Toliver have prototypical size and speed, but off-field antics will cause them to drop in the draft. Jackson will likely be a combine star and could rise up draft boards as a result. Dawson isn’t going to wow anyone with his athleticism but he’s a scrappy player with a ton of experience. Like a couple of the players listed in the higher tiers, McFadden is a press specialist. Unlike Carlton Davis though, he lacks the strength necessary to hold his ground against bigger receivers. Slow, flat feet and a lack of deep speed may push MJ Stewart to become a safety at the next level.