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Buffalo Bills look to Senior Bowl for 2017, 2018 NFL Draft picks

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The Bills have drafted many former Senior Bowl participants the last two years.

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane have made it clear they prefer to draft disciplined, mature players since coming to the team in early 2017. Of the Bills’ 14 draft picks over the past two years, nine of them have participated in the Reese’s Senior Bowl, a game designed to showcase the nation’s top collegiate seniors (or fourth-year juniors).

In addition to being some of the most athletically gifted players in the nation, invitees must exemplify a certain amount of levelheadedness and determination, two traits necessary to graduate from a four-year institution while playing a Division I sport. It comes as no surprise then that Beane and McDermott have consistently used this game to identify potential fits for the Bills’ roster. Here are the players drafted by the Bills who’ve also participated in the 2017 or 2018 Senior Bowls:

Senior Bowl 2017

Nathan Peterman, QB - Pittsburgh
Zay Jones, WR - East Carolina
Dion Dawkins, OG - Temple
Tre’Davious White, CB - LSU

The Bills struck gold when they drafted rookie standout Tre White 27th overall last year. White, who was the valedictorian of his class at Green Oaks High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, was selected as Pro Football Focus’ rookie of the year, was runner up for the Associated Press’ Defensive Rookie of the Year, and was ESPN’s AFC East rookie of the year.

Dion Dawkins ended up being a solid contributor on the offensive line after starting 11 games, and he will likely see more playing time this upcoming year given the departures of Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, and Eric Wood in the offseason. WR Zay Jones and QB Nathan Peterman struggled in their rookie seasons, but they have plenty of room to grow. Jones in particular will aim for an expanded role in the offense this year given the additions of two new quarterbacks and an offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll.

Senior Bowl 2018

Josh Allen, QB - Wyoming
Wyatt Teller, OG - Virginia Tech
Harrison Phillips, DT - Stanford
Taron Johnson, CB - Weber State
Siran Neal, CB - Jacksonville State

Allen, the most notable participant of the Bills’ draft picks, had to pester Division I programs with emails containing his junior college game film until eventually only Wyoming and Eastern Michigan offered him scholarships. It’s likely that his blue collar background and determination (as well as his rocket arm) appealed to Beane and McDermott who are trying to build a team culture around such characteristics.

Additionally, Nebraska native Harrison Phillips, who was taken 96th overall in the 3rd round, has a background attractive to the duo. A double major in Sociology & Science and Technology & Society at Stanford, Phillips was one of 11 players selected to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team. The award is given to players nominated by their respective teams who demonstrate selflessness through volunteerism in their communities.

Wyatt Teller, Taron Johnson, and Siran Neal were also standouts for their college teams and remained in good standing through their senior seasons. It remains to be seen, however, whether any of the players mentioned above will end up being long-term assets for the Bills.