We’re a week removed from the annual NFL draft, when teams turn to the college rank of players as a cheap and effective way to bolster their rosters for 2018 and beyond. While it is an exercise in futility to assign draft grades this early in their tenure with their new teams, it’s not too early to analyze the Buffalo Bills picks and look for selections that can be deemed a value pick or a reach.
For the sake of this article, I am going to exclude quarterback Josh Allen, Buffalo’s quarterback of the future taken with the No. 7 overall pick, from being either a reach or a value pick.
In this writer’s humble opinion, Allen would fall under the reach category since quarterbacks are always taken higher than their overall ranking heading into the draft (although in his final top 100 prospect ranking, respected NFL analyst Mike Mayock had Allen as the No. 9 overall prospect).
If Allen becomes the next franchise quarterback in Buffalo, the draft picks the Bills surrendered to select a quarterback with a top 10 pick will all be worth the cost. If he flames out, it could cost general manager Brandon Beane his job.
Instead, let’s take a look at Buffalo’s other draft picks to identify the best value pick and the best reach.
Best value pick: OG Wyatt Teller, guard, Virginia Tech
Fifth round, No. 166
The Bills have plenty of holes along the offensive line with the departures of center Eric Wood, left guard Richie Incognito, and left tackle Cordy Glenn. The selection of Teller should alleviate some of the sting of those losses.
Teller immediately improves the depth of the offensive line, and has proven himself to be a valuable contributor in both run blocking and pass protection.
Teller, a mountain of a main at 6-foot-5, 311 pounds, earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl after performing at an above-average level on the line for the Hokies. The converted defensive lineman/offensive tackle was one of the best Division I guards during his time at Virginia Tech, ranking ninth in both run blocking and pass blocking in rankings released by Pro Football Focus.
Several scouting services, like including Pro Football Focus, Inside the Pylon, and Optimum Scouting, feel the Bills got themselves a heck of a steal in Teller, who excels at pushing his man off the line of scrimmage thanks to his physical, bury-you attitude. For a fifth-round selection, Teller has a high ceiling at a position of need.
Bonus value pick: WR Ray-Ray McCloud, Clemson
Sixth round, No. 187
While Scouts, Inc. ranked McCloud as the 291st overall prospect, I am higher on McCloud than most. He is a dangerous threat in the return game, averaging nearly 32 yards per kickoff return, and 12 yards per punt return, ranking seventh in all of Division I in punt return average.
McCloud can hold his own in the receiving game, too, hauling in 49 receptions for 503 yards and one TD as a receiver. A speedster who ran a 4.53 40, McCloud led all of Division I receivers (who declared for the draft) in the most receptions without a dropped pass.
Biggest reach pick: Siran Neal, safety, Jacksonville State
Fifth round, No. 154.
Neal is a versatile safety who can play a physical style of defense, but he also comes from an unheralded school and needs to prove he can hold his own in pass coverage, an area he struggled in after transitioning from linebacker to safety.
Another player who was invited to Senior Bowl, Neal was twice named All-Ohio Valley Conference for his play in the secondary, accumulating 80 tackles during his career. He also led his team with 11 passes defended in coverage.
Neal is a versatile player who can add much-needed depth to the secondary. I’m just convinced Buffalo could have waited and nabbed him later in the draft instead of selecting him in the fifth round when there were greater needs to address (wide receiver, right guard, right tackle).