Each year, NFL teams select a new crop of talented young players in the NFL Draft. The Buffalo Bills added eightt players over the draft’s seven rounds. With each new year, rookies add competition at positions of need, and sometimes even add competition at positions that were already considered to be areas of strength.
The Bills selected a quarterback, a linebacker, a defensive tackle, a cornerback, a hybrid safety/corner, a guard, and two wide receivers in the 2018 NFL Draft. While it’s true that not all of those draft choices will make the final roster, this is the first draft overseen by general manager Brandon Beane, who has done a lot of work to ensure that the roster is shaped in the way he and head coach Sean McDermott see fit.
Some of the team’s new faces may help the team to send familiar players packing, while others will serve as training camp competition only. Here are a few players who we think are in the greatest danger of losing their spot on the roster after the draft.
DT Adolphus Washington
The Bills added the talented Harrison Phillips from Stanford in the third round of the draft. He is known as a high-motor player who has the ability to plug gaps and shut down running lanes. He led the Cardinal in tackles last season with 103, an amazing feat for a defensive tackle. While his ability as a pass rusher is seen as a weakness, he did have 7.5 sacks last season, and he also had 7 the year prior.
Phillips and Washington are two different types of defensive tackles, as Washington is more a gap-penetrator, with Phillips serving as a gap-plugger, but the 4-3 scheme run by McDermott tends to favor the latter over the former. With a rotation expected to be topped by free agent acquisition Star Lotululei and Buffalo stalwart Kyle Williams, it’s reasonable to assume that Phillips will be the first defensive tackle in a reserve role. That leaves Washington fighting with veteran Tenny Palepoi, acquired as a free agent last month, and Rickey Hatley, who was with the Bills last season in a reserve role.
While Washington may have more raw talent than Palepoi and Hatley, it’s not a stretch to see Beane and McDermott jettisoning the former Doug Whaley draft choice in favor of a player hand-picked for their scheme.
John Miller/Vlad Ducasse
With guard Wyatt Teller, the Bills added to a “meh” group of interior offensive linemen. If the Virginia Tech mauler with a mean streak can acclimate quickly to the NFL game, it’s feasible that he will replace one of the aforementioned veterans. The roster at buffalobills.com currently lists Ryan Groy as a guard, not a center, though it is possible that he will battle Russell Bodine for the starting gig at the pivot. If he wins the starting job, Bodine probably makes the roster as the backup center, which would mean that Miller, Ducasse, and Teller all would be good bets to make the final 53.
However, if Bodine wins the job and Groy is once again relegated to backup duty, his versatility allows the coaching staff to carry one less interior offensive lineman. That could put the loser of a Teller/Miller battle (or a Teller/Ducasse battle, or a Ducasse/Miller battle) in jeopardy of losing his roster spot.
[Insert fringe wide receiver here]
The top three on the depth chart seems to be relatively set, with Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, and Jeremy Kerley leading a subpar group overall. Andre Holmes is a fairly safe bet to make the roster as the fourth receiver due to his special teams ability, leaving the Bills with either one or two remaining spots. Rod Streater, Kaelin Clay, Quan Bray, Malachi Dupre, and Brandon Reilly make up the remainder of the holdovers in the receiving corps.
The Bills spent a sixth round selection on Clemson return man Ray-Ray McCloud, and then doubled up at wide receiver when they drafted North Carolina’s Austin Proehl, son of former NFL wide receiver Ricky Proehl, in round seven. If either McCloud or Proehl (or both, potentially) shines in training camp and the preseason, it reduces the chances for a player like Reilly making the roster.