Following a trade up for Josh Allen that expunged Buffalo’s second round picks, many (including the team) assumed that the Buffalo Bills would sit tight at the 22nd overall selection in the draft. But when a player who was too good to ignore began to slip, the team negotiated a deal to move up six slots and select one of the premier linebackers in the draft, Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds. What made Edmunds too good to pass on? Here’s the scouting report.
Edmunds is the second-youngest player to have been drafted since 1967, joining Amobi Okoye in the 19-year-old club. Both he and his older brother Terrell skipped a grade in high school, so despite his youth Edmunds counted as a junior when he declared for the draft. All three of the brothers in the Edmunds family went to Virginia Tech, about three hours away from their hometown of Danville, VA. He was a three-star recruit out of high school.
As a freshman, Edmunds was a core special teamer and backup linebacker, but he broke out in 2016 as a full-time starter. He logged 106 tackles, 18.5 for a loss, and also recorded an interception and a forced fumble. He built upon that season in 2017, with 109 tackles, 14.5 for a loss. Edmunds was named first-team All-ACC, third-team All-American, and a Butkus Award finalist following his junior season.
Edmunds is a physical freak. He was was used as a slot defender against big receivers. He would run down opponents from behind as the backside defender against the run. He could track down an outside run to the sideline and make the tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He has great tackling form, thanks in part to his long arms. He effectively wraps up opponents with little room for error.
Edmunds showed a strong aptitude for learning. Mental mistakes were peppered throughout his tape, but he’d fix them before the game was over. He’d zero-in on the ballcarrier and miss a throwback coming open, and next time he saw the look he’d stay home.
Edmunds learns quickly, but he’s aggressive and prone to overrunning plays. Play action draws him into the fray, opening up the middle of the field. This goes along with the aforementioned mental mistakes - he’d gloss over misdirection and end up out of position.
While he looks very similar to a college pass rushing monster in Anthony Barr, Edmunds is surprisingly ineffective blitzing off the edge as a pass rusher. He struggles to escape from blocks and get to the quarterback.
The Bills went into the offseason with a gaping hole at middle linebacker. Sean McDermott’s defense was crying for an athletic, hard-hitting leader to measure up to the standard set by Luke Kuechly. With a little seasoning, they’ll have him in Edmunds. He’s huge, strong enough to take on offensive linemen, fast enough to run sideline-to-sideline in pursuit. All that’s missing is a veteran’s mental acumen. Edmunds will be a three-down linebacker as a rookie, and if he develops his instincts, he has an All-Pro ceiling.