The Buffalo Bills enter their 2018 season with a number of potential needs looming on the horizon. College football is still a couple months away, and Bills scouts are beginning to schedule their trips and populate their boards with players to examine. Keeping in mind some tendencies from the front office through around a year and a half, here are some players that will be on Buffalo’s radar when they begin their draft research.
Interior Offensive Line
Richie Incognito and Eric Wood both departed in the 2018 offseason. There’s no guarantee that either Ryan Groy or Russell Bodine will be long-term replacements for these players, and meanwhile, John Miller’s roster status is in limbo after a disappointing 2017 season. Rookie Wyatt Teller is the only notable prospect in the pipeline today.
The 6’4” 303 Piersbacher is entering his redshirt senior season for Alabama, and has already accumulated an eye-popping 42 starts at left guard for the Crimson Tide. Assuming the team goes deep into the playoffs this year, Piersbacher is in line to finish second in career starts among all FBS players with as many as 57. That experience may be valuable to stabilize the interior if some of the incumbents don’t last past the season.
His name’s pronounced “Yell-Duh Fro-holt”, and he first started playing football as a foreign exchange student from Denmark in his sophomore year of high school. Froholt entered Arkansas as a defensive tackle, but after playing ten games as a freshman reserve, he converted to the offensive line. Since then, he started 25 consecutive games at left guard, and didn’t allow a sack in 2017. With the departure of leading center Frank Ragnow to the NFL, Froholdt will be expected to step up in a big way this year.
Kelvin Benjamin enters the 2018 season with a substantial injury history and a contract that expires at the end of the year. Zay Jones’s historically bad rookie year lends little hope for a breakout season. The team is currently counting on undrafted free agents like Malachi Dupre and Brandon Reilly to emerge, and planning on giving significant touches to veteran Jeremy Kerley. Two potential punt returners, Ray Ray McCloud and Austin Proehl, were added at the end of the 2018 draft.
If Benjamin departs and the Bills are still looking for a sideline rebounder, Arizona State’s Harry is expected to become one of the top red zone prospects in the 2019 draft. Ahead of his junior season, Harry recorded 13 touchdowns and 1801 receiving yards in his first two years. Listed at 6’4” 216 pounds, Harry’s enviable size will make him an enticing prospect next spring.
If the Bills want a rookie receiver, they have a great prospect sitting in their backyard. After transferring to UB from junior college, Johnson had a star-caliber season, with 76 receptions for 1356 yards and 14 touchdowns. In terms of yards per game, Johnson ranked second in the nation behind only James Washington. The 6’2” 207 pound deep threat is poised for another great season with another season of quarterback Tyree Jackson.
After an outstanding rookie season, Tre’Davious White has locked down one starting spot. The team signed Vontae Davis to a one-year deal to cover the other side, but the veteran is coming off of surgery. Veteran Phillip Gaines, slated for slot duty and signed to a one-year deal, and rookie Taron Johnson, assigned to back up the slot, are the main reinforcements.
Besides having a great nickname for a cornerback, Andraez “Greedy” Williams is a former teammate of White’s. As a redshirt freshman, he led the SEC in interceptions and passes defended, and he enters his first year of draft eligibility with a mountain of expectations. He may not be long on experience, but the LSU pipeline already worked once for Buffalo.
This Notre Dame cornerback, at 5’11” and 190 pounds, fits the slightly-undersized model of Sean McDermott’s cornerback choices like White, Johnson, E.J. Gaines, and Shareece Wright. After starting eight games as a freshman, Love improved in his sophomore campaign, with 20 passes defended and three interceptions. Two of those were returned for touchdowns. He’s a potential junior entrant to the draft next year.
Charles Clay will be owed $9 million in 2019, but the team can save $4.5 million if they release him, and he never fully lived up to his contract in Buffalo. Nick O’Leary will be a restricted free agent, but his ceiling seems to be more of a TE2. Project player Logan Thomas and blocking specialist Khari Lee are both set to become free agents after 2018.
A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Fant comitted to the University of Iowa for college. Fant became a starter as a sophomore, and in the past two seasons, recorded 51 receptions for 891 yards and a whopping 18 touchdowns. The 6-5 Fant is a freak athlete, appealing to the camp that liked Tremaine Edmunds and Josh Allen, and he’s also a scholar-athlete majoring in biology.
Wilson was a dynamite receiver pairing with Josh Rosen in 2017, hauling in 15 catches for 208 yards in UCLA’s comeback win over Texas A&M, and 11 for 145 against Stanford. Foot surgery ended his season after only five games, but analysts believe he can be one of the top targets in college football as a redshirt junior this year.
Dion Dawkins had a good rookie season at left tackle, though the specter of a sophomore slump is still feasible. Jordan Mills will be a free agent after 2018, and the only noteworthy project player on the roster is last season’s waiver pickup Conor McDermott.
As a five-star recruit, Williams joined the Crimson Tide and immediately started at right tackle. He looked outstanding there, and switched to the left side as a sophomore with the departure of Cam Robinson. Having been selected third-team All-America in 2017, Williams is vying for better hardware as a junior. His play strength and mobility are excellent, and his experience on the right side would work with Buffalo’s needs.
Another top high school recruit, the 6’5” 305 Hyatt was the first true freshman to start for Clemson on the offensive line since 1980 (and the first offensive tackle since 1944). A freshman All-American and a first/second-team All-American in 2017, he’s entering his fourth season as the team’s starting left tackle. His experience and great ACC program are both familiar traits in Buffalo’s recent drafting history.