The Buffalo Bills have a young, highly-drafted cornerback in Tre’Davious White but on the other side of the field, the team experienced turmoil in 2018. They signed Vontae Davis to be their starting cornerback, but he retired at halftime of Week 2. They tried Ryan David and Phillip Gaines before settling in with undrafted Levi Walalce. This offseason, they have a chance to add to the position group, but how should they go about it and how big of a priority is it?
Levi Wallace is a pleasant surprise, becoming the rare case where the depth players work out better than the planned starter. Wallace shows good awareness that unfortunately isn’t always matched by his experience and ability. There are a few things a clever team could exploit in Wallace’s game but several other aspects that make it hard to play against him. Wallace has already outplayed expectations, but look for him to make a bigger impression in year two.
Wallace has the ability to flip his hips leads to an easier time changing direction while maintaining speed. He is constantly communicating, but that isn’t to say he won’t make mistakes.
To mention the bad, Wallace nearly always turns sideways immediately at the snap rather than backpedal. Sometimes Wallace even telegraphs this pre-snap. This is something that can be taken advantage of by shiftier receivers.
The brightest of the bunch are Taron Johnson—a fourth-round draft choice out of Weber State who claimed Buffalo’s starting role at slot corner from the get-go and proved himself to be a tremendous draft-day value pick in Leslie Frazier’s 4-3 defense—and Wallace, who went from undrafted free agent to a top-five cornerback in the league according to Pro Football Focus.
Johnson excelled in pass coverage and made improvements in the run game as well and showed a penchant for both making a big hit and guarding slot receivers, running backs, and tight ends. He should see plenty of reps but his skill set projects best at slot cornerback.
Called up from Buffalo’s practice squad prior to the Week 10 win over the Jets, Wallace started the team’s final seven games, finishing with 37 tackles, three passes defended, and one quarterback hit. Earning a grade of 83.5 from PFF, best among all rookie cornerbacks and fourth overall among cornerbacks, Wallace was outstanding in pass coverage, and definitely proved himself to be a more than capable member of the secondary.
Ryan Lewis, formerly of the New England Patriots, showed glimpses of his potential, starting three games before giving way to Wallace. In seven games, Lewis had 15 tackles, forced two fumbles, and broke up three passes. Lewis should provide valuable depth, something teams are constantly seeking in this pass-happy era of the NFL.
If Buffalo is looking for a solid zone player who can contribute on a limited number of snaps who is also a strong tackler and run-support player, they may be best-served calling their old pal Gaines. In 2018 with the Cleveland Browns, Gaines managed to play only six games this season, notching 13 tackles, one interception, and three pass breakups in the process.
The former first-round pick of the Denver Broncos is coming off a terrible year, arguably the worst of his career. Why pursue him in free agency? Well, it’s clear that the man has talent, as his 60 pass breakups and seven interceptions would suggest. He is a tough, physical corner who could be in need of a change of scenery in order to find his way. His upside is definitely higher than Gaines’s, however, and he could be a good addition at both inside and outside corner.
The veteran corner had a fantastic overall year in 2018, breaking up a career-best 17 passes in his age-30 season. He also added two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a career-high 87 tackles. PFF graded him a 79.5, which was the 13th-best grade of all corners in 2018. At 5’10” and 183 pounds, he is not a physically imposing corner, but he clearly offers a willingness to put his hat on a ball carrier and make a tackle.
...Could you imagine? The Bills’ former second-round draft pick, who was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick, is without question the most talented corner on the free agent market. He is coming off an ACL tear, and there is next to zero chance that the Bills sign him.
Originally drafted in the third round by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015, Nelson intercepted four passes this season, adding 15 pass breakups and 68 tackles. PFF graded him a 72.1, which was 33rd among corners this season. He would be a good player to add across from Tre’Davious White if Buffalo is unconvinced that Levi Wallace can continue to play at a high level.
Byron Murphy (Washington)
Andraez “Greedy” Williams (LSU)
Both players in this tier will be gone in the first 15 picks, possibly in the first ten, and will walk on as immediate starters. (Scouting reports here.)
Trayvon Mullen (Clemson)
Deandre Baker (Georgia)
Julian Love (Notre Dame)
Rock Ya-Sin (Temple)
Amani Oruwariye (Penn State)
Michael Jackson Sr. (Miami-Florida)
Kris Boyd (Texas)
David Long (Michigan)
Now it’s your turn to decide. What should the Bills do opposite Tre’Davious White this offseason?
What should the Bills do at cornerback this offseason opposite Tre’Davious White?
This poll is closed
Stick with Levi Wallace and the depth options they currently have.
Stick with Wallace, add depth in draft
Stick with Wallace, add depth in free agency
Make Wallace depth, add a top draft option
Make Wallace depth, add a top free agent
Add both a free agent and a draft option to compete with Wallace