Are you sick of it? Can’t take much more? Tired of analysts and mock drafts? Or are you begging and drooling—you simply can’t contain your excitement!? What could I possibly be referring to, you say? The 2019 NFL Draft! It seems like every year, the draft gets bigger and bigger—the one opportunity for any team to turn their fortunes around and finally win that long elusive championship generations of fans have been dying for, Buffalo Bills’ fans included.
Last year we all knew that the Bills would pick a quarterback, but we didn’t know whose name would be called. 2018 saw the Bills get their hopefully franchise quarterback in quarterback Josh Allen and the quarterback of the defense in linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. This year, it’s largely an enigma who Buffalo is going after; it could be defensive tackle, wide receiver, defensive end, offensive tackle—really, the possibilities are nauseating. In addition to all this nonsense, some of these top prospects have medical concerns that could cause them to drop. Today’s article will identify several top prospects that the Bills have been linked to and whether their medical concerns are worth avoiding or taking a risk.
Defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons
The big defensive lineman out of Mississippi State was expected to be a top-15 draft pick until tearing his ACL while training in early February. He had surgery shortly afterward and has been rehabbing since. His talent alone is worthy of the Bills’ pick but with the injury plus a history of domestic violence, this could cause him to drop rapidly in the first round, possibly even into the top half of the second. Due to the timeline for his recovery, he may be able to play late in the 2019 season, but will more likely miss the entire season as a redshirt year. I personally don’t like him going to the Bills as we have more immediate needs at defensive tackle than letting him learn for an entire year. You can read more about Simmons and his injury detailed in my previous article at Cover 1.
Defensive end Chase Winovich
The crazy-haired end from Michigan has screamed “process” from the start and appears to be rocketing up the draft board as a possibility for the Bills on Day 2. However, the end of his senior season took a hit with an ankle injury that he sustained sometime in the Ohio State game and played through for his bowl game. He skipped the Senior Bowl in order to prepare for the draft and it was reported that he required eventual surgery to the area. Considering he tested out fully at the NFL Combine and little has been said since then regarding his ankle indicates that the injury was relatively minor and required clean-up for what I thought was bone chips. If drafted by the Bills, this isn’t something that would be expected to linger or cause him problems down the line. You can read more about Winovich in my Cover 1 article here.
Defensive end Montez Sweat
Sweat has not suffered a musculoskeletal injury we typically see. Instead, he’s been diagnosed with an enlarged heart as reported by Tom Pelissaro on April 19th. While this can be concerning, there have been other players who have successfully played with an enlarged heart. Unfortunately, we do not know the specifics of what Sweat is dealing with as it’s been reported no one else in the NFL is dealing with the condition. Personally, I believe this may be more of a scare tactic to ward off other teams and possibly affect his draft stock, allowing him to fall. I personally don’t like him at nine to the Bills, but if he were to fall, he could be a risk worth taking as he would be available to play immediately unlike others in this article. To read more, make sure to check out my Cover 1 article here.
Wide receiver D.K. Metcalf
Quite possibly the top-rated wide receiver in this year’s draft may be its biggest physical marvel. Physical specimen aside, he comes in with injury concerns regarding his neck. He suffered what we now know is some type of fracture to his C3 vertebrae during an October game against Arkansas that saw him end his season early with resulting surgery. I had initially thought he suffered a spinous process fracture on the lower cervical vertebrae. As mentioned above, this occurred at his C3 level which is rather high considering a serious injury up that high could cause paralysis or even death. A fracture that high up may still be a spinous process fracture or a lateral column fracture, which are normally stable and cause no long term issues. Other reports have indicated that he had a cervical fusion to the area to stabilize the fracture. To note, I wrote an article back in January, well before more information was available. If you would like to read more on Metcalf, please check out this Cover 1 article.
Wide receiver Marquise Brown
The bodacious wideout from Oklahoma suffered a now-reported Lisfranc injury late in his season, possibly in the Big 12 Championships. A Lisfranc injury is a midfoot injury where there is a fracture/dislocation that commonly requires surgery to stabilize and repair. He appeared to play through it during the playoffs but was ineffective before deciding to have surgery on the area. He has since then posted video of his recovery on Twitter, indicating that he is healing well. While he may not make the first round, he may still be a value draft pick and provide a much-needed option for the Bills if available. If you would like to read more about a Lisfranc injury, please click here.
Running back Bryce Love
The former Heisman runner-up isn’t expected to be a first-round pick following his ACL tear, but he’s still a polarizing prospect considering how close he came to greatness during his junior season at Stanford. Unfortunately, he returned for his senior season, saw a major decline in production and suffered the above mentioned ACL tear. To add to his complications, he recently released a video that shows he isn’t progressing as well as expected, leading to further speculation that he could miss his entire rookie season for any team that drafts him. I still believe that to be the case. There’s still a strong possibility he turns out to be an effective back at the NFL level, but 2020 may be his first shot to prove that. I do like Love to the Bills on Day 3 with the ability to sit behind McCoy, Gore, and Yeldon as he learns the playbook and adjusts to the NFL. To read more about Love, be sure to check out the Cover 1 article here
While this is not an exhaustive list of players the Bills could be targeting, it is a short list of players who may fit what the Bills are looking for that also carry injury concerns. We have seen time and time again that general manager Brandon Beane does his homework when scouting and drafting. Part of that homework obviously entails factoring in the medical concerns and whether the particular player is worth the risk. Only Beane and his front office know where these players are on draft board, it’s quite possible someone from this list makes their new home in Buffalo after this weekend.
I believe that the Bills will continue to draft effectively and find more impact players in this year’s draft, building and growing the team in his image in order to compete for division and conference titles and eventually Super Bowls. Some of these players including Brown, Love, and Winovich I think would be great additions and could find their way to Buffalo if they’re available at the right draft pick. Thursday can’t come soon enough!