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Buffalo Bills NFL Draft Retrospective: 2016

Whaley’s final draft, where he was solely in charge, was a fire-able offense

NFL Draft Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

In order to prepare for observing the Buffalo Bills’ 2019 rookie class during their first training camp, we thought it would be fun to look back at the past seven drafts of the Bills, as a sort of retrospective. Our goal: an examination of where the team found successes, where the it was led astray and a chance to remember some of the more forgotten players from the past nine years.

Doug Whaley’s last draft where he was the sole decision maker for the front office is memorable for all the wrong reasons. The team was coming off a disappointing performance under Rex Ryan, particularly on defense. Bills players hadn’t adapted quickly enough to Ryan’s defense—so the story went—which Ryan seemed to blame on having the wrong defensive personnel. Whaley’s goal for this draft then was to bring in players who were better fits for the team’s defensive scheme.

Round 1

19th overall

DE Shaq Lawson

With Mario Williams being released earlier in the offseason, the team was looking for an impact pass rusher. Lawson had been projected as high as the early teens, and wasn’t expected to fall much farther. His career began auspiciously, with a college shoulder injury leading to necessary offseason surgery. Making his debut in Week 7, Lawson would finish with only two sacks and 13 tackles for the entire second half of that season. With Sean McDermott bringing a 4-3 defense to Buffalo in 2017, it was expected that a healthy Lawson could breakout. The former Clemson Tiger disappointed again however, finishing the year with 33 tackles and four sacks, while nursing ankle and groin injuries. The Bills were tired of relying on the young player, signing Trent Murphy during the 2018 free-agency period. Relegated to more of a backup role, Lawson was just as productive in 2018 as he was in 2017, despite decreased snaps, with 30 tackles and four sacks. With the Bills deciding to decline his fifth-year option, it’s looking like the defensive end will get one more chance to show he deserves a second contract.

Verdict: Major Miss

Lawson’s story isn’t completely set in stone, but it’s definitely in a final draft with the Bills. While a talented run defender, Lawson’s limited pass-rushing capabilities weren’t good enough to warrant such a high selection.

Round 2

41st overall

LB Reggie Ragland

Searching for a Bart Scott-type inside linebacker, the Bills traded up slightly to select the former Alabama enforcer. All seemed well in the early offseason, but after crumpling to the ground when defending a sweep, it was revealed Ragland had partially torn his ACL and would miss his rookie year. Returning from injury the next offseason, Ragland proved to be a poor fit in McDermott’s defensive scheme that requires fast linebackers who can handle themselves in coverage. After spending time on the third-string, Ragland was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for a fourth-round pick.

Verdict: Major Miss

It’s interesting to contemplate what could’ve been had Ragland not torn his ACL, but as it stands Ragland never saw a down for the Bills and was flipped for pennies on the dollar.

Round 3

80th overall

DT Adolphus Washington

A pass-rushing defensive tackle, Washington was drafted to provide depth and maybe even replace Kyle Williams when the time came. His rookie year in Ryan’s scheme was decent, starting 11 games and coming up with 21 tackles and 2.5 sacks, but the following year in McDermott’s scheme he only took down the quarterback once. Again, tired of waiting for Washington to make an impact, the Bills released him following Week 1 of the 2018 season.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Washington struggled with pad level throughout his career in Buffalo, which prevented him from ever making an impact on passing downs and greatly contributed to his short Bills career.

Round 4

139th overall

QB Cardale Jones

Physically gifted but a gigantic project coming out of Ohio State where he only started 11 games, Jones was expected to sit out a couple season while learning from Tyrod Taylor and maybe emerge as a starting option or as a long-term backup. That never came to pass however, as new coach Sean McDermott saw enough of Jones to ostensibly have him traded for a conditional seventh-round pick.

Verdict: Major Miss

It’s difficult to envision a fourth rounder as ever being a “Major Miss” considering the inherent difficulty in drafting Day Three players, but considering Jones only threw 11 passes in his Bills career and was immediately traded for almost nothing, it’s not an inaccurate designation.

Round 5

156th overall

RB Jonathan Williams

Brought in to carve out a role as the team’s primary backup to LeSean McCoy, Williams spent his rookie season mostly on ice, with 27 rushes for 94 yards. Coming back the next year ready to replace Mike Gillislee, Williams flashed in the preseason and was supposedly given “every opportunity” to claim the backup job. Despite nursing a few lower-body injuries, everything seemed set for the young man to claim a significant role—that is until Buffalo waived him in early September.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Why the Bills decided to part ways with Williams is kind of a mystery. It may have been related to off-field problems stemming from a 2016 DUI, but that’s only speculation. Whatever the case, this was not a productive selection for the team.

Round 6

192nd overall

WR Kolby Listenbee

Another track speedster who could possibly replace Marquise Goodwin, Listenbee was diagnosed with a double sports hernia during his rookie offseason, then proceeded to injure his groin in early November of that year. This caused him to miss his entire first year and contributed to the team releasing Listenbee with an injury settlement early in the 2017 offseason.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Never making an appearance on the field for the team, Listenbee’s injuries must have been just too serious to consider keeping around.

Round 6

218th overall

CB Kevon Seymour

Earning early praise for his work in OTAs and minicamp from Rex Ryan, Seymour was one of the team’s primary reserves during the 2016 season, finishing his rookie year with 20 tackles and three passes defensed. Unfortunately, after the loss of Kolby Listenbee, the Bills decision makers were interested in acquiring a new deep threat, and traded Seymour to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for receiver Kaelin Clay.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Had Seymour remained on the team, he may have made a role for himself as a long-term backup. It was not to be however, with the team once again deciding to quickly move on from a Doug Whaley draft pick.