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Football Outsiders: Buffalo Bills have sixth-best under-25 talent in NFL

Football Outsiders in ESPN+ are fans of the team’s youth movement

While the Buffalo Bills’ roster isn’t one of the youngest in the NFL overall, they still have their fair share of young talent. In a recent article for ESPN+, Scott Spratt of Football Outsiders proclaimed that the Bills’ plethora of talented players under 25-years-old is good enough to rank sixth in the entire league.

Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have always stressed “the process” in their attempts at building this team into a yearly contender. To that end, both decision makers oversaw the trades of various veteran players like Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby, and Cordy Glenn for additional draft picks. Now those draft picks form an arch supporting the team, with players like Josh Allen, Tre’Davious White and Tremaine Edmunds as the capstone. This year’s draft picks have yet to play regular-season snaps, but Ed Oliver and Cody Ford already look like long-term starters, with Devin Singletary and Dawson Knox looking like future contributors.

Spratt’s comments regarding the team’s placement are below:

2018 ranking: 26

Blue-chip players: Tremaine Edmunds, ILB; Josh Allen, QB; Tre’Davious White, CB; Ed Oliver, DT

Notable graduated players: Matt Milano, OLB; Dion Dawkins, LT; Shaq Lawson, DE; Robert Foster, WR

The Bills’ under-25 ranking has been a roller coaster in recent seasons, falling from seventh in 2017 to 26th last year as Sean McDermott jettisoned almost all of his incumbent talent before rebounding to sixth this year on the strength of a few top draft picks. Whether or not that roller coaster continues will rest on the shoulder of Allen.

QBASE was not a fan of Allen in college, projecting him with a higher bust rate than the other four first-round rookies in 2018 as well as third-rounder Mason Rudolph. Allen certainly wasn’t stellar in his rookie season, but he counterbalanced his minus-35.9% DVOA as a passer with a 33.3% DVOA as a rusher. Cam Newton was not the comparison on the tip of many draft scouts’ tongues, but perhaps he represents an archetype Allen can imitate to find success. Either way, Allen will need to improve his accuracy at all three levels -- his 52.8% completion rate was easily the worst of all starters.

Allen won’t need to be a star the next few seasons for the Bills to compete thanks to some exciting young defensive talent. That group is headlined by last year’s first-round pick, Edmunds. Edmunds didn’t vault himself into the best linebacker conversation the way the Colts’ Leonard did, but Edmunds did finish in the top 20 of all defenders with 23 run defeats. And unlike the 24-year-old Leonard, Edmunds is 21 and one of the youngest every-week starters in football. He still likely will improve.

The Bills injected youth between their veteran pass-rushers with Oliver, the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft. And they are loaded with talent and potential in the secondary. Third-year corner White was 15th among cornerbacks in success rate in coverage. And Levi Wallace and Taron Johnson are intriguing corners, the former a surprisingly overlooked, productive player at Alabama and the latter an unsurprisingly underappreciated player from tiny Weber State.

The Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, and New York Giants finished ahead of Buffalo with the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers, and Arizona Cardinals rounding out the top 10. The Miami Dolphins came in 21st while the New England Patriots were 31st.