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SB Nation Writers Mock: Buffalo Bills would take Yetur Gross-Matos to improve pass rush

In a Diggs-less world, Buffalo doesn’t upgrade at WR in Round 1.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

In March, the Buffalo Bills traded for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The deal included Buffalo’s first-round pick, leaving us out in the cold during the 2020 NFL Writers Mock Draft on SB Nation. While Brandon Beane said he was going to watch highlights of Diggs during the first round of the draft, we’re taking a different approach. We’re speculating who the Bills would have selected in pick 22.

We’re going into this exercise knowing the Bills need help at wide receiver, a running mate for Devin Singletary at running back, they could upgrade their offensive line, they have a need at edge rusher and cornerback past 2020, and they could use a rotational piece at 3-tech on the defensive line or at Big Nickel safety/corner. In short, there are a lot of different directions we could take.

Here’s how the board shook out in the first 21 picks:

  1. Cincinnati Bengals - LSU QB Joe Burrow
  2. Washington - Ohio State DE Chase Young
  3. Detroit Lions - Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah
  4. New York Giants - Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs
  5. Miami Dolphins - Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa
  6. Los Angeles Chargers - Clemson DL Isaiah Simmons
  7. Carolina Panthers - Auburn DT Derrick Brown
  8. Arizona Cardinals - Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb
  9. Jacksonville Jaguars - Georgia OT Andrew Thomas
  10. Cleveland Browns - Louisville OT Mekhi Becton
  11. New York Jets - Alabama OT Jedrick Wills Jr.
  12. Las Vegas Raiders - Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy
  13. San Francisco 49ers - South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw
  14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Utah State QB Jordan Love
  15. Denver Broncos - Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III
  16. Atlanta Falcons - Florida CB CJ Henderson
  17. Dallas Cowboys - LSU EDGE K’lavon Chaisson
  18. Miami Dolphins - Alabama S Xavier McKinney
  19. Las Vegas Raiders - LSU CB Kristian Fulton
  20. Jacksonville Jaguars - Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa
  21. Philadelphia Eagles - LSU WR Justin Jefferson

With four wide receivers off the board, upgrading the WR corps is probably not an option at 22 as all the choices left aren’t worth a first-round pick. Four offensive tackles have also been selected as well as the top three cornerbacks, and the Bills have adequate starters and depth at those positions for right now. A running back in the first round is definitely not worth it. Three pass rushers are also off the board and they can’t pick back-to-back 3-techs in the first round. This is setting up to be pretty bad for the Bills’ need areas—one of the reasons the trade for wide receiver Stefon Diggs makes so much sense.

With the top talents off the board, my thought process shifts from immediate impact to a contributor in 2020 with a chance to bust out in 2021. Two positions jump out at me in that scenario: cornerback and pass rusher.

At cornerback, the Bills only have Taron Johnson and Cam Lewis under contract past 2020. Josh Norman and E.J. Gaines will be unrestricted free agents, Levi Wallace is a restricted free agent, and Tre’Davious White would be a free agent but the Bills will use the fifth-year option on the former first-round pick. Buffalo needs a long-term plan at the position and you can never have enough good corners, but Buffalo has also been able to find BAND-AIDs® at the position with stunning regularity since Sean McDermott arrived.

At pass rusher, every one of their major contributors is going to be over 30 in 2020 with Mario Addison (33 on September 6th) and Jerry Hughes (32 in August) the oldest of the bunch. Trent Murphy is a free agent after 2020 with Hughes entering free agency after 2021. They need youth and a long-term option and they haven’t been able to get that in free agency or add it in the draft since McDermott took over.

There are two players who fit into my thought process: TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney and Penn State pass rusher Yetur Gross-Matos. With McDermott’s ability to coach up corners and their solid depth (at least for 2020), cornerback takes a back seat to defensive end. In the end, the decision isn’t close at all.

With the 22nd overall pick in a world where Stefon Diggs is still on the Minnesota Vikings, the Buffalo Bills take Penn State pass rusher Yetur Gross-Matos

Gross-Matos is the top player on the boards of both Dan Lavoie and Andrew Griffin, our two NFL draftniks here at Buffalo Rumblings. Here’s what they had to say:

Dan’s take:

“In a no-Diggs world, I consider Buffalo’s top needs as WR, EDGE, and CB. At edge rusher, Jerry Hughes will be 32 and Mario Addison 33. Let’s add some youth. At 6’5” and 266 lbs, YGM has the prototypical defensive end build. He’s explosive and bendy, has a promising foundation of hand-fighting techniques, and you love the production: 17.5 sacks and 35 TFL in the past two seasons.”

Grif’s take:

“An above-average athlete with ideal size for a 4-3 defensive end, Gross-Matos is exactly the prospect the Bills need along the defensive line. A bit raw with his hands and technique, the rookie could be brought along slowly thanks to the team having Trent Murphy and Mario Addison in front of him. With some teaching and development, Gross-Matos would look to replace both players in the starting lineup in his second season, allowing the team to move on from the pricey veterans.”

YGM is a player that can come in and learn from the stable of veterans at the position and push Trent Murphy for a spot on the roster. If he’s not up to speed after the COVID19-shortened offseason, Murphy can stick around for a year and Gross-Matos can platoon in as the fourth defensive end.

I’ve been saying defensive end was the biggest need on the team since the 2019 NFL Draft and in this thought exercise, they get one. The Bills would take care of it in a big way with pick 22 if they hadn’t traded the pick away.