With the 2020 NFL Draft set to begin tonight, the Buffalo Bills will be sitting on the sideline watching the first round unfold. With general manager Brandon Beane and the Bills’ draft room scheduled to make the team’s first pick at 54 in the second round, Bills fans should temper expectations of any trade up into the first round (buzzkill, I know). However, a trade up earlier into the second round, staying put at pick number 54, or a trade back from 54 are all options that should be considered.
For this exercise, I ran ten simulations using The Draft Network’s “Mock Draft Machine.” For each player available in each simulation, I gave them a tally to find out just who could be available to the Bills when pick 54 arrives or if they may have to vault up into the first round to get their guy. Each number next to a prospect’s name represents how often they were available at pick 54 out of ten attempts. The prospects highlighted are those I believe fit the Bills’ schemes and their potential list of needs, and who should realistically be available at or around pick 54.
All of these projections are courtesy of The Draft Network’s “Mock Draft Machine” and not my own. All prospect opinions and analyses are my own.
Players likely to be available at 54
Chase Claypool WR Notre Dame (10) - A likely big slot in the NFL with the potential to play flex tight end; he ran 4.42 at the NFL Combine at 6’4” and 238 lbs. He’s a big bully against corners with very good ball skills. Despite an elite testing profile, Claypool lacks suddenness and short area burst on film. He has met with the Bills.
Michael Pittman Jr. WR USC (10) - A big-bodied possession receiver who snags everything thrown his way. He possesses smooth route running and good athleticism for his size profile at 6’4” and 225 lbs. His biggest struggle comes when needing to escape press coverage at the line.
Julian Okwara EDGE Notre Dame (10) - A speed rusher off the edge who has the tools to be very good at the next level. Okwara lacks functional power to play the run at this point in his playing career. He will need to add strength at the next level, but he possesses some very good tools to work with.
Cam Akers RB Florida State (10) - A talented running back who possesses speed, power, and burst. Akers is a bulldozer with buttery light feet and receiving upside. He played behind a terrible offensive line in college, so his vision will need to be repaired by an NFL team.
Laviska Shenault Jr. WR Colorado (9) - One of the most talented receivers in this year’s draft. Shenault has good short-area burst and long-speed athleticism. He has a good route tree to work with coming into the NFL and elite run-after-the-catch ability for the next level. He has concerns over injuries and production from his time at Colorado.
Tee Higgins WR Clemson (9) - Higgins personifies ball skills and is an elite downfield threat for his size profile. He’s been falling due to worries about athleticism and lack of route-running nuance.
Damon Arnette CB Ohio State (9) - A smart and tough football player who lacks high-level athleticism for the position. After finally turning it on his senior season, Arnette’s a candidate to play on the boundary or in the slot.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire RB LSU (8) - Considered one of the “Power 5” running backs in this class. Edwards-Helaire was a true star for LSU. He has elite short-area burst and quickness, and loads of potential as a pass catcher. He doesn’t possess quality long speed and is a smaller back who lacks high-level strength for the position.
Robert Hunt, IOL Louisiana (8) - Hunt is a power player with good athleticism for the interior offensive line. Despite spending a lot of time at Louisiana playing tackle, he will need to clean up his footwork and hand technique at the NFL level.
Curtis Weaver EDGE Boise State (8) - Weaver is a technician with a ton of production in college. He’s polished with his hands and feet as a pass rusher. He has an odd frame coupled with average athleticism and he’s struggled in run support, which may hurt his stock.
Players who may be available at 54
Joshua Uche EDGE Michigan (6) - Uber-athletic edge rusher who’s shown lots of positive positional traits and flashes as an off-ball linebacker. He’s a tweener in size profile between edge and linebacker. His best position may be as a SAM linebacker at the next level.
Kyle Dugger S Lenoir-Rhyne (5) - Dugger is an athletic freak who’d likely play the “Buffalo Nickel” role if the Bills draft him. He’s is a violent tackler who has the athleticism to play all over the field. Dugger played mostly deep safety at the Division II level so he’ll have to prove that he can develop more instincts and play close to the line of scrimmage when he gets into the NFL. Dugger is a commonly mocked player to the Bills.
Trevon Diggs CB Alabama (4) - The brother of newly acquired wide receiver Stefon Diggs is an aggressive press corner who works best in zone coverage. He has excellent ball skills as evidenced by his enrolling at Alabama as a wide receiver. He’s still being molded into a full-time corner and struggles with being raw in a lot of footwork and coverage aspects.
Jeremy Chinn S Southern Illinois (4) - Chinn is the perfect fit for the “Buffalo Nickel” role in the Bills’ defense in the same way as Dugger. He possesses an elite athletic profile, fantastic open-field tackling ability, and proven positional versatility. Chinn will have to improve on his instincts in run support and coverage to maximize his ability at the next level.
Players available only via trade up from 54
Jonah Jackson IOL Ohio State (3) - One of the best pass-protecting offensive guards in the class with very good instincts and lateral agility as a pass protector. Jackson struggles as a run blocker and will need to be coached up on how to set a base in that role. An NFL team will love his pass-blocking skills.
Jonathan Taylor RB Wisconsin (3) - Another “Power 5” back with fantastic vision, long speed, and contact balance for the position along with a ton of production. Taylor is not the most creative runner in the open field and he has ball security issues that are cause for concern.
KJ Hamler WR Penn State (3) - One of the fastest prospects in this draft regardless of position. He’s a proven separator with nuance in route running to go along with elite yards-after-catch ability. Hamler is undersized and will likely be limited to the slot in the NFL because of it. He’s not a natural plucker of the football and has struggled with drops.
Terrell Lewis EDGE Alabama (2) - A physical specimen for the position who possesses freakish length and explosion. He flashed in the stints when he was able to suit up. Lewis has a very significant injury history and is a very raw pass rusher who needs molded hand technique.
Antoine Winfield Jr. S Minnesota (2) - Winfield is a playmaker at the safety position with a lot of ball production and positional versatility. He’s one of the smartest football players in this draft who strikes ball carriers at a high level. His lack of size, bad injuries over two seasons (2017 and 2018), and a lack of elite athleticism are his main knocks. He would be a home-run value at pick 54.
J.K. Dobbins RB Ohio State (1) - Yet another “Power 5” back, Dobbins is primarily a one-cut runner who shows good vision and wiggle at the second level. He also possesses excellent contact balance with plenty of ability to bowl stagnant defenders over. Dobbins lacks elite long speed and explosion where he needs to gather steps to cut at times.
Players just out of reach I wish made it to 54
What I think the Bills should do with their first pick: A multi-faceted vision
If the Bills are targeting an offensive talent, I believe they should stand pat at pick 54 and select the best player available on their board. If I were making that pick and it had to be offense, this would be a toss-up between Michael Pittman Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr., and KJ Hamler. Each of them offer a different flavor to the Bills’ offense that they currently lack. I know many fans may want a running back here such as J.K. Dobbins, Clyde Edward-Helaire or even Cam Akers, but elite talent may be on the board at receiver. No matter how good you or I think the Bills’ receiver room is, receiver holds much more value to me over running back in this spot and I want the Bills to select a good football player.
The (Offensive) pick: Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., USC - I chose Pittman Jr. because of his elite hands, catch radius and ability to run routes as a truly big wide receiver that the Bills could desperately use. While the team has Stefon Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley to man the position, Pittman was just too much talent to pass up standing pat at 54.
Conversely, if the Bills are targeting a defensive player with their first selection, they’re likely going to need to trade up. It’s not a guarantee players such as Jeremy Chinn, Kyle Dugger, or most of the elite cornerbacks in this class make it to Buffalo, as this exercise has shown. Trading up 5-8 spots to secure their guy would make a lot of sense for a team with few holes in the lineup. As such, the Bills acquire pick No. 49 from the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for picks 54, 128, and 207 in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Bills jump up to number 49 to get in front of defensive back hungry teams such as the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys. The players on the board i’m choosing from are cornerbacks Damon Arnette, Trevon Diggs, and Jaylon Johnson. I will also add safety Jeremy Chinn to this mix of options.
The (Defensive) pick: S Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois - Chinn fits exactly what has been talked about as the “Buffalo Nickel” for a couple of years at One Bills Drive. To this point, there hasn’t been a player to fit that mold. In a league full of match-up games, Chinn is the ultimate chess piece to negate the likes of players like the Kansas City Chiefs’ mismatch nightmare Travis Kelce. Chinn embodies exactly what you want out of a “Big Nickel” and would immediately transform the Bills’ defense from his first day on the field. That’s not something you can often say about a Day 2 pick.
The Overall Pick: S Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois (via trade-up to pick number 49 in exchange for picks 54, 128, and 207 in the 2020 NFL Draft)
Chinn’s dynamic athletic profile as well as his fit as a chess piece in the Bills’ defense becomes too much to pass up as Brandon Bean and the draft room make a move up to get their guy just five selections ahead of their original pick. Chinn will offer something Bills fans have not seen in the defense as a big field general who will make life a nightmare for AFC (and NFL) offenses for years to come.