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2020 NFL Draft: Top players remaining at positions of need for the Buffalo Bills

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The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, in all its strange glory, has finally concluded. That means the Buffalo Bills will finally be “on the clock” on Friday night. Thursday saw few surprises after the buildup of this rookie class, with four quarterbacks, five offensive tackles, and six wide receivers selected in the top 32 picks. That outlay still left plenty of talented players atop the board for round two. Working down from our ranking of the team’s top needs, here are the top players to watch for day two:

Running back

  1. Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin) - Probably the best pure runner in this draft, Taylor rewrote the record books in his college career. If he can cure his penchant for fumbles, he could be an every-down back.
  2. J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State) - If you want the feature back upside of Taylor without the fumblitis, Dobbins is your man. He can run, block, and (usually) catch, and his contact balance is tremendous.
  3. D’Andre Swift (Georgia) - He’s fast enough to outrun linebackers, strong enough to drag them, and comfortable running routes and catching passes. Many see him as the epitome of a modern NFL running back.
  4. Cam Akers (Florida State) - A player filled with physical potential to unlock, if a team can get him to trust his vision and run downhill.
  5. Zack Moss (Utah) - Mediocre athletic testing and a significant injury history are the only things holding back Moss, whose punishing running style may be exactly what the Bills want.

Edge rusher

  1. Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) - Possible trade up candidate? He has the size and athletic talent the Bills would spring for in a pass rusher, but is still scratching the surface of his potential.
  2. A.J. Epenesa (Iowa) - Was once considered a round 1 lock, but didn’t measure up as athletically as his competition. A classic 4-3 defensive end who wins with power and by having a pass rush plan.
  3. Zack Baun (Wisconsin) - More of a stand-up pass rusher or a hybrid SAM linebacker, Baun could fit a team looking for a Kyle Van Noy or Lorenzo Alexander role.
  4. Curtis Weaver (Boise State) - Owner of the Mountain West career sack record, Weaver’s pass rushing style is built around flexibility and bendiness - interesting traits given he converted from defensive tackle to defensive end.
  5. Julian Okwara (Notre Dame) - Gifted with size, athletic talent, and a brother who’s already an NFL pass rusher, Okwara has tantalizing potential but never seized it, with issues getting off blockers. Maybe he just needs extra coaching?

Cornerback

  1. Kristian Fulton (LSU) - Member of LSU’s defensive back factory, and at one point considered the number 2 cornerback in this class. Injuries and a suspension derailed his promising career early on, but he triumphantly returned as a senior to help bring his team a championship. He’s a classic press-man cornerback.
  2. Trevon Diggs (Alabama) - A physical corner with the size to play press-man but the know-how to handle zone spacing. His tackling form is poor, but in coverage he could be a rookie starter.
  3. Jaylon Johnson (Utah) - Film junkie, professor of route mirroring, and athletic enough to handle any role. Aggressive, he can be baited by double moves or boxed out by physical players, but he knows how he wins.
  4. Bryce Hall (Virginia) - Ankle surgery ended his senior season after only a few games, but his length and nose for the football could make him an excellent zone cornerback. His draft stock hinges on the perception of his health.
  5. Amik Robertson (Louisiana Tech) - Robertson’s production resume is elite, with 14 interceptions and 34 pass breakups, but teams will weigh that talent against his small size (5’9” 172 lbs) and he won’t fit every scheme.

Hybrid Safety/Buffalo Nickel

  1. Xavier McKinney (Alabama) - If there’s one player remaining who knows how to play as a Swiss Army Knife, it’s McKinney—he didn’t have the size of Isaiah Simmons, but Alabama used him the same way.
  2. Grant Delpit (LSU) - The 6’2” 213-lb Delpit is another of Tre’Davious White’s former teammates, and a well-respected do-everything safety. His tackling form is a work in progress, but he’s excellent in coverage and fitting gaps.
  3. Antoine Winfield Jr. (Minnesota) - Not what you’d typically expect for a “nickel safety” because he only measures 5’9” and 203 lbs, but Winfield is just a damn good football player. He could play slot cornerback, deep safety, or box safety—even if he’s not faster or bigger than everyone out there.
  4. Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois) - Oozing with athletic potential, the question is how quickly Chinn could acclimate to a complex role with responsibilities in and around the slot. He’s confident and likes to gamble in coverage, but his pursuit angles need a lot of work.
  5. Kyle Dugger (Lenoir–Rhyne) - The Chinn/Dugger debate is pretty much up to personal preference, with Chinn winning on size and youth, Dugger having a slight edge on length, and essentially a push with the freakish athleticism. Dugger’s more comfortable coming downhill like a linebacker but, like Chinn, will need time to acclimate to an NFL defense.

Interior Offensive Line

  1. Lloyd Cushenberry III (LSU) - The center on LSU’s championship team, Cushenberry was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl.
  2. Damien Lewis (LSU) - Playing next to Cushenberry, and helping him set up walls for Joe Burrow, Lewis is a blocking tank of a guard.
  3. Matt Hennessy (Temple) - Another center who starred at the Senior Bowl, Temple’s Hennessy does great work on combo blocks, keeps his head on a swivel, and uses leverage to seal gaps from defenders.
  4. John Simpson (Clemson) - An athletic and powerful guard who started 29 games for Clemson. He needs to clean up his tendency for penalties, but otherwise he’s plug-and-play at the position.
  5. Robert Hunt (Louisiana) - Falling in that tweener space between tackle and guard, Hunt stands 6’5” and 323 lbs. He played left tackle, right tackle, and left guard in college, and his style is reminiscent of Cody Ford from last year’s draft.

Offensive Tackle

  1. Josh Jones (Houston) - An experienced left tackle with quick feet and solid hand technique, Jones’s fall out of round one was definitely unexpected.
  2. Ezra Cleveland (Boise State) - It’s safe to bet on athletic offensive tackles with outstanding short-area quickness. Cleveland has enough foot speed to survive on the outside, but must develop a stronger punch and anchor to thrive.
  3. Lucas Niang (TCU) - It’s a testament to his skills that Niang successfully pass blocked in 2019 despite a painful hip injury that ruined his form and technique all season. If he’s recovered and re-learns his old habits, he has starting upside.
  4. Prince Tega Wanogho (Auburn) - Relatively new to football, only playing basketball until high school. Toolsy athletic prospect who could someday lock down a starting tackle role—but needs patience and coaching to get there first.
  5. Ben Bartch (St. John’s) - He comes from a small school, but stood out among big-name prospects at the Senior Bowl. With powerful hands and a ruthless demeanor, Bartch could take to NFL coaching and end up a starter as he develops hand-fighting and mirroring techniques.

Wide receiver

  1. Michael Pittman Jr. (USC) - The Thursday selections definitely fit a pattern, especially later speed picks like Jalen Reagor (TCU) and Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona State). Pittman leads the pack for the size receivers, but that doesn’t give him credit for his impressive nuanced route running.
  2. KJ Hamler (Penn State) - On the other hand, a team could go for the next-best speedster anyway. Hamler’s enticingly fast to separate both before and after the catch, if you can live with his small size and lack of physicality.
  3. Laviska Shenault Jr. (Colorado) - An all-around receiving threat and a raging bull on the field, Shenault is a rare breed. His injury history is a red flag, but he could transform an offense when used effectively (and when healthy).
  4. Denzel Mims (Baylor) - I feel like every year Baylor gives me an impressive receiver who never pans out, but can Mims break the mold? He has size, he has elite athleticism, he’s a natural with body control and hands-catching. The question is if he can run the full route tree effectively.
  5. Tee Higgins (Clemson) - It seems somewhat strange to have Higgins ranked effectively 11th among receivers, but let’s not forget his positive traits. He’s dominant at contested catches, courageous running after the catch, and a back-shoulder-fade wizard. That’s a great toolbox for a starting receiver.