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Buffalo Bills veterans who could lose their spot to a draft pick

Every year the NFL Draft serves as a method to replace underperforming or aging veterans with young and cheap players to develop for the future. The Buffalo Bills’ competition for roster spots is expected to be fierce as ever when general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott look to formulate the final 53-man roster. First, let’s take a look at the list of 2020 draft picks and how they will fit in with the team, and who may be in danger of losing their spot to these rookies.

A.J. Epenesa EDGE (Iowa), Round 2, Pick 54

Epenesa weighed in at 6’5” and 275 lbs and put together an underwhelming combine as far as athletic testing was concerned, leading many to question where his true position may be in the NFL. Epenesa is a powerful jumbo defensive end who thrives with hand usage and using his upper and lower body strength to win in the pass and run game. Epenesa is going to be a lock to make the roster as a second-round pick and likely will be an immediate contributor to the team as a defensive end in base 4-3 defense with the versatility to shift inside on passing downs.

Veteran who could be in danger of losing a spot: Trent Murphy

Murphy is a 29-year-old veteran going into his third season as a Buffalo Bill. He had 38 tackles and five sacks in 2019 for the team and was generally considered to be a disappointment last season. Murphy has a $9.775 million cap hit for the 2020 season and just a $1.75 million dead cap hit if he is released by the team. Murphy has been a name mentioned often as one who could potentially be on the chopping block. With just nine sacks in two seasons for the Bills after being a splash signing in 2018, Murphy is in quite a bit of danger of being released.

Zack Moss, RB, Iowa, Round 3, Pick 86

Moss is a perfect complementary back to the shifty and elusive Devin Singletary. While Moss is elusive in his own right, he brings a powerful and nasty physical presence to the backfield that was lost when Frank Gore moved on in the offseason.He’s likely going to have a very healthy split of touches with Singletary this season and be counted on to thrive in short-yardage situations regularly. Moss is a lock to make the 53-man roster and will likely be a huge contributor to the offense for the 2020 season.

Veteran who could be in danger of losing a spot: Patrick DiMarco

This selection may come as a surprise to some but let’s break this down some. DiMarco is a 31-year-old fullback with very little production. Fullbacks are little-valued in the modern NFL compared to 10-15 years ago. In 2019, DiMarco had three carries for seven yards and five receptions for 41 yards. That is less than ideal for any player rostered as a “skill player” on the offensive side of the ball. T.J. Yeldon, for example, offers a huge strength with good athleticism and a specialty in pass catching that adds a nice dimension to the team. While his production will likely be less than Moss and Singletary in 2020, he does offer some playmaking potential. In a year where the roster will be squeezed with a ton of depth, DiMarco seems like he could be an odd man out.

Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF, Round 4, Pick 128

During the 2020 draft process, I compared Gabriel Davis as being the “B-version” of new Cincinnati Bengals 2020 second-round pick wide receiver Tee Higgins. Davis is a vertical threat with good size, ball tracking, and hands. However, Davis lacks top-tier athleticism, route running, and after-the-catch ability. He has less of a chance than usual of making the team as a fourth-round pick with the sudden change in wide receiver becoming a strength in the offseason. The “power three” of Stefon Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley are virtual locks to make the team with the rest of the positional make-up to be determined. I would consider Davis as likely to make the team as of now with a change to be cut if he doesn’t have a good training camp. Videos have surfaced of Davis working out in the offseason with Josh Allen and other veterans while COVID-19 keeps things on hold.

Veteran(s) who could be in danger of losing a spot: Duke Williams, Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts

Attempting to predict which receivers could lose a spot to Davis becomes a bit dicey. It really all depends on how Beane and McDermott decide to make up the roster. As far as play styles are concerned, Gabriel Davis most closely combines the styles of Duke Williams and Robert Foster. Foster made almost no noise in 2019 after he popped onto the scene with 27 receptions, 541 yards, and three touchdowns—he managed just three receptions and 64 yards on 18 targets last season. Williams had a strong second half to his first NFL campaign as a big, strong target for Josh Allen. However, he still has a lot to prove for 2020 and beyond to make the final roster. Foster is likely at the bottom of this group as of right now. But training camp could change everything for these players.

Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia, Round 5, Pick 167

Fromm was expected to go much earlier in the 2020 NFL Draft than the fifth round. Brandon Beane admitted that Fromm was “sticking out” on their board when pick 167 arrived to them. Fromm, coming from a massive school and blue-blood program like Georgia, was very hyped coming into the 2019 college football season and generated some very early first-round buzz before his senior year. However, the flaws in Fromm’s game became apparent and he has been labeled as a “game manager” style of quarterback with a very high football IQ, accuracy, and leadership—but with limited upside because of athletic limitations and a severe lack of arm strength.

Veteran who could be in danger of losing a spot: None

While the obvious answer would be Matt Barkley here, I don’t think Barkley has much of a chance to be cut from the team barring something drastic occurring. I believe Beane and McDermott learned a big lesson after going into the 2018 season with only Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman on the depth chart. Bills fans know the rest of that saga. If Barkley is healthy, he will be on the roster. The true decision comes when the Bills decide if they will roster three quarterbacks or not. If the answer is yes, Fromm will likely make the 53-man roster. If the answer is no, he will likely be bound for the practice squad or claimed by another team.

Tyler Bass, K, Georgia Southern, Round 6, Pick 188

Bass was considered to be one of the top kickers in the 2020 NFL Draft. He attended the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and showed off an impressive leg there. Bass was a kickoff specialist and field goal kicker for Georgia Southern throughout his career and showed very well in both. Since the Bills invested a draft pick in him, it’s likely that Bass will be the Bills’ starting kicker come September with a good camp.

Veteran that could be in danger of losing a spot: Stephen Hauschka

Hauschka turned 35 years old this week and he had his fair share of struggles in 2020. He made just one out of five field goals of 50-plus yards in 2019 and the Bills’ play-calling reflected a possibility that the team thought Hauschka was a liability on deep field goals. In addition, drafting a kicker does not look great for the team’s confidence in the veteran kicker. There may be no training camp battle tighter than the one between Bass and Hauschka.

Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Oregon St., Round 6, Pick 207

Hodgins came into the 2020 NFL Draft being known for having (debatably) the best hands in the class among all wide receivers. Despite this claim by many draftniks, Hodgins came off the board in the sixth round. As mentioned, Hodgins’s strengths are his hands, ball tracking, and body control. His limitations come with athleticism, route running, and yards after the catch. As a sixth-round pick, Hodgins is not given the best odds to have a role with the 2020 Buffalo Bills. However, having elite ball skills gives Hodgins a possible niche with the team that nobody can ignore. Hodgins has been working with his new quarterback during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Veteran(s) who could be in danger of losing a spot: Duke Williams, Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts

As was mentioned previously, receiver cuts are hard to predict because much of it depends on training camp performance and how Beane and McDermott see the outlook of the team and where players fit. Hodgins’s skill set resembles Duke Williams the closest of any player on the roster currently. Andre Roberts currently stands as a return specialist with little to no role in the receiver rotation on offense. Isaiah McKenzie is a bit of a gadget player who has had a specific role with the team. However, with the addition of a good yards-after-catch receiver in Stefon Diggs, the Bills could potentially move on from his role. The fight for the fourth through sixth/seventh receiver spots with the team should be a hot battle to watch come training camp time.

Dane Jackson, CB, Pittsburgh, Round 7, Pick 239

Jackson is a feisty, physical corner who is the aggressor against any receiver he faces. He is the definition of a competitively tough player who will get his hands dirty in run support. This was considered to be a good corner class, so getting someone like Jackson in the seventh round was a savvy move by Brandon Beane. Jackson is tall and lean for the position but he makes up for it with his physicality. He has nice short-area quickness but he really struggles as a complete athlete due to a lack of long speed. Sean McDermott does not seem to have an issue with corners who lack athleticism (see: Levi Wallace and Josh Norman). Jackson is not likely to make the roster at this time, but a mix of having outside-inside versatility and a good camp from him can change a lot of things.

Veteran(s) who could be in danger of losing a spot: Levi Wallace, Josh Norman, E.J. Gaines

The starting corner spot opposite of Tre’Davious White is up for grabs as of right now. Wallace split those duties with Kevin Johnson (now with the Cleveland Browns) in 2019. Wallace received some criticism for his play in the latter half of the 2019 season. Josh Norman has received severe criticisms of his play over the last couple years and was cut in February by the Washington Redskins at age 32. Norman had the franchise tag offered to him rescinded by the Carolina Panthers in 2016 after he was named a First-Team All-Pro in 2015. Meanwhile, E.J. Gaines did not play a snap for the Bills in 2019 and has had an injury-riddled career. Jackson, thus, could have an opening as a depth piece in 2020 with the upside to challenge for a starting role.

The Buffalo Bills did an excellent job ensuring that every draft selection has a great chance of challenging for a roster spot. There will be no shortage in competition for these rookies come July pending a relatively uncertain training camp situation. Some veterans will certainly have to keep looking over their shoulder with rookies coming close in the rear view.