With much of the team’s pressing needs fulfilled by re-signing most of their own free agents, the Buffalo Bills can be choosy about their NFL Draft choices in 2021. For ESPN’s Todd McShay, that means the Bills could load up on defensive linemen—even a year after spending the team’s top pick on defensive end A.J. Epenesa.
In McShay’s latest mock draft, he had the Bills picking Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips with their first-round pick. Until now, McShay had Buffalo focus on running backs, but Najee Harris and Travis Etienne both were selected before the Bills picked, clearing the runway for Phillips’s selection. The 6’5” 260-lb Phillips earned rave reviews and comparisons to Montez Sweat for his “freak” workout at his recent Pro Day, including a 4.56 40-yard dash and a 10’5” broad jump and 4.12 short shuttle. He led the Hurricanes with eight sacks and 15.5 tackles-for-loss (TFLs) in 2020, only two years after he thought about retiring from football because of various injuries suffered while playing for UCLA.
McShay wasn’t done with defenders, as he stretched his mock into round two. He had the Bills bolster their tackle rotation with Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike, his 35th-ranked prospect. The 6’2” 290-lb defensive tackle had five sacks and 12.5 TFLs between his sophomore and junior seasons, but opted out of the 2020 season. Onwuzurike recorded a 4.85 40-yard dash and 30” vertical jump at his Pro Day.
With the Bills in a strong position after free agency, the Best Player Available route makes plenty of sense (and it’s probably what general manager Brandon Beane planned all along). And Phillips is definitely a top contender—if you’re comfortable with his injury history. With that sticking in my mind, I would’ve taken a cornerback like Asante Samuel Jr. instead.
Onwuzurike is a great choice—outside of Ed Oliver, the Bills don’t really have a dangerous DT on the roster. But if the team wanted to look at offense, I’d push for a player like Dillon Radunz. At 6’6” and 300 lbs, the collegiate left tackle has the agility to play at tackle, or he can anchor down and move inside to guard. He’s even taken some time to practice at center, so you’re looking at a truly versatile lineman with starting upside.