The Buffalo Bills are set to pick 30th in the 2021 NFL Draft. Unlike past years, where a higher pick would make it easier to narrow down the potential candidates, this year’s field is wide open. How do we even begin to zero in on the next member of the Bills? The best way to start was with a stack ranking. Keeping in mind that as many as five quarterbacks could be first-round picks this year, we assembled a list of 25 possible targets (5 + 25 = 30) for the first round. Without further ado, here is the first draft of our Buffalo Bills Big Board for 2021.
Should be locks for the top 10 picks. If any of these players is picked by the Bills, buy a lottery ticket the next day.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Calvin Johnson comparisons are legitimate. Pitts, a 6’6” 245-lb tight end who ran a 4.44 40-yard dash, is the real deal. You’ll want to check his cleats for springs, since he added a 41” vertical and an 11’ broad jump. In eight games this season, Pitts had 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Though he sat out the 2020 season, the 2019 version of Chase was the best receiver on one of the best passing offenses in college football history. He also had a 41” vertical and 11’ broad jump at his pro day—so, like Pitts, this is a top-tier athlete. Diggs/Beasley/Davis/Sanders is a good combo, but add Chase to the mix and the Bills receivers would be elite.
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Another freaky athlete who opted out of the 2020 season, the 6’5” 331-lb Sewell is still considered potentially the best lineman in the draft. Only 20 years old, he already looks capable of matching up with NFL veterans. Though Sewell was a collegiate left tackle, he could start at guard or right tackle for the Bills.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Similar story to Chase—while the Bills have a strong set of receivers, Waddle’s talent would elevate that group to a whole other level. His incredible speed and fluidity make him a touchdown threat any time he touches the ball, including on kick and punt returns. The Bills’ offense could use a jolt of lightning, and Waddle would be quite the spark.
Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
The 6’4” 304-lb Slater will be a remarkable NFL lineman, whether it’s at left tackle, guard, or even center. With 33 bench-press reps and a 4.88 40-yard dash, his pro day showed that he has a freaky strength and speed combination that teams will covet.
The Bills have enough ammunition for trading up into the mid-to-late teens of the draft. If one of these players falls, general manager Brandon Beane should work the phones.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB/S, Notre Dame
This wildcard defender could be the missing link in Buffalo’s nickel defense—though he may have a long road to adapt to an NFL defense, after working in his specialized slot defender role at Notre Dame. In the last two years, he’s averaged 71 tackles, 12 TFLs, 2.5 forced fumbles, and 3.5 sacks for the Fighting Irish. JOK didn’t run the 40-yard dash at his pro day, but had a 36.5” vertical, a 10’4” broad jump, and a remarkable 6.81 three-cone drill.
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
One of the most aggressive and competitive players in the draft, Horn checks almost every box: NFL pedigree (son of Joe Horn), size (6’1” 205 lbs), athleticism (4.39 40-yard dash, 41.5” vertical, 11’1” broad jump), ball skills (23 passes defended and two interceptions in his career). You name it, there’s a lot to love.
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Speaking of NFL bloodlines, Surtain’s father was an NFL cornerback. Again, there are plenty of plusses with Surtain. At 6’2” and 208 lbs, he had 18 bench-press reps, a 39” vertical, and a 4.42 40-yard dash. In his career, he’s tallied 27 passes defended and four interceptions.
Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Smith doesn’t have the freaky size or athleticism featured by the players in the top category. But he’s a remarkable football player nevertheless. The Heisman-winning wideout is a smooth, crafty route runner with upside after the catch.
Great talents who aren’t perfect fits for the Bills
It would be hard to justify trading up for these players, but they should still rank highly on Buffalo’s draft board
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Parsons is another outstanding athlete who could eventually become a Pro Bowl player at his position. But the 6’2” 245-lb Parsons is more of a traditional middle linebacker type. Since the Bills have Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds for at least the next season, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to add Parsons to the mix.
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Darrisaw is an athletic, powerful college tackle who could be a day-one starter for an NFL team. He’s probably a top-15 pick, when all is said and done. But how badly do the Bills really need to add that to their roster? Dion Dawkins is locked in at left tackle, and Daryl Williams can hold down the fort at right tackle for 2021, at least. Trading up for one of the top two tackles, in a situation where they fell, might make sense, but beyond them, it’s hard to justify making that move.
Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
In a similar situation, Vera-Tucker is considered one of the best interior linemen in the draft (and some could see him playing left tackle in the right system, too). He’s mobile and balanced, and capable of starting as a rookie. But with Cody Ford, Mitch Morse, and Jon Feliciano, the Bills do have a starting trio on the inside. There’s depth on the roster, too. Buffalo still might draft an interior OL in the top 64 picks in the draft, but Vera-Tucker would likely require a trade up, and it’s hard to justify that for the Bills.
Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa
The 6’5” 259-lb Collins has awesome potential as a hybrid edge defender. In three years at Tulsa, he has 235 tackles, 29 tackles-for-loss (TFLs), 7.5 sacks, and four interceptions. A 4.67 40-yard dash and 35” vertical demonstrate his remarkable explosiveness for his size. He could possibly work for the Bills as a defensive end, or in the type of role Lorenzo Alexander had, but he’s better suited for a 3-4 defensive front.
No-brainer picks at 30th overall
As the board thins out, you can’t go wrong with any of these choices.
Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
The 6’3” 261-lb Paye was named a team captain ahead of his senior season, but due to COVID-19 cancellations and an injury, he was only able to play four games in 2020. The tape is still good, including a 2019 season where he had 12.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks. Paye had a 4.52 40-yard dash, 36 bench-press reps, and a 35.5” vertical at his pro day.
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Farley, a 6’1” 207-lb cornerback has remarkable natural talent, but there will be concerns about his lack of reps and injury history. His 2019 sophomore season was outstanding with 12 pass breakups, four interceptions, including a pick-six. He opted out of the 2020 season. Farley wasn’t able to work out at his pro day because he’d underwent back surgery in the spring, and he also has a torn ACL in 2017 in his injury history.
Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
Rousseau is a mountain of a man, standing 6’7” and 266 pounds with nearly 35” arms. In 2019, his only season of notable action, Rousseau racked up 15.5 sacks and 19.5 TFLs for the Hurricanes. Those 15.5 sacks ranked second in the nation. He opted out of the 2020 season, so here we are now. His pro day was uneven: a 4.69 40-yard dash, 21 bench-press reps, and a 30” vertical leap.
Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
Between 2019 and 2020 Newsome had 20 pass breakups, in only 15 games. A competitive defender, Newsome also has plenty of size and athletic ability. He measures 6’0” and 192 lbs, had a 4.38 40-yard dash and a 40” vertical leap.
Azeez Ojulari, DE, Georgia
A 6’2” 249 lb defensive end with a massive wingspan, Ojulari had a 4.60 40-yard dash, 10’7” broad jump, and 26 bench-press reps at his pro day. He led the Bulldogs in sacks in 2019 and 2020. The most impressive trait, though, might be that he was named a team captain as a redshirt freshman.
Consider trading down
At this point, the pool of players widens and personal preferences come into play. It might be worth dropping 10 or 15 picks before selecting someone.
Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Whether it’s at tackle or guard, Jenkins looks like a long-time NFL starter. Standing 6’6” and weighing in at 320 lbs, he put up 36 bench-press reps and ran a 4.96 40-yard dash at his pro day. Jenkins has 35 career starts, mixing it up at both right and left tackle for the Cowboys. He’ll bury you if he gets his hands on you, but questions about his foot quickness might move him inside as a pro.
Also in consideration: Jalen Mayfield, Dillon Radunz, Samuel Cosmi
Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami
Phillips could end up as the best pass rusher in this draft. He certainly has the size and athletic ability. There’s one red flag that ultimately slots him below other options: an injury history, including concussions, that led him to (temporarily) medically retire from football in 2019.
Also in consideration: Joseph Ossai, Carlos Basham Jr, Jayson Oweh
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Toney has the versatility to play any receiver position as well as return kicks or take handoffs from the backfield. He has plenty of speed and violent quickness to his game, and would help the Bills embrace a four-wide offense. You could argue, though, that another receiver might be a luxury pick for the team.
Also in consideration: Rondale Moore, Rashod Bateman, Elijah Moore
Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
A 6’1” 195-lb defensive back with nearly 33-inch arms (that’s really long), Stokes also brings track-team speed to the field (4.28 40-yard dash). A playmaker with four interceptions (two of them returned for touchdowns) in 2020, Stokes does need to keep developing his technique at the catch point and his run defense.
Also in consideration: Asante Samuel Jr., Ifeatu Melifonwu, Tyson Campbell
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Expect the Bills to either spend a first-round pick on a running back or not to draft one at all. In theory, Etienne gives the Bills a more dynamic offensive playmaker than they have on the roster—a home-run threat, kick returner with upside, and a viable receiving back.
Also in consideration: Najee Harris, Javonte Williams
Landon Dickerson, IOL, Alabama
Even with their depth, the Bills could still pick an interior offensive lineman like Dickerson in round one. If healthy, he’s a 6’6” 333-lb mauler with an attitude in the trenches. But he has a history of two torn ACLs and a season-ending ankle injury.
Also in consideration: Creed Humphrey, Quinn Meinerz, Wyatt Davis
Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Don’t rule out defensive tackle as a possibility—the position’s thin top tier means that the Bills could wind up with the best or second-best prospect at the position despite their draft slot. There isn’t much talented depth on the roster today. At 6’4” and 310 lbs, Barmore had a 4.93 40-yard dash at his pro day. His outstanding redshirt sophomore season in 2020 featured eight sacks, three pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and 9.5 TFLs. He was the defensive MVP of the CFP Championship Game.
Also in consideration: Levi Onwuzurike, Tommy Togiai, Daviyon Nixon