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2023 NFL mock draft: Could Buffalo Bills address safety?

Bills add a tone-setting presence on the back end

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Southwest Classic - Texas A&M v Arkansas Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s officially NFL Draft season for the Buffalo Bills after back-to-back disappointing outcomes to AFC contenders in the playoffs. One year after quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills went toe-to-toe and lost what’s been coined one of the games of the millennium, the Bills were met with much greater disappointment — hosting a divisional-round game and not being competitive. They were run off their home field by the Cincinnati Bengals in what was supposed to be an emotionally-charged game for the home team. Things are trending in the wrong direction for the Bills franchise.

One player who may have had a disappointing end to his career in Buffalo is starting safety Jordan Poyer. The six-year Bills starter is a pending unrestricted free agent who left the game with a head injury on Sunday after colliding with teammate Tre’Davious White in an attempt to break up a pass. Poyer has been a very valuable asset to the Bills over the past six years. General manager Brandon Beane has some difficult decisions to make this offseason. Poyer will be 32 in April, and is looking for his last chance to cash in. A strong push by Poyer’s camp to launch a contract extension never resolved to anything more than just conversations throughout the 2022 preseason. It’s very much within reason that Poyer does not return to the Bills in 2023.

Poyer’s possible departure this offseason could lead to a “changing of the guard” of sorts. The Bills have plenty of needs heading into a pivotal offseason, but connecting the dots here makes sense for our newest mock draft edition.

We used the 2023 NFL Mock Draft Simulator from Pro Football Focus to complete a realistic first-round mock draft. The Bills have now solidified that they will be picking at No. 27 overall, with the Miami Dolphins forfeiting their first-round pick in 2023.

With the 27th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select...

Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M

Replacing an All-Pro at the safety position is no easy task. Poyer has been a mainstay for this franchise for six years. His importance, along with running mate Micah Hyde, has been huge for Leslie Frazier’s defense. To replace a special player, you need to bring in a special talent.

Enter Antonio Johnson, a two-time All-SEC selection at safety who has all of the measurements and athleticism you could want from the safety position. Johnson gives you the option of playing either safety spot in two-high shells. He also presents ability to be a dime linebacker and a big nickel option. There is so much you can do with a player like this in your scheme.

He doesn’t have elite ball skills, but his versatility and relentless motor to trigger downhill at the position is certainly something that the Bills will like. You’d like to see Johnson making more plays on the football deep down the field, but his physical skill set is unlimited.

Johnson seems like a very reasonable option on the back end of the first round if the Bills want to add a tone-setter to the defense. This football team has had a soft outward look to it in crunch time for the past several years. Their toughness breaks easily, and they never seem to play with tenacity or a chip on their shoulder. If Johnson enters the equation, that tone could start to change in a hurry.