ESPN NFL Draft Expert Jordan Reid revealed his seven-round mock draft this week through ESPN+. The selections Reid made for the Buffalo Bills should lead to plenty of debates for Bills Mafia — at least as it relates to offense. Max Owens and I decided to tackle this one together, given his expertise with the college game, the draft process, and NFL prospects.
In what has been a challenging offseason managing a tough salary cap, general manager Brandon Beane has done his best to find upgrades at the team’s biggest positions of need. New along the offensive line are interior players Connor McGovern, David Edwards — who both figure to factor heavily into the team’s plans this coming season. Also new on offense are wide receivers Deonte Harty and Trent Sherfield, and running back Damien Harris. Harty and Sherfield should provide upgrades between the down and distance with yards after the catch, and Harris seems destined to bring toughness in short-yardage situations.
But the Buffalo Bills still have yet to replace the departure of linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who will now call the Chicago Bears’ defense. Replacing him was never going to be easy, but it’s a task Beane and One Bills Drive must face head-on at some point soon. Well, soon looks to be the last weekend of April, during the 2023 NFL Draft.
With so many mock drafts available by myriad outlets and experts, plus sites that allow any individual to play the role of GM for their favorite team, it’s easy to find the process watered-down after several weeks. But now’s the time when mocks begin to have far more focus with the bulk of free agents landing new opportunities for the 2023 NFL season, and the draft just a few weeks away. Jordan Reid took all of this into consideration when building his mock draft, and the results are interesting as it relates to the Buffalo Bills.
If you follow along with the mock draft process, the most popular position for the Bills in recent weeks is linebacker, given the team’s current depth chart. Where once Bijan Robinson seemed all but certain to land in Orchard Park, NY, his name is now called earlier and sought by more teams per many mock drafters. That’s the case with Reid’s mock: Robinson goes off the board to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Gone before Buffalo’s pick were popular names at wide receiver in Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston, and Zay Flowers. Also selected before the Bills’ pick was offensive tackle O’Cyrus Torrence and defensive tackle Calijah Kancey. In all, before the Bills were on the clock a total of five edge prospects, four cornerbacks, and six offensive linemen had come off the board.
With the way the Round 1 board shook out for Reid, he sends the draft’s first linebacker to the Bills at 27.
Jordan Reid’s Round 1 pick for Buffalo Bills
Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
The loss of Tremaine Edmunds in free agency is big for the Bills. General manager Brandon Beane already has reiterated that he wants to keep Matt Milano at weakside linebacker. This could be a sign the team will be aggressive with addressing middle linebacker in the draft. If Beane wants to add a player with Edmunds’ length, frame and versatility, he could turn to Sanders, who is 6-5, 235 pounds. Sanders has value on all three downs as a second-level defender,and he can be used off the edge — he has an uncanny ability to create edge pressure. The Alabama transfer had 9.5 sacks and 103 total tackles last season.
Matt’s take: It’s hard for me to argue with the choice of Drew Sanders here for the Bills, especially when considering Reid’s analysis of him as a prospect in Buffalo’s defense. Passing on a linebacker here could bite Beane in a bad way if he gets “anime eyes” for another position. The only immediate questions I have are first, whether Sanders is the right linebacker for the Bills with every eligible linebacker available in this spot. Second, is it reasonable to expect Sanders falls this far? If he does, I suspect Brandon Beane is thrilled.
Jordan Reid’s Round 2 pick for Buffalo Bills
59. Buffalo Bills
Keion White, Edge, Georgia Tech
The Bills have invested a lot of money and draft capital into edge rushers, but with Von Miller suffering a late-season ACL tear, the dependable depth off the edge is a sore spot. (A.J.) Epenesa and Boogie Basham have yet to prove they can be relied upon. White is a versatile option who can be used inside and outside.
Max’s take: Keion White is an older prospect who’ll enter the NFL as one of the most unique rushers in the league. White is best categorized as a jumbo athlete with some of the most legit versatility regardless of position in this draft class. He moves like he’s 25 pounds lighter than he really is (285 pounds).
Jordan Reid’s Round 3 pick for Buffalo Bills
91. Buffalo Bills
Byron Young, IDL, Alabama
With Ed Oliver, DaQuan Jones and Tim Settle entering the season in the final year of their respective deals, 294-pound Young would provide another young option for the Bills’ rotation. He had four sacks last season, playing snaps at end and at tackle.
Max’s take: Byron Young’s skill set says 1-tech in an even-front defense. But his body type and weight at the NFL Scouting Combine says he has the size profile (6’3”, 295 pounds) of a 3-tech. With the Bills, Young is a player who likely gets snaps at both interior positions in the NFL as a low-ceiling defender.
Jordan Reid’s Round 4 pick for Buffalo Bills
130. Buffalo Bills: Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss
Max’s take: The Bills wait until Round 4 to dip their toes into the offensive waters in Reid’s mock. Mingo is a fascinating prospect who tested much better than expected at the NFL combine (4.46 40-yard dash / 1.54-second 10-yard split). If you’re looking for the lite version of A.J. Brown, Mingo offers a similar skill set and body type (6’2”, 220 pounds). Better yet, he’s now an alumnus of the same school Brown attended in college. Mingo finally put together a complete season in 2022, when he amassed over 800 yards receiving and five touchdowns.
Jordan Reid’s Round 5 pick for Buffalo Bills
137. Buffalo Bills (from ARI): Christopher Smith, S, Georgia
Christopher Smith has been one of the more beloved players on a star-studded Georgia team that’s won back-to-back National Championships. Smith lacks size and athleticism, but he plays with a ferocious mindset and was one of the clear leaders for Georgia in 2022. It’s easy to see Smith carving out a role very quickly in the NFL due to his hard-hat mentality and gritty play style. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Smith become a special teams ace at some point in his career.
Jordan Reid’s Round 6 pick for Buffalo Bills
205. Buffalo Bills: John Ojukwu, OT, Boise State
John Ojukwu has made over 50 collegiate starts during the course of his career for the Broncos. He’s a two-time All-Mountain West First-Team selection (2021 and 2022). In the seventh round, you’re hoping that Ojukwu can provide decent depth to stick on the roster for a few years at least. There’s a good chance that the Bills’ starters in 2023 are set on the offensive line, but cheap depth should be welcomed to the room. The Bills get that in Ojukwu, who may have some versatility to play guard or tackle in the NFL.
While as always just exercises in thought, Jordan Reid’s mock seems to hit the head on several of the right nails, specifically linebacker. Would you be happy if the draft played out this way, with the Buffalo Bills waiting until Round 4 to add to the offense?