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2023 NFL Draft: A fruitful Day 3 mock draft for the Buffalo Bills

Aiming for athletic upside swings on Day 3

NFL Combine Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Day 3 of the NFL Draft will provide the perfect opportunity for the Buffalo Bills to find and draft steals while filling out the depth of the roster in the process. All NFL teams hope to find one starter on the draft’s third day somewhere down the line, but that’s certainly not an expectation. That third day is a place for scouts to put their opinions on the table and swing at guys in whom they believe.

There are a number of different philosophies to drafting on Day 3 — it becomes a question on how much teams value production versus athletic testing. Another philosophy around Day 3 is based around how much a team values special teams experience in college. Based on that metric al one, it’s something that could drastically change a grade for teams.

The Bills need any steal that they can get on the third day this year. With just three picks on the third day, having at least one hit is an important benchmark to reach. For the sake of personal philosophy, let’s base our selections on athletic and physical traits. Buffalo needs to get younger and more athletic on both sides of the ball. These three players reflect potential, upside and are likely to go on Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft.

With the 130th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select...

Yaya Diaby, EDGE (Louisville)

There is a ton to unpack with Diaby who was asked to play two-gap and not be a gap penetrator as often in college. Diaby’s frame and athleticism suggests there is still plenty to unlock with him as an edge rusher in a 4-3 scheme. He tested as an elite athlete at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 4.51 40-yard dash and a 37” vertical leap — at 6’3” and 263 pounds with 34” arms. This is the perfect early day swing for the Bills, who may be looking for more athletes on the defensive line after recent failed selections (thus far) in the early rounds with A.J. Epenesa and Carlos “Boogie” Basham. At this time, Diaby has a wide range for selection depending on how much decision makers will care about his athletic testing — the middle of Round 3 is where the bidding for the former JUCO product could start. Diaby has to work on his pass rush plan to maximize his potential in the NFL.

With the 137th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select...

Brenton Strange, TE (Penn State)

I personally feel that missing out selecting a tight end from this class would represent a massive mistake. It’s one of the best tight end classes in the past decade and players who should normally go higher will likely fall due to the high supply at a non-premium position. Strange has an elite athletic profile with a 4.70 40-yard dash, 10’4” broad jump, and a 36-inch vertical jump to his name at nearly 6’4” and over 250 pounds. Strange will have a lot of versatility at the NFL level to play in-line or detach. His profile isn’t that much dissimilar to Dawson Knox — who has proven to be quite the NFL success story after catching zero college touchdowns. Getting him in the fifth round isn’t a crazy proposition, but it will be a fantastic value for a player who offers athletic traits before and after the catch. Strange is also far from a slouch assisting in the run game, with plenty of ability to work in-line and be effective doing so.

With the 205th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select...

Jay Ward, DB (LSU)

Ward is a name I would pound the table to receive more recognition in this draft class. He played at a high level in the SEC for multiple seasons and had the opportunity to play in the nickel and on the top of the defense at safety. Ward is a bit undersized at 6’1” and 190 pounds, but he ran a 4.55 40-yard dash to go with an 11’ broad jump at the NFL Combine. His 10-yard split time of 1.53 is elite and so is the broad-jump number. In Round 6, Ward can be a depth piece at nickel and safety for years to come. The Bills lost Jaquan Johnson in free agency and signed veteran Taylor Rapp to a one-year deal to replace him. Damar Hamlin’s status remains up in the air and Jordan Poyer’s time is limited with the team. It makes plenty of sense for Ward to join the fold where he can contribute early on special teams. This is a value spot for him.

In this mock draft exercise, we successfully added pieces that make sense for the Buffalo Bills in preliminary depth roles with the team. There is upside for all three guys to be major contributors to the team in the near future. Diaby and Strange tested as elite athletes. Ward offers versatility and had a couple of elite numbers in his athletic testing. Diaby is green in his pass-rush arsenal, but the tools are all there for him to explode if he meets the potential. Strange has received an uptick in his production to go along with the testing. Ward has had multiple years of SEC production as one of the only consistent presences year-over-year for the Tigers in Baton Rouge. On paper, this is a home run Day 3 for the Bills.