The 2023 NFL Draft is set to kick off tomorrow night and the cake can finally bake on the Buffalo Bills’ draft plan. The months leading up to the draft are full of speculation in deciphering just exactly how a team wants to attack the three-day event. That’s a huge part of the conversation driven within every corner of NFL coverage each spring, and it all culminates with Round 1 on Thursday.
General manager Brandon Beane has an important task ahead with some of the biggest holes on the team in years after what occurred this offseason. The loss of linebacker Tremaine Edmunds has left a sizable hole at the linebacker position with no replacement made in free agency. It’s safe to say that position will be addressed, but where? That’s a question that holds plenty of weight on how the dominoes fall on draft weekend. A starting slot receiver also looks like a need on paper along with 2024 needs at defensive tackle and potentially safety. The Bills could invest highly at any position except quarterback in this year’s draft, and it wouldn’t be much of a shock.
For this exercise, we’ll base our seven-round mock on a big board courtesy of The Athletic’s Dane Brugler who recently dropped “The Beast” — a ranking of 1,700 prospects culminated over nearly a year of research and work. Brugler has access to pro-day testing data as well as detailed background to prospects to build the best overall big board in the business.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably read plenty of mock drafts to melt your brain in the lead-up to the draft. So let’s waste no time in presenting you with one final six-round mock draft for the Buffalo Bills (that’s sure to be extremely wrong) on how we predictably could see things playing out this weekend.
Round 1, Pick 27 — Drew Sanders, LB (Arkansas)
I think that head coach Sean McDermott really cares about having a talented MIKE linebacker in the middle of his defense. McDermott leading the charge in 2023 with the defense means that he will have an even stronger opinion on how the defensive selections in this draft are made. Sanders presents a very similar prospect profile to Tremaine Edmunds coming out of college. He ran a 4.64 40-yard dash and jumped 37” on the vertical at his pro day. Sanders is just scratching the surface of what he can be at the next level with a natural understanding for coverage spacing when you examine how little snaps he has played at the college level at off-ball linebacker.
Round 2, Pick 59 — Gervon Dexter, DT (Florida)
Dexter took a top-30 visit to Buffalo, which tends to lend credence towards the team being interested in the player enough to poke around and do more research. Dexter is one of the only reasonable early round 3-techniques in this class. He represents a big identity change (6’5”, 315 pounds) from an undersized Ed Oliver. But drafting Dexter at this spot is with the hope that he can find his ceiling in the NFL as a pass rusher. He left a lot on the bone at Florida by not realizing the ceiling in college. McDermott and company will look to pull the potential out of Dexter in the second round.
Round 3, Pick 91 — Jayden Reed, WR (Michigan State)
I keep coming back to the third round being the sweet spot for a receiver for the Bills. It’s not quite a luxury pick for the team, but they do need a player they can trust full-time in the slot with starting capabilities. Reed will likely never be a true No. 1 on a team due to his size profile, but he does offer the potential as a number-two option in an offense if he can clean up some of his drop issues on tape. Reed is the exact type of player you want on the back end of Day 2 with enough juice and upside to make you right in this spot.
Round 4, Pick 130 — Davis Allen, TE (Clemson)
Allen is a perfect number-two tight end in an offense like Buffalo’s, which already features a dynamic athlete in Dawson Knox at the position. Allen is a great pairing in 12-personnel where he can work angles and show off his willingness as a blocker to free up the run game. Allen projects as a red zone matchup who has proven he can turn 50-50 balls to 60-40 balls at a high rate. Drafting a tight end in this loaded class is almost a must, and the Bills add to their pass -catching haul with back-to-back selections.
Round 5, Pick 137 — Jon Gaines II, OG (UCLA)
Gaines is more of the same regarding what Buffalo likes in their interior offensive linemen recently — a versatile athlete who has made starts at multiple positions across the offensive line. Gaines is a player who I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bills have circled on their board due to his potential upside and fitting the archetype they have searched for in their interior linemen. As is the case many times with athletic blockers, Gaines lacks ideal power for the position, but getting him in an offense that works blocking angles like the Bills, could be extremely beneficial.
Round 6, Pick 205 — Tavius Robinson, EDGE (Ole Miss)
Robinson is a big-bodied edge rusher who would have a bit of a homecoming if he were to be drafted by Buffalo. Robinson is of Canadian decent and is originally from Guelph, Ontario — a two-hour drive away from Orchard Park, NY. Robinson began his college career in Canada before transferring to Ole Miss in 2020 during the “Covid year.” Robinson is very raw, but he has length and athleticism to be useful as a rotational player early in his career as he attempts to refine his pass-rush plan. Robinson needs a lot of work to be an effective NFL player, but that’s why you take a player like him in the sixth round.
This crop of prospects makes sense as it relates to positions the team could address in this draft. But it’s more of a shot in the dark once we enter Day 3 territory for where the Bills will value each player. This is predictive from a positional need and style-matching standpoint. The Bills need to hit on this class after mediocre drafting in recent years. A class set up like this makes sense and gives them a strong chance to hit while still betting on upside plays throughout each of their six selections.