It seems a little bit crazy to me that tonight's 2016 NFL Draft will be the tenth (yes, 10 of them) that I have covered here at Buffalo Rumblings. Starting with the Buffalo Bills' decision to draft Marshawn Lynch in the first round that year, each subsequent year's draft has only seemed crazier than the last, if purely from a work-involved standpoint.
This year is no different. I'm more prepared than ever - 4,892 words' worth of unpublished copy are hanging out in Evernote right now, with 250-300 of those hopefully landing in front of your eyeballs later this evening - and yet somehow, I still feel unprepared, worried that the ever-unpredictable Bills will zig while I've zagged, and do something completely unexpected.
Still, nine-plus years of blogging has not yet managed to teach me the most valuable lesson of all: my pre-draft guesses are probably wrong. I still have some, and I'm sharing them all with you in this post, so that you may throw this link in my face three years from now simply to have a laugh. Here we go!
1. They're going defense
I mentioned the 4,892 words of pre-written copy at my disposal this evening. Those are spread out among 17 different players that I'm prepared to quickly post about tonight if the Bills draft them. All 17 of those players are defenders.
As I write this, it seems crazy to me. The Bills have needs on offense, and there's a good chance that quality prospects at those positions will be available when they're on the clock. I no longer have the energy to spare on words that will never reach your eyeballs, however, so if the Bills do pick a receiver, or a tackle, you can expect the post on the subject to contain a Crying Jordan picture of my face until I can whip something up.
Please be right, John Wawrow.
And now for an actual sports-related tweet: Mock all you want. #Bills going D with first pick. Probably second, too.— John Wawrow (@john_wawrow) April 27, 2016
2. Five names I'm thinking hard about
No matter how open I try to keep my mind, or how many possibilities we consider (have I mentioned that I have posts ready to go for 17 players tonight?), there are always a handful of names that jump off the page as draft day approaches. These are the players that I have the best feeling about if I were predicting what the Bills will do in Round 1.
- Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama: Seriously, though, read this and tell me that you don't feel the vibe between Reed and the Bills. It's clear that the team likes him; he's a polished, ready-to-play prospect that fills a need. Everything about this makes sense.
- Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State: I'm not big on Lee as a prospect, but this is the type of linebacker that thrives in the modern NFL. Lee's ridiculous athleticism would be a major asset against the New Englands of the world.
- Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia: Among the hottest names in the draft right now, Joseph may not even make it to No. 19 overall despite a knee injury. Safety is not their biggest need, but Joseph would be a huge upgrade, and fits Rex Ryan's defense extremely well.
- Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech: The Bills are linked to a lot of raw big men right now (we'll talk about two of them in the next section). Butler continues to fly under the radar, but he has as much upside as most of them, and is a safer bet than some, as well.
- Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State: No, cornerback is not an urgent need. I just have a feeling that the Bills have a really good grade on this guy. He's nearly identical athletically to Stephon Gilmore, fits the scheme, and won't turn 21 until August.
3. Three names I'm cool on
There are, of course, also players who, when mentioned in the same breath as the Bills, cause me to roll my eyes. Yes, I've pre-written posts on all three, so I'll happily admit that there's a chance that Buffalo picks one of these players, but in my opinion, none of them will be serious contenders for No. 19 overall.
- Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi: If the team is all-in with their new motto, I don't know how they can justify picking Nkemdiche. It feels like the crowd mock-drafting him to Buffalo are just looking to end his slide. I think the Bills would let his slide continue.
- Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State: Just a little eye-roll here. If the Bills are going to roll the dice on a highly talented, prototypically-sized lineman with iffy tape, Jones strikes me as a far safer choice than Nkemdiche. But Jones also strikes me as too raw to effectively contribute early on.
- Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky: I don't know where to play him in the Ryan defense. He helps the pass rush, but I don't think he's an every-down player. Manny Lawson offers far more utility; I don't think the team is interested in a part-time edge rusher here.
4. The Myles Jack conundrum
Any time you see a Top 5 talent mentioned as a slider due to a pre-existing injury that could affect his NFL longevity, you begin to wonder if your team would end that player's slide, despite the risk. Jack is arguably the best player available in this draft class, he fits into any defensive scheme, and he would walk into Buffalo as an every-down starter. Long-term ramifications of his knee be damned, if Jack does somehow make it to No. 19 overall unclaimed, I hope that Doug Whaley's voice goes hoarse screaming Jack's name into a phone.
But no, I'm not expecting 18 teams to pass on Jack tonight. I don't believe the Bills would be anxious to move up to draft him, either. They want to add picks, not give them away.
5. How about a trade down?
The Bills have been linked to quarterbacks Paxton Lynch and Christian Hackenberg as potential Round 1 picks this week, and that's not an accident. NFL teams are scared to death of missing out on a quarterback prospect that they like, and I firmly believe that the team was behind these reports - even though they have repeatedly stated that Tyrod Taylor is the team's unquestioned starter this offseason.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Bills want to trade down; it's just an excellent option to have, especially in the middle of the first round, when teams really start thinking hard about moving up. The Bills are not, in my opinion, in a spot where they have to trade back to stockpile picks - they'd be perfectly content to stay where they are and draft a player they like - but if floating the Lynch and Hackenberg rumors keeps their options open, then good on them.
I'm looking forward to hanging out with y'all tonight. It should be a fun evening. Go Bills!