by Bob Gaughan, Buffalo Sports Page
As many free agents as the Bills signed this year you would think that the Bills might not have as many draft needs. The way I see it there are at least eight positions that I think the Bills still need to address in the draft. Some are more important than others. The Bills have 10 picks in the draft so they do have some flexibility. Here are the positions I believe the Bills need to address.
The Bills haven’t addressed this in free agency. They did re-sign Jordan Phillips. I liked the energy that Phillips brought when he played last year. Kyle Williams retired last year and he played at a high level in his final year. Currently the starters would be Star Lotulelei and Harrsion Phillips. So currently the Bills have three solid players at the position, but they need four. I see the Bills taking a defensive tackle in the first two rounds. If they use the ninth pick then Ed Oliver of Houston or Christian Wilkens of Clemson are likely the pick. If they wait til round two then Jerry Tillery of Notre Dame or Dre’Mont Jones of Ohio State could be the pick.
This isn’t an area of need this year but it certainly is next year. Jerry Hughes is in the final year of his contract. Hughes played well last year. As a free agent he will be 32 years of age. I can’t see paying a 32 year old pass rusher the contract that he is going to want. Shaq Lawson is in the final year of his contract as well. Lawson had a better year last year. He still doesn’t have that first step quickness that I believe you need for a solid rusher off the edge. I can see the Bills allowing him to walk as well. Trent Murphy is good but can he stay healthy? I can’t rely on him because of injuries. In Sean McDermott’s system you need to be able to get to the quarterback with just four guys. If the Bills use the ninth pick I can see Montez Sweat of Mississippi State as a guy they would like. Chase Winovich from Michigan or a versatile Zach Allen of Boston College are guys in round two I could see them taking.
I can see the Bills going big, big ,big in the first three rounds. The key to offensive tackle for me is what do you think of Ty Nsekhe? Nsekhe played really well in a back-up role in Washington. When he was asked to play for the injured Trent Williams he performed very well. Are the Bills willing to go with Dion Dawkins and Nsekhe at the tackles? The do have LaAdrian Waddle as a back up. I see this as still an area of need. Protecting Josh Allen was an issue last year. I don’t see the Bills using the ninth pick with a tackle. Many experts do and have the Bills taking Andre Dillard. I see more likely the Bills wait to the third round. I believe Tytus Howard of Alabama State or Yodny Cajuste of West Virginia will still be there in round three.
This is an interesting position for the Bills. With Rob Gronkowski retiring there aren’t that many teams with a stud tight end. Many Bills fans want the team to use the ninth pick on TJ Hockenson of Iowa. If you believe that he can be one of the best tight ends in football for the next 10 years then he is certainly worthy of the pick. I’m not sure he’s that good so I would wait. I believe this is a deep class for tight ends. Here are four names that I could see being around in the third or fourth round: Kahale Warring of San Diego State, Dawson Knox of Ole Miss, Josh Oliver of San Jose State or Foster Moreau of LSU. I could see the Bills taking one of these solid players in a very good class.
Josh Allen had the worst receivers in the NFL to throw to last year. This needed to be addressed. I think the Bills did a good job in free agency. I like John Brown. He performed very well last year in Baltimore before Lamar Jackson took over and turned the team to a run heavy offense. Cole Beasley is solid in the slot. Robert Foster and Zay Jones return as your third and fourth options. They look better to me as your third and fourth best receivers rather than one and two. The Bills will wait on a receiver and in my eyes take a guy like Terry McLaurin of Ohio State, Anthony Johnson of Buffalo or David Sills of West Virginia. All value picks in the middle rounds.
The Bills have the most experienced running backs in the NFL in LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore. It’s obvious they will try to get younger. This is another position where you can wait to the fourth fifth or even sixth rounds and get a quality guy. I loved Benny Snell at Kentucky this year. Bryce Love of Stanford or Justice Hill of Oklahoma State are value picks as well. I would wait til the fifth or sixth round to take this guy.
Here’s a position that I think more people should be talking about as an area of need. Don’t get me wrong I love the Bills three starters. Matt Milano, Tremaine Edmunds and Lorenzo Alexander. Problem is I’m not wild about the back-ups. Not to mention that Lorenzo Alexander has already told you this is his last year. The scouting staff will be tested with this one. This is a position I could see the Bills needing to find a jewel in the fifth or sixth round. I’m a fan of Drue Tranquill of Notre Dame or Porter Gustin of USC as guys that might be around in the late fourth, fifth round.
I’m actually OK with the Bills corners going into the season. In free agency the Bills got Kevin Johnson and EJ Gaines to compete with Levi Wallace. I love Taron Johnson as the slot corner. I thought he was a steal last year in the draft. The reason this is an area of need is that EJ Gaines and Kevin Johnson were only signed to one-year contracts. I believe the Bills will try to find another Taron Johnson type of steal later in the draft. The bills play a ton of zone so finding a guy that is good in zone coverage is possible later in the draft. Iman Marshall of USC is a guy that I would target later in the draft.