Draft Prospects: Who Would Fit Perfectly with the Buffalo Bills?
In a draft year where the top is as unsettled as it has been for quite some time, the Buffalo Bills are one of the hardest teams to peg.
Picking a quarterback was the early leader in the clubhouse, but moves involving Tarvaris Jackson and the quasi-signed Kevin Kolb might temper those first-round expectations. Neither are long-term answers, but Buffalo could be better served waiting until round two before adding a rookie to the competition.
Cordarrelle Patterson and Keenan Allen were the mid-way leaders, but much of that was more of the media hype game than anything else. Both could still be possibilities at No. 8, but their projected stocks do not look as high as they were a month ago.
Chance Warmack or one of the talented tackles have been bantered about as well, but do the Bills really want to spend a high pick on a lineman? Eric Wood is the only offensive lineman to be drafted by the Bills in the first round since the infamous Mike Williams selection.
Instead of trying to figure out the most likely option for the Bills at eight, let's take a look at a few prospects that would be good fits, regardless of round.
Khaseem Greene or Sio Moore
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The two Big East linebackers should be no strangers to those who keep up with my weekly articles, as they have been two prospects on my Bills' specific draft board since January.
Khaseem Greene and Sio Moore are virtual clones other than the fact that Moore appeared to look more naturally athletic during the combine. Both players are fits as outside linebackers in a 4-3 defensive scheme, which the team is currently set up to run.
However, there is still no official news about what new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is going to run in Buffalo because his previous two stops involved 3-4 hybrid defenses. A switch between the schemes may work for some teams, but it has not work for the Bills in the past.
Instead they have wanted to draft for one defensive front or the other. After an ill-fated attempt at running a 3-4 defense two years ago, the front office may be hesitant about switching schemes for the fourth time in as many years.
Greene is a tackle machine from the weak side but lacks the athleticism to be a consistent pass-rusher if the team is searching for such a player. Moore would fit that bill instead, as he was much more productive behind the line of scrimmage in a four-year career at UConn.
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DeAndre Hopkins is not the fastest receiver in the draft nor is he the flashiest, but he does have the size-hands combination that the Bills are looking for.
Hopkins, not Sammy Watkins, became the biggest weapon for Tajh Boyd at Clemson this past season because of his ability to make the tough catch. He is a polished route-runner that can run pretty much the full NFL route-tree, much like Buffalo's top receiver Stevie Johnson.
Hopkins is not a 6'3" or 6'4" player that many fans may be clamoring for, but he has the same vertical as many of those players despite being two inches shorter.
There is no size-speed player in the mold of Randy Moss or A.J. Green in this draft, at least not one that can be counted on right away.
With Hopkins and Johnson both able to find pockets in opposing defenses, T.J. Graham would have plenty of room to roam downfield for whoever is quarterbacking the Bills next year.
Unfortunately for the Bills, Hopkins likely will not last to them at their second-round pick. He is currently being projected as a late-first or early-second rounder.
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Top-rated guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper have been bantered about as potential picks with the eighth pick, but the Bills have more pressing needs at the top. If the Bills wanted an elite guard then they would have re-signed Andy Levitre and kept continuity on the front line.
Instead they have another hole added to an ever-growing list of needs.
Brian Winters could be a way to fill that hole in the third or fourth round. Winters was a three-year starter for Kent State at tackle, but limited foot-speed should kick him in to guard.
He is a punishing blocker who focuses more on outmuscling the opponent rather than using a more calculated approach. Winter's frame and attitude in the field reminds me of Miami Dolphins' lineman Richie Incognito, who had a cup of tea with the Bills a few years ago.
Buffalo has to draft a guard this year at some point, and the third round would be a good spot to spend a pick on one.
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William Gholston, much like Jerel Worthy a year ago, has fallen from a preseason first rounder to a mid-to-late-round pick. Also like his college teammate, Gholston could be a bit of a project before he reaches his full potential in the NFL.
He posses a long frame that makes him a bit of a tweener when it comes to which scheme he fits best in. Gholston has the size to take on blockers off the edge in either scheme, but the problem is positioning and placement.
The Bills do not have a pressing need at the top of the defensive end depth chart, which would give a prospect like Gholston time to develop behind their Pro Bowl talent.
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Cooper Taylor has had an interesting path to the draft.
He started his career as an All-ACC player as a freshman at Georgia Tech before transferring to Richmond after his sophomore season. He became an All-FCS player in two seasons with the Spiders, showing a knack for big plays.
Taylor is big for a strong safety at 6'4", and there were questions about his athleticism transitioning to the position in the NFL—those concerns were curtailed during his pro day a few weeks ago. He ran a 4.45 and 4.5 in his two 40-yard runs and showed explosiveness in the cone drill.
He could be a late-round find, much like big safety Kam Chancellor was a few years ago.
Buffalo does not have a huge need at the position, but it never hurts to add a guy that will have special teams value and the upside to start later on.