Bills Draft Stock Watch: 6 Players Rising and Falling on Buffalo's Board
Now that the initial rush of free agency is over for the Buffalo Bills, the team will need to re-evaluate its draft board to fill any remaining holes on the roster. The signings of linebackers Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers, cornerback Corey Graham and guard Chris Williams have provided the organization a great deal of flexibility entering the 2014 NFL draft.
General Manager Doug Whaley has done a good job so far of building a roster that does not have a glaring weakness. When the Bills are on the clock at No. 9, they will not be forced to reach for a player at a certain position, they can instead select the player they feel fits best.
This list includes six players whose stocks I believe have changed on Buffalo's big board since the start of free agency.
Stock Rising: Khalil Mack
No player has seen their stock rise more over the past few months than University of Buffalo's Khalil Mack. ESPN's Chris Mortensen tweeted that evaluators are even ranking Mack higher than defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Even the famous Mel Kiper Jr. is jumping on the bandwagon by slotting Khalil Mack as the No. 1 overall pick to the Texans in his latest mock draft (subscription required).
It has gotten to a point where the chances he is available when it is Buffalo's turn to pick are looking less and less likely as the draft approaches.
The Bills have addressed outside linebacker in free agency with the addition of Keith Rivers, but I don't believe this would stop them from selecting Mack if he was there. He has the potential to be a special player and would bring more to this defense than Rivers.
Stock Falling: C.J. Mosley
At the start of free agency, the linebacker position was a glaring weakness, particularly a linebacker who could stop the run. This is not an issue any longer, as the team brought in the best run-stopping linebacker from last year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required): Brandon Spikes.
With the new addition, this means that C.J. Mosley has dropped on the team's draft board. CBS Sports ranked Mosley as the 21st-best prospect, so it would have been a reach for Buffalo but would have made sense in terms of what the team needed. Kiko Alonso could have still moved outside and the Bills would have had an instant starter at middle linebacker. By adding Spikes, the Bills can now look at other needs with their first-round pick.
Stock Rising: Jake Matthews
The right tackle position has not been addressed so far this offseason, and that may be because the Bills are hoping one of the top offensive tackles falls to them at No. 9. Offensive tackle Greg Robinson is a long shot, but the team should have a good chance at drafting Texas A&M's Jake Matthews.
Doug Marrone wants to build a big, physically imposing offensive line, and Matthews would be a good fit at 6'5" and 305 pounds. He would solidify one end of the offensive line with Cordy Glenn on the other, who looks to be developing into an excellent left tackle. Whaley attended Matthews' pro day at the beginning of March, so he should be high on Buffalo's draft board.
Stock Falling: Taylor Lewan
University of Michigan's Taylor Lewan is considered one of the top offensive tackles this year and is mentioned in the same breath as Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews. The reason he may be dropping on some team's boards—Buffalo's included—is that he was charged with three assault charges stemming from a fight back in December.
Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com wrote that Lewan discussed this at the NFL combine and denied any involvement in the altercation, saying:
I went over the Ohio State incident once before. I wasn't in any fight of any kind," Lewan said. "I was actually breaking something up and some guy said that I slugged him, but that's not who I am off the field, that's not the kind of person I am.
There has to be some concern on the part of any team considering Lewan that he denied being in any fight of any kind, but he is the only person facing charges from this incident. There is no doubt that Lewan has the potential to be very good in the NFL, but teams may now have to do a little more homework to feel comfortable selecting him in the first round.
Stock Rising: Mike Evans
Even with the Bills bringing back Scott Chandler, EJ Manuel and the offense could use a big target in the passing game. It is hard to find a player bigger than Texas A&M's Mike Evans, who is 6'5" and 225 pounds.
The Bills have invested heavily in the wide receiver position the past two drafts, having selected T.J. Graham, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin. The issue is that these wide receivers are all very similar in style and none bring the level of physicality that Evans would.
The Texas A&M wide receiver will have his pro day this week and is expected to go in the top half of the first round, as long as he performs well. Whaley is likely to be in attendance for this pro day, according to a recent Q&A with John Kryk, which makes one think Evans is at the top of the Bills' draft board.
Stock Falling: Cyril Richardson
To say the performance at left guard was bad for the Bills last year would be an understatement. It was apparent the team needed to address the position this offseason, and they seemingly have by signing former St. Louis Ram Chris Williams.
The four-year, $13.5 million contract is not one that is given to a player who was added as depth. The Bills expect Williams to be the starter at left guard, which eliminates the need for the team to address this position in the draft.
One player who made sense as a good fit for the Bills was Baylor's Cyril Richardson. He was a big body and was a very good run-blocker in college. The problem is, he struggled at the Senior Bowl against quicker defensive tackles, according to CBS Sports' Rob Rang, and this negatively influenced his draft stock.
Now that the position is no longer a need for the Bills, the lackluster performance at the Senior Bowl should drop Richardson on the Bills' big board.
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