2014 Draft Sleepers Who'd Fit Perfectly with the Buffalo Bills
It's late April, and you know what that means: The NFL draft is he-...wait, the league moved the draft back until May? Those clever so-and-so's, they just wanted to give us another few weeks to obsess!
And obsess we shall. By now, you've probably checked out countless mock drafts trying to find out how things will shake out at Radio City Music Hall.
The Buffalo Bills are in a somewhat unique situation with the ninth overall pick and no gaping holes for the first time in what seems like forever. We know they could stand to add an offensive tackle, which they will assuredly do at some point.
Players such as Jake Matthews and Eric Ebron have been pegged as popular targets for Buffalo. But unpredictable as the draft is, trades and surprise picks can, and usually do, shake things up.
With that in mind, let's take a look at a few sleeper picks the Bills could make come draft weekend. Some are mere nappers who would fill a need in the first few rounds. Others are players being overlooked that could be had later on and make an impact down the road.
Whether they fill a direct need or are picked to add depth to an already strong position, these players can all find success at One Bills Drive.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
"Wait a second," you're probably saying, "the Bills have Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, they don't need a defensive tackle, especially so early in the draft!"
At first glance you might be right. But Williams is entering his ninth season and will turn 31 in June. He's had some injury history, particularly with his Achilles tendon, and per Spotrac, he'll be owed $7 million in 2016, the final year of his contract.
Dareus is one of the best young tackles in the league. No one can deny that. But he had some behavioral issues at the end of last season that caused him to miss time in Weeks 16 and 17 against the Dolphins and Patriots. Dareus is also in the last year of his rookie contract, and per Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News, the team has until May 3 to exercise its fifth-year option.
Bills general manager Doug Whaley told Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com an extension for Dareus is "on our radar," but if Dareus can't sort out his behavior or asks for too much money, the Bills might decide to move on. Such is the business of the NFL.
And imagine a world in which the first eight picks in the draft are, in some order, Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and some combination of two quarterbacks. What do the Bills do? Take Taylor Lewan or Eric Ebron? Maybe, but Lewan has some legal issues that have yet to play out that could cause the Bills to wait until later to look at a tackle.
Ebron is a popular pick, but No. 9 is a bit of a reach for a tight end and there will be solid choices available in the later rounds as well.
In that case, the Bills could select Donald either right at No. 9 or by trading back a few spots. The Pitt product ran the fastest 40-yard dash time of any tackle at the combine. He also led the nation in tackles for a loss and won the Lombardi Award, Nagurski Trophy, Outland Trophy and Bednarik Award.
It's likely Donald will land elsewhere, but if the Bills' top targets come off the board early, he's a player to keep an eye on. He would make an already solid defensive line even more fearsome and add some pass-rushing strength on the inside.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
After the trade for Mike Williams, wide receiver is another position that isn't high on the Bills' list of needs.
But Williams comes with his own set of headaches, and his salary is going to spike after the 2014 season. If he doesn't clean up his act or has a disappointing season, his time in his hometown could be short-lived.
Stevie Johnson is another wideout whose future in Buffalo is cloudy. Tim Graham of the Buffalo News said he has been told by players that Johnson's "act has worn thin," and Johnson is also due for a significant salary jump after this year.
That could leave the Bills looking to add a receiver in the draft. If Watkins and Evans aren't available, Martavis Bryant could be an option in the second or third round. Watkins' Clemson running mate has the size (6'4") to be the red-zone target the Bills need.
Bryant also posted a 40 time of 4.42 seconds, which was tied for the fourth-fastest by a receiver at the combine. That size and speed combination could be just the weapon the Bills are looking for.
Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Running back: Yet another position that doesn't look like a need on the surface.
However, the last year of C.J. Spiller's contract (2015) can be voided, per ESPN's Mike Rodak, which would make him a free agent after this year. Spiller also spent 2013 fighting an ankle injury, so it is uncertain how he will perform going forward.
Meanwhile, Fred Jackson is 33 and is in the last year of his deal, so he probably only has a couple good years left. The Bills will certainly look to retain both backs; Spiller showed he can be explosive when healthy and Bills fans would riot if Jackson isn't brought back.
Even though the Bills appear set at running back for now, they could have a need in the future. Because of that, they could look to add a back in the draft.
One option the Bills could consider is Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey. Carey was one of the nation's most productive runners, gaining 3,814 yards in 2012 and 2013 combined. He's the all-time leading rusher in Arizona history and also paces the program in rushing touchdowns and all-purpose yards.
Carey also showed he can produce as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 77 passes for 679 yards in his three years in Tuscon.
Some concerns off the field have Carey sliding down draft boards. That might not deter the Bills, though, who showed they're willing to take a chance on troubled and talented players when they brought in Mike Williams. Carey certainly has the talent, and the team has the leadership to make sure he flies right.
Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
Defensive end is an area where the Bills could stand to add some depth.
After Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, there isn't much talent from a pass-rushing standpoint. With new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz bringing his 4-3 base defense to Buffalo, the Bills will be looking to add some talent on the edge.
What better way to do that than with Trent Murphy, the nation's leader in sacks from last year? The 6'5" defensive end out of Stanford would fit well in Buffalo. Coming from Stanford, you know he's got what it takes above the shoulders. Murphy is described in his draft profile as a "leader vocally and by example." A smart and hardworking player is just the type a coach such as Doug Marrone would covet.
And Murphy also gets it done on the field. He was a team captain and one of the leaders of a stout Stanford defense. His hands are bigger than any other player measured at the combine, which helps him shed blockers on his way to the quarterback.
He's also got some elite pass-rushing moves. His highlight tape starts off with the spin move made famous by Dwight Freeney. In addition, Murphy shows the ability to swat passes if he can't get to the quarterback, and sometimes even bring them in for the interception.
With the ability on the field and the character off it, Murphy would fit like a glove in Buffalo.
Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State
This one would be a project pick.
Right now, Colorado State's Crockett Gillmore is projected to go in the sixth or seventh round by NFL.com. But he's described as a "natural hands catcher" and has big hands and long arms.
At 6'6" and 260 pounds, Gillmore also has the potential to create matchup problems in the middle of the field and the red zone. He's a versatile athlete who also wrestled, played basketball and ran track in high school. He also played defensive end for CSU in 2010 because of injuries to other players.
If Buffalo doesn't value tight end much in the early rounds, Gillmore is an option later on in the draft. In addition to his receiving skills, his draft profile describes him as a "chippy, competitive blocker." Those skills could aid the run game and help keep EJ Manuel upright.