Buffalo Bills Ultimate 2014 Draft Primer
Can the Buffalo Bills break their three-year 6-10 streak? The answer to that question will likely depend on the answer to another question: Can the Buffalo Bills hit a home run in the 2014 draft?
It is the second draft for head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley. Marrone was brought over from Syracuse in advance of the 2013 NFL calendar, and Whaley took over after former Bills GM Buddy Nix stepped down. The two men began to put their fingerprints on the roster last offseason, and that process continues this offseason.
The Bills have six selections in this year's draft, one short of their seven stock picks after trading a sixth-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for wide receiver Mike Williams in April. With fewer picks than usual, the Bills could elect to trade back from the ninth overall selection to acquire additional picks, as they did last year when they moved down to the 16th overall pick.
That being said, the Bills have not made any major noise in the first round since 2006, when they traded back into the first round to grab defensive tackle John McCargo 26th overall.
So, in an effort to get everyone up to speed on the players to watch and the team's selections, let's take you through all the information you need to know before the draft, including a look at some names to watch in each round.
List of 2014 Draft Picks
Round 1, pick 9
Round 2, pick 41
Round 3, pick 73
Round 4, pick 109
Round 5, pick 149
Round 7, pick 224
Position-by-Position Big Board
- Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
- Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech)
- Aaron Murray (Georgia)
- Tajh Boyd (Clemson)
- Bishop Sankey (Washington)
- Tre Mason (Auburn)
- Carlos Hyde (Ohio State)
- Andre Williams (Boston College)
- Sammy Watkins (Clemson)
- Mike Evans (Texas A&M)
- Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU)
- Marqise Lee (USC)
- Davante Adams (Fresno State)
- Eric Ebron (UNC)
- Jace Amaro (Texas Tech)
- Troy Niklas (Notre Dame)
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington)
- Jake Murphy (Utah)
- Greg Robinson (Auburn)
- Jake Matthews (Texas A&M)
- Cameron Fleming (Stanford)
- Jack Mewhort (Ohio State)
- Michael Schofield (Michigan)
- Zack Martin (Notre Dame)
- Xavier Su'a-Filo (UCLA)
- Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State)
- Joel Bitonio (Nevada)
- David Yankey (Stanford)
- Marcus Martin (USC)
- Travis Swanson (Arkansas)
- Weston Richburg (Colorado State)
- Bryan Stork (Florida State)
- Gabe Ikard (Oklahoma)
- Dee Ford (Auburn)
- Kony Ealy (Missouri)
- Demarcus Lawrence (Boise State)
- Marcus Smith (Louisville)
- Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas)
- Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)
- Dominique Easley (Florida)
- DaQuan Jones (Penn State)
- Ego Ferguson (LSU)
- Kelcy Quarles (South Carolina)
- C.J. Mosley (Alabama)
- Chris Borland (Wisconsin)
- Christian Jones (Florida State)
- Max Bullough (Michigan State)
- Preston Brown (Louisville)
- Khalil Mack (Buffalo)
- Ryan Shazier (Ohio State)
- Kyle Van Noy (Brigham Young)
- Trevor Reilly (Utah)
- Telvin Smith (Florida State)
- Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State)
- Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State)
- Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)
- Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)
- Keith McGill (Utah)
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama)
- Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
- Terrence Brooks (Florida State)
- Dion Bailey (Southern California)
- Ed Reynolds (Stanford)
- Craig Loston (LSU)
- Brock Vereen (Minnesota)
- Ahmad Dixon (Baylor)
- Vinnie Sunseri (Alabama)
Disclaimer: The big boards are based on players that fit the Bills from a need and value perspective—i.e. defensive tackle and quarterback are not glaring needs, so the top prospects at those positions are left off.
Round 1, Pick 9
Team needs: WR, TE, LB, FS
Aside from Stevie Johnson (6'2"), most of the Bills' primary receivers are of the smaller, faster variety. Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans may seem like a square peg in a round hole, but his 6'5", 231-pound frame could be exactly what the Bills need. EJ Manuel had a hard time hitting deep throws to the outside last season, and Evans' ability to track the deep pass downfield and win jump balls could widen the margin of error for Manuel.
That might be their best-case scenario, but things don't always work out that way. The Bills could still get Manuel some help by drafting UNC tight end Eric Ebron. He has the speed to break long gains on short routes, and running underneath routes with those speedy receivers running deep, he could have plenty of room to do so in the Bills offense.
On paper, free safety is a big need. The Bills let free-agent safety Jairus Byrd leave the nest this offseason and may be looking for his replacement at the top of the draft. They could trade down, acquire more picks and still land Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who has sideline-to-sideline range similar to Byrd. That being said, GM Doug Whaley has indicated that the free safety position is not as valuable as other positions on defense and that the team is content with its in-house options at the position.
In a dream scenario, outside linebacker Khalil Mack would be available with the No. 9 pick. Mock drafts aren't always right, but Mack is a top-five pick in virtually all of them. Mack would be perfect as a strong-side linebacker in the Bills' 4-3 defense and would dramatically upgrade their athleticism at the position (which is lacking).
The Bills could trade up, but it would be uncharacteristic for Whaley, who came up in the Pittsburgh Steelers' system. Besides, the Bills have addressed the strong-side linebacker spot by adding former first-round pick Keith Rivers to their group.
Look for the Bills to focus on a pass-catching threat in the first round.
Round 2, Pick 41
Team needs: OLB, TE, OL
If all goes according to plan in the first round, the Bills will have bolstered the wide receiver corps with the addition of Evans. If that's the case, they could turn their attention to the tight end position. Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro is more of a wide receiver than a true in-line "Y" tight end, but paired with the versatile Scott Chandler, Amaro could provide yet another solid receiving threat over the middle and in the red zone at 6'5" and 265 pounds.
If they'd like a tight end who is more comparable to Chandler so they can run a true two-tight end offense, Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas may be the better option. He is the more capable blocking tight end and still offers the same big, physically imposing presence over the middle that Amaro has.
As much as the Bills need to get help for Manuel, they also need to find long-term fixes for their woeful linebacking corps.
Round 3, Pick 73
Team needs: OLB, ILB, OL, FS
If the Bills still have yet to address the defensive side of the ball, this would be the time to do so. If they wait too much longer, all the depth will be dried up at outside linebacker.
If the Bills want to find someone a bit more adept at defending the run, Christian Jones could be a player they target. He didn't time well at the combine, but he has a physical nature to his game and the requisite instincts to play the strong-side linebacker position, either reading and reacting or setting the edge against the run.
If Jones is gone, one other player they could look at is BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy. At 6'3" and 243 pounds, he looks the part of a 4-3 outside linebacker. He could play either the weak-side or strong-side linebacker spot and would most likely play on the strong side with Kiko Alonso on the weak side. He has the coverage ability to match up with tight ends and running backs, but he will need to improve as a run-defender if he is going to assume that role full-time, though.
Of course, there are other ways the Bills can help their offense without getting him weapons. They could use an offensive tackle, and Ohio State's Jack Mewhort could be an option to finally solidify the interior of that offensive line. At 6'6" and 309 pounds, he has a leaner frame than most road-grading guards, but with 34" long arms, he is more than capable of moving defenders off the ball. He is a capable pass protector, though he does not shine in that role.
Round 4, Pick 109
Team needs: OG, OT, OLB
Depending on how the draft shakes out, the Bills could still be looking for their first offensive lineman of the draft in the fourth round. Mewhort's name was thrown out there as a possibility in the previous slide, and he could still be available in the fourth round. If so, the choice is an obvious one, as it solidifies the interior offensive line with a player who has starting experience and who can flip to multiple positions.
Ideally, the Bills could add a versatile lineman and find out what to do with him after he has joined the fold. Michigan's Michael Schofield is another offensive lineman with the versatility to play either tackle or guard (26 starts at right tackle, 10 at left guard), and while he is not light on his feet to mirror quicker pass-rushers off the edge, he has great fundamentals and functional strength and is hard to move off the ball.
If the offensive line is dried up, or if the Bills have managed to get this far without adding a linebacker and were unable to draft Christian Jones in the third round, they could look at Jones' teammate, Telvin Smith. At 6'3" and 218 pounds, Smith is a bit small for a strong-side linebacker, but give him some time in the weight room and he could fill out that frame to help him better set the edge. His range and coverage ability will be hard to replicate at the linebacker position.
Round 5, Pick 149
Team needs: RB, DE
The Bills don't have an urgent need at running back, but they could choose to round out the depth chart with one more body now that Tashard Choice has made a permanent exit from Buffalo. Fred Jackson enters the final year of his contract, and C.J. Spiller has two years left on his deal, so the Bills will need to start developing at the running back position.
One player to keep an eye on is Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas. At 5'9" and 174 pounds, there are some doubts as to whether he can hold up at the running back position from a durability standpoint.
One line stands out in Thomas' CBS Sports scouting report: "There is not an NFL offense better suited to take advantage of Thomas' skill set than the one he's leaving at Oregon, where wide splits, a dual-threat quarterback and up-tempo play-calling all exaggerated his talents."
The Bills have fancied themselves an uptempo offense, and they have a dual-threat quarterback in EJ Manuel. Perhaps they could find a role for Thomas. If not, it may be time to add some depth at defensive end. The Bills still have Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, but they could use some more talent on the edges.
This is going to be the range at which the discussion begins about Missouri defensive end Michael Sam—if he hasn't been drafted by this point. At 6'2" and 261 pounds, he has the right size to be a rotational defensive end for the Bills. In Buffalo, any concerns over the potential "distraction" would disappear. Sam led the SEC in sacks in 2013, and he has the first-step quickness to make a smooth transition to a rotational role as a pass-rusher in a 4-3 defense.
Round 7, Pick 224
Team needs: ILB, RB, DE, WR, TE
The Bills could go any number of ways in the seventh round, essentially using this pick to add depth at a position where they could not—or did not want to—add top-end talent earlier on in the draft. With that being said, any of the previous needs (wide receiver, tight end, offensive line and linebacker) could still be a need for the Bills in the seventh round.
Ideally, they can find someone to contribute on special teams as a rookie and come up through the system through his career.
One prospect to watch at wide receiver is San Jose State's Chandler Jones. At 5'9" and 183 pounds, he is a bit small to be a traditional receiver, but he fits the mold of the smaller, speedier receivers the Bills have targeted lately. Jones had a very impressive pro day, running a 4.34-second 40-yard dash and a 6.78-second three-cone drill. He also has experience on special teams (although not as a returner) to help him make the roster as a rookie, although the wide receiver position is particularly stacked at this point.
Latest Draft Buzz
Some updated Bills pre-draft buzz:
- According to Bleacher Report NFL Columnist Dan Pompei, the Bills "appear interested in moving up" from the No. 9 overall pick in the draft, although it is unclear who they would target in such a scenario. When Whaley was asked on WGR 550 Buffalo about the possibility of trading up, the GM said, "Never say never."
- Whaley was less than subtle in alluding to Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans as a player who could dramatically help quarterback EJ Manuel take the next step. "It would help EJ," Whaley said, "just because he can find that guy anywhere, and also EJ can basically throw up the ball and you've got a 6-5 guy with 35-inch arms and 30-plus vertical. That's a big target that you can have down the field."
Here is a complete list of the players that had an official visit with the Bills during the pre-draft process (via BuffaloRumblings.com):
- Terrance Cobb (RB, Cumberlands)
- Jeremy Hill (RB, LSU)
- Carlos Hyde (RB, Ohio State)
- Jerick McKinnon (RB, Georgia Southern)
- Lache Seastrunk (RB, Baylor)
- Terrance West (RB, Towson)
- Odell Beckham, Jr. (WR, LSU)
- Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
- Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
- Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
- Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
- Troy Niklas (TE, Notre Dame)
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, Washington)
- Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (OT, McGill)
- Cyrus Kouandjio (OT, Alabama)
- Zack Martin (OT, Notre Dame)
- Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M)
- Charles Siddoway (OT, Mississippi State)
- Marcus Martin (C, USC)
- Scott Crichton (DE, Oregon State)
- Preston Brown (LBm, Louisville)
- C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
- Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
- Walt Aikens (CB, Liberty)
- Bashaud Breeland (CB, Clemson)
- Ross Cockrell (CB, Duke)
- Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
- Phillip Gaines (CB, Rice)
- Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases. Combine measurements and workout numbers provided by NFL.com.