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Buffalo Bills Mock Draft: Final 7-Round Predictions

Dan HopeContributor IIINovember 10, 2016

Buffalo Bills Mock Draft: Final 7-Round Predictions

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    The Bills turn their attention to the draft this week as they look to become playoff contenders in their second year led by coach Doug Marrone and quarterback EJ Manuel.
    The Bills turn their attention to the draft this week as they look to become playoff contenders in their second year led by coach Doug Marrone and quarterback EJ Manuel.Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    The 2014 NFL draft begins Thursday night, and the Buffalo Bills are one of the teams that could shake up the proceedings.

    Reports from Bleacher Report’s Dan Pompei, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN’s Todd McShay (Insider access required) indicate that the Bills could be looking to trade up in the first round.

    It’s easy to see why.

    South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans and Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins would all be great picks for the Bills.

    All six of them, however, could be selected within the draft's first eight picks.

    Buffalo must consider whether a move up is worth the cost. The Bills already hold just six picks in this year’s draft, having traded their sixth-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for wide receiver Mike Williams. If the Bills give up any more picks, they will limit their ability to address all of their needs.

    Should they stay put, the ideal scenario would be for one of those six players to fall. If none of them are on the board, though, Buffalo might end up in a position to trade down or make one of the most surprising picks of the top 10.

Round 1: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame

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    The Buffalo Bills might look to trade down and pick up additional selections while getting better value on their first-round pick, if they miss out on Matthews, Evans and the other premier targets.

    If the Bills want Zack Martin, however, they might have to stay put at the No. 9 overall pick. One year removed from a draft that saw six offensive linemen go in the top 11 picks and nine in the first round, Martin seems primed to be one of this year’s draft-day risers as arguably the third-best offensive lineman in this class.

    According to NFL.com’s Bryan Fischer, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said on “The Rich Eisen Podcast” last week that he expects Martin “to be gone in the first 13 picks” of the draft. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King added to that in his Monday Morning Quarterback column this week, reporting that he knows “one team in the top 10 seriously considering [Martin].”

    That team might be the Bills, who hosted him on a predraft visit this year. Buffalo needs offensive line help, especially at left guard and right tackle—two spots where the highly versatile Notre Dame left tackle could project to start immediately.

    Martin isn’t the most physically gifted offensive tackle in the draft, but he makes up for his limited measurables with terrific hand placement, efficient footwork and great strength. His versatility, technical efficiency and experience make him one of the safest picks in this year’s draft and a solid choice at No. 9 overall.

Round 2: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    By hosting four wide receivers and three tight ends for predraft visits, the Bills made it evident they are looking to add more weapons to their passing offense. A good way to bolster the unit and help second-year quarterback EJ Manuel is to use their second-round pick (No. 41 overall) to reunite Manuel with former college teammate Kelvin Benjamin.

    The connection could be downplayed by the fact that Manuel and Benjamin only played one year together, but the Florida State wide receiver has what the Bills lack in their receiving corps: size.

    At 6’5” and 240 pounds with 34.875” arms, Benjamin is a big target with a wide catch radius. For a quarterback who is still having some issues with accuracy, a receiver like Benjamin could help mask some of Manuel's mistakes with his range and ability to make plays on the ball in the air.

    The biggest concern is whether he has enough speed to separate from defensive backs at the next level. That’s less of an issue for him than it is for most receivers, however, because of his propensity to consistently win jump-ball situations with his height, leaping ability and strength.

    Benjamin’s game needs continued development, but he is a better route-runner than he gets credit for and can instantly create mismatches. He could be a useful weapon for the Bills offense, especially in the red zone, from Day 1.

Round 3: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford

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    2013 second-round pick Kiko Alonso emerged as a star in his rookie season on Buffalo’s defense, but the rest of the team’s long-term linebacker lineup remains up in the air. While the Bills acquired Brandon Spikes this offseason to be their middle linebacker, he was only signed to a one-year contract.

    That could prompt the Bills to draft Stanford’s Shayne Skov with the No. 73 overall selection. An instinctive linebacker who plays fast, he has the versatility to play multiple linebacker spots and a variety of roles on the defense.

    In the middle, he is a hard-hitting tackler and an aggressive blitzer. He is good at filling gaps at the line of scrimmage and has the strength to fight his way off blocks.

    While he is not a world-class athlete, Skov displays the range to get outside and make plays while also being skilled in coverage. Regardless of where he lines up, he shows he has a nose for the football.

    Skov could immediately rotate in at multiple linebacker spots and contribute on special teams and then potentially be groomed into the team’s starting middle linebacker role in 2015. He could emerge as another impact player in Buffalo’s defensive front seven.

Round 4: Walt Aikens, CB/FS, Liberty

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    A small-school standout with experience at both cornerback and safety, Liberty’s Walt Aikens could be exactly what Buffalo is looking for to bring depth and competition to its secondary.

    One of six cornerbacks to visit the Bills leading up to the draft, he is a physical and aggressive defender who proved at the Senior Bowl that he can hold his own against top competition.

    The Bills seem to be in the market for a cornerback, and Aikens would provide depth and contribute in sub-packages. That said, he could also project to playing free safety, where he might factor into the competition to replace Jairus Byrd and be a regular contributor on special teams.

    Aikens doesn’t have exceptional speed and quickness, but his size (6’1”, 205 lbs) and strength could make him a key asset in run support and press-coverage scenarios.

    At a position that is likely to be in high demand in the middle rounds, Aikens could prove to be great value as an early Day 3 draft choice.

Round 5: Terrance West, RB, Towson

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    USA TODAY Sports

    C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson form a strong one-two punch at the running back position for the Bills, but Buffalo seems to be looking to add a power back to its rotation. Towson’s Terrance West, another small-school star, would fit the bill.

    He rewrote the FCS record books by running for a whopping 2,509 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2013. At 5’9” and 225 pounds, he runs with great power between the tackles. Tough to bring down, he consistently fights his way through contact to extend runs.

    One of six running backs to visit the Bills leading up to the draft, West could be an immediate asset in short-yardage and goal-line situations and be used to wear out defenses with his pounding running style.

    He would be a good value selection in Round 5 and give the Bills a tertiary option and insurance at the position, as Spiller and Jackson could both become free agents in 2015.

    The heavy tread on his tires could be a concern at a position where players tend to wear down quickly, but West wouldn’t have to take on a workhorse role in Buffalo, at least not in his rookie season.

Round 7: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

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    It would come as a surprise if the Bills, who have consistently affirmed their commitment to Manuel for the 2014 season, selected a quarterback in the early rounds of this year’s draft. It shouldn’t come as a shock, however, if Buffalo adds a young backup at the position with one of its late picks.

    Should he be available in the seventh round, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd would be a good fit.

    He wouldn’t pose much of a threat to Manuel—he isn’t nearly as big or physically gifted—but like Manuel, he has some ability to make plays outside the pocket and with his feet. His downfield accuracy isn’t where it needs to be for an NFL passer, but he is a creative playmaker who demonstrates intelligence.

    Backup quarterback Thad Lewis performed admirably when he had to fill in for Manuel in times of injury last season and will be back in 2014, but Buffalo would be smart to develop another young option with more capability to step in and play if needed than Jeff Tuel.

    A 40-game starter at Clemson, Boyd’s experience will help him be ready to step in quickly at the next level if needed. He might never be a long-term starting option even if Manuel disappoints, but he’d make sense as a seventh-round pick.

     

    Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

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