Buffalo Bills' Day 2 2014 NFL Draft Primer
Draftniks around the country began tearing up their mock drafts when the Buffalo Bills traded up to the No. 4 overall pick Thursday night to select Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. But now, after a wild first round of the 2014 NFL draft, the Bills must get refocused and continue bolstering their roster with their second- and third-round picks on Day 2.
If there was any question that the Bills were focused on making a playoff push in 2014, they made that clear Thursday night by trading their first- and fourth-round picks in the 2015 draft to make the move up from the ninth overall pick.
With pressure to start winning more games immediately, and fewer draft picks to work with in the future, the stakes have now been raised on the rest of Buffalo’s 2014 draft selections. If they fail to find productive players in key rounds of this year’s draft, they won’t have as much to work with next year to make up for it.
Who can the Bills land in the draft’s next two rounds to make this year’s selection meeting one to remember? In a draft class that has consistently been hailed as deep, there’s plenty of enticing talent still on the board.
Day 1 Recap and Analysis
It had been rumored for weeks that the Bills were looking to trade up in this year’s draft, but no one quite knew who the team’s target was. We found out Thursday night when the Bills made the most aggressive trade of the first round to land Watkins.
It’s easy to see why the Bills were enamored with Watkins. An explosive downfield receiver who can beat defenses with speed, runs crisp routes and has both the moves and strength to break away from defenders in the open field, he should immediately emerge as the star playmaker of Buffalo’s passing offense.
Watkins must live up to the hype quickly and consistently, however, for this trade to work in Buffalo’s favor. By investing two first-round picks into drafting him, the Bills are banking on Watkins being one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers, and the linchpin of their offense, for years to come.
The Bills didn’t necessarily need a receiver with a roster that already includes Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods and Mike Williams, but none of them have the big-play ability Watkins does. Adding a playmaker like Watkins should help quarterback EJ Manuel in his quest to find his comfort zone in the Buffalo offense in year two.
Watkins was the first of five receivers to be selected in this year’s first round. For a full look at what he could bring to the table, check out my article on how Watkins fits in Buffalo.
Updated Needs for Buffalo Bills
The area many expected the Bills to address with their first-round pick, upgrading the offensive line, should be a priority for Buffalo on Day 2. Specifically, the Bills should be in the market for players who at least have the potential to be serious competitors for the starting jobs at left guard and right tackle, where Buffalo is in need of upgrades.
After starting out with offense in Round 1, the Bills could look to upgrade their defense on Day 2 and would be especially smart to look for a third defensive end who can rotate in with Jerry Hughes opposite Mario Williams. Even if the Bills view Hughes as a starter after his impressive 2013 season, they lack depth at this position.
If the Bills are hoping to come away with Jairus Byrd’s replacement in this year’s draft, they’re probably going to have to act quickly, as four safeties have already been selected in the first 32 picks. The team might feel satisfied that Da’Norris Searcy, Duke Williams, Corey Graham or even Jonathan Meeks can step up and fill Byrd’s shoes, but they’d still be smart to look for a safety at some point.
A need neglected in Buffalo’s Day 1 primer, the Bills would benefit from adding another linebacker to the rotation, and specifically one with coverage ability. While free-agent signings Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers could fill the starting roles in Buffalo’s new 4-3 defense alongside Kiko Alonso, both are them are poorly suited for roles in which they have to drop back into coverage consistently.
While the Bills are looking quite well-stocked at the skill positions following the draft selection of Watkins, it might be a smart investment for the future to select a running back at some point in this year’s draft. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson could both become free agents in 2015, when the Bills have two fewer draft picks to work with should they be in need of a replacement at the position then.
Top Day 2 Targets
1. Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA
Surprisingly unselected in the first round, Su’a-Filo would be an ideal second-round selection for the Bills.
The most complete guard prospect in this year’s draft class, Su’a-Filo is an agile yet powerful interior lineman who could be an immediate upgrade at left guard.
2. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Perhaps the most talented player still on the board, Van Noy is a tremendously well-rounded player who would be a big upgrade at strong-side linebacker. He could be a major asset as a coverage linebacker, yet could also factor into the pass-rush rotation on the edge.
In addition to his versatile skills in pass defense, he is also a great tackler in space. Van Noy wouldn’t fill one of Buffalo’s top needs, but his talent should be tough to pass up if he’s on the board at the No. 41 overall pick.
3. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
A massive, powerful offensive lineman, Kouandjio is the best offensive tackle prospect available and could be an upgrade on the right side, though he could also be viewed as a candidate to kick inside to left guard.
Kouandjio has some issues with pass-blocking against speed-rushers on the edge, so he could have some growing pains if deployed at right tackle, but he could immediately help the Bills generate movement as a run-blocker who can drive opponents off the line of scrimmage.
4. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Both a strong edge-setter versus the run and a skilled pass-rusher, Crichton would be a tremendous fit for the Bills’ need at defensive end.
He would be an immediate upgrade over Hughes as a point-of-attack run defender, but he is also skilled in pursuit and could be a factor in all situations.
5. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Projected to go as early as the top 20 picks by some, Missouri’s Kony Ealy would be a great value selection if the Bills could land him at the No. 41 overall pick.
Ealy is not as technically developed as Crichton, but he has an intriguing combination of size and athleticism that give him star potential. He could rotate in at defensive end and also be utilized situationally as an interior pass-rusher.
6. Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State
Brooks is the best safety left on the draft board, and there’s a huge drop-off in talent at the position after him. If Buffalo is interested in adding a safety to its roster, they’d be smart to consider Brooks if he is still available at their second-round pick.
A well-rounded defensive back with experience at both safety spots and even at cornerback, Brooks is a fluid coverage safety with good ball skills. He is also an aggressive tackler in the box who could be an asset in run support.
What Are the Experts Saying?
Joe Buscaglia (WGR 550)
In a tweet following Thursday’s first round, Bills reporter Joe Buscaglia listed 10 players the Bills could target at their positions of need.
In addition to Cyrus Kouandjio, Buscaglia noted Virginia’s Morgan Moses and Nevada’s Joel Bitonio as potential options at offensive tackle. At defensive end, he listed Scott Crichton and Kony Ealy along with another player some projected to be a first-round pick, Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence.
Buscaglia also noted two cornerbacks, Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Clemson’s Bashaud Breeland, and two tight ends, Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas and Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins, as possible Buffalo targets.
Jay Skurski (The Buffalo News)
Like Buscaglia, Skurski noted that the Bills could target an offensive tackle or edge-defender in the second round. He pinpointed the same three offensive tackles as Buscaglia, but also listed Kyle Van Noy, Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu and Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt as possibilities for the defensive side of the ball.
Matt Miller (Bleacher Report)
Round 2: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Round 3: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Miller’s projections come from his seven-round mock draft published Monday, but his second- and third-round predictions still stand as reasonable possibilities for Day 2.
Amaro would give the team another playmaker at tight end, where the Bills could look for another pass-catching target to pair with Scott Chandler. Crichton would be an excellent value if he was still on the board in Round 3.
Miller’s mock, however, projected that the Bills would draft Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews in Round 1. While drafting a tight end would still make sense, it’s more logical that Buffalo would use its second-round pick on an offensive lineman than another pass-catcher.
Peter Schrager (Fox Sports)
Round 2: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Round 3: Walt Aikens, CB/S, Liberty
Schrager, who predicted the Bills would draft LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in his seven-round mock published prior to Thursday’s Round 1, also has two predictions that are still standing on the board.
With offensive line standing out as the team’s biggest need, Kouandjio is a strong possibility if available at the 41st overall pick.
Aikens would come as a more surprising selection in Round 3, as he might still be able to be had in Round 4, but like Kouandjio and Watkins, he was a predraft visitor to the Bills whom the team could target in the middle rounds for secondary depth.
Predictions for Day 2
Bills will draft at least one offensive lineman
And they shouldn’t be opposed to potentially drafting two. The offensive line stands out as Buffalo’s biggest remaining area of need, and at a position where talent could come off the board quickly on Day 2, the Bills should act quickly if they want to land players who could compete for starting spots right off the bat.
As previously mentioned, there are a number of offensive tackles who the team could target with their second-round selection, but Round 3 possibilities to play either tackle or guard could include Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort, North Dakota State’s Billy Turner and Clemson’s Brandon Thomas.
Bills will add a playmaker to defensive front seven
While it’s possible the Bills could draft two blockers and continue building their offense, it’s more likely Buffalo will use one of its two Day 2 picks to add a talented prospect to its defense. With a record-setting nine defensive backs already off the board after one round, the Bills might be more inclined to look for value on its defensive front seven.
While Kyle Van Noy, Scott Crichton and Kony Ealy should all see consideration as players who could add to Buffalo’s pass rush and also help in other capacities, the third round could also be a hotspot for the Bills to land a defensive playmaker such as Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov, North Carolina defensive end Kareem Martin or Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith.
If Bills trade, it will be down
The Bills’ first-round trade made it clear that Buffalo wants to make a splash in this year’s draft, but don’t expect another move up the board on Day 2. The Bills only have five remaining picks in this year’s draft, and they truly cannot afford to give up any more future selections after trading away two of their 2015 picks already.
A trade down, on the other hand, would make sense. If the Bills are serious about making a playoff run, they should be looking for all the talent they can get and could benefit from adding a couple extra selections to their draft lineup.
Should a team desperately want to pick up a selection in the second or third round, it’s also possible the Bills could move out for a 2015 draft choice and start to replenish their stock of picks for next year. That seems like an unlikely strategy for the Bills, however, as they wouldn’t have traded two future picks if they didn’t feel as though as they needed to utilize all of their remaining 2014 selections.
Updated Buffalo Bills Mock Draft
Round 2, Pick 41: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT/G, Alabama
One of the best available offensive linemen at this point, Kouandjio seems like one of the Bills’ most likely draft choices if he is still on the board at their second-round pick. One of the Bills’ 29 predraft visitors this year, Kouandjio could be a starter at either tackle or guard.
A disappointing junior season in which his lack of quickness was exposed is likely what pushed him down to the second round, but the Bills can’t wait too long if they want someone who can contend for an immediate starting spot up front. The 6’7”, 322-pound tackle with 35.625” arms has one of the impressive frames in the draft class and can generate a push that the Bills lacked at most spots on their offensive line last season.
Round 3, Pick 73: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
Another player with highly impressive physical traits, Martin would be a high-upside selection in Round 3.
The 6’6”, 272-pound defensive end’s athleticism doesn’t always translate to the field, as he plays somewhat stiffly and linearly, but he has a combination of explosiveness and strength that gives him promising potential. He could line up both outside and inside as a pass-rushing threat, while he typically holds up well versus the run at the point of attack.
Round 4, Pick 109: Dontae Johnson, CB/S, North Carolina State
If the Bills can use one of their mid-round selections on a defensive back who can play both cornerback and safety, they could improve their depth throughout the secondary. That could lead them to North Carolina State’s Dontae Johnson, who has an intriguing combination of size and athleticism and experience playing both positions.
Johnson isn’t the polished player at either position, but he has good developmental upside and would be well worth a shot on Day 3, especially in a draft that has seen defensive backs come off the board in record numbers thus far.
Round 5, Pick 149: Terrance West, RB, Towson
Seemingly in the market for a third running back who can add size and power to their backfield, the Bills would be smart to draft Towson’s Terrance West if he is still available in Round 5.
West, a bruising between-the-tackles runner who set FCS records for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 2013, would be good Day 3 value even in a draft where running backs seem primed to fall as the position’s devaluation continues.
Round 7, Pick 224: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
The Bills could reunite Sammy Watkins with his collegiate quarterback by bringing in Tajh Boyd as a seventh-round pick.
A strong-armed quarterback who can make plays both inside and outside the pocket, Boyd would be good value in the seventh round as a young backup to EJ Manuel. Drafting a quarterback in the last round wouldn’t affect the team’s commitment to Manuel as a starter, but it would give the team another quarterback it can develop and insurance at the position in case Manuel battles injuries like he did in his rookie year.
Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.