Needs: The Bills lost Stephon Gilmore in free agency, but they were able to retain Lorenzo Alexander, keeping their best pass rusher in the mix. However, neither of those moves will change the team’s primary needs.
When it comes time to draft, the Bills will look to address holes at wide receiver, cornerback, safety, defensive end and tight end. Some needs are bigger than others, but look for Buffalo to draft players at each of those spots.
Picks: First round (10), second round (44), third round (75), fifth round (139, 152), sixth round (169).
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Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The Bills have one talented receiver in Sammy Watkins, but they’re extremely thin on the depth chart otherwise. Davis might just be the best receiver in the class despite not being able to work out during the draft process, boasting a great combination of size and speed. He can be a good complement to Watkins as a No. 2 receiver, using his physicality on underneath routes.
The Bills would obviously have to take him at 10 if they want him, and even then he might not be available. Wide receiver is arguably the Bills’ biggest need heading into the draft, and Davis has the perfect skill set for what they’re seeking.
Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana State
Woods is someone the Bills can snag in the second or third round as he’s one of the more underrated players in the draft. Buffalo released Aaron Williams, and they’re without a true free safety besides Jordan Poyer. Woods is a good defender as a single-deep safety with outstanding ball skills, which is exactly what the Bills need.
If Buffalo can snag him in the third round, he’ll be a terrific value selection. He’s not the biggest or fastest safety, but he makes up for that with his instincts and ball skills.
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Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Who would be opposed to the Bills pairing one Clemson receiver with another? Not me, that’s for sure. Williams doesn’t have the straight-line speed of Davis, but he wins with his size and physicality. Few defensive backs can beat him in jump-ball situations as he has an innate ability to high point the ball and bring it down.
With Watkins more of a deep threat on the other side, Williams can work on intermediate routes over the middle. That would be a big help for Taylor, giving him a big-bodied receiver with a huge catch radius. The team Buffalo has to worry about when it comes to Williams is Tennessee, which has showed interest in him and holds the No. 5 pick.
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Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Humphrey isn’t a player who’s going to thrive in man coverage. In fact, he’ll probably struggle in that regard. However, with Sean McDermott coming over from Carolina, the Bills will likely play more zone. That works in Humphrey’s favor, should he be picked by Buffalo.
A second-round prospect, he has terrific size and good enough speed to be a No. 2 cornerback. He struggles when put on an island with receivers, but McDermott doesn’t often ask his corners to do that. In a Cover 2 scheme where he can play with his eyes on the quarterback, Humphrey can have success in time.
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O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Howard is the top tight end in the class, mainly because he can do it all. He can split out wide, play in the slot, shift inside as a blocker on the line – you name it, he can do it. Charles Clay had a nice season in Buffalo last year, but Howard is a far superior athlete and pass-catcher.
The biggest beneficiary of Howard’s presence would be Tyrod Taylor, who often shies away from throwing over the middle. He sticks to out-breaking routes, which limits the Bills’ offense. Having a 6-6 tight end in the middle would presumably make him more comfortable between the numbers.
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Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State
Rivers is a small-school prospect with huge potential, but his lack of readiness for the NFL probably makes him a second-round prospect. He has the size and speed to play right away as an outside linebacker, but he’s not a refined NFL pass rusher. He did have 15 sacks in 2016 at Youngstown State, which is a big number, yet the level of competition isn’t nearly as strong as the NFL.
The Bills have Lorenzo Alexander and Jerry Hughes as edge rushers now, as well as Shaq Lawson, but Rivers has a high ceiling to be a dynamic edge rusher on all three downs in the future. He can be a long-term replacement for the 33-year-old Alexander.
Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan
Peppers is the most polarizing prospect in the draft, but most indications point to him being a late-first, early-second-round pick. The latter is more likely considering how deep the class is at safety, which could push him into the second round for Buffalo. He’d be a good value pick at 44th overall, possibly playing safety or linebacker in the Bills defense.
Peppers is best suited to be a strong safety and nickel back at the NFL level, which is something the Bills could use. He’s a similar player to Micah Hyde and that would give the Bills multiple options in the secondary. Sean McDermott should be able to find a spot for him to play.