The Buffalo Bills are searching for that next piece of the puzzle. There’s plenty to target in this years first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Rex Ryan saw his time come and go with the Buffalo Bills. A fan and player favorite, Ryan never found the success in one of the NFL’s proudest cities. That forced the Pegulas’ hands in making a change.
While some believe Ryan was the problem many more believe that general manager Doug Whaley is the issue. The GM since 2013, Whaley hasn’t seen his team win more than nine games. Now new head coach Sean McDermott is in town and Bills fans may be seeing a power shift go from GM to head coach.
McDermott was brought in this offseason to improve a team that finished 10th and 16th in offensive and defensive scoring, respectively, this past season. He was successful as the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, helping lead a charge that saw the Panthers in the Super Bowl for the first time in over a decade.
The question leading into the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft is who’s calling the shots? Will Kim Pegula give Whaley one more shot or is McDermott going to take over in the war room? Regardless, these five players will all be options with the No. 10 overall pick.
Dec 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams (7) runs the ball after a catch against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first quarter in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
5. Mike Williams, WR – Clemson
The Bills moved up in the 2014 NFL Draft to draft Sammy Watkins. They have high hopes that he can be everything they want him to be, but a shaky start to an injury-filled career is all he has to his name right now. Obviously Watkins is part of Whaley’s plans in 2017 and beyond. But there needs to be a more reliable asset to Buffalo’s offense and Tyrod Taylor can’t rely on him or any other of Buffalo’s signings this offseason.
Whaley needs to save his job. Picking a quarterback first wouldn’t be his decision. His best bet would be to play nice and do what he can to find pieces for Taylor on offense, and Mike Williams would be a top choice.
Like Watkins, Williams had great success at Clemson. Williams proved to be a big-play guy as a sophomore in 2014, catching 57 passes for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns. His junior season was cut short in week one due to a neck injury, but it didn’t set the tone for the rest of his career. He came back this past season as a senior and caught 98 balls for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) runs a touchdown ahead of Clemson Tigers safety Van Smith (23) during the third quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
4. O.J. Howard, TE – Alabama
The man playing against Williams this past January for a National Championship is top tight end prospect O.J. Howard. Howard isn’t the flashiest player on the field, but what sets him apart is both his ability to catch the pass and dominate in the running game.
Over the course of junior and senior seasons, Howard caught 83 passes for 1,197 yards and five touchdowns. Numbers you won’t drool over, sure. But when he has the ball in his hands, he’s fun to watch.
Charles Clay needs a running mate on offense. Howard is effectively another offensive lineman in the running game and wide receiver when the ball’s in the air. Down the road, Howard would be the replacement for Clay, who’ll ultimately be a cap casualty.
3. Marshon Lattimore, CB – Ohio State
The Bills drafted a stud at cornerback 10th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. That cornerback was Stephon Gilmore. He played out his rookie contract in Buffalo and, after Whaley chose not to offer the contract he wanted, he went to New England.
Sitting with the 10th pick again this year, Whaley and McDermott need to come to a decision: Are they comfortable with Kevon Seymore, a 2016 sixth-round pick, playing opposite Ronald Darby in 2017? Or do they think we can find a starting corner in round two or three? If both answers are no, then they can’t afford to pass on Marshon Lattimore if he’s available when they pick the night of April 27.
Lattimore would be a Day 1 starter if drafted by Buffalo. He had a great senior season starting for the Buckeyes, in which he intercepted four passes and finished with 41 tackles. What highlights his collegiate tenure, though, are the hamstring injuries that plagued him to miss the entire 2014 season and much of 2015. He says he’s 100 percent now, per CBS Sports.
Dec 31, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs with the ball as LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) defends during the second half at Camping World Stadium. LSU Tigers defeated the Louisville Cardinals 29-9. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
2. Jamal Adams, S – LSU
Gone are both Aaron Williams and Corey Graham. In are both Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. Jamal Adams could be the next safety to join the group in Buffalo.
The Hyde signing was a big upgrade for the Bills. He can play multiple positions on the defense, including slot corner, and he’s also an asset on special teams. Poyer, however, hasn’t started more than six games in a season and that came last year in Cleveland, going on injured reserve after a big hit that lacerated his kidney.
Adams is a do-it-all safety. He’s shown the ability to jump routes in the middle of the field, play centerfield and come up and play the run. If drafted, he’d be plugged in and run with the starters from Day 1. He’s a hot commodity, though, as many teams in the first nine picks are certainly getting a good look at him prior to draft day.
1. Deshaun Watson, QB – Clemson
Tyrod Taylor has one year to prove himself to McDermott, otherwise he’s done in Buffalo. He may have more pressure than he wants going into the season from a quarterback like Deshaun Watson.
A pedigree with national champion written all over him, Watson would be a welcomed site in Buffalo. Although Taylor is a favorite throughout Bills Mafia, the Bills haven’t had a quarterback with the type of credentials Watson has in a long time.
Taylor brings excitement to Buffalo. He brings a swagger that fans love but that ship might’ve set sail the second Rex Ryan was fired. Doug Whaley has made it obvious he’s not a fan of Taylor ( a large reason why Cardale Jones took over in week 17. But as I previously stated, he doesn’t have a choice; bringing in Watson would ultimately be a call from McDermott, the rest of the coaching staff and possibly ownership.
Through two full seasons starting for Clemson, Watson led the Tigers to the National Championship Game while throwing for 86 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. He gets flagged for his decision-making, but he’s a winner. That just needs to translate to the pro level.