A new era starts for the Buffalo Bills with Sean McDermott taking over, making the 2017 NFL Draft quite important. A seven-round mock draft for the Bills.
Joining McDermott in turning around the Buffalo Bills’ organization is Doug Whaley who, surprisingly, outlasted former head coach Rex Ryan into the new regime with McDermott. That, however, might not last much longer.
A general manager’s job is to make a team better for the head coach. Bring the right group of players in to fit the coach’s need; if the GM and head coach are on different pages, it’ll be hard for the team to be successful. It sounds like Whaley isn’t even calling the shots heading into the 2017 NFL Draft but McDermott is. That’s a lot of pressure for a first-time head coach.
Regardless of where the shots are coming from, though, they need to hit their mark in the 2017 NFL Draft. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what they might do starting April 27 with this seven-roudn mock draft for the Buffalo Bills.
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) tackles Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, Pick 10: Marshon Lattimore, CB – Ohio State
Gone are the days of Stephon Gilmore. Drafted 10th overall just five years ago, Whaley had no problem letting Buffalo’s most consistent playmaker in their secondary over the last half-decade walk right into the arms of the enemy.
Whaley needs his replacement this season, otherwise the secondary will struggle with two new faces at safety and Kevon Seymore— a 2016 sixth-round draft choice—currently slated to play opposite Ronald Darby.
Buffalo has many options in the first round this year. Tyrod Taylor is back, but is no longer getting paid like a franchise quarterback, Robert Woods needs to be replaced with someone more reliable than Sammy Watkins, and, of course, cornerback. You can even throw tight end into that mix as well.
Cornerback depth is aplenty this year. Marshon Lattimore, however, is the cream of the crop in many draft circles. The former Ohio State Buckeye stands at 6-0, 192 pounds and primed to be successful at the next level.
The Bills have a history of drafting quality Buckeye corners and safeties. They selected Nate Clements in the 2001 NFL Draft and Donte Whitner as well as Ashton Youboty in the 2006 NFL Draft. If Lattimore falls to No. 10, he could be next.
Oct 29, 2016; Greenville, NC, USA; East Carolina Pirates wide receiver Zay Jones (7) runs with the ball during the first quarter against Connecticut Huskies at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2, Pick 44: Zay Jones, WR – East Carolina
The Bills need to fill a whole left by Robert Woods in the 2017 Draft Class or they won’t have a chance to even sniff the postseason next year. They might go wide receiver in Round 1, but in this scenario replacing Stephon Gilmore is a bigger need.
Woods proved to be a reliable option for Tyrod Taylor in 2016 catching 51 passes for over 600 yards. However, he only scored one touchdown while having to play No. 1 receiver role with Sammy Watkins in and out of the lineup. Regardless of the lucrative contract he received from the Los Angeles Rams, Woods never was a number one receiver in his time in Buffalo.
If Buffalo ever says “enough is enough” with Watkins, then Jones would need to fill that role. With a couple years under his belt in the NFL, he could do just that.
Oct 22, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers linebacker Duke Riley (40) celebrates as Mississippi Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10) looks on following a defensive stop during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Mississippi 38-21. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3, Pick 75: Duke Riley, LB – LSU
After failing to become a full-time starter at LSU his first three seasons, Duke Riley finally hit the field as a starter this last season. His patience paid off leading the Tigers defense in tackles in 2016 which ultimately turned into an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.
The man with an Elvis tattoo on his torso will get drafted at the end of the month but experts are torn on how high he could go. At just 6-0 and 232 pounds, he’s projected as a will linebacker at the professional level.
Right now, Buffalo could go with either second-year man Reggie Ragland or Preston Brown on the weak-side, but their natural positions are inside. After his strong season last year, Lorenzo Alexander is expected to continue holding down the strong side of Sean McDermott’s defense.
Riley will need time to develop but he’s a fast linebacker (4.58-second 40 yard dash) with great upside as he continues to gain more experience.
Oct 14, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Duke Blue Devils running back Jela Duncan (25) runs the ball against Louisville Cardinals safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (25) during the second quarter at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5, Pick 156: Josh Harvey-Clemons, SS – Louisville
Big safeties are becoming a norm in the NFL these days. Guys like Kam Chancellor and Dashon Goldson are just two good examples. Josh Harvey-Clemons is one of the next in line that NFL scouts are raving about. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, he’s a prototypical in-the-box safeties that are hard to gameplan around, but are perfect matchup scenario’s for guys like Rob Grownkowski and Julius Thomas, both of whom Buffalo will face twice a year in the AFC East.
Harvey-Clemons began his career at Georgia, coming in as a five-star linebacker recruit before multiple marijuana arrests forced Georgia to kick him off the team. He then transferred to Louisville and started two seasons for the Cardinals finishing with 144 tackles and three interceptions.
Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are set to take over at safety, but Harvey-Clemons would fill a similar role in McDermott’s defense as Shaq Thompson played for him with the Carolina Panthers.
Mar 3, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Bucknell offensive lineman Julie’n Davenport squares off in the mirror drill against San Diego State offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo has had a revolving door on the right side of their offensive line. Drafted in 2014, Seantrel Henderson has been a big disappointment playing poorly and getting suspended on two separate occasions. Jordan Mills has come in and taken over the spot in the last year and a half, though, starting in all 16 games last season.
At just 26 years old, Mills is young, but has been ultimately inconsistent throughout his five seasons as a pro. Julie’n Davenport won’t be ready to start right away, but the Bucknell product is projected to have a high ceiling. When he gets drafted, he’ll be the first Bucknell player drafted since 1969.
Round 6, Pick 195: Keionta Davis, DE – Chattanooga
Keionta Davis is your prototypical small-school project. He’s received a lot of praise this last season after his performance against Alabama in which he had four tackles, a half-sack and a forced fumble. That performance, along with the 31 sacks he had in his career at Chattanooga, garnered enough interest for a Reese’s Senior Bowl invite this past January.
Buffalo doesn’t have a lot of depth at defensive end this season. The line will be a focus for Whaley and company with Shaq Lawson’s injury history, and Jerry Hughes and Kyle Williams aren’t getting any younger. The Bills thought they found some depth in Scott Crichton last week, but a failed physical put a halt to that. Davis could benefit from learning from the great veterans Buffalo has, but it’ll be a year or two before he’s truly ready to contribute.