Bills have plenty of good options besides quarterback at 2018 Draft

February 27, 2018

It would be very surprising if the Buffalo Bills did not take a quarterback in the first round of April’s NFL draft and mind-blowing if they pass on one the first two days entirely (rounds 1-3).

Although the position of QB is one many have focused on since the season has ended and even during the 2017 season, the Bills do need more than a QB in April.

Buffalo finally ended their 17-year playoff drought but when you look at the roster, it’s easy for a fan to wince at some of the starting players they relied on in 2017. The Bills have four picks in the first two rounds (two in each round). They hold picks 21 and 22 because of the trade during the 2017 NFL Draft where the Kansas City Chiefs traded their 2018 1st-round pick for the rights to trade up and draft QB Patrick Mahomes.

But where will the Bills turn to with their first four picks?

Assuming they do draft their franchise QB, it would be nice for Buffalo to improve their wide receiver depth. They have Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones under contract but Benjamin has had injury troubles so far in his NFL career and Jones is still an unproven top 2-3 wideout. Jordan Matthews is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and the only other receiver option that produced numbers was Deonte Thompson (38 catches and 555 yards).

A receiver to add to that group could conceivably be taken in the first two rounds. The two best receivers in this year’s draft are Alabama’s Calvin Ridley and SMU’s Courtland Sutton. But Ridley looks to be gone in the top half of the first and Sutton will likely be a first-rounder as well. If the Bills trade up to get their QB, that would likely mean no second first-rounder to use on a WR.

Past Ridley and Sutton, there’s Colorado’s Michael Gallup, Memphis’ Anthony Miller and Oklahoma State’s James Washington.

Washington would be interesting if Buffalo’s QB is Mason Rudolph — both Oklahoma State products. There’s also Marcell Ateman, who was also a target for Rudolph at Oklahoma State, who is going to be taken at some point during the draft.

Sticking with offense, there’s the offensive line.

Starting center Eric Wood was recently forced into retirement due to injury. That leaves just center/guard Ryan Groy as the Bills only option for center.

The top center prospect in this year’s draft is Ohio State’s Billy Price. Price was a four year starter with the Buckeyes and has been projected to go around where the Bills will be picking (21-22).

As far as guard goes, Richie Incognito is going to be 35 when the 2018 season starts and they also have John Miller and veteran Vlad Ducasse. The best guard in the draft is Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame but Nelson will be gone in the top 10.

The three options that could be on Buffalo’s radar are UTEP’s Will Hernandez, Auburn’s Braden Smith and Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn. All could go in that late first to early third round range.

Looking at the defense for the Bills, the two positions that jump out are cornerback and defensive tackle.

At corner, there’s last year’s first-round pick Tre’davious White and not much else if we’re being honest. E.J. Gaines is an unrestricted free-agent and we don’t know if he’ll be coming back to Buffalo. [Editor’s note: The Bills just signed Vontae Davis, which makes it more likely that Gaines will not be back.]

There’s Iowa’s Josh Jackson, who is likely going in the first round, and the same can be said for Ohio State’s Denzel Ward. One cornerback to keep an eye on is Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver. He should be going in the late first to second round and could be someone Buffalo picks after they get their QB.

Then we have defensive tackle. Buffalo plays a 4-3 defense under head coach Sean McDermott and relies on his defensive linemen to get quick penetration off the line of scrimmage. That’s helped by someone like Kyle Williams who excels at that scheme, but Williams is 34 years old and who knows how much longer he will play (if at all).

The two defensive tackle prospects to pat attention to are the University of Washington’s Vita Vea and Michigan’s Maurice Hurst.

Vea is a massive 6’5”, 340 lb DT who was the kingpin for the Huskies defense. Hurst is a bit of an undersized DT, at 6’2 and less than 290 lb.

But Hurst is known for his athleticism and quick play off the line —  that could be something McDermott desires. Both will likely be first-round picks and either could be a good pick for the Bills.

Two other potential first-rounders are Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne and Florida’s Taven Bryan. If one of them falls into the second, the Bills should consider getting their hands on one.

An argument can also be made for drafting an offensive tackle or safety in the first two days of the draft. Buffalo, like most teams, will have to pick carefully which positions they value the most early on in April’s draft and what players are the keys to continue the Bills process.

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