Buffalo Bills 2015 Draft Review and Grades
2nd Round: Ronald Darby, CB, FSU
-In my final mock before the draft I had mocked CB to the Bills from FSU, PJ Williams. The logic behind it is pretty simple, just because it's not an immediate need it doesn't mean it's not a need. A lot of fans have a hard time wrapping their heads around that. Front offices more often than not do not select draft pics just by looking at their biggest need and then picking a player at that position. Most have figured out that is the best way to keep your team mediocre, raise the bust percentage, and pass on some special talent. I've found that when mocking out teams you have to look at a team needs this year and next to really gauge what they are going to do.
-Despite a lot of fans grumbling CB is a need. The CB position at the end of next year could be in a really bad position. 2 of them we'll be 30 and the only CB under contract with any talent is a slot CB only. The most talented CB of the bunch, Gilmore, will also have just concluded the last year of his rookie deal. While the Bills will obviously want to bring him back nothing is a guarantee. The selection of Darby, whom has starter ability, puts them in a much better position to deal with this. It gives them far more options than they previously had, especially for a team that will likely lay low during free agency next year as they try and resign their own.
-In the immediate future he provides even more depth to a critical position in Rex Ryan's defense. No matter how spread out the opposing offense want to get the Bills will have the CB talent to match it. That is a big advantage for the Bills in a league that has gone pass happy. This is also one of the most oft injured position in the NFL and Darby provides more depth to that as well as options if the Bills need to move Graham to FS
-Getting Darby in now is also important to Rex and this defense. Not being thrust right into a starter’s role and being able to be coached by two very good secondary coaches for a full year before likely becoming the starter opposite Gilmore will benefit Darby tremendously. There is a lot of value in that and will greatly help Darby reach his full potential
-From a fit standpoint Darby has a lot of what Rex looks for in CB's. He can man press, he's feisty, and he is ultra-athletic. You cannot just look at the INT numbers with Darby and judge him. He often shut down his side of the field. He has a swagger to him and a short memory, 2 things that are important to be a good starting CB in the NFL. There is a ton of physical talent to work with and he landed in a very good defense that fits him well and won't count on him to be an impact early
3rd Round: John Miller, OG, Louisville
-If you have been following me then you know I have been a fan of J.Miller for a long time. What I like about him is first he plays with a nasty streak. To me that mentality is very important when you are playing either line in the NFL. It's a street fight every snap and you have to be able to handle it mentally. Miller also has good hand tech for a college OL. This is a lot tougher to find than people think. Most college OL have sloppy hand tech because they can simply overpower opposing DL who also mostly have terrible hand tech. Miller also has very good power, which combined with the hand tech puts him farther along than most College OL. Do to that he is good at getting inside of opposing DL and stone walling them. Last but not least is he is a hard working team first player. Everyday Miller is going to work and make you work. Coaches and fans love that about players
-In the immediate future I think Miller will start off as the key back up to both the left and right side at OG. It won't last long though, I believe he has starter potential and will take over the one of them before November hits
5th Round: Karlos Williams, RB, FSU
-For me this was the most interesting selection for the Bills in the 2015 draft. RB much like CB is not a 2015 need but will be one in 2016. Williams has talent but it always doesn't show up which makes consistency his biggest issue. If you go off of his 2013 tape he likely would be a day 2 pick. The 2014 tape cost him 2-3 rounds. I know he has talent because I often rooted against FSU and remember every time he got the ball with some space I would think to myself "shit!".
-Williams is very much a downhill one cut and go RB. He can use both power and speed to beat you. The issue is that his motor doesn't always run hot. He seems uninterested at times and that is when he becomes very average.
-Fred Jackson cannot play forever and this looks like Williams could be his replacement in a year or two. In my opinion Williams could actually end up being the steal of the Bills draft and one of the biggest steals of the draft if he can keep his head on straight. Williams has a good amount of potential and he is the rookie I am most interested in seeing in the preseason
6th Round: Tony Steward, LB, Clemson
-I expect Steward to be on the inside for the Bills where they lack depth. Overall it's going to be hard for Steward to make the roster just as a reserve ILB. he is going to have to make it on Special Teams which lucky for him he happens to be very good at. There will be stiff competition but at worst I think he lands on the Practice Squad.
6th Round: Nick O'Leary, TE, FSU
-O'Leary was a pick I thought was coming earlier than this. He seems like a perfect fit for what Roman likes to do on offense. He likes to have a player in the H-Back mode that he can move around and make an impact in the passing game. O'Leary fits that as well as the type of player Rex just likes to have on his team.
-O'Leary is not the most athletic player on the field but he will play much faster than what his times will say. He has this knack for finding soft spots in zone defenses and catches nearly everything thrown his way. He is a very annoying player to opposing teams because you don't know how he keeps getting open and his receptions often result in first downs and TD's
7th Round: Dezmin Lewis, WR, Central Arkansas
-Lewis the latest attempt for the Bills to add size to their WR position. Lewis does have decent measurable and he makes a good amount of contested receptions. The issue however is, with a lot of these types of WR’s, is that if you cannot separate on a consistent basis it is hard for the team to put you out on the field. Lewis abusing college CB’s by winning jump balls is one thing, against NFL CB’s is another ball game all together. He has the raw ability so he is certainly worth a look. It would be wise of him however to start practicing special teams now because that will be the best avenue onto the roster. If not he would be a nice player to have on the practice squad
Overall Thoughts and Grade
Grade: B-, No home runs but a solid class overall that will pay bigger dividends in 2016 and beyond rather than immediately in 2015
-This draft class will not pay immediate dividends but will in the very near future. This class sets up the Bills to have upgraded depth for 2015. It will also provide the Bills to make roster decisions easier in 2016. With the money spent in FA'cy this year the Bills will not be big players in that for 2016. This draft class should allow for that to be much easier to do.
-The class is full of physical tough minded players. It's easy to see that this is the mentality that Rex is trying to create with the Bills
-The position I am surprised the Bills did not address is FS. I still think that is a position that is really up in the air. The staff seems to like Duke Williams, I'm not sold on him at all
-When the Jets selected L.Williams I stated that we are about to see how smart the Jets are. If they are smart they will keep Wilkerson in the fold and find a way to make it work with all that talent. If they are not they will move him which will actually lead to arguably a down grade. The Bills are in the same position to a lesser degree with their 2nd round selection. There is no reason to drop McKelvin this year unless they need the cap room to add a player late or work out an unforeseen trade. The Bills right now have a very deep and talented set of CB’s. They need to see the advantage to that and keep it intact
-As many have stated, and I agree, I think the selection of Williams may spell the end for B.Brown. Brown has some talent but the ball security issue remains a big one. This will be a big preseason and camp for B.Brown
-The Bills didn’t address the QB position but it really didn’t bother me that they didn’t. They added Cassel and Taylor in the offseason and once Grayson left the board you were left with a bunch of prospects that I would rate lower than EJ
-Best chance to make the roster from the UDFA’s is C.Reed. He never fully lived up to his potential in Texas but he has a lot of what you like in a 3-4 DE. I think at the very least he earns a practice squad spot
Bold Moves Define New Look Bills
Like last Year, the future grade on this draft will all fall on how special Sammy Watkins becomes. I like the aggressive move, but question the overall gain when factoring in the trading away of Stevie Johnson, who did not gel with the new Bills brass.
The Bills added depth and quality the rest of the way including Kounadijio who comes with a chip on his shoulder after being passed over in the first round. Kouandijio in the 1st round, potential bust, in the 2nd round with a motivating chip on his shoulder, potential beast.
The Bills continued the trend of drafting prospects they brought in for a visit. It's great that they get that extra time to build a comfort level. Finding prospects who want to be here is important. The Bills have finally started to draft well the past few years, but now to turn the corner they have to hold on to the stars they do find and develop. An endless carousel will only prolong the mediocrity.
Sammy Watkins will be the face of the franchise from this point on. Even more so than EJ Manuel and Mario Williams. He cost more than 2 number one picks, he will need to be the kind of difference maker CJ Johnson, Julio Jones, AJ Green and Dez Bryant have become for their teams. The Bills now are loaded with talent across the board, they need to put it all together and win.
There is no doubt Marrone, Whaley and Brandon have now put their stamp on this team. Letting your best Safety and Receiver go and then trading up by surrendering next years 1 and a 4 to get their guy are the kind of bold, moves that simply would not have been made previously. They did stock up on O-Lineman and hit their major needs with guys they targeted. The proof now is in the pudding, another losing season when the 1st round pick is going to Cleveland is the kind of move that gets GM's fired. However, for a franchise stuck in mediocrity, they also are the kind of win now at all cost moves that can finally reverse the culture of losing.
A+ / C+
WR: Sammy Watkins
Height: 6006 Weight: 211lbs
Hands: 9 5/8 Arms: 32
40: 1.43 10: 1.53
Bench: 16 VJ: 34
Watkins is sudden in his routes and has elite run after the catch ability. He can be a feature go to number one receiver at the next level. He sits clearly on top of a very deep and talented class.
Coach Doug Marone and GM Doug Whaley are trying to establish a team identity for the Bills that will help end the culture of losing. Making the bold move up for one of the 4 or 5 true blue chip prospects in the draft is a bold move that will likely either put them over the top or be the biggining of the end of the Marrone/ Whaley regime. Trading next year's number one is rarely a good move, but signals a win now at all cost approach. When you have the NFL's longest playoff drought, that's commendable.
However, the fact they turned right around and traded Stevie Johnson signals more of the same for the Bills. Trade away one of your best players for a mid round pick ( future one at that) is a recipe for continued mediocrity. That move was somewhat improved by flipping the pick acquired to go out and get Bryce Brown, a young running back with upside that provides needed insurance to the aging Fred Jackson and the oft injured CJ Spiller. The dream of Stevie and Watkins in the same package with Woods and Goodwin and Spiller only lasted a day. Yes, the Bills got younger, faster and ultimately better with Watkins, but much of the gain was lost when they gave away Stevie.
Grading just the player, hard to give anything but a great big A+, factoring in the cost to move up drop it to a solid B+, now factor in it resulted in giving up Stevie Johnson and I give the over package of moves a C+, the Bills are only marginally better than they were instead of having a plethora of weapons that could have struck fear in every team on the schedule.
That being said, Sammy Watkins will be a star. He was a Bills fan growing up and wants to be here, wants to lead and wants to be part of turning the team into a winner. In a ridiculously talented draft class at WR, he stood head and tails above the rest. He instantly makes EJ Manual better by giving him a reliable go to receiver who will be where he's supposed to be on every route, unlike Stevie, and can take that short dump off throw and take it to the house. The Bills clearly loved him and likely had him number one or two on their board with Clowney. Playoffs or bust.
I'm splitting this one: Player gets an A+ / Series of moves rates a C+
Round 2 Pick 9 (41)
OT: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Height: 6'7" Weight: 322 lbs
Hands: 10 1/4 Arms: 35 5/8"
40: 5.59 Bench 21
A massive but athletically limited with some injury concerns. His long arms, youth and raw ability including massive strength and size are enough to take the chance, especially considering the Bills will slot him in on the strong side and not ask him to match up with the elite pass rushers to protect EJ blindside.
The Bills brought Kouandjio in for a visit so their doctors had a chance to fully evaluate the knee. If he can stay healthy, this is a steel and an instant upgrade on the strong side. Marrone wants to build an identity for this team starting up front in the trenches with size, toughness and strength. This is a good start.
Round 3 Pick 9 (73)
LB: Preston Brown
Height: 6010 Weight: 251lbs
A true thumper inside who showed some speed and athleticism at the combine to show he can be a 3 down inside backer. He can learn and sub with Spikes in the middle and has some of the same intimidating qualities. Sifts through garbage and shoots the gap with purpose to hunt down ball carriers. At the very least the Bills have a 2 down run stuffer and special teams ace here.
Another pre-draft visitor who fits the toughness/ team leadership type the Bills want to add to the roster.
Solid Pick: B
Round 4 Pick 9
CB: Ross Cockrell
Height: 6000 Weight: 191
40: 4.47 10: 1.64
Smart aggressive corner. Needs to add bulk but can excel in packages and on special teams.
Value met need and obviously was yet another target having come in for pre-draft visit.
Depth in the secondary is necessary and after losing Byrd, the Bills have taken some steps to address the need..
Round 5 - Pick 9
OG: Cyril Richardson
Height: 6050 Weight: 333
A massive road grader who struggled this year after a dominant junior season. However, he seems to have gotten the fire back as he lost 20 pounds from the end of the season to his pro-day. If he stays motivated, he is an absolute steel and will be a fixture on the right side next to Kuoandijio for a decade.
Richardson and Kuoandijio give Marrone two massive lineman with unlimited upside to develop. If he's the true o-line guru we think he is, both will help to create a dominant strong side attack for the Bills. Love the value and the pick.
Round 7: Pick 6
OLB: Randell Johnson
Height: 6030 Weight: 242
A raw long lean and athletic prospect to groom on the practice squad unless he makes a name on special teams. Pretty much what you want in a 7th round pick, an athletic guy with upside who could crack the roster on special teams.
F or A
Round 7: Pick 22
OT: Seantrel Henderson
Height: 6070 Weight: 331
Henderson is either the steal of the draft or a waste of a pick and a cancer on the team. There really isn't any middle for him. He has first round talent, but off the field behavior including a failed drug test at the combine dropped him to the bottom of the 7th round. Another raw clump of clay on the o-line for Marrone to motivate and develop.
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1. Texans-DE:Jadeveon Clowney
2. Rams-OT:Greg Robinson
3. Jaguars-QB:Blake Bortles
5. Raiders-QB :Johnny Manziel
6. Falcons-LB:Khalil Mack
7. Bucs-OT:Jake Matthews
8. Vikes-QB:Teddy Bridgewater
9. Bills-OT:Taylor Lewan
10. Lions-WR:Mike Evans
11. Titans-OLB:Anthony Barr
12. Giants-OLB: C.J.Mosley
13. Rams-CB: Justin Gilbert
14. Bears-CB: Darqueze Dennard
15. Steelers-S: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
16. Cowboys-DT: Louis Nix
17. Ravens-WR:Marqise Lee
18. Jets-TE: Eric Ebron
19. Dolphins-OG: Zack Martin
20. Cardinals-S: Calvin Pryor
21. Packers-OLB: Kyle Van Noy
22. Eagles-S: Deone Bucannon
23. Chiefs-WR: Brandin Cooks
24. Bengals-CB: Jason Verrett
25. Chargers-DE: Stephon Tuitt
26. Browns-QB Derek Carr
27. Saints-DE Dee Ford
28. Panthers-OT Morgan Moses
29. Patriots-DT Ra'Shede Hageman
30. 49ers-WR: Jordan Matthews
31. Broncos-DT Aaron Donald
32. Seahawks- WR: Odell Beckham