Fitting the Bills: Bills Mock Draft
Updated: Apr 14
Pick 1:27 Drew Sanders MLB Arkansas
Height: 6043 Weight: 235 40: 4.66 RAS 8.97
The Bills face a critical draft with several pressing needs and mounting pressure to keep pace with the Division and Conference rivals. There is perhaps no bigger hole to fill than at MLB after the departure of Tremaine Edmunds. Luckily drafting 27th, may be a sweet spot to land the ILB of their choice between Drew Sanders, Trenton Simpson or Jack Campbell. All three offer the size and athleticism the Bills covet, but Jack Campbell seems to jump out as the best fit in McDermott's D, as a traditional off ball backer with the leadership, athleticism and football IQ to command the middle. However, another option that may offer more versatility, dynamic impact, better value and more upside may be Drew Sanders.
Sanders is a raw long disruptive force. He can man the middle or rush off the edge, having played both positions. At Alabama, he was used exclusively as an edge rusher, but he truly blossomed after transferring to Arkansas, where he was put off ball in the middle of the field, and then moved all over the field. Sanders is at his best when unleashed to crash downhill, and capable of making jarring hits sideline to sideline. He was also highly productive for Arkansas behind the line of scrimmage, tallying 103 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks and causing 3 forced fumbles. Although still learning to make plays behind him, he did manage to intercept one pass and defended 5. Perhaps one of the more valuable contributions Sanders made, and a skill that may serve him well on Sundays, is his ability to play QB spy where his length, pursuit and athleticism can neutralize mobile QBs.
As Sanders develops more coverage ability, he can be used as a pass rusher on obvious passing downs, either blitzing off ball or with his hand in the dirt off the edge. Now that McDermott is calling his own plays on Defense, he may covet the ability to attack from multiple areas on the field. I can even see the Bills implementing some 3-3-5 alignments with Sanders or Von Miller as the 3rd/ blitzing LB to try to create some havoc and an element of surprise. Sanders gives the Bills a traditional, run stuffing MLB, with size and athleticism, who also can aid in the pass rush. That versatility makes him one of the more intriguing and potentially valuable defensive prospects in the draft. At 22, he has nothing but upside as he learns the position.
Watch one game, and Sanders passion and excitement jumps off the screen. He could be a dynamic game changing prospect for the Bills to plug into one of their biggest remaining holes on the roster. While depth at the other areas of need is deep in this draft, MLB prospects are extremely thin. Grabbing Sanders or Campbell early may be the only option the Bills have to upgrade the LB room in the draft.
Pick 2:59 Siaki Ika DT Baylor
Height: 6027 Weight: 335 40: 5.39 RAS 2.60
Ika is a massive immovable force in the middle of the D with devastating hands and the ability to collapse a pocket and eat up blocks to free up those around him to make plays. One of the most underrated aspects to the Bills defense, is having a dominant Zero/One Tech to clog the middle, and push the pocket. While his stat sheet may not reflect his value to a team, the Bills saw what life was like without having their NT available when DaQuan Jones wasn't available for the Divisional loss to the Bengals. Having a young replacement to mentor behind Jones, and work his way in rotation, will keep the needed continuity going if they should lose Jones next season.
Once again, the Bills may rely on close ties to the Baylor program, as they did last year when they selected Terrell Bernard. Now that McDermott will be taking over the Defensive play-calling, I see him wanting to add some critical pieces he needs to make it the most effective before adding weapons to the offense.
Pick 3:91 Tucker Kraft TE South Dakota State
Height: 6046 Weight: 254 40: 4.69 RAS: 9.67
Adding a TE to compliment Dawson Knox would add a new dynamic to the Bills attack. Finding a dual threat TE to use in 12 personnel will help both the run game by extending the line of scrimmage and the pass game by making teams commit to choose between bringing more defenders in the box or sit back and defend the big plays downfield to Diggs, Davis, Shakir and Harty.
Kraft is a two way athletic throwback TE. Makes the contested catch and will impact the
run game as a blocker. Tough and versatile with huge upside potential as an in-line blocker. While he lacks the top end speed of a future star TE, Kraft is a tough, big framed threat to make contested catches and will be a red zone specialist. As a complimentary piece to pair with Knox, he could add an entirely new dimension tot he Bills attack, and will play a huge part in helping the run game.
Kraft had a solid combine, backing up what he put on tape. Given the level of competition, the solid measurables help verify the evaluation. Kraft was easily one of my favorites to watch, playing with the kind of passion and toughness you want to see in a TE. He may not last until the Bills 3rd pick, but if he does, they should pounce.
Kraft is projected to go somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Other TE options here that would fit what the Bills are looking for are Sam LaPorta, Luke Schoonmaker or Payne Durham, who should be available on day 3. However, if Kraft is there, hew would be the best fit for the Bills.
Pick 4:130 Israel Abanikanda RB Pittsburgh
Height: 5101 Weight: 216 40: 4.45 RAS: 9.61
While the Bills signed Damien Harris to add to the mix, a one year deal should not dissuade them from trying to find another back to add to the mix, especially one with size and the potential to be a feature or key early down back.
Pitts Isreal Abanikanda is an explosive back with good size. He led the nation in TDs and was a threat to take every touch to the house. He excels slicing between the tackles as a one cut runner with good vision. Big enough to break arm tackles and elusive enough to slither through narrow holes. While he lacks elite wiggle, he wins with track star speed, vision, balance and size. He was underused use as a receiver, but showed good hands and big play ability in space when given the chance. He also was a willing blocker.
Izzy has feature 3 Down back potential, but can make an immediate contribution as an early down rusher to be paired with a true 3rd down back. Only 20 years old, so plenty of tread left on tires and room for him to add some bulk to the speed. Major upside.
Other early down 4th round options are Roschon Johnson and Kendre Miller. Unfortunately, it sounds like Sean Tucker, who would also fit the Bill on day 3, is dealing with a medical condition that may drop his stock.
Pick 5:137 Michael Wilson WR Stanford
Height: 6017 Weight: 213 40: 4.48 RAS: 9.55
I know Bills Mafia is desperate to add a WR early in this draft, but I am convinced the strength in this year's receivers comes in its depth, rather than the top. While the vast majority of the prospects this year share very similar measurables, there are a few that standout for having both size and separation speed.
Michael Wilson was a traditional outside receiver at Stanford who stood out for his toughness and blocking ability. He attacks the ball in the air, and has the ability to make the spectacular contested catch. This to go with the speed to stretch the field. He is one of the better prepared receivers in this class to beat press coverage, and while not a finish product, shows explosiveness in and out of cuts. He also has good instincts with the ball in his hand, to gain extra yards, using his power and speed.
While he is not the natural separator as the smaller receivers that will be taken earlier, he has a skill set similar to Gabe Davis, should the Bills be unable to extend him next season. The Bills added smaller quick receivers already this offseason in free agency, Wilson would round out the room and certainly fits the culture of the team.
Another day 3 WR option with some size is Xavier Hutchinson and Andrei Losivas. If they wanted to go with a smaller receiver, who still plays tough vs larger corners, Jayden Reed would be a steal at this point.
Pick 6: 205 Mikel Jones LB Syracuse
Height: 5115 Weight: 229 40: 4.70u
As a Cuse alum and season ticket holder, I had the privilege to watch Mikel Jones play up close multiple times. I know this is a homer selection but his fiery competitive play style and natural leadership ability make this a worthy late day 3 pick. He has the style to be a special teams demon, and could find his way on the field as a pass rush specialist. He was a NFLPA game stand out, but was not given a combine invite. If he goes undrafted, I hope the Bills prioritize signing him as an UDFA.