Fitting the Bills: Penultimate 2023 Bills Mock Draft
Pick 1:27 Mazi Smith DT Michigan
Height: 6030 Weight: 337 RAS: 9.64u
The Bills face a critical draft with several pressing needs and mounting pressure to keep pace with the Division and Conference rivals. Picking 27th, they may not be in the best position to add a dynamic offensive weapon. The value may also not match the need at MLB. One need, not only immediate, but even more critical next season, is at DT. With an expected jump in the cap, the Bills may be able to extend 3 tech Ed Oliver, but they will likely move on from NT DaQuon Jones after this season. For this final mock, I am not including trades, but moving down from 27 to the top of the 2nd and then back up to the middle of the second from their second pick, may give them the best chance to address their two pressing defensive needs and put them in shape to start adding offensive weapons on days two and three.
Mazi is a NT with freakish athleticism for his size. With a wingspan to engulf blockers and surprising lateral movement to stack and then shed and attack downhill. He will need to add lower body strength and improve conditioning, but he has tremendous upside. He will work his way in the rotation day 1 and at some point will man the nose for over a decade. Planet theory type athlete. He is a closer, who can bury the QB or ball carrier when he smells blood.
Mazi was the anchor of a solid Michigan D and he is a dominant run stuffer with upside as a pass rusher, combining power and quickness. 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.
Mazi would have to answer questions about a misdemeanor gun charge, for gun possession in his car, but he was only two weeks shy of getting his permit. 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 2:59 Jack Campbell MLB Iowa
Height: 6027 Weight: 335 40: 5.39 RAS 2.60
There is perhaps no bigger hole to fill than at MLB after the departure of Tremaine Edmunds. However, the Bills may wait until day two to address MLB given the value and their investment last year in Terrell Bernard. That being said, Jack Campbell may be the kind of player on the field and in the locker room McDermott covets to lead the defense for years to come. I can see the Bills waiting until the second round, but getting aggressive to move up to the middle of the round to secure Campbell or Drew Sanders, who is a very different prospect than Campbell, but who may offer a more dynamic upside as a versatile backer with size, athleticism and pass rush ability, 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.
Jack Campbell is a throwback LB who served 2 years as team captain over one of the nations most talented defenses. His incredible production, leadership and toughness will not soon be forgotten at Iowa. A true two way defender who can absolutely sniff out and stuff the run or drop back into coverage and disrupt the pass. If there is a weakness in his game, it is his lack of pass rush ability, but on a team that asks their LBs to play the traditional role of QB'ing the day, he is a dream prospect.
Any unwarranted doubts about his athleticism were answered at the combine, where he posted an elite workout. His RAS of 9.98 compares favorably with some of the all time greats. One of those comps is a player Sean McDermott and staff are very familiar with, Luke Kuechly. Not surprisingly, Campbell is working with Kuechly pre-draft.
Now that the Bills know they will be without Tremaine Edmunds in the middle of their D, the urgency to draft a true MLB like Campbell gains in importance exponentially. The Bills put a lot on Edmunds plate from day1, having him call plays and man the middle. It took time for him to adapt and grow into that role. It is imperative if they go the rookie MLB starter route again, in the middle of a Super Bowl window, they get one that has the football IQ and leadership qualities to handle that responsibility. There may not be another prospect at any position in this draft better suited and mature enough to handle such a large responsibility day one.
Given the match between need, talent, readiness and leadership, it is not hard to imagine Captain Jack being a Bills target on day two, if not in the first round. I'll take toughness + Football IQ all day every day to man the middle. Now throw in size, athleticism and instinct and you have a franchise MLB.
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 Michael Wilson WR Stanford
Height: 6017 Weight: 213 40: 4.58 RAS: 9.51
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 5:137 Sean Tucker RB Syracuse
Height: 5092 Weight: 207 40: 4.33u RAS: 9.75u
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 the potential to be a feature or key early down back to be a compliment to Cook and Hines.
Sean Tucker is an explosive back with good size, vision and balance. He excels slicing between the tackles as a one cut runner with good vision. While he is more race horse than power back, he does posses strength at the point of contact to fight for additional yards and break arm tackles. Tucker possesses track star speed, vision, balance and decent size. He was used more as a receiver this season at Cuse and he showed soft hands and game breaking ability in the open field. He will need to improve as a blocker, but he is a hard worker and has a fun #PL34SED social media style that endears him to fans
Tucker was not medically cleared to participate fully at the combine, but at his private pro-day, he tested well, lifting 28 reps of 220 and jumping well. He did not run a 40 but has a track background and likely would have run in the 4.4 range.
Reported medical red flag may take him off multiple team's boards.
Pick 6: 205 Trey Dean S Florida
Height: 6021 Weight: 200 RAS: 8.38
Long developmental Safety with the traits to contribute early on special teams. Testing will drop his stock, but the tape shows a big strong, tough box safety with the ability to cover TE's. He is one of the tougher Safeties in this class capable of making jarring hits. Has the versatility the Bills covet.
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.