Fitting the Bills: Final 2023 Bills Mock Draft
Updated: Apr 26
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 none of the current DTs on the roster signed beyond this season. 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. RB and TE are other offensive positions where adding an impact prospect could help transform the offense. However, if they can identify a true WR who would take pressure off of Diggs and Gabe, on a rookie deal, that could be a needed jolt for the offense. For this final mock, I am projecting a trade down from 27 to 37 with Seattle. They will also swap picks so that the Bills move up from 59 to 52. I believe need best matches value on day two of the draft, especially between 31 and 52. The Bills also would pick up an extra 4th round pick in this scenario. The trade down may be the only way for the Bills to truly address all of their needs in this draft.
Pick 2:37 (From Seattle) Josh Downs WR North Carolina
Height: 5086 Weight: 171 40: 4.48 RAS: 8.99
Drafting a small slot receiver in the first round was too rich for my blood but among the group, Josh Downs stands out for multiple reasons. The Bills need to add weapons to the offense. They have not drafted an offensive player in the first round since Allen in 2018, Diggs is is reaching the age were a drop off may come soon and Gabe Davis is FA next year. The Bills did invest in WR in free agency, but adding a young potential impact Receiver on a Rookie contract may keep the offense humming.
Downs is a quick cut and smooth route runner. Despite his size, he is not afraid to go into traffic and make contested catches, but his sudden cuts and burst out of cuts rarely has him needing to. He effectively changes gears to create separation and will draw attention underneath, allowing others to work over the top more effectively. While his long timed speed wasn't quite as good as some of the other's in this class, he effectively gets open down field using a series of jukes and adjusting his speed to create separation. There are times in games, he simply is un-coverable and will frustrate the DBs assigned to slow him down. He explodes out of breaks and is a polished, dependable play-maker with silky smooth hands.
His 29 on the Wonderlic supports his apparent on field football IQ. Additionally, by all accounts he will be a high character positive addition to the locker room. He was super productive for the Tar Heels, registering 202 rec for 2,483 yds and 22 TDs.
Pick 2:52 (From Seattle) 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 Captain Jack is an ideal candidate to inherit the Green Dot. In many ways he is a dream prospect for the Bills.
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 4:123 (Traded from Seattle) Zacch Pickens DT South Carolina
Height: 6035 Weight: 291 40: 4.89 RAS: 9.19
An athletic 3 tech DT with quick twitch. RAW, but upside is immense as a single gap disrupter. Bills Top 30 Visitor would provide some insurance if the Bills lose Ed Oliver to Free Agency next season. Having a young 3 tech in the building for a year would also help them to decide how much they would be willing to give Oliver. If he looks like a potential replacement, then they may use the money elsewhere on the roster.
At worse, you have a young, developmental rotational depth piece on a rookie salary who has a similar athletic profile to your starter. At best, you have a cheap seamless replacement.
Pick 4:130 Jerrod Clark DT Coastal Carolina
Height: 6034 Weight: 337 40: 5.35 RAS: 5.26
Small school big man. A lane clogger and block absorber. Can collapse the pocket on a bull rush when he gets off quickly. Will be an early down NT only but did post some impressive athletic scores at the combine: 10 Yd Split 1.77 (6.14) 3-cone 7.6 (7.02) 33.75" arms.
Proved he belongs with the big boys at the Senior Bowl, where he had more than a few dominant reps one on one. Once engaged, he is almost impossible to shake off.
His athletic profile is actually an upgrade to DaQuan, and bringing him in this year to develop will allow him to apprentice this season before hopefully assuming the role next season.
I had previously projected a NT in the second round to the Bills in earlier mocks in Gervon Dexter and Mazi Smith, but feel given the fact the Bills have a year to fill the roles the rookies will hopefully assume, day 3 was the wiser place to add these developmental depth pieces.
Pick 5:137 Alex Forsyth C Oregon
Height: 6037 Weight: 303
The Bills have done a poor job of developing lineman, especially interior lineman, instead relying on a revolving door of free agents. Mitch Morse is perhaps the most important player on the Bills line and given his history of concussions, it is critical to have an heir training in the wings.
Alex Forsyth is a scouts darling. He is talented Center with huge upside and impressive tape. He is strong and shows fluid movement making combination blocks and getting to the second level. Despite testing poorly at the combine, on tape he shows plus athleticism for the position, albeit unrefined.
He was a finalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award, given to the CFB player who demonstrates outstanding leadership, courage, integrity and sportsmanship after the tragic loss of his father in a fatal mall shooting. Alex is a scouts dream as he exemplifies talent, leadership, character and commitment. He is a developmental project. He tested poorly at the combine and has battled the dreaded Yips at Center. However, In the right team setting with a strong support system in place, he has the potential to be the best Center drafted this year two or three years down the road.
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.