3 draft needs for the Buffalo Bills
Buffalo entered this offseason with major question marks at a handful of positions, the biggest at the quarterback spot. Now that Buffalo has made the decision to keep on rolling with Tyrod Taylor, the team still has to address some of the other glaring holes it didn’t via free agency. Luckily for Buffalo, the positions they’re in need of are fairly deep in this year’s draft, and if the Bills play their cards right they could plug a bunch of those holes with players capable of starting from Day 1 in each of the first few rounds.
Need: A playmaker at wide receiver
There is no denying that the Bills were thin at wide receiver last season, as the passing game really struggled to get it going when Sammy Watkins was forced to miss a large chunk of the season. Buffalo went out and signed both Corey Brown and Andre Holmes this offseason, but they also parted ways with Robert Woods and they still lack a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver to line up opposite the oft-injured Watkins. If the Bills are going to give Taylor a legitimate opportunity to succeed they’re going to need to get more talented out wide.
Early-round target: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The best route-runner in the draft class, Davis at 10th overall would represent a huge win for the team from western New York. Davis was third among all draft-eligible wide receivers this season with an average of 3.55 yards per route run and he’s proven that he can be effective at all three levels of the field: last season, Western Michigan QBs had a 137.1 QB Rating when targeting Davis on 25 attempts that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, along with a 130.6 QB Rating on throws targeting Davis in the short-to-intermediate range.
Mid- or late-round target: Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
Playing at Eastern Washington, it’s fair to say that Kupp spent most of his collegiate career squaring off against inferior opponents; Kupp routinely torched them though – his 89.3 overall grade in 2016 would have ranked second among all FBS receivers – and he proved during Senior Bowl week that he’s capable of competing against greater competition. If Buffalo doesn’t draft a receiver in either of the first two rounds, Kupp possesses a unique amount of immediate upside for a mid-round receiver, which should make him extremely intriguing for Buffalo. Buffalo doesn’t need depth at the wide receiver position, they need to add a legitimate playmaker capable of contributing from day one, and to steal a line from our Kupp scouting report, “Kupp may not have the flashiness of some of the other receivers in this class, but he very well could be one of the best in it.”
Need: Starting cornerback
Ronald Darby has solidified himself as a bona-fide cornerback but as a result of the departure of Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo currently has a sixth-round pick from last year, Kevin Seymour, slotted in the starting spot opposite Darby. While Seymour did show some positives in Buffalo’s season finale against the Jets, it was just one of the three games in which he played in over 15 snaps, and after him the roster gets extremely thin at the position. Buffalo needs to add playmakers and depth at the cornerback position, making this an obvious area to address in next month’s draft.
Early-round target: Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
With this year’s cornerback class being as deep as it is, there’s a chance that some serious talent at the position slips into the second round. If Humphrey falls into Buffalo’s lap in the second round he would be a huge pickup for the Bills. Humphrey is capable of playing both press and off coverage and he’s excellent with the play in front of him, making him a nice scheme fit for Sean McDermott’s defense. Humphrey has shown a penchant for giving up the occasional big play, but without that weakness we’re likely looking at a lock as a first-round pick, if Buffalo is able to land him in the second and clean up that deficiency they’ll be getting tremendous value at a position of great need.
Mid- to late-round target: Shaquill Griffin, UCF
This year’s class is so deep that Griffin – with his excellent combination of size and speed – could make it all the way to Day 3 and step in and immediately claim Buffalo’s No. 2 CB role. Griffin finished 11th out of 481 qualified cornerbacks this season with an 86.2 overall grade and his playmaking ability ranks towards the top of the class, his 15 combined pass breakups and interceptions in 2016 were the third most by all cornerbacks.
Need: Free safety
Buffalo parted ways with Corey Graham this offseason, along with an oft-injured Aaron Williams giving them a blank slate at the safety position. The Bills went out and signed both Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer but they’re still lacking a legitimate free safety to man center field for Sean McDermott’s defense.
Early-round target: Malik Hooker, Ohio State
If Hooker slips to Buffalo at 10 it’s going to be extremely difficult to pass him up. Hooker, widely considered the best pure free safety in the class, makes a great fit for McDermott’s scheme. Hooker’s range is outstanding and he’s a playmaker, his seven interceptions in 2016 tied for the most among free safeties and a bunch of those would make anybody’s highlight reel. Hooker has his struggles against the run and tackling definitely isn’t a strength – he missed one of every 6.5 tackle attempts last season, which ranked 135th out of 242 qualified safeties – but his coverage skills dwarf those deficiencies. Hooker is one of the only players who Buffalo should consider at ten if they aren’t going to go with a receiver or cornerback.
Mid- or late-round target: Tedric Thompson, Colorado
Thompson doesn’t rank toward the top of this year’s safety class in terms of athletic ability, which will likely bump him down to Day 3, but he should be able to make up for that lack of athleticism with his high level of anticipation and awareness. Thompson shows enough range to suggest that he’s capable of playing both as a centerfielder and as a split safety and his ball skills are outstanding. The safety from Colorado equaled Hooker with seven interceptions this season, he ranked third among safeties with seven pass breakups and he ranked first among safeties, holding opposing QBs to a 21.3 QB rating when he was the primary defender in coverage.