As we get into mid-February and we near the NFL combine things are starting to become clearer. Needs are being defined, players are starting to re-sign, and prospects stock is getting set. While there is still plenty left to question between now and the NFL draft, it’s time to take another look at some of the options the Bills have when it comes to their nine picks this year.
1 (10). DE Courtney Upshaw-Alabama (Scouting Report)
In case you missed the vote we had on Twitter just last week (follow us @BillsDraft) we gave you five choices and asked you to pick who you would want the most. In our scenario it was tight for a long time with OT Riley Reiff and DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw trading votes, but in the end Upshaw pulled away. Upshaw offers impressive speed off the edge, a good first step and tenacity that few other prospects in this draft show. In short he just looks like he wants it more.
There are concerns about Upshaw’s fit and size limitations in the Bills new 4-3 defense. He came in under 6’2 at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL and had arms that were just over 31” which is considered short for man of his stature. Despite those limitations he was still a dominant force in one on one drills. He runs the arc rush better than any other prospect in this draft and continues to defy the odds and beat the prototypical long armed and athletic OT’s like Ohio State’s Mike Adams.
Upshaw comes into Buffalo and is all but guaranteed one of the two starting DE spots on our new four man line.
2 (41). LB Zach Brown-UNC (Scouting Report)
We also were able to do the second round of our little draft on Twitter and this time the vote was never close. We decided to throw in the option of Zach Brown potentially falling out of Round 1 and wanted to see if Buffalo should have interest as a 43 team. The fans flocked to that decision and voted for Brown so overwhelmingly we lost count.
Brown is a prototypical 43 OLB who is actually flying somewhat under the radar right now. He was one of former ESPN and current CBS writer Bruce Feldman’s workout warriors in years past and is considered one of the most athletic and dangerous players in this draft. He can blitz off the edge, he can play the run, and he can drop back into coverage. His range is elite and he runs as well as most safeties let alone LB’s.
The issue for Brown though is with his aggressiveness and discipline. He had more freedom at UNC to make plays and fly all over the field than he’ll have in the NFL. He showed some growth in this area in his senior tape showing that he could play in the Carolina scheme and understood his assignments. That tells you a lot about the kind of players he is compared to other athletic LB’s from the past. He also needs to clean up his tackling technique a little bit and make sure he’s consistently wrapping up and not just looking for a big hit.
3 (72). OT Jeff Allen-Illinois
There is no doubt and no discussion that Buffalo must find a LT solution. We know there is a sector of the fan base that is still holding out hope that Chris Hairston will become that guy but based on what he did in college and what he showed last year we don’t see that as much more than just wishful thinking. Allen was a guy who had a very strong senior season and really was one of the top OT’s in the Big Ten last year.
He has the ideal size and arm length for the OT position and is more than fluid enough in his movement to make speed rushers take themselves out of the play. Allen does a good job sitting in his stance and anchoring against the bull rush as well. He shows good pop on his punch that he uses to help neutralize speed rushers and plays with consistent leverage that allows him to control his man.
Allen does have a tendency though to get caught over extended. When the DE he’s facing gets a good jump off the snap he can get caught bending at the waist and lunging at the target. The same could be said for Allen when he’s in the open field as a lead blocker. He doesn’t do a good job identifying the targets and does a poor job in his efforts to cut block defenders in this role.
4 (105). WR Jermaine Kearse, Washington
The situation with Steve Johnson is very fluid right now. There is little news coming out of either side but you can get the sense that with the FA period rapidly approaching the outlook is getting grimmer and grimmer. With that in mind you have to expect the Bills to make a play in FA for a WR replacement. They also will need to add some depth to a WR core that was decimated by injuries and lacks depth to begin with.
That’s where a guy like Jermaine Kearse comes in. He’s a dynamic down the field player who has inconsistent hands but great size and speed. I know many people will want to avoid him because of his drops but to me the issue with Kearse appears to be more concentration based than a fundamental flaw. He needs to keep his eye on the ball and not be worried about how much open space is in front of him or where the hit is coming from.
If he can mature in this regard and become a sound pass catcher he has the potential to become a starting outside WR. He’s a 6’1, 210 lbs guy who should run around 4.45 and runs good routes. With or without Stevie next year adding this kind of speed and deep play ability is a must add for this offense.
4 (125 f. Baltimore). TE Kevin Kroger, Michigan
Scott Chandler is another FA that the Bills must decide what to do with. There will likely be plenty of suitors waiting for Chandler should he hit the open market. He was a threat in the red-zone last year but struggled at times to do much in the open field with limited athletic ability. He also didn’t block nearly as well as he showed he could when he was Iowa.
If you are a fan of Michigan or the Big Ten the first thing you know is that nobody and I mean nobody is starting at TE for any of those schools if they can’t block. Kevin Kroger is one of the most accomplished and polished blockers in this draft among the top level TE’s. He’s also quite the athlete who has a nice set of hands and the ability to get behind the LB’s and really run a strong seam route.
Kroger has the ability to come in early and make a difference, he can block in a jumbo set and also allow us to utilize play-action fakes out of it thanks to his athleticism and ability to catch the football. This could give the Bills another offensive look to utilize.
5 (136). OG Matt Reynolds, BYU
The offensive line seems like it has seen more injuries than almost any other position on this team over the last few years. We have seen countless players come and go in Buffalo and we know that we will never go anywhere if we don’t start to get consistent play from the OL in general. Reynolds is the kind of versatile prospect who you ideally play inside or who can play some RT in a pinch.
Reynolds was the LT for BYU for his entire career and was very good, however like many collegiate OT’s Reynolds needs to kick inside to OG where he can be protected from speed rushers who gave him trouble in college. It also allows him to utilize his best ability which is his strength, he does a good job at the point of attack engaging the defenders and has the ideal arm length that allows him to keep the defender at bay.
Reynolds allows us to add another prospect who can be depth at multiple positions and also gives us some insurance should we choose not to resign OG Kraig Urbik who is a pending FA.
6 (167). DE Adrian Hamilton, Prairie View A&M (Scouting Report)
The fans have been clear that their number one desire is to add pass rush for next season. We are moving from a 34 front to a 43 front which will further complicate things but we do know that our new DC prefers the theory of applying pressure with your front four as opposed to utilizing more of the front seven that the 34 scheme calls for. So if your goal is to add pressure then there is no better player to do that with than with the prospect who lead the whole country (regardless of division) in sacks this year.
We’ve seen Hamilton up close at this year’s HBCU Bowl and were just as impressed with him there as we were on film. He’s an athletic rusher who loves to run the outside arc but has the fluidity to unleash a devastating spin move back to the inside. He has some size questions that may cause some teams to hesitate and he’s not ever going to be a power end who control the point of attack and is a beast against the run.
If what you want is a player with a good get off and who knows how to work his way to the QB then you take Adrian Hamilton. He is a classic 43 DE who can work as a stand up 34 OLB when we show that look as well.
6 (171 f. Seattle). FB Bruce Figgins, UGA
NOTE: We are currently projecting this pick as the pick being received for the Marshawn Lynch trade. Reports are that it was a conditional pick that was traded that with certain statistical achievements made the pick could become a 5th. As of yet there is still no official word on the pick.
One of the most often over looked and undervalued positions on the field may be the FB position. We have had a good run with Corey McIntyre as our lead blocker but our issue is that he’s only a lead blocker. He offers almost no other value in terms of running the ball or catching it.
Bruce Figgins is a converted TE who has very soft hands and the ability to lay defenders out with his blocking. He’s still learning the ropes of the position so he’s still somewhat of a project. He isn’t a consistent blocker when he has to stay engaged. He’s more of a guy who gets through the hole and looks to blow a defender up. He’s not great in pass protection when he has to wait on the defender.
Figgins can add some more versatility to Chan Gailey’s offense and continue to give us more looks where we can line up in a run formation and catch the defense off guard with a passing play.
7 (200). QB Alex Tanney, Monmouth
You didn’t think we would go the whole draft and not take a QB did you? Ryan Fitzpatrick was good last year but he was far from great and that is the issue. If you’re going to be a starting QB in the NFL you have to be great if you want to keep your job. Fitzpatrick’s struggles with accuracy and consistently drove fans mad last year during the collapse and because of that Fitzpatrick has every reason to have to look over his shoulder.
Tanney comes from Division III so many of you reading this probably haven’t seen him play before. You have however probably seen him throw as he is famous for his trick shot video which you can see here. Tanneyis a far better QB than just being a trick shot guy. He ran a complex offense in college that required speed and good decision making. He made many of the play calls on the fly and had to read the defenses and make adjustments as he saw them.
He’s never played in a situation where the LB’s are as fast as the CB’s he played against and the safeties can get to nearly every ball so he will have to adjust to that. He does have ideal size, strength, and skills to be a NFL caliber QB.
What do you think? What does your Bills mock look like?