In what it is a bit of late breaking news and also some pure dumb luck it appears as though visitors 19-26 may have been discovered through one player and the Buffalo Bills own Lead Journalist in Chris Brown. Last year most people were only able to find out about 21 of the Bills 30 allowed visits, being at 26 with a week and a half to go gives us a huge leg up.
First we can start with Alabama CB DeQuan Menzie who tweeted on April 2nd that both he and Alabama LB Dont’a Hightower were getting ready to head to Buffalo. Menzie and Hightower would make the 3rd and 4th Alabama players to visit the Bills after RB Trent Richardson and CB Dre Kirkpatrick.
We’ll start with Menzie who has been a bit of an overshadowed prospect while at Alabama but certainly had plenty of ability. Menzie has solid size at over 5’10 and 208 lbs. He does a good job sticking with WR’s through their routes, and is one of the most aggressive CB’s in this class when it comes to attacking the ball when it’s in the air. Menzie’s aggressive nature is also held in check to the point that he does not become out of control or take costly drive sustaining penalties.
For as aggressive as Menzie is we would of liked to see more impact plays from his time in Tuscaloosa. He had only one career INT at Alabama and despite having 15 other pass breakups in his career. You’d like to see him turn more of those tipped passes into turnovers. Another concern we have is that schematically Menzie only played outside CB on 1st and 2nd down. Whenever an offense went into a passing down Menzie slid inside to nickel CB, now whether this was by design to utilize his skill level better or to protect him we don’t know but it’s a rather large concern.
We see Menzie as the #14 CB and #111 Overall. We have given him a 4th Round grade.
Accompanying Menzie to OBD was his ILB in Dont’a Hightower, Hightower who we see as the top pure ILB in this class comes off a collegiate career where he had to step into the shoes of great LB’s before him and preform and that he did. You saw real growth in Hightower during his senior season as he became more aggressive, saw the field better, and attacked more. Hightower has great athletic ability and showed some really impressive blitzing ability this past season.
One of the areas we still want to see Hightower improve on is his ability to diagnose plays both pre-snap and on the fly. Right now Hightower still seems to hesitate and take that extra half second to second to fully understand where the play is going to go before he reacts. We also see some stiffness in his hips that may limit him from being a 43 MLB and keep in in 34 ILB where the amount of ground he has to covered will be more limited.
We rank Hightower as the #2 MLB in this class and #21 overall. We currently have a 1st-2nd Round grade on him.
Now it was pointed out to use earlier this morning that Buffalo Bills lead journalist Chris Brown, who works for the Bills, is following a few interesting NFL Draft prospects on twitter. Now if you look at his list you’ll see a number of familiar names as guys like Kirk Cousins, Chandler Jones, Matt Kalil and many other Bills visitors populate his follows. However it is the players along with those guys that have intrigued a number of people.
Now it could just be a case of Chris Brown following players he likes but given that the account linked above is a professional account we highly doubt it. So with that in mind it appears as though the Bills have also brought in Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox, LSU CB Morris Claiborne, Marshall DE Vinny Curry, Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill, LSU WR Reuben Randle, and South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore.
Now assuming this list is accurate that brings us to 26 total visitors for the Bills this draft process which gives us four more to try and find out.
Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox is maybe the most intriguing visit because many people didn’t even know who he was when he declared early for the draft this January and now he is a first round pick more than likely. Cox who played DT for the Bulldogs would actually be a fit for us at strongside DE on running downs and inside at DT on passing downs. The Bills are going to run a bigger version of past 43 defenses so the addition of Cox could make some sense.
Cox who is 6’4, 298 and has long arms has gotten some looks as a 34 DE because he has plenty of athletic ability. While a 43 DE fit would be a bit unconventional it certainly is nice to see the Bills beginning to think outside of the conventional box.
We currently rank Cox as the #1 DT and #10 overall in this draft. We expect him to be a Top 10 selection.
LSU CB Morris Claiborne is a guy who we think the Bills brought in for a visit just in case he happens to fall. This is similar to the reason they brought USC OT Matt Kalil in for a visit earlier in the process. We don’t think Claiborne is going to fall to 10 despite some teams trying to sabotage his stock through his wonderlic score.
We see Claiborne as the top CB in this class and the #5 overall. He is a top 5 pick.
Marshall DE Vinny Curry is a guy whose stock was high coming into this year but has since seen some downturn and has now leveled out. Curry who is considered a premium pass rush threat as a 43 DE prospect. He has put up double digit sacks numbers the past two years. Curry uses a very quick first step to beat the OT off the ball and turn the corner on them. Early on there was some thought that Curry could be a 34 OLB prospect as well but he doesn’t have the bend to really make that work.
Curry fills the need the Bills have at RE for a pass rusher to take on the LT on passing downs. The issue is that he’d have to sit behind Mark Anderson who is also a pass rushing specialist so Curry’s playing time and impact early on may only be minimal.
We currently rank Curry as the #6 DE and #55 overall. We expect him to be a 2nd Round pick.
Nobody has seen more rise to their draft stock than Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill. Coming out of the triple option offense at Tech few people knew just how athletic and fast Hill was. Then he went to the Combine and threw down a 4.28 in the 40. Combine that with a flawless gauntlet and suddenly a guy who was looking at going on Day 3 may be going on Day 1?
The Bills have a need for big down the field WR’s who can help take the pressure of Steve Johnson and keep the defenses from sneaking up and clamping down on the underneath routes. Hill offers that but he struggles with consistency. His tape is hit and miss and he had one of the worst drops in the entire NCAA last year that will remind too many Bills fans about our current #1 WR and his past issues with drops.
We rank Hill as the best16th WR in this class, #110 overall and we think he should go in the 3rd Round though we expect him to go much higher.
Another LSU Tiger was apparently in town as WR Rueben Randle came to see the facility at OBD. Randle is a WR we liked a lot early in this process and he’s a guy who has had to deal with really poor QB play in his career. Randle is an excellent athlete that knows how to make the big catch in big situations. He displays the ability to track the ball deep down the field and then shows off tremendous body control as he goes up and gets it.
Randle like Hill would fit the Bills need for a #2 WR in this offense who can work the deeper parts of the field and keep defenses honest.
We rank Randle as the #4 WR and #28 overall. We currently see him as a 1st Round pick.
The last of the potential new visitors is South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore which fits many of the previously reported rumors of the Bills having heavy interest in Gilmore. Gilmore is a gambling CB who loves to try and bait QB’s into making throws his way so that he can break on the ball and make a play. He has very quick hips that allow him to click and close in a hurry.
Gilmore with his size and aggressiveness could pay huge dividends for this defense that seems geared for applying more pressure. We don’t like how often Gilmore will bit the double fake but that can be coached up.
We have Gilmore as the #8 CB and #59 Overall which is a 2nd Round grade.