BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot
One of these years we’ll have Bills playoff football to discuss, but not this year. So with Bills fans in “maybe next year” mode, it’s time to look at the future of the team. Buffalo certainly has holes to fill on both sides of the ball, and they’ll have their opportunities in free agency and the 2014 NFL draft.
The Bills have the No. 9 overall pick in this year’s draft. While the draft stocks of many of the prospects below might change between now and the May draft, the following seven players could all be potential fits for Buffalo.
Round 1: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Bills defense needs help against the run. Enter C.J. Mosley. Mosley has had a terrific career at Alabama and is excellent against both the run and pass.
A lot of people would love to see Khalil Mack here, but Mosley is a better fit in my eyes. Adding Mosley to the mix would give the Bills one of the best defensive front sevens in the league. He and Kiko Alonso would be one of the NFL’s most exciting young linebacker duos.
Round 2: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Buffalo should address its offense with the majority of its selection in this year’s NFL draft. One of its needs is for a big wide receiver who can cause matchup problems and make plays.
Jordan Matthews is 6’3″, 206 pounds and has made big plays throughout his career at Vanderbilt. He would be a welcome addition to Buffalo’s offense and be another target for EJ Manuel. Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is another name you could see here in the future if he declares for the NFL draft as a redshirt sophomore.
Round 3: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
Buffalo needs to solidify its offensive line, especially at guard. Gabe Jackson would provide excellent value if he was available in the third round.
Jackson is one of the bigger guards in the draft, weighing in at 340 pounds, but he’s also extremely athletic. Jackson moves well on the field and could certainly help open a few holes for C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and another running back to come. It’s likely that Jackson would be a day one starter at left guard, allowing the Bills to use Doug Legursky as depth at all three interior offensive line spots. Buffalo needs to build depth on its offensive line, and this move would help accomplish that goal.
Round 4: Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
Buffalo showed they were willing to take a few character risks in 2013. Colt Lyerla has much bigger character concerns, but in the fourth round, the risk would be worth the potential reward.
If you’re unfamiliar with Lyerla, here’s what you need to know: He left Oregon after its first game of the season and recently pleaded guilty to cocaine possession. After reading that sentence, I’m sure many fans would rather pass on the former Oregon Duck, but he is one of the most talented tight ends in this draft class.
Lyerla is a large target at 6’5″, and he is an athletic freak. If he is in top shape at the combine, he should run close to a 4.6-second 40-yard dash. Lyerla is a dependable pass-catcher who is hard to bring down after the catch. Some will say Lyerla is undraftable due to his character concerns, but if the Bills want to roll the dice on Lyerla, they could get rewarded greatly.
Round 5: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
Desir is an extremely talented small-school prospect. Desir, a three time Division II All-American, recently won the inaugural Cliff Harris Award, awarded to the best small college defensive player of the year. Desir has good size for a cornerback (6’2″), and in two seasons with Lindenwood, he has recorded 13 interceptions and 30 passes defensed. Desir can play press coverage, off-man and zone coverages well. Desir would provide terrific cornerback depth for the Bills.
Round 6: James Wilder, RB, Florida State
The Bills have drafted a lot of ACC players in recent years, and specifically from Florida State, so selecting running back James Wilder would be fitting.
Why take a running back? Simple. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson will both be free agents in 2015. Spiller is a big-play threat, but he did not have the breakout year many expected this season. While Spiller could be a long-term piece for the Bills offense, is he worth breaking the bank for? As for Jackson, he is currently 32 yards old. He has been very impressive in spite of his age, but he cannot be depended upon much longer.
Wilder is an enticing prospect based upon his talent, and if he is anything like his father at the next level, then the Bills would get a good running back late. Wilder is a strong running back who would complement Spiller well if Spiller is signed long-term. The Florida State back is agile and shows good vision on the field. The biggest knock on Wilder is that he plays with a bit of recklessness, but in Round 6, he would be worth the pick for Buffalo.
Round 7: Keith Price, QB, Washington
In the seventh round you generally take depth, but Price is a good quarterback prospect to take late. He’s a bit undersized at 6’1,” but Russell Wilson is showing the league that height is just a number. That’s not to say that the Bills are getting someone as talented as Wilson in round seven, as that would be foolish. However, Price isn’t exactly a developmental quarterback either.
Price worked with Steve Sarkisian in a pro-style offense this season and performed well. He is athletic, has decent arm strength and can scramble. Price will likely be called a “poor man’s” Russell Wilson. I’ve heard a lot worse on seventh-round draft picks.