BBD Editor: Dan Hope
Though it took a little longer than the first installment of the series, the second edition of Pro Football Focus’ “3 For 3” mock draft series recently took place over the course of a couple weeks. Like the first mock, which was held just following the NFL Scouting Combine in early March, I continued to act as the drafter in charge of the Buffalo Bills.
There was no need to do anything different with the No. 9 overall pick, as a player who fills one of Buffalo’s biggest needs—and just might be the best all-around player in the draft—was still available as a right tackle upgrade.
On Day 2, the Bills were forced to change course. While BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy and Stanford guard David Yankey might have been the selections once again as they represent great values in the draft’s second and third rounds, both were rightfully selected earlier this time around.
Round 1, Pick 9: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Whether it be a mock draft or the real thing, this pick should be a no-brainer in any scenario in which it is available. An exceptional offensive tackle who is both a masterful technician but also physically gifted, Jake Matthews would be terrific value at the No. 9 overall pick and an immediate upgrade over Erik Pears at right tackle.
Having played his first three seasons at Texas A&M on the right side, and possessing a skill set that is developed and refined, there’s nothing that should keep Matthews from succeeding immediately in the NFL. As the Bills look to continue building their offense and provide more adequate protection for their quarterback, the next potential star in the Matthews clan would simply be too good to pass up if he is still on the board.
The Bills recently hosted Matthews on one of their official pre-draft visits.
Round 2, Pick 41: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Many of the most successful offenses in the NFL are those that feature dual playmakers at the tight end position. Beyond that, the Bills could simply use more dynamic playmaking ability at the position than they have in Scott Chandler, so they would be smart to select one of the draft’s top tight ends with the No. 41 overall pick.
In this scenario, the Bills opted to select Austin Seferian-Jenkins, making him the mock’s second tight end off the board. A big vertical threat over the middle, Seferian-Jenkins could immediately become a red-zone weapon for the Bills, but also has enough athleticism to stretch the field and extend plays downfield.
On top of that, Seferian-Jenkins blocks like an extension of the offensive line. Even with the team’s recent acquisition of Mike Williams, the Bills should be looking to continue adding targets for quarterback EJ Manuel to work with, and a big tight end with great hands like Seferian-Jenkins might be exactly what the team could benefit from most.
Like Matthews, Seferian-Jenkins was recently brought to Buffalo as a visitor of the team.
Round 3, Pick 73: Chris Borland, MLB, Wisconsin
This selection was an example of a player on the board simply being too good to pass up. While the Buffalo Bills addressed their need at middle linebacker for the short term by signing Brandon Spikes to a one-year deal this offseason, Chris Borland could give the Bills a tremendous long-term duo at linebacker alongside Kiko Alonso.
Borland’s measurables make it plausible that he could still be available at the No. 73 overall pick. At 5’11” and 248 pounds with 29 1/4” arms, Borland is smaller than the prototypical NFL linebacker, and his 4.83-second 40-yard dash time doesn’t help his cause much either.
Look past his measurables, however, and you see one of the most skilled players in this year’s draft class. Borland makes up for his deficiencies with tremendous instincts. He is a physical hitter who excels at filling gaps as a run-stopper, yet is also sufficient at playing in coverage.
Borland should be able to walk into an immediate rotational and special teams role as a rookie, then could take over Spikes’ starting job in 2015 if the Bills opt not to resign the veteran. While he is at his best as a run-stopper, he has the ability to be a three-down player alongside Alonso.
Projecting Ahead to Day 3
While the “3 for 3” mock drafts have stayed true to their name and encompassed only three rounds, that hasn’t stopped me from giving thought to what the Bills could do with their fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round selections in this scenario.
Two positions that the Bills have been taking a keen interest in with their pre-draft visits have been running back and cornerback. Free safety, defensive end, guard, wide receiver, punter and even quarterback are also areas where the Bills could look to find value on Day 3.
There is no clear-cut fourth-round selection still available on the board, but the top player in my queue would be LSU guard Trai Turner. A strong, athletic guard who is just 20 years old, Turner could provide immediate competiton to Chris Williams and Kraig Urbik for a starting job, while he has the potential to develop into a top-level starter.
Another top possibility for the fourth-round pick would be Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith. While he is undersized for a 4-3 front at 6’1” and 266 pounds, he is a dynamic rush threat off the edge whose motor is impressive on the field and whose personality off the field was impressive during a Senior Bowl interview.
If the Bills were to address the cornerback position in Round 4, two strong values in this scenario would be Duke’s Ross Cockrell, another pre-draft visitor of the team, and Florida’s Jaylen Watkins. The best defensive back option still available, however, might be Liberty’s Walt Aikens, who has also been hosted at One Bills Drive. Ideally, the Bills could land Aikens, a big, physical cornerback who could also be a strong candidate for a free safety conversion, with their fifth-round pick.
If the Bills were to seek a more traditional safety, strong Day 3 options would include USC’s Dion Bailey, Alabama’s Vinnie Sunseri and BYU’s Daniel Sorensen.
With just two running backs selected in the first three rounds of this mock draft, the Bills would be smart to hold off until the fifth round for better value. While Washington’s Bishop Sankey and Georgia Southern’s Jerick McKinnon both look like steals in the fourth round, they are smaller, quicker backs whereas the Bills seem to be in the market for a bigger, between-the-tackles power back.
LSU’s Jeremy Hill would be a great choice, assuming the Bills feel good about his character following his pre-draft visit with the team, in the fifth round. Boston College’s Andre Williams and Towson’s Terrance West are additional promising options who could be had for value on Day 3.
Having drafted a tight end in Round 2 and traded their sixth-round pick for Mike Williams, a wide receiver might not be among the most likely selections in this scenario, but there would be plenty of value still on the board. Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis would deserve serious consideration as a fourth-round pick, while some bigger targets who could be fifth-round options include Alabama’s Kevin Norwood, Pittsburgh’s Devin Street and BYU’s Cody Hoffman.
With only six quarterbacks selected in the top 100, the value could also be right for the Bills to add a young backup quarterback in the fifth or seventh round. With his impressive physical tools, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas would be the most comparable pick to current starter EJ Manuel, and have the most developmental upside as a possible fifth-round pick. Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo, Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Georgia’s Aaron Murray would also deserve consideration in Round 5, while seventh-round possibilities could include Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Ball State’s Keith Wenning and South Carolina’s Connor Shaw.
One additional area that the Bills could address with a Day 3 draft pick is punter, where the team could use a better option than Brian Moorman or recently-signed Jacob Dombrowski. Iowa State’s Kirby Van Der Kamp, Memphis’ Tom Hornsey and Miami’s Pat O’Donnell would be the most likely draft selections, but it’s also likely that Buffalo could wait and land one of them, or another young punter such as Auburn’s Steven Clark, in undrafted free agency.
For a full recap of Round 1 of the first “3 for 3 Draft,” visit Pro Football Focus (Round 2, 3 recaps to be posted at PFF on Wednesday, Thursday).
For a full look at all the draft’s selections, visit the draft spreadsheet.