BBD Editor: Dan Hope
As the Buffalo Bills prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft, they are allowed to bring up to 30 players to One Bills Drive for on-site pre-draft visits. Though it’s dangerous to read too much into those visits for projections, they can be a good indicator into not only what prospects the Bills want to get to know better, but also what schools, positions or types of players the team might be keeping a close eye on.
The Bills hosted one player, Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, for a pre-draft visit Friday. Kouandjio, who could be among the team’s strongest second-round options if he is available at the No. 41 overall pick, is the 29th player to visit the Bills, leaving them with just one official visit. During the team’s pre-draft luncheon Friday, general manager Doug Whaley said the team “probably won’t have anybody else” in for a visit, as the league’s deadline to host official visits is Sunday.
Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
Aikens wasn’t invited to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, but he probably deserved to be. A small-school standout who turned heads at the Senior Bowl, Aikens is a big, athletic cornerback who plays with physicality. He’ll have to face questions about his off-field history, as he ended up at Liberty after being booted from Illinois in 2010 following an arrest for theft, but he could be a late-round steal as a developmental cornerback prospect. Aikens confirmed his scheduled visit with the Bills to BBD’s Ryan Talbot on March 30.
One of the top receivers in this year’s draft class, Beckham is a skilled route-runner with great hands, good downfield speed and impressive open-field quickness. He can be a playmaker on any team as a receiver and kickoff returner, but he’s not what the Bills should be seeking in drafting a wideout. The Bills already drafted a player with a similar skill set to his last year in Robert Woods. If they are going to draft a wide receiver, they should be looking for a bigger target than the 5’11″, 198-pound Beckham. Furthermore, he’s probably an unrealistic selection unless the Bills trade down in Round 1 or back up into it; he wouldn’t be good value at the No. 9 overall pick, but he shouldn’t still be available at the 41st slot.
Bashaud Breeland, CB/FS, Clemson
Breeland is a skilled, physical defensive back with experience playing both cornerback and safety. He doesn’t have ideal physical tools for an NFL defensive back, but as Joe Marino recently wrote, Breeland’s tape is better than his tools. He has very good footwork, fluid hips and good ball skills. As a mid-round pick, the Bills could look to him to provide cornerback depth and/or project to the team’s void at free safety.
Preston Brown, LB, Louisville
An overlooked player on a talented team, Preston Brown was a productive middle linebacker who could be a solid Day 3 value selection out of Louisville. With good size and short-area quickness, Brown is a strong run-stopper around the line of scrimmage. His playmaking range is limited, but as a fifth- or sixth-round pick, he could be a strong choice for the Bills as a backup to Brandon Spikes and as a core special teams player.
The Buffalo Bills could be in the market to draft a defensive end as they switch to a 4-3 defense. Scott Crichton would be a terrific fit and value if available in the second round. The most skilled and well-rounded edge defender not named Jadeveon Clowney in the class, Crichton can win with his athleticism, hand skills and strength as both a pass-rusher and run-stopper. He holds his ground well in setting the edge at the line of scrimmage, but can also make plays in pursuit. He has few real weaknesses and would form a strong rotation at defensive end along with Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes.
Terrance Cobb, RB, University of the Cumberlands
Cobb could be an option for the Bills as an undrafted free agent power back. He ran for 1,991 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior, before an injury limited him to six games in 2013, but that production came at the NAIA level. He’s a draft long-shot, but it’s possible the 5’10″, 213-pound running back could be a hidden gem.
Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
Perhaps the most underappreciated player in a deep draft class of cornerbacks, Cockrell is another skilled, fluid defensive back whose on-field play stands out more than his physical tools. He has clean footwork, fluid hips and is very good at making plays on the ball in the air. Despite having limited strength, Cockrell shows no hesitance in playing with physicality, and he was able to shut down some of the best receivers he went up against in college, including potential Bills early-round draft picks Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, OT, McGill (Canada)
Given Buffalo’s proximity to the Canadian border, it would have been a mistake if the Bills didn’t do their due diligence on Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the draft’s top prospect from the United State’s neighbor to the north. While it’s rare for players to be drafted from Canadian colleges, Duvernay-Tardif is a legitimate prospect who should get a shot as a Day 3 draft choice. Rated as the No. 1 Canadian prospect by the Canadian Football League’s scouting bureau, Duvernay-Tardif has an intriguing combination of size and athleticism that makes him a high-upside as a developmental offensive tackle. He could prove to be a steal in the middle rounds.
Ebron is widely considered to be the best tight end in this year’s draft class. He’s not much of a blocker, but the 6’4″, 250-pound tight end is an outstanding athlete who is essentially a massive wide receiver. He can stretch the field as a big receiving playmaker over the middle, but can also be flexed outside as a wideout. He would give the Bills a much-needed target who can go up and make plays on the ball with his size, yet he also has the speed and agility to extend plays in the open field and line up anywhere. Ebron is among the best options for the Bills at the No. 9 overall pick.
Should Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans be available at the No. 9 overall pick, he would seemingly be the ideal selection for the Buffalo Bills. A 6’5″, 231-pound vertical threat with 35 1/8″ arms plus impressive athleticism and playmaking ability for his size, Evans is a matchup nightmare who could give the Bills the size threat they lack at the wide receiver position. The question for the Bills shouldn’t be whether they should select Evans, but whether he’ll still be on the board at the ninth slot, which is seeming increasingly less likely.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
One of the draft’s hottest names since the NFL Scouting Combine, Fuller would be a great value choice if the Buffalo Bills could land him at the No. 41 overall selection, but it’s seeming increasingly less likely he’ll still be on the board. An athletic, technically sound cornerback, Fuller has the measurables and skills to continue to succeed as a starting cornerback in the NFL. He should be a strong matchup on the outside but could also project to playing slot cornerback and even some safety.
The Bills have been showing plenty of interest in cornerbacks in their pre-draft visits; Gaines was the fourth to make an official visit when he did so April 10. One of four cornerbacks to run a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at this year’s combine, Gaines fits the profile of a team looking to add explosive athletes and apparently, talent to its secondary. A fluid mover with good height and ball skills, Gaines is projected to go right around the Bills’ No. 73 overall pick, where he could be an option if the Bills are serious about upgrading at cornerback.
Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
While the Buffalo Bills have a strong 1-2 punch at running back with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, they would benefit from adding a third running back to the stable with more size and power. That’s what the Bills could get from Jeremy Hill, a 6’1″, 233-pound between-the-tackles bruiser. Hill is among the most talented runners in this year’s class, but he comes with serious red flags as he was arrested twice at LSU, in 2011 for sexual assault and in 2013 for battery. Those character concerns, along with the depth of the runnin back class, could leave Hill on the board in the fifth or even the seventh round for the Bills to take a chance on him.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
If the Bills are as serious as they appear to be about adding a power runner to their backfield, they could do no better than selecting Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde. The 6’0″, 230-pound ballcarrier has an explosive burst, catches the ball well with his hands, is an adequate pass protector in the backfield and is the strongest between-the-tackles runner in the draft class. If the Bills were going to land Hyde, however, they would almost certainly have to draft him at the No. 41 overall pick. While he would be among the best players available at that point, it seems like a stretch for the Bills to draft a second-round running back with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson already on the roster.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT/G, Alabama
The Buffalo Bills should be looking to reinforce their offensive line with at least one early-round selection, and one of their best options if available at the No. 41 overall pick would be Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio. A massive, powerful offensive tackle, Kouandjio could slip due to concerns about his athleticism and ability to handle outside speed rushers, but he has high upside as a right tackle or as a potential conversion to guard. The Bills have needs at both right tackle and guard, so Kouandjio could quickly work his way into the lineup. He’d be a reach as a first-round pick, but he’d a high-upside selection in Round 2.
Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
Even in a remarkably deep draft class of wide receivers, Indiana’s Cody Latimer is quickly generating buzz as a potential early-round selection. At 6’2″ and 215 pounds, Latimer has the size and strength the Bills need to add at the position. For a team that needs to add big targets to its offense to benefit young quarterback EJ Manuel, Latimer would be a strong mid-round choice if the Bills don’t draft a wide receiver in the early rounds, but it’s feeling increasingly like Latimer might not be available past the second round.
Marcus Martin, C/G, USC
One of the most highly regarded interior offensive line prospects in this year’s draft, USC’s Marcus Martin is an athletic center prospect who would likely move to guard for the Bills. He isn’t the most polished offensive lineman, but he’s both agile and powerful with good measurables. A projected second-day pick, he’d be a bit of a reach at the No. 41 overall selection, but he’s a player Buffalo could consider to continue building up its offensive line.
Zack Martin is a versatile blocker who could factor in as an upgrade at either right tackle or left guard on the Buffalo Bills offensive line. While he lacks the physical tools coveted in an ideal offensive tackle, he makes up for it with tremendous hand placement, footwork and strength. A polished, experience offensive lineman, Martin should be able to start in the NFL right away. The problem for the Bills, however, is that he would be a reach at the No. 9 overall pick but is unlikely to be available at slot 41.
There probably won’t be another pre-draft visitor discussed more as a potential Bill than Jake Matthews leading up to the draft. A tremendous all-around offensive tackle prospect with both exceptional technique but also impressive physical tools, Matthews is arguably the draft’s most complete prospect. The Bills shouldn’t pass him up if he is available at the No. 9 overall pick; the real question is whether he will still be available. Matthews, who played three of his four Texas A&M seasons on the right side, could be an immediate upgrade at right tackle over Erik Pears.
It would be an understatement to simply call Georgia Southern’s Jerick McKinnon an explosive athlete. One of the most intriguing and dynamic small-school prospects in this year’s draft class, McKinnon is a smaller running back who has played a wide variety of positions in his collegiate career, but is a dangerous big-play threat with the ball in his hands. He differs from some of Buffalo’s other running back visits in that he is not a big power back, but he could be a valuable weapon and a steal in the middle rounds.
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Among the possibilities to be the Bills’ No. 9 overall pick, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is the most well-rounded linebacker in this year’s draft class. He would be an excellent choice to pair with Kiko Alonso at linebacker as both can fit in the middle and on the weakside. He is a very good playmaker in space who tackles soundly, can cover ground all over the field and excels in coverage. He is somewhat small for a linebacker but he attacks the line of scrimmage with aggression as a blitzer and shows he can get off blocks. He might not be the best value on the board as a top-10 pick, but he’d be a strong possible selection in a trade-down scenario.
As the Bills look to surround EJ Manuel with as much help as they can, they would be smart to look for another playmaker at the tight end position who can give them more receiving skill and more potential to effectively run two-tight end sets with Scott Chandler. A big tight end who catches the ball impressively downfield but is also a strong in-line blocker, Niklas could be a target for the Bills in the second or third round.
Had he performed well during the 2013 season, Bradley Roby’s talent might have been enough for him to warrant consideration by the Bills at the No. 9 overall pick. After a disappointing year on the field, Roby could be in play for Buffalo at their second-round selection. While the Bills don’t have much of a need at the cornerback position, Roby could be a tough player for the Bills to pass up should he be available at No. 41 overall. An explosive athlete with proven playmaking ability, Roby has arguably the most potential of any cornerback in this year’s draft class, but needs to learn to play with more discipline to emerge as the No. 1 shutdown cornerback he has the skill to be.
As Fred Jackson is 33 years old and entering a contract year, the Buffalo Bills could look to add another running back to their depth chart. Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk is an explosive runner who has big-play potential and could be an option in the fourth or fifth round to strengthen the Bills depth chart in the backfield.
The Bills should be in the market to add both a big target and a second playmaker at tight end. There might be no better option to fill both of those needs simultaneously than Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The tight end’s stock slipped in his junior season as he followed up a March 2013 DUI arrest with underwhelming play, but even though he is also coming off a foot injury, he would still be a great choice for Buffalo if available with the No. 41 overall pick. Arguably the most complete talent in this year’s tight end class, Seferian-Jenkins is a big weapon in the red zone, has the athleticism to create yardage in the open field and is an extension of the offensive line as a blocker.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Despite signing Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers this offseason, the Bills should be in the market for another young core player at linebacker to play alongside Kiko Alonso. If Buffalo can land Ryan Shazier at the No. 41 overall selection, he could be the perfect fit. While Shazier is a smaller linebacker who might have some issues getting off blocks at the line of scrimmage, he is an outstanding athlete who can make plays all over the field and excels at dropping back into coverage. He would probably be a best fit at weakside linebacker, where the Bills plan to move Alonso, but he’d add instant playmaking ability to the Buffalo defense.
Charles Siddoway, OT, Mississippi State
If the Buffalo Bills are looking for a late-round sleeper at offensive tackle, Charles Siddoway could be their guy. Siddoway, who ran a 5.07-second 40-yard dash at Mississippi State’s pro day according to BuffaloBills.com, has an intriguing combination of size and athleticism at 6’7″ and 301 pounds. He wouldn’t be the immediate upgrade at right tackle that the Bills could target in the early rounds, but he could be viewed as a developmental project worth taking a chance on.
Update: Siddoway was arrested on burglary and robbery charges, along with former Mississisppi State defensive tackle Jordan Washington, on April 23. The arrest could decrease the likelihood that the Bills will take a late-round flier on him.
The Buffalo Bills have hosted all of the top receiving prospects in this year’s draft for official visits; many believe Sammy Watkins is the cream of that crop. Watkins has the size, speed and route-running ability to develop into a No. 1 NFL wide receiver. He has impressive open-field agility and has a chance to make a big play any time the ball is in his hands. He is a triple threat who is not just a pass-catcher, but also adds value as a returner and gadget-play runner. For a team looking to add another playmaker to its passing offense, Watkins would be among the ideal choices at the No. 9 overall pick, but it’s not likely he’ll still be on the board.
The Bills have taken a keen interest in big running backs leading up to the draft, and that process continued when they brought in Terrance West for one of their final pre-draft visits. West, a strong, physical runner who was ultra-productive at the FCS level, should have a solid future as a between-the-tackles runner at the next level. He is a potential Day 3 selection who could give Buffalo the power back it covets.
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Bashaud Breeland, Bradley Roby, Buffalo Bills, C.J. Mosley, Carlos Hyde, Charles Siddoway, Cody Latimer, Cyrus Kouandjio, Eric Ebron, Jake Matthews, Jeremy Hill, Jerick McKinnon, Kyle Fuller, Lache Seastrunk, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Marcus Martin, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Official Visits, Phillip Gaines, Pre-Draft Visits, Preston Brown, Ross Cockrell, Ryan Shazier, Sammy Watkins, Scott Crichton, Terrance Cobb, Terrance West, Trackers, Troy Niklas, Walt Aikens, Zack Martin