The NFL Combine is underway, which means that the 2015 NFL Draft is just around the corner. Over the next several weeks you’ll hear countless names being discussed while their draft stock “rises” and “falls” as the draft approaches. Here at BillsMafia.com, Jason DeHart highlights a handful of his favorite draft prospects that the Buffalo Bills could have interest in.
Brett Hundley, UCLA
Hundley was widely regarded as the best quarterback not named Jamies Wiston or Marcus Mariota this year, but his stock seems to have taken a hit as the season progressed. That’s partly because UCLA failed to perform as well as many had hoped, but Hundley’s physical tools translate well into the pro game, though he may get pushed down into the second round.
Hundley possesses a strong arm that can complete all of the NFL throws, and though UCLA ran a spread based offense, it was much more sophisticated than Oregon’s and relied on Hundley reading the entire field. He led the nation in accuracy, but the issue that has some scouts worried is one of his greatest advantages; his legs. Hundley can run the ball and can hit an extra gear when needed, but often times he scrambles to run and not to throw. He did play behind a weak offensive line that let consistent pressure come, but Hundley on most occasions failed to keep his eyes downfield as he broke the pocket. He has to learn to scramble like Russell Wilson, which is to buy time for receivers to get open, and not to get yards and receive punishment like Robert Griffin III.
Bryce Petty, Baylor
Petty sat behind Robert Griffin III for two years, and has battled injuries, but the pass first quarterback presents an interesting set of skills. Built like a traditional quarterback (6’3 230 lbs) Petty does have an ability to scramble at times. The question for him heading into the NFL is his deep ball accuracy and how quickly can he adept to NFL offenses after playing in a shotgun spread his entire career. Petty lacks athleticism like his predecessor at Baylor, but he seems like a good developmental quarterback for the middle rounds who could surprise in training camp.
Duke Johnson, Miami
For Bills fans Duke Johnson’s name should be of immediate interest as new offensive coordinator Greg Roman had his greatest success as a play caller by giving the ball to another former Hurricane. Johnson almost ran his team into the ACC championship game, as well as into Heisman contention. Johnson is smaller (5’9 206) than Gore was, but Roman in his time in San Francisco has utilized running backs in different sets to maximize their talent. The devaluation of the position and size concerns could push Johnson into the lower half of the draft, but he carries the same sort of talent CJ Spiller has, and could be his replacement if he leaves in free agency.
Jay Ajayi, Boise State
Another dual threat in both the passing and rushing game, Ajayi powered the Broncos to their Fiesta Bowl win over Arizona. Built in the mold of Frank Gore, Ajayi brings power and an ability to slither between blockers to gain yards. He has issues with ball security as his fumble totals jumped to seven from four last year. His stock is rising so it may take a second round pick for the Bills to grab Ajayi, but with running backs being devalued in today’s NFL he could be available in the third.
E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
Bibbs boasts some unique athleticism to this weak tight end ground and could be had anytime after the second round. Not a steady blocker at the point of attack, what Bibbs excels at is catching the football and getting in the end zone. Since he took the starters job last year Bibbs has scored 10 touchdowns in 22 games, and over 10 yards a catch. Depending on team needs, Bibbs may go higher than most expect because of the perceived weakness of the group. If he excels at the combine then Bibbs is a solid selection in the second round and a steal anytime after.
Maxx Williams, Minnesota
Williams is arguably the best tight end in this class. He possesses ideal size (6’4 254), an understanding of run blocking, and experience being a lead receiver. He doubled the catches of his closest teammate (38) and scored eight of the teams 12 passing touchdowns. He was the only passing threat in Minnesota’s run dominated offense and was still effective against the best the Big 10 had. He may not have the body contortion skills of a Rob Gronkowski, but Williams can be an immediate contributor to a team and not be a liability in running downs.
Cam Erving, Florida State
The question teams will have to answer regarding Erving is whether they see him as a center, guard or tackle. As a center he maybe the highest rated at the position, but he can flip over and play guard comfortably as well. It’s rare that centers are taken in the first round, but if he falls to the second round the Bills could see a starter at guard in the FSU product, and a backup plan if there’s ever an injury to current center Eric Wood. What Erving is best at is pass protection, which the Bills clearly didn’t have at the guard position. He needs to work better at handling defensive tackles at the point of attack, and getting used to pulling on run plays, but he’s shown a great dedication to improving at FSU and would be worth the selection if he falls to them in the second round.
B.J. Finney, C Kansas State
The former walk-on, Finney has been impressing scouts in the East-West Shrine practices in his tactical approach to playing the position. He lacks strength to overpower nose tackles, but moving him to guard would be a pertain move seeing how his technical prowess and chip on his shoulder attitude suits him best there. Beyond his ability to neutralize defenders with his smarts, Finney carries good footwork, which could be an asset as a pulling guard in most run heavy schemes. Finney is likely a late round selection, or possibly collegiate free agent, and come out of training camp with a surprise player.
Nate Orchard, Utah
Orchard is a relentless undersized end that lacks ideal athleticism, but is also a football player who will give a team everything he can every snap. Most scouts worry about his one year wonder status (six sacks in three years then 18.5 in his senior season), but all reports are is that he is a hard working player that beats anyone that shrugs him off. Orchard is not a true burst, or rush, linebacker, like Jerry Hughes, due to his lack of first step quickness and high-end speed, but what he can provide is a constant motor and determination to get to the quarterback. As a situational player, and possible standout on special teams, Orchard is worth a late round flier due to the lack of depth at the outside backer position.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA
He continues a recent trend of pass rushers out of UCLA following the footsteps of first round picks Datone Jones (Green Bay-2013) and last year Anthony Barr (Minnesota-2014). Odighizuwa was typically used as a hand in the ground rush end. He did improve in run defense as the season progressed, but is best used a situational pass rusher ideal in a 4-3 then a 3-4 formation. He typically beats defenders with a quick first step, but lacks the ideal strength to overpower blockers. He does need to improve at the point of contact by adding a secondary pass rushing move, but would fit as an ideal complimentary rusher that could develop into an every down player.
Darius Kilgo, Maryland
Kilgo is right now a solid one gap run stuffer that uses his muscle and size (6’3 319 lbs) to overpower blockers to get into the backfield. As a nose tackle in Ryan’s 3-4 hybrid defense Kilgo could be a good depth pickup that may develop into something more in a couple of years. Kilgo at the collegiate level relied mainly on his brute strength. Going into the NFL he needs to get better at using his hands to shed blockers, and short distance quickness to plug running lanes.
Gabe Wright, Auburn
Wright played against some of the toughest lines in the SEC West and to come up with 23 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and a sack was quite an accomplishment. At his current weight (284 lbs) Wright is a tweener between defensive tackle and end. Despite dropping close to 30 pounds heading into his last season at Auburn Wright’s production declined from his junior season. The weight loss helped him in penetrating offensive lines, and increase his first step bursts, but he failed to adjust his football IQ by following running backs clearly and step into their running lanes. A projected late round pick, Wright brings physical traits needed at the 3-4 end spot, but needs guidance to maximize his physical tools.
Ronald Darby, Florida St
As an underclassman coming out Darby is relying on his physical skills to help his draft position rather than last year’s tape. Though he played solidly, Darby has shown that he can be beat, and it comes down to his attention for details. Darby is noted as someone who works to improve, but clearly needs help in understanding nuances of the position and opposition. He’s a physical specimen that could pay off later.
Alex Carter, Stanford
Carter is a smart corner that relies on technical skills to lockdown receivers. He isn’t however a lockdown defender as his play can be streaky at times. He can best be described as an “almost” corner; meaning he almost makes the play. This is evident as he lead the team in passes defended with 10 and broke up another nine, but only had one interception. He is a solid tackler as well, he may be best suited for a zone scheme, but would be a solid depth and special team player if added to the Bills.