I had EDGE as a P2 (very high) priority on my DraftTek Needs last year, and it went largely unaddressed. Four Bills’ DEs have their contracts expire at the end of the upcoming season (not counting LorAx), and there’s no way a RD7 from NCA&T fills those gaps. Let’s look at our present DEs, and then at the 2020 NFL Draft’s draft fits for the Bills.
Jerry Hughes (90.4 pass, 72 run) is entering the final year of his contract. He conjured up 74 pressures in 2018, 13 more than his previous career-high. Add on 37 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 18 QB hits, and 3 fumbles forced, and you see why he’s the Energizer Bunny of the “Cold Front”. His 88.7 overall grade from PFF was the highest on the Bills. Not bad for a 30-year-old. Jerry’s not done, and merits another contract before he retires as a Bill.
Grade: A+, Offer New Contract
Shaq Lawson (PFF grade of 65 pass, 81 run)’s fifth-year option was considered, and not done. Pick No. 19 of the 2016 NFL Draft is entering the final year of his original four-year contract. Admittedly, Shaq’s 2018 was arguably his best season, but his pass-rush stats and meager career starts (17 of a possible 48, with 13 missed due to injury) didn’t merit an $8M+ fully-guaranteed pay increase. Some argue that Lawson, drafted by Whaley and Rex Ryan for flexibility upfront in Rex’s 3-4, is miscast. There are better pass-rush, edge-setting options in the 2020 draft, and Beane, McDermott, and Lawson know it.
Grade: C+, Offer Vet-Minimum Contract or Trade
Eddie Yarbrough (62 run 51 pass) is simply depth at this point. Yes, he’s a hard worker, but no; he’s not a pass rushing terror, and he’s entering the final year of his contract, too.
Grade: B-, Offer Vet-Minimum Contract
Eli Harold is a one-year option, so he’s going to need an extension if he shows any upside and meaningful snaps.
Mike Love is in his second year, and while he’s been a “standout in the early conditioning workouts”, keep in mind his 2018 production was 0 sacks, 0 solo tackles, and 5 assists.
Trent Murphy was a disappointment in year one (24 tackles, 4 sacks) after no stats in year zero. Here’s hoping he produces.
Ziggy Ansah in for a visit (and signed with Seattle), but his shoulder gave Beane reason to doubt he’d be a better answer than drafted RD7 Darryl Johnson. That’s not saying much, as Darryl was a 3-4 OLB for North Carolina A&T and is more of a fit for the Practice Squad.
Who are the optimum EDGE fits for McBeane’s Process in the 2020 NFL Draft? The numbers preceding their names are their overall rank on DraftTek’s Big Board as of this writing.
2 Chase Young, Ohio State 6-5, 265
Young has been a hard worker in practices for the Buckeyes. It showed with a breakout sophomore season that boasted a team-high 10.5 sacks and 15.5 TFL. He filled in well during Bosa’s injury time, where Young notched 6 sacks over the last 4 games.
Fit For Bills: A+
5 A.J. Epenesa, Iowa 6-5, 277 led the Big Ten in sacks in 2018 (10.5) and led the Hawkeyes in tackles for loss (16.5), QB pressures (48), quarterback hurries (8), and forced fumbles (4). He garnered a PFF pass-rush grade of 90.4 and run-defense grade of 85.2.
Fit For Bills: A+
24 Kenny Willekes, Michigan State 6-4, 260 Willekes continues to surf a wave of improvement. How high? Tsunami high. Once a walk-on, Willekes was Kiper’s #10 DE prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft and PFF’s third-best 4-3 DE. Last season, he logged 8 sacks and 20.5 TFL. I sincerely hope the Bills are drafting 24th in Las Vegas, or they trade up for Young/Espenesa. Willekes will be known for his hard work.
Fit For Bills: A+
38 Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State 6-5, 262
“YEE-tor” has traits, and his video shows them: Reach, speed to close, a good club move, a reliable edge-setter, and strength of move blockers away like rag dolls. Gross-Matos has production, too: 8 sacks and 20 total tackles for loss in 2018 alone. Sooner or later, the Bills will draft someone from Pegula’s alma mater. Says defensive coordinator Brent Pry of Gross-Matos: “Right now, no one outworks him”, and he praised his constant motor and work ethic.
Fit For Bills: A+
41 Nick Coe, Auburn 6-5, 282
In the video, you see Coe’s long arms keeping OL at bay, but also see that Coe’s not the speed-rusher type you’ll need to replace Hughes with down the line, but he’s very adept at sealing that edge with his great size, which is reminiscent of Mario. McDermott will look twice at Coe: He was a three-time National Champion wrestler in high school in the 285-Pound Division.
Fit For Bills: B+
33 Terrell Lewis, Alabama 6-5, 256
Playing SLB/DE in ‘Bama 3-4, Lewis returns to Tuscaloosa for another season. Lewis missed most of 2018 after sustaining an injury in the season opener, recovered quickly, and wants to “leave a legacy” at ‘Bama. Brian Daboll would know him, and would have an opinion about how much of a legacy he’ll leave there. So far, it’s 4 games of stats. I think the Bills pass.
Fit For Bills: D
58 Khalid Kareem, Notre Dame 6-4, 265
Ever since Beane took the helm, the Bills have been sniffing around Notre Dame for more games than any other school. No doubt they’ve spotted Khalid Kareem’s play along with the other golden domers. What they saw in 2018 was a menacing edge-rushing presence, a humble-yet-persistent grinder, and 4.5 sacks, 10.5 TFL, and 5 pass defenses.
Fit For Bills: A
34 Curtis Weaver, Boise State 6-3, 266
Playing SSDE for my Boise State team, Weaver had 11 sacks last season. No, he’s not the bail-bond jumper in Grand Theft Auto. Weaver’s a fun-loving, high-energy, gregarious teammate who, when he steps onto the field, plays a physical brand of football. Watch in the video how the Mountain West’s Defensive Player of the Year makes himself small. I took him down one click for playing in the Mountain West, but 28 TFLs in 26 games entering his junior year and being #1 and #2 in sacks over those 2 years is pretty impressive.
Fit For Bills: A-
110 Jonathon Cooper, Ohio State 6-4 257 Cooper’s the consummate process player: Team Captain, focused, academic athlete, 33 games’ experience, affable locker room guy, and intrinsically motivated. I know Cooper played opposite Bosa and Chase Young, and that he should have feasted more on the lack of double-teams he enjoyed both years, but I trust his head coach and defensive line coach who both gushed with praise for Cooper this spring. I really like this fit; I’ll like him even more if he’s the second EDGE the Bills acquire between FA and the draft. Third EDGE, if they re-sign Hughes.
Fit for Bills: C+ to B-
BEST OF THE REST:
126 D.J. Wonnum, South Carolina 6-5, 258
Wonnum is part of a formidable DL, which is a good and bad thing. Wonnum certainly has profited from SCAR teammates around him, but he also demonstrates impressive get-off and tackles in his own right. Wonnum had 13 TFL and 6 sacks in 2017, which showed his upside. Despite injuries in 2018, he logged 3.5 tackles for loss, a pair of quarterback sacks, and recovered a fumble. His work ethic and mindset are aligned with McDermott’s. [Watch]
133 Bobby Roundtree, Illinois 6-5, 255 Roundtree’s size and length prevent OL from locking onto him, allowing him to have his way. In 24 games, Roundtree has put up 64 solo tackles, 17.5 of them for loss, and 12.5 sacks. Add McBeane traits like passionate, dedicated, and hard worker, and Roundtree is a natural fit. [Watch
144 Tipa Galeai, Utah State 6-5, 230
The uber-athletic Galeai (“NOLLY-uh”) had a fabulous 2018 season, averaging .81 TFL per game. That’s in the Jenks-Brailford-Ximines region. Utah State’s defense led the FBS last year in turnovers forced (32), passes intercepted (22, including Galeai’s), and three-and-outs forced (5.69 per game). The school ranked third in the nation with 6 defensive touchdowns. Pressure makes this happen. Tipa was arrested and found guilty of assault charges in 2017, so I doubt he’s on the Bills’ board.
149 Mykal Walker, Fresno State 6-3, 220
Why Fresno State is moving Walker to MLB, I dunno; just watch his J-turn around the edge in the video. Walker led the Bulldogs with 14.0 TFLs and was second in sacks with 4.5. He’s not likely on the Bills’ radar at MLB, and he has the Brian Burns physique. Burns was the only EDGE of last draft’s top 12 rushers that was not scouted by the Bills. Nevertheless, he has the work ethic, smarts, and team-first attitude McBeane desire:
170 Darrell Taylor, Tennessee 6-4, 247
Taylor’s a great value here, as he’s #32 on the sacks list: right above Ben Banogu. He paced the Vols with 8 sacks last season (7 of which came against big-timey schools, Georgia and Kentucky). Taylor also forced 3 fumbles in those games. He returned to Tennessee to work on elements of his game (hands, consistency), but also, as he put it, “to help my teammates out to become better.” [Watch]
181 Kendall Coleman, Syracuse 6-3, 252
Coleman has an FBS-most number of sacks of all returning edge rushers (11.5). One of the ACC’s top pass rushers and a three-year starter at DE, Coleman has made 89 tackles, 16 TFL, 11.5 sacks, and 31 starts in 32 possible games. He’s now the holder of the team’s bowl record for sacks, notching up 3 versus West Virginia. After nearly quitting football at the outset, he’s become internally driven:
73 Marlon Davidson, Auburn 6-3, 278
Davidson played significant snaps even as a freshman in 2017, so his 38 games played going into his final year is impressive. Davidson is All-Process: Tireless worker, mature, gregarious teammate, and passionate about the game. He has put up unremarkable career stats compared to some of his draftable peers thus far (61 tackles, 8 sacks, 16.5 for loss), but Auburn returns 6 of their front 7 this season.
150 Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame 6-4, 265 Playing OLB/WSDE in his junior season, Hayes played in 11 out of 12 games, had 29 total tackles, and logged 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, and 6 hurries. As far as the Bills are concerned, Hayes’ Twitter page says it all: “Success doesn’t happen on accident, It’s work ethic, commitment, and desire that separates successful people from those who aren’t.”
134 Alton Robinson, Syracuse EDGE 6-4, 249 Robinson finished 2018 with 10.0 sacks and 17.0 TFL, the most of all returning FBS pass rushers not named Kendall Coleman. In what possibly is the best EDGE tandem in college, Robinson has 22 starts in 24 games, with 69 tackles (49 solo), 23 TFL, 15 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. After picking up Tyree JAckson from Buffalo, “Orange” you going to look at nearby schools?
This is the third year in a row where the NFL Draft is rich and deep in the position group that the Bills desperately need. Coincidence?
I think not.
Editor’s babble: Wow, this is fire. I wondered why no EDGE drafted but it makes sense if McBeane has their eyes on a prize next season. They may be setting up the team to have only certain positions reach free agency at the same time. BIG thanks to Dean Kindig for his insightful contributions to our blog. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.