We’ve seen what we have against a mixed-bag Jets team. We’ll see better offensive lines, but we may not see better D-Lines or Safeties than we did in Week 1. While the Bills OL had trouble getting Dion Dawkins’ train –or truck, or mac ‘n’ cheese— started, the holes they opened for Singletary were convincing enough for Beane to hold off at least one round on a Tackle if he wanted to. The WRs got separation, and that’s likely the prime watchword for pass-catchers in the draft, which is rich in WRs and OTs. The Bills currently hold 9 picks with no RD7s at this time, and I currently have them drafting 20th.
Round 1, Pick 20
CeeDee Lamb Oklahoma WR
6-2 189 17.4 ypc, 4.45
Separation is the name of the game in this here New Era. Lamb makes himself available to his QB with separation. He’s the Robert Foster type, with quicks and speed. He can catch the high-pointer particularly well. He comes up big in big games, like last year against Alabama when Lamb caught six passes for 167 yards and one TD. Lamb is 2nd among all returning WRs in “QBR When Targeted”, with an eyebrow-raising 145.2 and catches like these. Daboll will love his attitude when blocking downfield.
Should Lamb be gone when we’re picking (particularly since we’ll be having a great year), or if film study concludes we need a “non-Smurf” separator besides Duke Williams, then I love Tee Higgins of Clemson (6-4, 200, 15.2 ypc, 4.47) as a great fit for the Bills. Teams value Higgins’ size with that athleticism and YPC vs AP teams. He can disguise what he’s doing on any given play. Joe Marino of the Draft Network says it best: “[Higgins] can beat you in so many ways. He can cook you with his feet on a good route, he can beat you down the field with long speed, and he can make tough catches and get his feet down at the sideline“.
Round 2, Pick 52
Lucas Niang, TCU OT
Playing RT #77 in this video, Niang has incredible size and really long arms. Physics majors say long arms create leverage issues (debatable), but not with Niang. He has impressive strength and punch in those levers. Niang uses quick feet and vice-grips to stay square to his target, and if he locks on to you, you’re done. So, how about dipping the shoulder and going around him? Turns out that doesn’t work well, either. Considered a top OL by Gil Brandt, Niang shows up really solid in the run game, too. He has a plan going into the play like every lineman does, but he adjusts better than most linemen on the fly. Here, he recognizes the blitzer and stands him up, resulting in a long pass to Raegor.
The other fit here at Tackle is bigger than Niang, if that’s even possible. Louisville Cardinal Mekhi Becton (6-7 355) is the heaviest on my board, but the Bills want to see that mammoth size in action (he’s #73). Turns out that Becton was PFF’s highest-graded run-blocker last season (73.7), is an affable locker-room guy, and quite energetic. Watch 2 plays here where he takes Isaiah Buggs (#49) out of the play. If Niang or Becton were playing in the SEC, they’d be in the RD1 discussion already. An amazing 50% of the Bills’ roster comes from the SEC and ACC; Becton’s Cardinals play in the ACC while Niang is in the Big 12. Both Becton and Niang, along with Alaric Jackson of Iowa, who I’ve selected before, are nice fits for OL Coach Bobby Johnson’s blocking schemes.
Round 3, Pick 84
Yetur Gross-Matos Penn State EDGE
Trust me; “YEE-tor” Gross-Matos won’t be around in RD3 when the year cranks up, but he was available right here, right now, as Marv says. But it’s September. Here’s why Yetur’s a pipe dream in Paradise, Nevada on Apr 23-25, 2020: He’s tied for fourth on my board in TFLs per game at 0.96. That gets you selected in RD1, early RD2 in almost every draft. Other stats look equally impressive for Gross-Matos: He’s played in 2 games as I write this, and has 3 sacks and 3 TFLs. He has it all: Reach, speed to close, club move, edge-setter, and moves blockers away like rag dolls. Moreover, this Nittany Lion hails from Pegula’s alma mater. Who might be available at EDGE if the Bills go Tackle and playmaker early for real, because Gross-Matos, Nick Coe (a wrestler who won two state championships and three Nattys) and Khalid Kareem (who’s a great fit for The Process) will be gone? Well, Julian Okwara from Notre Dame, or Alton Robinson from Syracuse are good early guesses.
Round 4, Pick 116
Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame, CB
Accept it; the Bills will take a cornerback in every draft. Pride fits The Process particularly well. Described as a “film rat”, Troy works on getting better each practice, each day. He had a great role model for a roomie, Julian Love (RD4, Giants), and Pride may be drafted even higher than the boundary corner he replaces, as he’s faster (he won their forty competition recently) and bigger (Pride’s on Feldman’s Freak List). While he’s a great matchup in pass defense, He’s particularly good at tackles. After all, Pride goeth before a fall (sorry). If Pride is gone, then look for corners Thomas Graham Jr. of Oregon or Essang Bassey of Wake Forest. Both have been particularly productive up to this year. A.J. Green is another guy to watch.
Round 5A, Pick 147
Mitchell Wilcox, South Florida, TE
McBeane will be tempted on Day 3 to secure Process Players at ANY position, especially if they have the attitude, swagger, and team-first spirit of Mitchell Wilcox. With Wilcox’s athleticism, hands, and affability, he’ll fit right into that TE room. NFL.com’s Senior Analyst Gil Brandt loves this guy, and has him as his #4 TE, and you see why. He has impressive body control which he uses to advantage in the receiving game, and that complements Knox and Sweeney well, but it’s his love of blocking that takes Mitchell Wilcox over the top for me: Says Mitch: “I get excited about a block that sets up one of my teammates for a big gain or a score. That’s a win for me.” That’s a win for BillsMafia.
Round 5B, Pick 155– From Browns (Teller)
Patrick Johnson, Tulane, EDGE
Here’s a double-dip at a position where, at first glance, the Bills look pretty good. They recently re-upped Lawson, they’re reaping the rewards of being patient with Trent Murphy, and they just drafted Darryl Johnson. Beane and McDermott would be the first to tell you that pressure from the defensive line creates a favorable climate for “bad things, man“. The Bills watch the AAC, ACC, and SEC carefully for players that create havoc, guys like Patrick Johnson. Johnson led all AAC Edge defenders in total pressures and pass-rush win rate in 2018. Highest-graded pass rush in the AAC. Follow his stats here.
Round 6A, Pick 177
Joshua Kaindoh Florida St OLB/WSDE
Watch the tackle and strip of Lamar Jackson, and tell me what you think. Kaindoh has the length to play DE, the intelligence to pick up the nuances of the McDermott/Frasier scheme, and the work ethic to improve one thing each day. He’s huge and sudden, with a very high ceiling –maybe LorAx high. Follow Kaindoh’s stats here. Of his 25 tackles over his 21 games before this season, 11 of them were TFLs, which is great from the weak side. He wants to be a doctor (has interned at osteopathic hospital), so he’ll also know what’s wrong with the QBs he pastes. MLB David Reese and SLB Josh Uche are also intriguing to me.
Round 6B, Pick 187– From Browns (Teller)
Tanner Muse, Clemson, S
Tanner Muse caught my eye the other night when I was re-watching the National Championship Game (I had to; Mrs. Astro was out with the girls). Muse reads the field so well, has oodles of experience (35 games coming into this season), and makes plays like these. He’s an excellent understudy for Hyde-Poyer, who I suspect they’ll re-sign in 2020, and together with Jaquan Johnson, Muse will keep the Bills domination at Safety going into the next decade.
Round 6C, Pick 197– From Patriots via Ravens (Bodine)
Ben Petrula, Boston College, G/T/C
McBeane likes his position-flexible linemen, and Petrula is the poster boy for versatility. As a freshman, Petrula filled in at C when their starter went down with an ACL. All Petrula did was help Boston College secure their fourth bowl appearance in five years, and his OL gave up the fewest sacks in the ACC. He then played RT in 2018, and has slid over to LT for the Eagles for 2019, blocking for A.J. Dillon. Petrula’s known for his strong mental game, work ethic, and run-blocking (3rd in ACC). He’s also known as Mr. Reliable, as he’d started 24 consecutive games going into this year.
Editor’s babble: I want to see what Joshua Kaindoh OLB looks like with the Bills linebackers. That’s one big dude. Big thanks to Dean Kindig for getting us ready to watch college football. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.