My dear friend Dean Kindig uses the term pet cats to describe his favorite players during any given NFL Draft season. Few hobbyists study the draft and evaluate players with as much breadth and intensity as Dean. Between Dean and Erik Turner (and his wonderful crew), we should feel as ready as we’ve ever been to watch the grand event unfold during these very strange times.
Every year Dean shares his labor of love with us… and this year we are blessed with his BillsMafia War Chart, Astro’s Pick-Six for April, and his latest BillsMafia Beane Tracker to get us ready to roll on April 23rd… well 24th if you consider the Bills already have their first round pick with the Stefon Diggs trade.
I’ll have a lot more to babble about Diggs in the near future. After reading his words about joining the Buffalo Bills in his recent Players Tribune article, I’m ready to run through a brick wall to see these guys play this fall… pandemic be damned.
In the meantime, I decided to take the opposite view from Dean’s objective look at the draft. He’s always careful to note who his ‘pet cats’ are and makes every attempt to keep them out of his decision making process when creating mock drafts.
No way am I going to be objective about anything to do with the Buffalo Bills… including whether or not they draft any of my favorite players. Nor am I going to claim clairvoyance based on a bunch of Combine data as well as watching a few college games last fall.
My ‘pet cats’ are identified by nothing more than my eyeballs and intuition… and any other sort of intangible, squishy, non-scientific method like the vibe I get from observing a particular player. As blasphemous as that is, I’ll stand by my record of ‘pet cats’ holding up quite well as they transitioned to the NFL.
Projecting players who will succeed in the NFL is a crap shoot regardless of methodology because of the numerous things that can go wrong throughout the process. It helps to know our team is finally in capable hands with regard to finding the right players… with or without bloviating from the rest of us about who is most suitable for the Bills to select in the upcoming draft.
Earlier this year I wrote about the players who stuck out from my perspective at the NFL Combine. A couple made it to my final ‘pet cats’ list. If the Bills draft any one of the following five players, I’ll be a happy camper.
LB Logan Wilson, Wyoming
You didn’t really expect to read a draft post from me that didn’t include a ‘wyo’, now did you? This guy would be the perfect fit for the Bills for many reasons, some of which I detailed in an earlier post I wrote about Wilson.
It’s a little hard to determine exactly where Wilson would fit best in the Bills’ defensive scheme because he’s a versatile player. In fact, even though he’s in the 250-pound range he’s fast and is enthusiastic about honing his pass coverage skills. He would also make a great addition for the Bills on special teams because he isn’t shy about tackling, and is relentless in creating turnovers.
As I mentioned in a previous write-up, Wilson is a lead-by-example kind of guy, and with his versatility could provide some additional skills like Lorenzo Alexander did for defense and special teams. Also, like Lorenzo, Wilson’s not a big talker… but his passion for the game is undeniable. He would be a perfect culture fit for the Bills.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
Of course it was ‘The Dean’ (Kindig) who dangled the name Clyde Edwards-Helaire as a player to keep an eye on. Since I had an opportunity to catch a few LSU games, I checked out Edwards-Helaire. Of course the first running back you think of when you watch Edwards-Helaire is Devin Singletary. His thighs aren’t quite as thick but he’s a bowling ball like Maurice Jones-Drew and is very hard to tackle.
Edwards-Helaire also has very good hands.. it would be interesting to watch him if Brian Daboll ever employed the screen game on a regular basis. Some think you need a diverse body type and running style among the running backs on any given roster. I’m a total hypocrite when it comes to whether or not that matters within a given position group.
In my opinion, size matters more with wide receivers than it does with running backs. I’ll die on the hill believing it’s a good thing to have a larger WR on the roster because they tend to require more intense coverage… but that’s ONLY if they’re good enough to draw attention on every offensive play.
It seems like from everything I’ve read and watched about Edwards-Helaire he would be a good culture fit. You know that issue is a non-negotiable item for Sean McDermott. That’s why McBeane’s draft board probably doesn’t resemble a lot of other teams’ draft boards.
If Edwards-Helaire fell in the draft at a place of great value, I wouldn’t cry if the Bills selected him, but it seems implausible they would reach for him. If he does fall for whatever reason he’s a guy who could come in and have an immediate impact on offense. Daboll would go nuts with the possibilities.
WR/KR/PR Antonio Gibson, Memphis
Love me some versa-til-ity… and I would fall over deliriously happy if the Bills drafted Memphis’ Antonio Gibson. I only get to see the occasional Memphis game so my sample size is small watching this guy play. That stated, there’s something about Gibson that tickles my brain like Eric Moulds used to do when he would escape tacklers.
Gibson looks like a guy who plays with all heart. His special teams skills could make him a day-one contributor… and who wouldn’t benefit from having Andre Roberts as a mentor? Gibson would be a heck of a matchup nightmare with Stefon Diggs also on the field. Gibson is 6’2″ tall and weighs 220 pounds, so if the Bills were to draft him it would likely mark the rapid demise of the vaunted ‘Smurfs’ title. Or at very least it would create a nice battle with that position group.
Holy cats, how many years has it been since the Bills had three top-flight WRs? BillsMafia would finally be able to settle the score about Josh Allen once and for all if the Bills added a guy like Antonio Gibson to the roster. No excuses if the Bills have Diggs, Gibson and John Brown on the field. Cole Beasley for the change-up in the slot and Allen has a full complement of talented wide receivers.
DE Alton Robinson, Syracuse
Ha! Anyone who knew me from my college days at UB during the early 1980s would know my selecting a Syracuse player as a ‘pet cat’ is NOT a homer pick. There’s always been an in-state rivalry between these two universities, with sports as well as academic circles. However, getting to watch compelling games played by Syracuse against teams like Clemson made for great football this past fall and we can only hope to watch it all unfold in a stadium again someday soon.
So what is it about this guy Alton Robinson that makes him tick all the boxes of the ‘pet cat’ list? He impressed early and often last year at Syracuse. He’s not a superstar in terms of physicality but when you watch him play, he’s very instinctive and aggressively creates opportunities for turnovers. That type of ferocity is something McDermott covets on defense.
Robinson would obviously need to learn on the fly, but being coached by Eric Washington could really fine tune his game in a hurry. Robinson looks like he plays with reckless abandon, which usually comes with some growing pains early on during a rookie’s season… but having great mentors like Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy would go a long way in improving Alton’s development as well.
This is a strange draft for more reasons than the COVID-19 pandemic. This draft is loaded at the wide receiver positionm so there may be teams making seemingly strange selections, including the Bills. The Bills’ need for a young DE is undeniable. If Robinson is available for value, you don’t hesitate to snag this guy. I have a strong sense this guy is going to do just fine in the NFL.
DE Breiden Fehoko, LSU
OK, so sue me because I’m enamored with LSU players. Watching Tre’Davious White made me realize just how stacked LSU is year after year after year. This ‘pet cat’ Breiden Fehoko is also one of Dean Kindig’s favorites, and that alone is good enough for me. Fehoko comes from a family steeped in tradition of his Polynesian background.
You have to get inside the mind of Fehoko to understand how different he is and how his passion for the game is evoked by Haka and other ceremonies celebrating his heritage. One thing our dominant culture is guilty of… pigeon-holing people’s behavior based on stereotyping by the media, and quite frankly ourselves.
What we fail to appreciate at times are the intangible contributions heritage and tradition bring to the table in terms of promoting mental development. In a multi-cultural locker room in the Sean McDermott era, these qualities are shared and celebrated as a way to unify a team in body and spirit. Players like Breiden are highly valued by coaches who want to bring the best out in their team from an inclusive perspective. It’s one of the characteristics I cherish most about McDermott as a head coach.
Fehoko may not be an early round candidate, maybe not even drafted for all we know, but you can bet he’s high on the Bills’ list of players they covet for the right value. LSU produces players with as much heart as they have skill. Just ask Tre White or Kyle Williams.
Editor’s babble: It would be great to see the Bills draft any one of these players. It’s also going to be strange watching the 2020 NFL Draft in whatever format is presented. Here’s hoping everything goes without a hitch. If you want to comment on my unscientific, totally biased opinions about these players or any others, you can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.