The 2016 NFL Draft is tonight and with the Buffalo Bills holding the No. 19 pick, there’s a variety of directions the team could go with their selection. I decided to put on my “General Manager” cap and put together a Bills-Centric Big Board, ranking the top 25 players (in my opinion) that the Bills should target with their first-round pick. Obviously, consensus top players such as Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Laremy Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey, etc. won’t be included in this Buffalo Bills Big Board.
2016 Draft Rankings: Buffalo Bills Big Board
No. 1- LB Myles Jack, UCLA
Questions surrounding the status of Myles Jack’s knee have led many to believe that the once-consensus top-five pick could slide to the middle of the first round. While Jack will be able to play, the biggest concern is based on the longevity of his career. Jack is an elite talent and I think the risk of having a player for five years that can play at a high level outweighs the risk of him potentially not having a ten-year career.
No. 2- DL Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
The Buffalo Bills need to add depth and talent along their defensive line as they transition to Rex Ryan’s hybrid 3-4 defense. Sheldon Rankins is a prototypical three-technique that has the ability to kick out to a five-technique defensive end role as well. He’s the most disruptive pass rusher among interior defensive line and would be an ideal replacement for Kyle Williams when he hangs it up.
No. 3- EDGE Shaq Lawson, Clemson
Shaq Lawson is probably the ideal edge player for Rex Ryan’s defense. The 6’3” 275-pound defensive end recorded 12.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last season and generated 50 quarterback pressures while being a powerful force against the run. Lawson offers the versatility to play as a true edge rusher in both three and four-man fronts, with the athleticism to drop into coverage and the strength and power to slide inside to a defensive tackle role a la Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks.
No. 4- LB Darron Lee, Ohio State
Buffalo currently has three inside linebackers on the team and Preston Brown hasn’t exactly gotten glowing reviews from Rex Ryan, while Zach Brown was signed as a “dust settle” free agent. Darron Lee fits the mold of the “new age” three-down linebacker, possessing elite athleticism to run the seam with tight ends, fly to the flats to defend running backs out of the backfield and even play out in space in the slot. He doesn’t have much experience as a true inside linebacker, but his upside is intriguing.
No. 5- LB/EDGE Leonard Floyd, Georgia
Leonard Floyd is one of the more intriguing defenders in the 2016 NFL Draft, as he possesses the length you covet in an edge rusher, standing 6’6” and 245 pounds with 34” arms. However, he’s got a very lean frame and lacks the power to beat offensive tackles off the edge with anything other than a speed rush. He played more of an off the ball role last year at Georgia at inside linebacker where he actually played better, showing good awareness against the run, the ability to get off blocks and chase down running backs. He’s got the speed and athleticism to play in coverage and considering the emergence of these big tight ends that flex out into the slot as pass catchers, Floyd has the same size and speed to defend those guys. He’s a boom or bust prospect, but he’s certainly intriguing.
No. 6- WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
The Bills don’t have much depth at the wide receiver position and Robert Woods will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2016 season. Laquon Treadwell was generally viewed as the top wide receiver in the draft following the season, but after running in the 4.6’s at the NFL Scouting Combine, his “stock” has slid immensely. However, He’s the ideal receiver to complement Sammy Watkins, as he’s a big, physical presence on the outside that can win in contested catch situations, while possessing underrated ability to create yards-after-the-catch. He’s tough and will be reliable in the short-to-intermediate passing game while working the middle of the field, but will provide value in redzone and third-down situations as well.
No. 7- Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
Noah Spence was once considered a top prospect at Ohio State and would likely be viewed similarly to Joey Bosa had he not been dismissed due to failing drug tests for ecstacy. However, Spence has done everything you could ask—passing every drug test during his time at Eastern Kentucky, dominating every game against lower competition and was the best player on the field when they played Kentucky, an SEC school and N.C. State as well. Spence would provide some much needed pass rushing depth to a team that’s desperate for it.
No. 8- DL Chris Jones, Mississippi State
Chris Jones is a raw, yet talented defensive linemen that’s best football is ahead of him. He’s got prototypical size for the five-technique (6’5” 315 lbs, 34 ½” arms) but played everywhere along Mississippi State’s defensive line—from nose tackle all the way to a seven-technique defensive end. He recorded just three sacks last season, but generated 49 pressures and was stout against the run.
No. 9- OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State
The Bills whiffed on the selection of Cyrus Kouandjio in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft and both Seantrel Henderson and Jordan Mills haven’t shown much to give confidence at the right tackle position. In Buffalo’s run-oriented offense, the team could look to bolster the offensive line with Jack Conklin, a physical, nasty run blocker that allowed just one sack and 13 pressures during the 2015 season.
No. 10- WR Corey Coleman, Baylor
With Percy Harvin retiring, the Buffalo Bills lack a wideout that can take the top off a defense. Corey Coleman is ridiculously explosive (4.39 40-yard dash, 40.5” vert, 10’9” broad) and can run a variety of routes. Despite his 5’11” 195-pound frame, he’s shown the ability to get off press coverage and has the foot speed to effortlessly create separation from defensive backs.
No. 11- S Karl Joseph, West Virginia
Rex Ryan’s defense relies on quality defensive back play and versatility from his safeties. Karl Joseph is widely viewed as strictly a box safety due to his hard-hitting ability, but he’s got the speed and range to play the deep middle and in the slot in man coverage. He’s coming off of a torn ACL, which will keep him from participating in the beginning of training camp, but he’s a top 10-15 talent in this draft class that immediately upgrades the Bills’ secondary.
No. 12- LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
Reggie Ragland is a prototypical MIKE linebacker that’s been getting the “two-down thumper” label throughout the draft process, but he’s the best run defender in the 2016 NFL Draft. Ragland is quick to diagnose runs and will make plays at the line of scrimmage. His abilities (or lack thereof) in coverage are overblown in my opinion. Obviously you don’t want him in Tampa 2 drops or in man coverage against Rob Gronkowski, but I can’t name more than 2-3 linebackers that can defend him either. Keep him in short/intermediate zones and he’ll be a player that people look back on in a few years wondering why they passed.
No. 13- DL Jarran Reed, Alabama
Jarran Reed was a key piece on Alabama’s defensive line, primarily playing as a zero or one-technique nose tackle in their two-gap system. Due to his role as a to-gapper where he was responsible for eating up blockers in order for the linebackers to make plays, Reed didn’t have many opportunities to rush the passer. However, he’s got great power in his bullrush and uses his hands well to disengage from blocks, so he’ll probably develop into a better pass rusher than he showed with the Crimson Tide. Reed has the versatility to play nose tackle to five-technique and would allow the Bills to be creative with Marcell Dareus.
No. 14. OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State
Like Jack Conklin, Taylor Decker is a big, physical tackle that plays with a mean streak. He’s got experience at both right and left tackle and would be an upgrade to the Bills’ offensive line.
No. 15. WR Josh Doctson, TCU
Josh Doctson is a talented wide receiver with good size (6’2” 205 lbs) and ridiculous athletic ability (4.5 40, 41” vert, 10’11” broad, 6.84 three-cone and a 4.08 short-shuttle). He’s a smooth runner that gets in and out of his breaks with quickness and fluidity. Great leaping ability and makes acrobatic catches, but uses his body well to position himself in front of defenders on comeback routes as well as adjusting for off-target passes. The only concern with Doctson is that TCU’s offense inflated his production, he didn’t see many quality cornerbacks and rarely saw press coverage. Nonetheless, he’s a talented player that could be an impact player in Buffalo’s offense.
No. 16- CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
Rex Ryan loves his cornerbacks and Mackensie Alexander was one of the best pass defenders in the nation, allowing just 19 receptions on 57 targets without surrendering a touchdown. The biggest concern with Alexander is that he hasn’t recorded an interception in his two years as a starter, but he’s talented and the 5’10” 190-pounder would be a fantastic nickel corner in the Bills’ defense.
No. 17- DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
Robert Nkemdiche is another polarizing draft prospect, as the former No. 1 recruit never lived up to the lofty expectations set for him coming out of high school, finishing his three-year career with just 97 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Nkemdiche is so frustrating to watch because he has all the talent in the world, but he marches to the beat of his own drum. He’s explosive off the snap and will destroy opposing linemen with a devastating bull-rush, but when he’s in the backfield he struggles to covert that pressure into production. He takes too many plays off and looks lethargic at times, but then you watch his game against Alabama and you see the dominant force that couldn’t be contained.
No. 18- DL Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
Vernon Butler is an ideal fit for a Rex Ryan defensive line, as the 6’4” 325-pounder has the versatility to play nose tackle, three-technique and five-technique. He’s powerful and disruptive, but like Chris Jones his best football is ahead of him. He recorded just two sacks last year but notched 39 quarterback pressures despite being double-teamed for the majority of his snaps in addition to recording 45 tackles against the run in 298 run snaps. Butler moves well for a man of his size and would be a moveable chess piece in Rex Ryan’s scheme.
No. 19- EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
Emmanuel Ogbah has been one of the most productive defensive linemen in the nation over the last two years, notching 113 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss, 24 sacks, nine pass breakups and four forced fumbles. He has prototypical size and athletic measurables of a base end, standing 6’3” and 273 pounds and posted a 4.63 40-yard dash, 4.5 shuttle, 7.26 three-cone, 35.5” vertical leap and a 10’1” broad jump. In 2015 he generated 78 quarterback pressures and led the nation in sacks with 13.
Ogbah is a work in progress and will need to develop some pass rush moves, but he’s got a high ceiling and some positional flexibility that make him an attractive option.
No. 20- S Keanu Neal, Florida
Keanu Neal is an intriguing safety prospect that’s seen his draft stock generate some steam since the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. A two-year starter at the University of Florida, Keanu Neal recorded 141 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, five pass breakups, two sacks and forced two fumbles. Keanu Neal fits the prototype of the big, physical safety that Rex Ryan loves on his defense. A physical tone-setter that can serve as an eighth man in the box, with the range to cover in man and zone schemes, Neal would be a nice addition to the Bills’ defense. He’s a bit raw and will need some coaching as he adjusts to the speed of the game and reacting to various route combinations, but Neal has a high ceiling and offers enough as a run defender to make an impact early on in his career.