The 2016 NFL Draft is just over a week away and all 32 teams are in the process of “dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s” when it comes to last minute checks on certain prospects they’re interested in selecting.
However, most of the work is done and scouts/general managers across the league are just waiting to get the nearly year-long process over with.
Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley and his staff surely have a plan in place for just about every scenario that could arise during the three-day extravaganza that is the NFL Draft.
While Buffalo could make trades to move up and down the board depending on the asking price/reward, there’s a good chance that Whaley and company decide to stick with their eight selections (No. 19, No. 49, No. 80, No. 117, No. 139, No. 156, No. 192, No. 218) next week in hopes of stockpiling as much talent as possible, particularly on defense.
Over the past several seasons it’s been widely known amongst the media and the fans that the Bills generally select players who’ve made pre-draft visits to One Bills Drive.
That has proven especially true through the first few rounds of the draft as recent selections like C.J. Spiller, Marcell Dareus, Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, EJ Manuel, Sammy Watkins, Cyrus Kouandjio and Preston Brown all made trips to Orchard Park before being drafted by the team.
Last year’s third, fifth and seventh-round selections, guard John Miller, running back Karlos Williams and wide receiver Dezmin Lewis, also made pre-draft visits to Buffalo.
With that said, here’s my take on who I think the Bills will select in the upcoming draft based on the team’s needs and pre-draft visits.
Round 1, pick No. 19
At 6-foot-5, 244 pounds, Floyd is a long, rangy player who possesses elite speed and quickness to blow past tackles and chase down ball-carriers. A three-year standout for the Bulldogs, the versatile linebacker moved inside and outside within Georgia’s 3-4 defense during his collegiate career, racking up 184 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 17 sacks and four pass breakups in 38 games.
A finalist for the 2015 Dick Butkus Award, Floyd finished with 74 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and four-and-a-half sacks last season, earning him second-team All-SEC honors.
Reasons for the Pick
A polarizing figure, Floyd’s speed kills off the edge, but that’s not the main reason the Bills should consider taking him with the 19th pick. The soon to be 24-year-old can line up all over Rex Ryan’s defense this fall, going from inside to outside linebacker in certain packages, while also being able to put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer along the line.
Cut from the same cloth as current Bills’ linebacker Manny Lawson, Floyd could immediately come in and contribute as a pass rusher before eventually taking over for Lawson’s do-it-all role in Buffalo’s defense in the years to come.
The Bills seemingly have plenty of interest in the former Bulldog as both Rex and Rob Ryan were in attendance at Georgia’s pro day to watch the lengthy linebacker in action. Floyd also made a recent pre-draft visit to Orchard Park according to his Twitter account.
Other possible fits at No. 19: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama; Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville.
Round 2, pick No. 49
Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 314 pounds, Johnson finished his three-year playing career at Penn State with 154 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, eight-and-a-half sacks, five pass deflections and four fumble recoveries. Last season, the former Nittany Lion had a career-year as he posted 78 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and six sacks en route to earning All-Big Ten honors (second team from media, third team from coaches).
Reasons for the Pick
The Buffalo Bills desperately need help along the defensive line, and Johnson could be the right man for the job. Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams are premier talents in Buffalo’s front-seven, but the Bills need someone along the defensive line that can take on multiple blockers to allow linebackers to run free in Rex Ryan’s system.
Dareus and Williams are more than capable of filling that role, but forcing them to do so would not be using their talents to the fullest. Dareus and Williams need to be doing what they know best, which is getting after the quarterback and being disruptive in opponents’ backfields.
With that said, Johnson can be that plug in the middle as his thick-cut frame allows him to be stout at the point of attack with the coordination and leg drive to anchor and take on multiple blockers.
The ultra-productive lineman has all the tools necessary to be a dominant nose tackle in the NFL, but his relentless energy, solid movement skills and lower-body strength could allow Johnson to play all across a defensive front.
Unlike Floyd, it hasn’t been reported whether or not Johnson has made a pre-draft visit to One Bills Drive, but Buffalo did attend Penn State’s pro day and met with the defensive tackle at the NFL Combine in February.
Other possible fits at No. 49: Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State; Su’a Cravens, OLB/S, USC.
Round 3, pick No. 80
A mountain of a man at 6-foot-6, 285 pounds, Kaufusi is a high-motor player whose production has increased in each of his four seasons at BYU.
A two-sport athlete (basketball, football) to start his collegiate career, the soon to be 25-year-old has been a high-impact player for the Cougars as he racked up 168 tackles, 44 tackles for loss, 26.5 sacks, 12 pass breakups, five forced fumbles and two interceptions since joining the team as a freshman in 2012.
He totaled career-highs in tackles (64), tackles for loss (20) and sacks (11) in 2015.
With the athletic ability to play standing up or with his hand in the ground, Kaufusi should be able to play as a defensive end or an outside linebacker at the next level.
Reasons for the Pick
The son of BYU’s defensive line coach, Kaufusi is a fundamentally-sound player who wins battles at the line of scrimmage by using stellar hand technique and relentless effort, which should be music to the ears of Rex Ryan in Buffalo.
In addition to his high motor, Kaufusi will be scheme-versatile at the next level as he has shown on tape and in workouts that he has the balance, agility and awareness to drop into coverage on shallow routes. He can also contribute on special teams, having blocked a field goal and a punt last season.
Like Floyd, the Bills have shown plenty of interest in the former BYU defensive lineman as they hosted him at One Bills Drive for a pre-draft visit.
Other possible fits at No. 80: Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State; Sean Davis, DB, Maryland.
Round 4, pick No. 117
A fifth-year senior last season, Peake totaled more catches (50) and yards (716) in 2015 than he did in his first four seasons (49 rec, 456 yds) combined at Clemson. His five touchdowns in 2015 also matched his total scoring output from his first four years on campus.
While his production (99 rec, 1,172 yards, 10 TD) over five seasons has been far from stellar, Peake finally broke out in his senior season and showcased the skills that made him the No. 5 wide receiver in the nation coming out of high school in 2011.
At 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, the former Tiger has everything you look for in an NFL receiver. Combining his size with 4.41 speed, Peake is a quality route-runner who creates separation with ease. And, when covered, he possesses the ball skills and hand-eye coordination necessary to make contested catches.
Although he has yet to reach his full potential, Peake could wind up being mentioned among the likes of other Clemson receivers like DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant and current Buffalo receiver Sammy Watkins.
Reasons for the Pick
Peake possesses all the skills you look for in a pass-catcher at the next level, but what’s most intriguing about his game is his willingness to block in the running game.
Many receivers shy away from blocking, but not Peake. While stuck behind the aforementioned Clemson receivers early in his career, the South Carolina native made his way onto the field by being a quality blocker on the outside.
Knowing the Bills have a run-first mentality on offense, Peake could fill that type of role early on in Buffalo while learning the intricacies of the NFL game from former college teammate Sammy Watkins.
The Bills met with Peake at the combine and were at Clemson’s pro day. It’s likely that the former Tiger caught the eyes of the scouts in attendance.
Other possible fits at No. 117: Charles Tapper, DE, Oklahoma; Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State.
Round 4, pick No. 139
A four-star recruit coming out of high school in 2012, Young had a solid career at Auburn as he started 36 games over four seasons, including 11 of 12 games in 2015.
Standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 328 pounds, Young is a mauler in the run game who showcased the ability to play tackle and guard in his collegiate career.
With terrific size and length, the former Tiger has good straight-line speed and shows the ability to get out of his stance and on top of the defender quickly before disengaging, changing directions and looking for another body to block.
Ranked the 8th-rated tackle in the 2012 recruiting class, Young chose to attend Auburn over the likes of Georgia, Miami, Florida and Alabama.
Reasons for the Pick
Practically a three-year starter at Auburn, Young is a better run blocker at this stage of his career, showcasing the ability to pull and trap to get to the second level, but struggling with speed rushers in pass protection.
Despite his struggles in that area, Young should be able to play right tackle or guard in the NFL, which will only increase his value to teams.
Young should be on Buffalo’s radar due to his stellar run-blocking ability, and given the time to develop he could start for a run-first team like the Bills a few years down the road.
Buffalo attended Auburn’s pro day.
Other possible fits at No. 139: BJ Goodson, LB, Clemson; Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia.
Round 5, pick No. 156
Andrew Luck’s replacement at Stanford, Hogan totaled 9,385 yards, 75 touchdowns and 29 interceptions in four seasons (2012-2015) as a starter.
With good size (6-foot-3, 218 pounds) and movement skills for the quarterback position, Hogan was second in the FBS last season with 9.43 yards per pass attempt en route to earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors.
Hogan threw for 2,867 yards, 27 touchdowns and just eight interceptions during his senior season last year, capping it off with an MVP performance against Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl.
In addition to his skills on the field, Hogan also appears to have a good head on his shoulders as he earned a degree in science, technology and society while at Stanford.
Reasons for the Pick
Doug Whaley said it best — Kevin Hogan practically already knows the Bills offense.
Despite Greg Roman leaving Stanford along with Jim Harbaugh in 2011, the Cardinals continued to use the same type of pro-style offense over the past few seasons.
With a philosophy centered on feeding Heisman-finalist running back Christian McCaffrey, Hogan orchestrated a passing attack that was dependent on play-action, bootlegs, throwing on the move and taking deep shots —all of which happen to also be staples of the offense Tyrod Taylor is in charge of in Buffalo.
Although Hogan has an elongated delivery that will need to be tweaked at the next level, his toughness, heart and leadership intangibles are all things that a team like the Bills can build on moving forward.
Greg Roman is already familiar with the former Stanford signal-caller, but the Bills also met with Hogan at the combine.
Other possible fits at pick No. 156: Blake Martinez, LB, Stanford; Spencer Drango, OT/OG, Baylor.
Round 6, pick No. 192
One of the most intense players on the field at any given time, Morrison has been an ultra-productive linebacker for Florida over the past four seasons, racking up 294 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, four-and-a-half sacks, two pass breakups and one interception.
Despite suffering injuries to his right and left knees (2013, 2015), the former Gator played his best football over the past two seasons as he posted back-to-back 100-plus tackle seasons, including 103 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two-and-a-half sacks and one pass breakup last season.
In addition to his injury history, Morrison has been knocked for his lack of size (6-1, 233) heading into this year’s draft. However, the electrifying linebacker makes up for his small stature by playing fearless and attacking everything with a full head of steam.
A leader on the field, Morrison was named a captain twice in his collegiate career.
Reasons for the Pick
Despite being a smaller linebacker, Morrison is an intelligent player who was in charge of making all the calls in Florida’s defense over the past few seasons.
Possessing above-average playing speed, he consistently flies around the field and has a nose for the ball. And, once he gets to the ball-carrier, Morrison is an effective tackler despite his size as he seemingly does whatever it takes to get his opponent to the ground.
Aside from measurables, the Florida ‘backer is one of the top prospects in the upcoming draft in terms of talent, but injury concerns and a few off-the-field issues could push his draft stock down.
Morrison would be a welcomed addition to a linebacker-needy team like the Bills, and, should he be available, Rex and Rob Ryan would surely welcome him with open arms.
The Bills hosted Morrison on a pre-draft visit, so it’s likely that he’s on their radar.
Other possible fits at pick No. 192: Tajae Sharpe, WR, Massachusetts; DJ Reader, DT, Clemson.
Round 6, pick No. 218
After posting 53 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, three pass breakups and five forced fumbles as a junior in 2014, Bush came into 2015 touted as one of the top safety prospects in all of college football.
However, due to injuries, the 6-foot, 199-pound defensive back struggled with consistency and finished with just 50 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, two fumble recoveries and six pass breakups last season.
While those are decent numbers, it wasn’t what was expected of Bush. A tall, rangy defender, Bush is a terrific athlete who lined up all over the Hurricanes’ defense during his four seasons.
With solid instincts and range, he is an all-around safety who possesses the speed to cover the deep middle and the physicality to come up in run support.
Reasons for the Pick
Despite his up-and-down senior season, the former Hurricane should be a solid prospect at the next level. He has a good combination of size and speed for the position, flying around and making plays all over the field on both defense and special teams.
Although his awareness needs to improve, Bush doesn’t lack in the tackling department as he consistently delivers monster hits, making receivers think twice about coming over the middle of the field.
Still in need of some development, the versatile safety would benefit from joining a team like the Bills who have a number of experienced players on the backend that he can learn from.
Oh, and he could probably pick up a thing or two from new Bills’ assistant coach Ed Reed, who just so happened to be in attendance at Miami’s pro day.
Other possible fits at pick No. 192: Terrance Smith, OLB, Florida State; Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State.