With the NFL combine in the books, we’re one step closer to the 2016 NFL draft. The Buffalo Bills will have plenty of decisions to make in free agency which will help pinpoint their needs, but for now Buffalo’s needs include: DL, LB, OT, WR, S, and QB.
In the draft, Buffalo currently has six draft picks. It’s believed that the Bills could add a compensatory pick, but these are Buffalo’s current picks:
1(19), 2(49), 3(80), 4(114)*, 5(144)*, 6(174)*
*Picks are subject to change based on compensatory selections
Before the start of free agency, here is Buffalo Football Report’s mock draft version 3.0.
Round 1(19) Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
Although I still believe a wide receiver could be in play at pick 19, the Bills address the linebacker position and add Lee in mock draft 3.0.
Lee is an outstanding athlete that could play inside linebacker in Buffalo’s 3-4 defense. In his career with the Buckeyes, Lee showed terrific range on the field and was an outstanding tackler.
In two seasons at Ohio State, Lee racked up 146 total tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, three interceptions, five passes defensed, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and three defensive touchdowns.
Lee is exactly the type of athlete that Buffalo could use next to Preston Brown.
Editor’s note: Believe it or not, this mock draft was started before the linebacker tore apart the combine. That said, his performance needs to be talked about and could actually have him come off the board before Buffalo is on the clock at pick 19.
Lee ran an official 4.43 (even better than his 4.47 unofficial time) 40-yard dash at the combine, which is one of the fastest for a linebacker in years.
He also performed very well in the broad jump.
And just because, here’s a video of Lee outrunning the Legion of Boom.
In Buffalo’s defense, Lee would be a day one starter.
Round 2(49): Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State
Johnson would be a terrific fit in Buffalo’s 3-4 defense at nose tackle. The former Nittany Lion, 6’4” and 314 pounds, had 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2015. The 15 TFL were more than Johnson had in the previous two seasons (9 TFL) and he only had two sacks before the 2015 season.
Although Johnson did well as a pass rusher, he’s even better as a run stuffer. He’s hard to move and has shown the ability to plug up running lanes. Buffalo could hold off on adding a nose tackle as there are quality players to be had in rounds three and four, but Jim Monos has praised Johnson by name.
Round 3(80): Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU
Buffalo is expected to franchise Cordy Glenn is a long-term deal cannot be reached. With Tyrod Taylor and Stephon Gilmore set to be free agents in 2017, it’s possible that Glenn could walk after this season. If that’s the case, Buffalo should look for his replacement in the draft.
Jerald Hawkins is an intriguing prospect out of LSU. He’s started all 36 games with the Tigers and has experience at left and right tackle.
At LSU, Hawkins showed good footwork at times and was effective in the pass blocking game. He still needs work as a run blocker but Hawkins has a lot of upside. In 2016, Buffalo has a few options for Hawkins. They could throw him into the fire and have him compete against Seantrel Henderson and Cyrus Kouandjio at right tackle or they could sit him for one season and work with Hawkins on his flaws. In doing so, he’d be better prepared to take over at left tackle (If Glenn leaves) or right tackle in 2017.
Round 4(114): Keanu Neal, S, Florida
Keanu Neal is one of my favorite safeties in this draft class but he’s a work in progress. If you’ve ever watched Neal, you know he’s a big hitter. Just watch this hit on Alabama’s Derrick Henry:
Although that was fun to watch, Neal’s aggressiveness led to 15 missed or broken tackles in 2015. He also needs to work on taking better angles to pursue the ball carrier.
On the positive side, Neal finished the 2015 season with 96 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and one interception. He has the size (6’1”) and athleticism teams look for in a safety. At Florida, Neal played both safety positions and did well both in the passing game and against the run.
The Bills have some question marks at safety and Neal could learn the ropes of Rex Ryan’s defense under Ed Reed.
Round 5(144): Charone Peake, WR, Clemson
Rex Ryan loves Clemson players, but this would be a good value pick. Buffalo is looking for a potential No. 2 receiver and Sammy Watkins’ former teammate and roommate could develop into that player.
Peake dealt with injuries at Clemson and also had to play behind Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. However, he came on in 2015 with the Tigers by catching 50 receptions for 716 yards and five scores. At 6’2” and 209 pounds, Peake also has the size Buffalo is looking for in a number two receiver.
At the combine, Peake performed well by running the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds. One NFL analyst believes Peake could emerge in the NFL.
Peake’s draft stock could rise before now and the draft, but if he’s on the board in round five, the Bills may pounce.
Round 6(174): Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
Buffalo was rumored to have interest in Hogan and the team met with the QB at the combine. His game is far from perfect, but in Buffalo Hogan would serve as backup to Tyrod Taylor.
Hogan needs to work on his odd release but does have a high ceiling as a backup quarterback. The QB showed good accuracy on short passes at Stanford, has decent mobility, and is an intelligent QB. If pressed to play, Greg Roman could draw up a game plan that would work with Hogan’s strengths.