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Round 1 (Pick 19): Shaq Lawson – DE, Clemson (6’3”, 269 lbs.)
Doug Whaley and Rex Ryan must have been thrilled to see the top pass rusher in the draft fall all the way to them at 19th overall. Lawson is the ideal candidate to replace the role Mario Williams had in Rex Ryan's defense last season. Lawson finished 2015 with 12.5 sacks and led the nation with 25.5 tackles for loss.
“He walks in day one starter opposite Jerry Hughes,” Whaley said. “He can set the edge from the outside, he can rush speed to power and that gives us two nice rushers off the edge.”
There’s no question the departure of Mario Williams left a significant hole in the Bills pass rush, but the addition of Lawson, who was widely considered a top 12 prospect, will shore up any questions they had off the edge. Hats off to Whaley and company for not tipping their hand, staying put at 19, and allowing the draft board to fall their way.
Pick Grade: A+
Round 2 (Pick 41): Reggie Ragland – LB, Alabama (6’1”, 247 lbs.)
There had been a consensus amongst a number of NFL Draft experts in the days leading up to the first round that the Bills would either select Jarran Reed or the aforementioned Ragland with the 19th pick. According to Doug Whaley, the Bills were prepared to select Ragland at 19th overall until Shaq Lawson fell to them.
“We would have taken him at 19, so when he was still there we made a concerted effort to go up and get him. Lucky for us we found a trade partner with Chicago,” Whaley said.
That trade involved swapping 2nd round picks and giving up a 4th rounder this year and one next year. To get a guy you would have taken in the first round at 41 and it only cost a pair of 4th rounders? Another terrific move by Whaley.
Pick Grade: A
Round 3 (Pick 80): Adolphus Washington – DT, Ohio State (6’3”, 301 lbs.)
Adolphus Washington or “The Dolph” was considered perhaps the top interior pass rusher in the draft and had a 2nd round grade by Doug Whaley and company.
“Obviously we wanted to draft him, there’s no question about it,” Rex Ryan said. “Did I think it was going to be in round three? I’ll be honest with you, no. I thought he would be gone, but there he was.”
Washington’s pass rushing abilities were well noted, so too were his lack of abilities in interior run defense.
Jon Ledyard of The Draft Wire said when he watched the tape that Washington “was on the ground more than any player in the draft.” I still think he will play a significant rotational role with Corbin Bryant, so to me, another great value pick.
Pick Grade: B-
Round 4 (Pick 139): Cardale Jones – QB, Ohio State (6’5”, 253 lbs.)
Cardale Jones is a lot like JaMarcus Russell and that's a good thing. Jones unequivocally had the best arm talent in the draft but dropped due to his inability to read defenses consistently. Sound familiar? Here’s the good part, Jones doesn’t have the type of off the field issues that plagued Russell early in his career. He also isn’t going to be expected to carry an organization back to the “good ole days.” Barring a number of freak injuries, Jones will have the ability to do exactly what Tyrod Taylor was able to do at the beginning of his career; watch and learn. For a guy that has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback, sitting back and having the ability to soak up the cerebral part of the game is his best case scenario. The Bills will give him that scenario and stand a decent chance to be rewarded for it.
Pick Grade: A-
Round 5 (Pick 156): Johnathan Williams – RB, Arkansas (5’11”, 220 lbs.)
A bit of a head scratcher unless you watched all 16 games last season. If you did in fact watch all 16 games you’d know that guys like Mike Gillislee and Cierre Wood were toting the rock for a beaten up Bills backfield. Therefore, I have zero issues with the Bills taking a flyer on a running back to pad their depth. In fact, they’re getting a guy who had a heck of a 2014 season, compiling 1190 yards and 12 touchdowns before a foot injury kept him off the field for all of 2015. ESPN’s Mel Kiper said, “I think Jonathan Williams is going to be one of those backs where we say ‘how did he get into the fifth or sixth round?’ I think that’s what we’re going to be saying after a couple of years in the NFL for him.” High praise for a guy who didn’t play a down last season.
Pick Grade: B
Round 6 (Pick 192): Kolby Listenbee – WR, TCU (6’0”, 197 lbs.)
I certainly thought the Bills would address receiver earlier in the draft but they waited and got a speedster who can definitely be a vertical threat.Listenbee ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine and posted pretty decent numbers in 2015, reeling in 41 catches for 783 yards and four scores. Although there isn’t much to his frame, his speed and ability to go up and get the ball will make him an interesting prospect moving forward. Listenbee received a fourth round grade from NFL.com, so another win for Whaley and company in the 6th.
Pick Grade: B-
Round 6 (Pick 218): Kevon Seymour – CB, USC (5’11”, 186 lbs.)
Like Listenbee, the Bills final pick Kevon Seymour is a burner posting an identical 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine. He certainly raised some eyebrows with that time. Seymour was more of a depth player for the Trojans last season, starting 4 of the 11 games he appeared in last season. Rex Ryan loves his defensive backs so you saw them taking at least one in this draft. They’ll have a developmental guy in Seymour, who will likely find a way on the team via the practice squad.
Pick Grade: C+