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Bills’ Positional Priorities: September Edition

Photo of Bills WR Zay Jones from buffalobills.com.

Each month, Dean Kindig, Bills Analyst and Editor at DraftTek, will take a snapshot of the Bills’ current roster situation. While positional needs do change from month to month, so will the names in the college talent pool. It’s this dynamic flow-and-ebb that we draft nerds swim in from the beginning of both fall seasons.  This series is meant to provide you some focus when you watch those games played on Saturdays, and their impact on the Bills’ 2018 NFL Draft.

Photo of WR Jordan Matthews from democratandchronicle.com.

September Positional Priorities: WR, QB, RG, RT, LB, LB.

WR: Don’t worry; Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones will have winning games for the Bills this year. Their chemistry with Tyrod and Peterman will pick up. Remember Jordan Matthews signed with the Bills August 11, so he joined his new team 37 days before Game 2. Zay Jones is picking up the NFL game, but this was only his second rodeo, compared to Kelvin Benjamin’s 34th game (RD1, 2014), or Devin Funchess’s 33rd. Andre Holmes isn’t much better, and the Bills may be done with Brandon Tate. He was tied for 8th-worst drop rate (18.2%) in 2016, had a single 10th-worst kick return in Game 1, and he was inactive Sunday. I expect we’ll see Brandon Reilly on the active roster soon, and they don’t have long to wait for Walt Powell to return from suspension. Nevertheless, the Bills need an ace WR (Ridley, Kirk, Pettis, Cain, St Brown), which we’ll take with the Bills’ first RD1, as well as a slot WR with kick-return ability (Richie James, Anthony Miller, Olamide Zaccheaus, Deebo Samuel, Parris Campbell) mid-Day 3.
QB: The lack of success of the top QBs in Week One plays right into the Bills’ hand, especially since the Bills own two picks in RD1, 2, and 3. In Week 2, the quarterback stream got even more murky. Darnold had 397 yards and 3 TDs, but had 2 INTs. Rosen threw for 463 yards and 4 touchdowns, but also threw two picks, one of which was a pick-six. Josh Allen’s poor 54.8% completion percentage against AP-ranked teams is about the same this year, an underwhelming 56.3%.

Louisville’s Lamar Jackson celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Kentucky in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky. (Pat McDonogh/The Courier-Journal via AP)

Even Heisman-winner Lamar Jackson looked mortal against Clemson. He  threw for 317 yards and 3 touchdowns, but Kelly Bryant threw for one yard less. Mason Rudolph certainly moved up in the RD1 conversation, further muddying the waters with 497 yards and 5 touchdowns. Luke Falk (396 yards passing, 6 TDs) and Baker Mayfield (4 TD passes with 331 yards) stayed in the deep end. The more quarterbacks in the mix, the more flexible the Bills can be in moving up (or down) for “their guy”. Let’s pencil the Bills in for standing pat and selecting their “McBeane QB” with their second first-rounder. Any of these could be there for the picking for the Bills, especially with their bandolier of draft ammo. 
 
RG: Turns out the battle between Miller and Ducasse was chiefly due to Miller’s difficulty picking up on the zone-blocking scheme (ZBS), instituted by the Bills this off-season and expertly described in Sal Capaccio’s video here.  The Bills can still obtain a top-level Guard in RD2 and put an end to the madness on the right side of the O-Line. Those I expect to be there include Billy Price, Tyrone Crowder, and Martez Ivey. Should he declare, Damian Prince is worth a look, as well.
 
RT: The Bills’ RT solution was originally Seantrel Henderson and Dion Dawkins. The Bills felt so secure about their solution that Kouandjio was sent packing (this time wearing pants. He was mis-reported to have asked the police to shoot him, which certainly would have ended his misery sooner).

Photo of LT Cordy Glenn from ESPN.com.

However, Cordy Glenn’s ankle, Ola’s injury in preseason, Henderson’s suspension, and Mills’ continued ineptitude made both OT spots problematic. While Mike McGlinchey is an ideal pick as a right tackle who could ultimately move to LT, loads of impressive zone-blocking RTs could be secured on Day Two, including Ohio State’s Jamarco Jones  LT/RT,  Louisville’s Geron Christian (former Bills’ TE Gerald’s brother), and Stanford’s Casey Tucker. This doesn’t have to be the Bills’ RD1 priority unless a top LT starts to drop (Connor Williams, Mitch Hyatt, Orlando Brown RT/LT, or Trey Adams).

Photo of Washington LB Zach Brown from redskins.com.

LB: Like he was a year ago, Zach Brown is still #2 in the NFL in tackles. Problem is, he’s not playing for the Bills any more! Now the Redskins’ ILB on a one-year, $4.65M deal in a 3-4 base scheme, Zach’s range and reads work well for stats-padding. He’d have been a nice chess piece in McDermott’s system, particularly given Brown’s speed, 93rd percentile, per MockDraftable.

Photo of LBs Matt Milano and Tanner Vallejo from buffalobills.com.

While the Bills attempted to add LB depth and ST prowess in the last draft with their selections of Matt Milano and Tanner Vallejo, expect them to look for someone with Zach Brown’s speed in FA or the Draft. Brown may likely get a long-term contract in Washington, but he’s an option. If the Bills double-dip again at Linebacker on Day 3, I won’t be surprised. How about Shaun Dion Hamilton at ILB and Tegray Scales (Indiana OLB)? Scales is the team’s 2016 MVP, a Lorenzo Alexander in drive and attitude, with explosiveness and instincts as a blitzer. 

Photo of Alabama LB Shaun Dion Hamilton from gridironnow.com.

Hamilton was the ILB next to Reuben Foster for Alabama and tore his ACL in the championship game. Now completely healed, Hamilton gets to show why he’ll be the Tide’s next great defensive signal-caller this season. While he plays in ‘Bama’s 3-4, he’s versatile, he’s speedy, and he’s football smart.  Other potential fish in the early Day 3 Linebacker pool are Jacob Pugh (Florida State OLB), JaVon Rolland-Jones (Arkansas State OLB), and Iowa’s ILB Josey Jewell.

Footnotes:

Marcell Dareus is the wild card in this guessing-game of positional needs. While Adolphus Washington (who was kicked inside to DT), Free Agent Cedric Thornton (signed 9/5/17), and Jerel Worthy (concussion) are stopgaps. Kyle Williams still makes plays, but he’s old. While a D-Line rotation ostensibly reduces the need for a superstar, Dareus’s antics and injuries may necessitate drastic action. Bills GM Brandon Beane may look to a trade (Rams’ Aaron Donald?), or the draft. McDermott had Utah’s Lowell Lotulelei’s brother in Carolina; would he take the one- and three-technique DT late in RD1? Stay tuned.

Editor’s babble: Welcome and many thanks to Dean Kindig for his contributions to our blog. You can (and should!) follow Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.


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