When I try and predict what a GM and his team will do in the draft, I look for patterns in the team’s selections they’ve made in the past. Uh-oh; This is a new Bills’ GM, new Assistant GM, a new Head Coach in the first draft he’ll really control, a new Player Personnel group, a new offensive scheme, new National Scout, and many new scouts. What drafting patterns might the Bills’ new crew follow?
For example, members of GM Brandon Beane’s team have all picked interior defensive linemen very early. In 2015-2017, Dolphins’ Director of Player Personnel Joe Schoen drafted DT Jordan Phillips (6-5, 29) of Oklahoma in RD2#52. Two years later, he took back-to-back DTs, Davon Godchaux (6-4, 299) then Vincent Taylor (6-3, 304), in RD5-6. Back-to-back DTs were also selected by the Panthers’ Sean McDermott in his first year as DC: Star Lotulelei (2018 free agent, 6-2, 311) and Kawann Short (6-3, 315), with picks #14 and #44. McDermott likes those first-round DTs; When McD was with the Eagles (1999-2010), the first pick in 2000 was DT Corey Simon (6-0, 320), in 2005 was DT Mike Patterson (6-1, 300), and the first pick in 2008 was DT Trevor Laws (6-1, 304). Brandon Beane ran 9 drafts for Carolina, setting the board even as Director of Football Operations, and in his second year, he took DT Vernon Butler (6-4, 325) as his first pick.
Let’s explore similar trends in the previous drafts by the Bills’ 2018 War Room: Joe Schoen, Marvin Allen, Brandon Beane, Sean McDermott, and Lake Dawson.
BILLS’ ASSISTANT GM JOE SCHOEN’S PAST DRAFTS:
While Joe Schoen was the Dolphins’ Director of Player Personnel, he picked –yep– back-to-back DTs in 2017, Godchaux and Vincent Taylor. Two years before, in RD2 of 2015, Schoen took Jordan Phillips, an immensely strong, heavy but very athletic, two-gapping DT with good first-step speed-to-power and long arms ( 6-foot-5, 330). In RD1 this year, that’s Vita Vea (6’4″ 332, 4.8 forty).
You won’t miss him at the Combine. Da’Ron Payne of Alabama is the equivalent DL1T in RD2, if he lasts to the Bills’ pick at #53. He’s 6-2, 319. Harrison Phillips‘s (6-4, 295) stock is going to soar at the Combine, chiefly because of the meetings with GMs. Phillips, who I swear plays like Kyle Williams, is a champ wrestler who was awarded the AFCA Good Works Team Award, Alamo Bowl Sportsmanship Award, PAC-12 All-Academic First Team, and has that Lorenzo-like community spirit. Expect a meeting between Phillips and the Bills at the Combine, and a visit to Phillips’ Pro Day.
Schoen helped pick 2 one-cut RBs who were meant to hit the hole hard instead of hesitating, yet have the athletic capability to break one long: RD3-Kenyan Drake (6-1, 210, 4.31 forty) and RD5-Jay Ajayi (6-0, 221, 4.52). The RD3 one-cut RBs this year? Mark Walton (5’9″, 205), Kerryon Johnson (6-0, 212), or Sony Michel (5-11, 220) –one or both should be there. We’ll mention some more RBs when we look at Marvin Allen next. Here’s an in-depth description of the Bills’ RB archetype that I wrote for Cover1.
Schoen picked 5 WRs in 3 years, and, for Schoen, speed and/or production seemed to be more important than height, injury history, or character: RD1-DeVante Parker (6-3, 209, 4.40), RD3-Leonte Carroo (off suspension, 6-0, 211, 4.46), RD5-Tony Lippett (off Achilles, 6-2, 192, 4.56), RD6-Jakeem Grant (also supposed to be KR, 5-6, 165, 4.37), RD7-Isaiah Ford (sophomore who led ACC in receiving yards and receiving TD, 6-1, 194, 4.61). This year’s ACC leader in yards is Steve Ishmael and its TDs leader is Auden Tate. For more on the 2018 WRs, read my WR Notes on BillsMafia.com.
BILLS’ NATIONAL SCOUT MARVIN ALLEN’S CHIEFS’ DRAFTS:
When Marvin Allen was Director of College Scouting for the Kansas City Chiefs (2014-2017), they traded up to the Bills’ RD1#10 for a QB: the strong-armed, big, mobile, smart Patrick Mahomes (6-3, 230). Rudolph, Darnold, and Allen have similar builds, and Rudolph throws a similar deep ball, but Josh Rosen (6-3, 210) has the arm most similar to Mahomes, but not the heft. I don’t see Rosen’s build or mobility being the same, but he’s likely the smartest, and “smart” seems to be a common theme through Allen’s drafts. Interestingly, Mahomes was viewed as an outsider among the draft’s top group of QBs (think Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and until recently, Baker Mayfield), but Marvin Allen and his Chiefs liked his arm and potential, and Mahomes was the second QB selected.
Allen’s 2017 draft included a raw, lanky DE in RD2 with plenty of upside, Tanoh Kpassagnon (6-7, 289). This year, that’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. “Obo” is wicked smart, and took first-team Associated Press FCS All-American honors. It’s a bad year for true DEs in the draft compared to free agents, but OLB-EDGE players who fit the Bills archetype are in ready supply, and the Bills sank to an all-time low in pressures, especially after Dareus left (possibly no correlation). Okoronkwo has shown up in a few RD2 Bills’ DraftTek mocks. Combining an arc-bending dip around LTs with a hardcore inside move, Okoronkwo really impressed in the Senior Bowl, tallying 7 pressures in his 15 pass-rushing snaps. Obo do what Obo do. According to Pro Football Focus, “Obo” generated 46 QB pressures (10 sacks, five hits, 31 hurries) on 373 pass-rushing snaps, meaning 12.3 percent of his opportunities snaps resulted in a pressure. For comparison, leader Bradley Chubb’s pressure rate was 13.7 percent. But Obo can protect the edge in the run game, as well; Okoronkwo was PFF’s top-ranked run defender, beating Chubb.
Allen liked a RD3 running back, Kareem Hunt, who, according to PFF’s Scott Barrett at the time, had “the balance of a tightrope breakdancer (Justin Jackson), the elusiveness of a greased-up deaf guy (Ito Smith), and the unwillingness to go down of a Weeble (Sony Michel or Akrum Wadley)”. Mike Walton and Kerryon Johnson should be mentioned again. I think the Bills will look at a plentiful supply of RBs in Free Agency, or wait until RD 3-4 to take one of these six guys.
The year before, Marvin Allen’s first pick was in RD2#37. Yep, it was a DT, Chris Jones (6-6, 308, 4.88), a super-tall interior D-Lineman who was able to kick outside in college. There is no DT3t in this draft that’s 6-6, and only one that’s 6-5 (our 18th-ranked 3-tech, Nathan Shepherd from Fort Hays State). But 6-4 guys we have a-plenty in that RD1-2 range: Taven Bryan, Harrison Phillips (my pet cat), and RJ McIntosh, all of whom would fill the bill. You could also convince me that Vita Vea, the DT1t from Washington (6’4″ 332) is more of a fit for Marvin Allen than Mo Hurst (6’2, 284) as a RD1 pick. Vea’s overall Combine will determine if he’s even there at RD1#21, anyway.
Allen picked the speedy but diminutive WR who returns kicks, WR De’Anthony Thomas (5-9, 176) in his first Chiefs’ draft. Speedy short guys are in plentiful supply on the Bills’ roster already, but here are some more. If I had to guess, I’d start with Austin Proehl (5-10, 175, 4.48) of North Carolina (Dad’s Ricky Proehl). He has that community-outreach resume and caught many a pass from Mitchell Trubisky. Peterman’s receiver at Pitt was Quadree Henderson; Nathan and Quadree had a 15.7-ypc connection against AP-ranked teams. Henderson could contribute immediately as a kick returner (remember; Tate’s a free agent) and a deep-ball option. Dante Pettis (6-1, 192) and Christian Kirk (5-11, 200) also have had return experience, and have skill-sets to complement those of the Bills’ existing WRs.
Allen never picked WRs in RD1 or RD2, but has selected a couple of muscular 6-3 guys with speed, RD3-Chris Conley (6-3, 205, 4.33 forty) and RD4-Jehu Chesson (6-3, 204, 4.47 forty). J’Mon Moore (6-3, 205) of Missouri might be this year’s best example in that RD3 range. Moore has the 4-year career resume McBeane looks for, with an impressive 158/2,477/15.7 ypc stat line and 21 TDs. He needs a 4.4 forty to match his recent upsurge in draft buzz. LSU receiver DJ Chark is a skinnier but tenacious 6-3, but he needs a whole lotta wings and hope his 4.40 projection in the forty doesn’t suffer with the weight gain he’ll need at the next level. Chark did well at the Senior Bowl.
Allen also took risks on some suspended receivers who fell into Day 3, including RD4-Demarcus Robinson (6-1, 203, 4.59 forty) and small productive speedster RD5-Tyreek Hill (5-8, 185, 4.29 forty). I’m not sure that strategy would sit well with McBeane’s culture. If I have to name names, Simmie Cobbs, Antonio Callaway, Darren Carrington and Saeed Blacknall are the names of WRs that might drop this year due to their suspensions.
BILLS’ GENERAL MANAGER BRANDON BEANE’S PANTHERS’ DRAFTS:
Even before Brandon Beane was the Panthers’ Assistant GM (2015-2016), he was their Director of Football Operations (2008–2014), and set the draft board for Gettleman for those 7 years. Beane selected a huge DL1t at RD1#30 in 2016 (Vernon Butler, 6-4, 323, 5.25), followed by 3 straight DBs. Let’s hope he doesn’t draft 3 straight DBs after taking Vita Vea, Mo Hurst, or Harrison Phillips! This year, the huge DL1t guys are Kentucky’s Matt Elam (6-6, 360) and Tennessee’s Kahlil McKenzie, (6-3, 324); that’s Raiders’ GM Reggie McKenzie’s son. Think Day 3 for either (or both). I think this position is one the can alternatively fill in Free Agency.
In 2015, Beane selected OLB Shaq Thompson (6-0, 228, 4.57) first in RD1#25. Thompson was labeled a “tweener” type linebacker due to size. Sound familiar? Roquan Smith (6-0, 225, 4.64) you probably know (by the way, he’s not the size Beane has picked in the past for his ILBs), but some others you’ll hear about soon enough: Shaquem Griffin (6-1, 205, 4.62) and Travin Howard (6-0, 212, 4.63) can be those safety-linebacker hybrids draftniks are calling “Moneybackers”. More on Travin Howard here, and Shaquem Griffin here. Boise’s ILB Tanner Vallejo (6-1, 228), more sizable than Griffin or Howard, is on the Bills already; he had his knee scoped and really didn’t ever get his season going.
In 2015, at RD5#33, Beane also selected a second Linebacker in the same draft, ILB David Mayo (6-1, 235, 4.74), the same year as Shaq Thompson. The book on Mayo was “Compensates for a lack of athleticism with above-average instincts and a motor that keeps him in plays” and “lack of speed and functional quickness”. Preston Brown (6’2, 256, 4.78) is a free agent. With his above-average instincts and motor, he’s tied for the NFL lead in tackles, and says he wants to return. I’d advise Beane not to let Preston go, as the free agent LB market contains many liabilities in coverage with poorer play recognition than Preston. Matt Milano could slide over, but he’s been playing WLB with free agent Ramon Humber behind him. Could this be a RD1-2 draft pick? Even though the Bills took two LBs last year, Milano and Vallejo, it wouldn’t surprise me again this year, especially if one is an ILB with great range picked early, and the other is a “moneybacker” picked later.
What have Beane’s ILBs looked like? I’ll leave this here:
ILBs Beane Has Drafted:
Luke Kuechly— 6-3, 242 in 2012, RD1
A.J. Klein——– 6-1, 250 in 2013, RD5 (now on I.R. with Saints)
David Mayo—– 6-1, 235 in 2015, RD5
2018 ILB Help (Check our Big Board for current position):
Tremaine Edmunds, VaTech (OLB-ILB): 6-5, 236–DraftTek’s top-ranked OLB and 2nd-ranked ILB. Has flexibility and run-stop chops. May go early.
Leighton Vander Esch, Boise St (ILB): 6-4, 240 –Top run-stop LB in the draft. We have a Boise St LB (Vallejo), listed at ILB; move him to WLB.
Rashaan Evans, Alabama (ILB): 6-2, 231–Daboll would know him inside and out, having faced Evans daily at Alabama.
Roquan Smith, Georgia (ILB-OLB): 6-0, 225 –DraftTek’s top-ranked ILB, 2nd-ranked OLB. I don’t think McBeane will see Roquan Smith as a ILB.
Beane found a tall, solid WR, Devin Funchess (6-4, 232, 4.50) in RD2, who had dropped due to a leg injury. Funchess “makes himself a threat with body positioning, catch radius, and strength“. Sounds like Kelvin Benjamin, right? Beane’s proven that two Kelvins are better than one. Tall WRs with heft this year include Jake Wieneke (6-4, 215, 4.59), a 4-year terror who could drop a bit because he played in the FCS and he”s skinnier than Funchess. Wieneke is a vacuum cleaner out there; he doesn’t drop passes. Equanimeous St Brown (6-5, 204) is skinnier than Funchess, too, but would be available later. He’d fit into the Bills’ culture. If Beane wants to go WR earlier, Auden Tate (6-5, 225) is closest to Funchess’s size. Both St. Brown and Tate both played 3 years. Allen Lazard should do well at the Combine, but he’s a big-guy option, too.
Beane also selected a hulking, road-grading Guard in RD4 of the 2015 draft: Oklahoma’s Daryl Williams, who was 6-5 and 327 pounds at the Combine. Daryl’s likely still running the forty; it was 5.34. Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll has said he’ll go back to power blocking from zone, which has Richie Incognito (320 lb), Dion Dawkins (320 lb), and even power blocker John Miller (315 lb) foaming at the mouth. It favors the strong, heavier blockers to the lighter, finesse blockers Dennison preferred in the draft. You even get the feeling that O-Line Coach Juan Castillo is on board, too. Notre Dame’s LG Quenton Nelson (325 lb) blocked for CJ Prosise (Seahawks), but will likely go mid-RD1. UTEP’s Will Hernandez (6-3, 330 lb) has the lunch-pail moniker and gets to the second level.
He’s early RD2 at the moment. Billy Price (6-3, 315) a Buckeye from Youngstown OH is often selected by DraftTek’s computer for the Bills for their RD2B. Brendan Mahon (Later RD2, 6-4, 315) of Penn State, Alabama’s Center Bradley Bozeman (6-5, 322), Taylor Hearn (6-4, 330) and Tyrone Crowder (Day 3, 6-2, 340) of Clemson, and Skyler Phillips (Day 3, 6-2, 322) deserve a watch at the Combine. Check Guards in that 315-330 range for their Pat Kirwan Explosion Index (bench press reps + vertical leap inches + standing broad jump). That immediate explosion off the snap determines who gets the upper hand (actually gets them quickly under defender’s shoulder pads) to create leverage in the OL’s power game.
Inn RD5, Beane picked RB Cameron Artis-Payne (5’10, 212, 4.43) with his last 2015 pick. The NFL scouting report on Artis-Payne is a good summation of the RB that Beane, Schoen, and Allen would pick: “Patient runner…Will duck his head and finish a run. Short-stepper who gets to top speed quickly. Looks to keep the runs north and south. Effective spin move on second level. Good ball security….defenders underestimate his burst around the corner…Willing banger between tackles.” If the Bills pick a RB earlier than RD2 in a moment of temporary insanity, it’d be the one-cuts of Derrius Guice that might resonate the most with Beane, Schoen, and Allen, based on their past RB selections. Ronald Jones bounces it outside more than Guice, but he’s still the same-size back they’ve picked in the past. Maybe you take Jones and Darnold as a matching set. Running backs who have shown elite ball security in their college careers? In order, they are Darrel Williams, LSU; Demario Richard, Arizona; State; Ronald Jones, USC; Saquon Barkley, Penn State; Kerryon Johnson, Auburn; Kyle Hicks, TCU; Justin Jackson, Northwestern; Josh Adams, Notre Dame; and Jordan Wilkins, Ole Miss.
BILLS’ HEAD COACH MCDERMOTT’S PANTHER DRAFTS (2011-2015)
When the Panthers had McDermott in the War Room, they selected back-to-back DTs twice (Star Lotulelei-Kawann Short in RD1-RD2 of 2013, McClain-Fua both in RD3 of 2011). We could see a multiple-DT draft again, with an aging DL3t Kyle Williams who may not return, and DL1t Marcell Dareus, who we hope doesn’t.
McDermott likely advocated for that OLB-ILB paired selection of Shaq Thompson and David Mayo in 2015, the first-round selection of ILB Luke Kuechly at RD1#9 in 2012, and for the double-dip DBs in both 2012 and 2014.
DEs drafted in McDermott’s Panthers tenure were Kony Ealy (RD2#60 in 2014; 6-4, 273, 4.69) and Frank Alexander (RD4#103 in 2012; 6-4, 270, 4.80). It’s not a strong year for pure DEs, but a rookie as understudy in Lorenzo Alexander’s role would be nice. Also, an EDGE player that fits the Bills’ archetype would be nice. It might be we have two positions to fill, but maybe filled by one player: a strong-side OLB/DE/rush-backer/special teams ace (like Alexander) with a “see ball, get ball speed rusher” with quintessential quickness, a TFL + Sacks artist who’d be best in a 4-3 (like Hughes, and like Panthers’ DE Mario Addison). Both are fused into Harold Landry of Boston College. While he doesn’t meet the 270-pound requirement like McDermott’s drafted DEs, Landry’s motor and level of disruption (48 tackles for loss and 26 sacks) is up there with Arden Key’s, who might fall down the McBeane-O-Meter. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has already shown up in RD2 on a DraftTek mock or two. Similar guys who could raise the Bills’ level of pressure in 2018 include the slightly-raw but athletic Marcus Davenport, a slightly-under-performing Sam Hubbard (Ohio St), a slightly-hip-hop Chad Thomas (Miami), and a high-ceilinged Lorenzo Carter (Georgia). Tackles for Loss leaders not mentioned include TFL leader Bradley Chubb, this year’s sack leader Joe Ostman, career sack leader Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, and high-motored technician Duke Ejiofor. Watch their Combine forty’s 10-yard split times and their cone drills to weed them out.
BILLS’ HEAD COACH MCDERMOTT’S EAGLE DRAFTS:
Let’s look at the Eagles with McDermott (1999-2010), but especially around 2009, when he was Defensive Coordinator.
The drafting of Tackle-For-Loss Leaders theme continued from McDermott’s stint with the Eagles, so double-underline that list of Davenport, Hubbard, Thomas, Carter, Chubb, Ostman, Rolland-Jones, and Ejiofor. The Eagles surprised everyone by trading up to pick #13 to acquire pass-rushing DE Brandon Graham (6-1, 268) of Michigan. Fans and experts had expected Texas Safety Earl Thomas to be the pick, but Graham was arguably one of the top defenders in that 2010 draft class with a nation-leading 26 tackles for a loss that year, and they went up to get him. The tough, high-motor edge rusher was a disruptive defender with quickness off the line, using heavy hands to leverage blockers versus the run as well as to rush. You might remember Graham’s clutch strip-sack of Tom Brady in a recent Eagles-Pats game.
McDermott’s Eagles had received the RD2#37 as part of the Donovan McNabb trade, and spent the pick on USF Free Safety Nate Allen (6-0, 207), filling the gaping hole left by Brian Dawkins. Allen had good size, athleticism, toughness, and willingness to assist in run support. Infer from this that McDermott will look early to fill holes left by departing players (Dareus, PBrown if necessary, Gaines if necessary).
McDermott’s team doubled down in the same draft at RD3#86, again choosing a DE, Washington’s Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who some draftniks (including our DraftTek Eagles’ Analyst) thought didn’t have the necessary athleticism. However, the Eagles were impressed by his workout at the Combine, which showed speed, strength, and agility many analysts hadn’t seen on the field. After only 2 tackles and 1 sack in the 6 games Te’o-Nesheim got on the field, he was waived during final roster cuts in 2011. I hope the lesson here is that McDermott will be “once bitten, twice shy” about Combine workout wonders.
A flutter of trades by the Eagles in RD4-7 netted the Eagles 10 picks over the final four rounds. This fearlessness about moving around the draft seems to be a common thread in both Beane and McDermott’s past, and certainly was woven into the Bills’ 2017 Draft with the selections of Tre White (trade down), Zay Jones (trade up), and Dion Dawkins (trade up). Expect it again.
While McDermott was there (1999-2010), the Eagles drafted DT with their RD1 pick four times: in 2000 (Corey Simon), 2005 (Mike Patterson), 2006 (Bunkley), and in 2008 (Laws). During McDermott’s tenure, the Eagles drafted 22 DLs, 13 LBs, and 16 DBs, drafting DBs in back-to-back rounds in 2002, 2004, and 2008, even drafting four DBs in a row (Lito Sheppard, Michael Lewis, Sheldon Brown in 2002 after just having drafted DB Norman Lejeune with their final pick the year before)!
BILLS’ ASSISTANT OF COLLEGE SCOUTING LAKE DAWSON’S TITANS’ DRAFT AND 2017 PANTHERS’ DRAFT:
Lake Dawson was Vice President of Football Operations for the Tennessee Titans (2011-2015). In 2017, Dawson was hired by then-Asst GM Beane to work with him on player personnel in Carolina, pulling together information on college and pro players, and compiling input from team scouts and coaches, recruiting services, and other sources. Interestingly, the Panthers’ 2017 draft board was eerily similar to the Bills’ board, and the Bills likely sniped G-turned-LT Dion Dawkins and speedy slot WR Zay Jones right out of the Panthers’ hands by dint of their trade-ups.
In RD1 of 2015, Dawson’s Titans drafted QB Marcus Mariota (6-4, 222, 4.48), a passer with both size and mobility, who began as a square peg in a round hole. In drafting the mobile Mariota, Dawson needed the GM, HC, and OC all committing to an offense that fit their new QB’s tool kit. Hopefully, when Dawson left Tennessee, he learned the accord that must be necessary to draft a Baker Mayfield or a Lamar Jackson. The Titans’ 2015 draft order would certainly help the Bills this year (click names to read their Combine profiles) QB Mariota, WR Dorial Green-Beckham (6-5, 237), G Jeremiah Poutasi (6-5, 335), a DT from Auburn named Angelo Blackson, back-to-back backs FB Jalston Fowler and RB David Cobb, EDGE Deiontrez Mount from Louisville, Center Andy Gallick, Boston College, and a second QB in the same draft in big Zach Mettenberger. Dawson also drafted Jake Locker, a Washington QB at RD1#8 in 2011, who never played an entire NFL season. Another of Dawson’s combos, the Titans’ 2014 draft, would also be fine with me: OT Taylor Lewan followed by RB Bishop Sankey and DT DaQuan Jones. The previous year was notable for the hulking G in RD1, Chance Warmack (6-2, 323) at #10, followed by WR Justin Hunter (6-4, 196), who had 5 starts for the Bills in 2016.
Dawson saw 6 DTs drafted in his 5-year tenure, 3 of whom were picked in one draft: 2011: Jurrell Casey of USC (“strength and foot quickness, stocky build, lower body strength make him very difficult to move”), Karl Klug (“experience and effort, nose for the ball, can play either DE or DT”, and Zach Clayton (“hard nosed, in-your-face player in the trenches, good get off, physical at the point of attack”, disruptive”). The other pattern is that half of the DTs were drafted in Round 3: DaQuan Jones of Penn State (“massive build, size clogs running lanes and avoids being pushed off the ball”), Mike Martin of Michigan (“hard-nosed, high motor, limited pass-rush ability”), and Jurrell Casey of USC (“strength and foot quickness, stocky build, lower body strength make him very difficult to move”).
Editor’s babble: Big dose of gratitude to Dean Kindig for his valuable contributions to our blog. No better way to prepare for the upcoming draft than to read his assessments. You can (and should!) follow Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.
*Views expressed are the opinion of authors and do not necessarily represent the owners of the billsmafia.com website.