2020 CB Fits For The Buffalo Bills

Photo of Buffalo Bills E.J. Gaines from NewYorkUpstate.com.

It has been argued that the role of backfield coverage is more effective than D-Line pressure in securing sacks. The Bills made some vet additions to the CB position via Free Agency.

E.J. Gaines had his best season when he was last on the Bills, in 2017 (PFF=80.0). Free-Agent signee Kevin Johnson (PFF=84.5 coverage grade in 2016) was the 2015 Draft’s RD1#16 pick, and knew Bills DB Coach John Butler in Houston.

The team has penciled in UDFA Levi Wallace ( PFF= 83.5) as the incumbent opposite Tre White, who is #1 atop PFF’s categories of Snaps Per Target (12.5) and Yards Allowed Per Snap (0.43), and becomes a free agent in 2021. Wallace, not too shabby himself, ranked seventh among NFL CBs in 2018, and #9 in Yards Allowed Per Snap. Wallace’s 32 Coverage Snaps Per Reception Allowed was tops among all CBs in the NFL.

Taron Johnson (PFF= 74.1) returns from a torn labrum in his right shoulder as the nickel corner, and is a solid player in his own right. The Bills ranked No. 1 against the pass in the NFL in 2018.  So are they all set at CB for the 2020 NFL Draft?

Despite Brandon Beane’s success in Free Agency and the draft, he’s not going to stop drafting player fits at any position. He’s said more than once, “you can never have too many corners”, and in a passing league with 4- and 5-wide receivers, it wouldn’t hurt to reload annually. I have the Bills’ DraftTek CB Need at P3, just under our P2 positions like EDGE, #1 WR, OT, and LorAx role.

Which CB fits should Bills fans keep a close eye on this year?

Photo of Virginia CB Bryce Hall from thedraftnetwork.com.

Bryce Hall, Virginia
6-1, 200
FIPS=64 (Forced Fumbles + INTs + Passes Defensed + Solo Tackles in 2018)
Hall led the FBS in Passes Broken Up in 2018 with 21, and regularly reinforced his reputation as a sound tackler. The 2018 All-ACC product is Gil Brandt’s top CB, yet he returned for his senior year despite a favorable grade from the NFL, citing gratitude to his school and a need to finish what he started with the Cavaliers. Watch his body positioning, vert, and PBU here. Hall joins Wake Forest’s Essang Bassey, Stanford’s Paulson Adebo, and Oregon’s Thomas Graham Jr. with 2018’s highest FIPS totals. His productivity will likely make Hall a RD1 pick, which is okay with me, provided the need at EDGE has been amply filled by Free Agency and we’ve seen an emergent WR from the current pass-catching corps.
Fit For Bills: A+

Photo of Florida CB C.J. Henderson from GatorCountry.com.

C.J.Henderson, Florida
6-1, 186
FIPS=35
Henderson is one of my favorite CB prospects. He’s all intensity, hustle, and heart. If Beane’s looking for a SEC corner that gives 100% at each practice, then stays after it’s over, who works day-by-day goals, and intrinsically wants to be great, it’s Henderson. It’s a plus that he played with Vosean Joseph, which means he was likely scouted right along with Vosean. Henderson is the first Gator freshman to record pick-sixes during consecutive games (Michigan and Tennessee). He could start on Day One, as Henderson’s skillset is more developed than many Bills’ prospects. Add the things you can’t teach, like length and sub- 4.3 speed, and Henderson is right near the top of custom fits. I’m dinging him only because of some stuff after the play that I don’t like to see. Swagger is different than sportsmanship, sorry.
Fit For Bills: A

Photo of LSU CB Kristian Fulton from NOLA.com.

Kristian Fulton, LSU
6-0, 192
FIPS=26
While the Bills’ scheme doesn’t exactly match Fulton’s shut-down, suffocating man-coverage, he could easily be the next Tre White, and how bad would that be? Fulton tackles better than Browns’ 2018 RD2#46 Greedy Williams, and we hear inability to wrap up caused Greedy to fall. His timing on these four PBU plays has to be precisely on point to avoid the DPI. Fulton is a mid-RD1 pick in my book. Only 12 games played and lower FIPS total may be cause for McBeane to pass, but one thing is evident: quarterbacks won’t pass often in Fulton’s direction.
Fit For Bills: A

Photo of Alabama CB Trevon Diggs from ESPN.com.

Trevon Diggs, Alabama
6-2, 199
FIPS=26
Diggs’ versatility will appeal, as the former WR is now the Tide’s CB/PR/KR. He’s worth a look in several games, but he looked especially impressive vs Ole Miss’s WRs. At this early juncture, he’s already Mel Kiper Jr.’s top CB, drafted at #11. You sure can’t teach Diggs’ size, and the length and athleticism is there. Besides, our Offensive Coordinator knew him at ‘Bama.
Fit For Bills: A+

Photo of Ohio State CB Jeffrey Okudah from Cleveland.com and Getty Images.

Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State
6-1 199
FIPS=32
Okudah isn’t getting enough love in early mocks or big boards, and I expect that to change. He constantly seems to be playing at a higher RPM than his opponent. The uber-athletic Okudah possesses elite cover skills and is an undaunted competitor. This kid has his head on straight, and this letter to his Mom is endearing, but will require more than one tissue. He’s been held back a bit by coach and scheme, but Okudah has a new coach and new scheme this year. His vector and value will steadily rise as a result. He’s already one of my favorite 2020 players.
Fit For Bills: A+

Photo of Clemson CB A.J. Terrell from tigernet.com.

A.J. Terrell, Clemson
6-1 190
FIPS=48
A.J. Terrell is likely to emerge this year as a leader in the Tigers’ backfield. I expect him to only get more and more confident as he shows the newbies the ropes in a “big brother” role. Terrell’s athleticism and opportunism show up in plays like this strip tackle and this pick-6 against Tagovailoa in the Natty. He was just a sophomore in fall camp when he won the battle for starter, and Terrell logged more snaps (667) than his teammates, showing off consistent and reliable play. These factors demonstrate how the coaches felt about him, despite his youth. I thought Third-Team All-ACC honors was a disappointment for everybody, and I fully expect A.J. will spend extra time in the weight room before and during this season to merit a Day-1 or early Day-2 selection next April.
Fit For Bills: A

Photo of Utah CB Jaylon Johnson from 247sports.com.

Jaylon Johnson, Utah
6-0 190
FIPS=39
During Utah practices, you see why Johnson merits a hard look by the Bills. His practice level of effort matches his game effort. Johnson’s intrinsic motivation shines through. No coach has to push him; he pushes himself. The website 247Sports recently ranked him the best CB in CFB, its No. 12 defensive player overall, and a #19 pick in its Way-Too-Early Mock Draft. Should he slip to Day 2, I expect Jaylon to be a consideration. When he’s not a Ballhawk, he’s a Blanket.
Fit For Bills: A+

Photo of Stanford CB Paulson Adebo from 247sports.com.

Paulson Adebo, Stanford
6-1, 189
FIPS=68
Adebo’s 24 passes defended tied for most in the FBS in 2018, but it is this one-hander INT vs Cal you’ll play more than once. He was ultra-productive in 2018, adding 46 solo tackles to 4 INTs, Adebo was tied in his draft class for highest FIPS total. His focus on effort, rather than results, keeps him grinding, and McBeane will love that. The fact that he’s more fluent in French than English ought to land him with a team near Montreal, n’est ce pas? Nevertheless, he’ll let his play do the talking.
Fit For Bills: A-

Photo of Michigan CB Lavert Hill from MLive.com.

Lavert Hill, Michigan
5-11, 181
FIPS=15
This is the best example of “traits over production” I’ve ever seen. Hill’s FIPS total is the lowest on my board, yet he’s NFL.com’s #1 CB for plays like these. And these. Whether in tight press-man coverage, up against the run, or in off-coverage, Hill has been sensational. When targeted (which is happening less and less), Hill had 2017’s lowest “QBR Against” rating (11.9), a record formerly held by Hill’s former teammate, Jourdan Lewis (Cowboys’ 2017 RD3#92). Jourdan’s doing well in the NFL, already the NFL’s #1 in “Catch Rate Allowed” on deep-ball targets.

Hill adequately compensates for his small stature with anticipation, vert, and timing on the jump. A concussion in 2018 was concerning, especially given his smaller size. It’s another reason I’m keeping him in that RD3 area. There are times that Hill gets caught up in the chaff, or is even outrun, so his scheme forty time will raise or drop him. Nevertheless, Michigan’s secondary limited opposing offenses to the fewest YAC in 2018. Hill could be a value pick, especially if he’s anything like Lewis.
Fit For Bills: B+

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kevin Langley/Sports Souths Me/CSM/Shutterstock (10044271x) Missouri defensive back, DeMarkus Acy (2), tries to bring down Oklahoma State wide receiver, Tylan Wallace (2), during the 2018 Auto Zone Liberty Bowl game between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Missouri Tigers at Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis, TN NCAA Football 2018: Liberty Bowl; Oklahoma State vs Missouri, Memphis, USA – 31 Dec 2018

DeMarkus Acy, Missouri
6-2 195
FIPS=38
Acy is also a serious consideration in that mid-draft range for plays like these. Oh, and this. He was 2nd Team All-SEC, facing some of CFB’s best week in and week out, ranking #3 in the SEC for INTs (three) and passes defended (13). I like his aggressiveness and quick reads. Acy’s coach has singled him out for his “work ethic between Saturdays”, and Acy always can tell you what he’s working on. Sound like a McBeane guy? He’s Gil Brandt’s #3 CB, although it’s way too early. I’d keep track of Acy’s progress this season, though. He’ll need to repel those injury bugs; I suggest DEET.
Fit For Bills: A

Photo of Utah CB Julian Blackmon from utahutes.com.

Julian Blackmon, Utah
6-1 190
FIPS=62
Blackmon was NFL.com’s #2 CB the last time I looked. He may be just as high on the Beane Board because he’s a teammate- and coach-recognized hard worker who’s driven from within. I suspect the Bills scouts were at the Heart of Dallas Bowl matchup between WVU and Utah, and they noticed who the Game MVP was. Blackmon’s specialty is his toughness versus the run, a trademark of the Bills. The athletic Blackmon was also a state champion in basketball as a point guard, and was an excellent long jumper in high school as well. He’s going to kill the Combine. 4 INT, 10 PBU and 48 tackles in 2018.
Fit For Bills: A

Photo of Notre Dame CB Troy Pride Jr. from 247sports.com.

Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame
6-0 190
FIPS=50
I like Troy Pride Jr.’s potential and his approach to his craft better than I like his current film. As ND’s now-fastest man (Pride won their forty competition, and yes, it helped that his roommate Julian Love left for the NFL), Pride already has what you can’t teach: speed. He’s one of the four fastest players in CFB. But he’s more than a burner. Pride’s a film rat whose intent is always getting better, so the Bills will like his work ethic. I believe what Pride should work on this season is faster “click and close” and wrapping up on the tackle. While he made the play that killed Navy’s game-tying drive, Pride was too hesitant most of the game. I guarantee one thing: he’ll get better from his mistakes. Pride learns from them.
Fit For Bills: A+

Editor’s babble: I subscribe to the belief that if possible, a team should draft a cornerback every year. I’ll be watching Ohio State CB Jeffrey Okudah with a keen eye this season. Thanks, as always, to Dean Kindig for his extensive draft analysis. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.

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