I’m always fascinated by the psychology of a sports team’s front office. Why did they choose this player over another? What archetypal qualities led to their ultimate selections? The Bills’ front office has been through 2 1/2 draft cycles together, and we can examine qualities of the selected players, which I’ll do before Kickoff Weekend. We’ve got time. For now, let’s do the exact opposite: examine who they didn’t pick, and use our inference skills.
Here is a list of the still-available scouted players at prime need positions at the Bills’ choice in each round, as well as still-available scouted players at the position they selected in the following round. I’ll attempt to project a little on why the Bills didn’t pick the player.
LB (RD1)——-Devin Bush, Steelers
The Bills likely looked at “The Devins” in RD1, but with Ed Oliver still on the board at Kyle Williams’ position, this decision was over before it started. LSU’s Devin White went fifth to the Bucs, and Devin Bush went to the Steelers the pick after Pancho’s. Bush had qualities the Bills like in a modern NFL LB –closing speed, chasedown mode, impressive range as a tackler– but his diminutive size, the early successes of Edmunds and Milano, LorAx’s sustained excellence despite his age, and the perfect confluence of need with Oliver’s fall to #9 made this pick easy. Bush is a favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year, per USA Today, but Ed Oliver in a 3-Tech position will get to weigh in on that. The Bills waited until RD5 to take their speedy, fluid LB in Vosean Joseph, but my bet is that they’ll be shopping before next May for a third linebacker. I’m sorry, I’m not confident that Vosean will be the next LorAx. But if he is, I’ll eat my words.
OT (RD1)——-Jonah Williams, Bengals
BillsMafia Twitter was hot for Jonah Williams who, when picked at RD1#11, instantly became one of the Bengals’ top two linemen along with Cordy Glenn. Given Bobby Johnson’s power-blocking scheme, the selection of Cody Ford (6-4, 329), and the jumbo OT selections in Free Agency, I bet Jonah’s relatively-small size (6-4, 302), and sub-average explosiveness/agility played a part in making the choice of Ed Oliver. Plus, he’s Ed Freaking Oliver. Maybe Beane has a crystal ball and foresaw Jonah’s ACL injury…Nah. A more plausible factor: the 2020 Draft has amazing OT talent, and it’s way deeeep. Read my analysis of the OT fits here.
OT (RD2)——-Jawaan Taylor, Jaguars; Dalton Risner, Broncos
The trade-up for Cody Ford in RD2 is significant for several reasons. First, they likely had Ford over Dalton Risner, who was selected in the Bills’ original draft slot. Risner, who the Broncos correctly project at Guard, has been working so hard in practice the vets told him to “chill out” (I guarantee that wouldn’t have happened at Bills minicamp). Despite his level of effort, Risner would have been an afterthought at Guard with the free-agent additions of Feliciano (6-4, 325) and Spain (6-4, 330). At 6-5, 312, Risner was probably considered too small for a Bills’ OG in a Bobby Johnson power-block scheme. I firmly believe Jawaan Taylor, who did visit One Bills Drive, was on the Bills’ short list along with Ford, and the Bills would have been happy either way. Taylor was selected 3 picks before the Bills moved up for Ford.
Ford was also selected in RD2 over fan faves at other positions, including CB Greedy Williams (Browns; overkill with Kevin Johnson, E.J. Gaines, and Levi Wallace, and with the Bills’ primarily-zone scheme), and TE Irv Smith, Jr. (Vikings; size, length, explosion, and agility limitations).
WR (RD2)——-J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Eagles; Parris Campbell, Colts; Mecole Hardman, Chiefs
Due to the loss of draft capital for Ford’s selection, some of our pet cats, especially WRs, went to other teams in RD2. The Bills’ free-agent signings at WR (Cole Beasley, John Brown, Andre Roberts, Duke Williams) filled the urgent pass-catcher need. Time will tell if the front office was right. The Eagles did extremely well in selecting both Arcega-Whiteside and RB Miles Sanders in RD2, two players often mentioned in Bills mock drafts and podcasts. Arcega-Whiteside’s forty time (4.59 sec.) would have been the lowest of the Bills’ 30-visitors who were receivers (Arcega-Whiteside, Parris Campbell, D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel, DeAndre Thompkins). Metcalf’s route-running and his horrid 54.17% catch rate vs AP-ranked teams undoubtedly scared Beane off in RD1. In the 12 picks that followed RD2#56, seven WRs were taken. Bills 30-visitor DeAndre Thompkins wasn’t. That’s a name fans should track. While he went to the Eagles in UDFA, their WR room is saturated. Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, Arcega-Whiteside, and Mack Hollins are among the thirteen that the Eagles must whittle down to six.
TE (RD3)——-Jace Sternberger, Packers
Sternberger also had a 30-visit to One Bills Drive, and he might have been in the conversation for the RD3A pick, as he was snatched by the Pack immediately after the Bills snared Singletary. Sternberger and Irv Smith Jr. were tied in their yards-per-catch average (18.5 ypc), but Sternberger’s size (6-4, 251) was preferable to Smith’s. Why did the Bills not opt for a TE over Singletary? After two seasons on the bench at Kansas, Sternberger only played one season at Texas A&M, and experience matters to this front office. Moreover, Sternberger was 3rd-slowest in the forty among my top 24, and Bills have valued speed and separation. Selected in the next round, Dawson Knox and the smaller Noah Fant were the two fastest draftable TEs in the forty. Game experience seems to factor into is WR/TE room. Tommy Sweeney, also selected by the Bills, had the most game experience in the entire TE class, with 38 games over 4 seasons.
LB (RD4)——-Christian Miller, Panthers
A third linebacker to eventually fill the LorAx role was (and in my opinion, still is) a priority. I have OLB and EDGE submitted as high 2020 team needs at DraftTek. Tony Pauline had reported Bills interest in Miller. I seriously doubt that. Miller played in a 3-4, had the lowest “Career Solo Tackles + PD” numbers among the 63 LBs I was tracking (10), had one of the lowest career sack totals (3). Furthermore, Miller was a -71 reach where he was selected by the Panthers –over 2 rounds early. On the board at the time Miller was picked were Drue Tranquill (Chargers), Austin Bryant (Lions), Vosean Joseph (Bills), Mack Wilson (Browns), and Justin Hollins (Broncos). Tranquill is still interesting to me, and I’ll be following his career.
C (RD5) ——–Ross Pierschbacher, Redskins
One pundit just said, “It’s not a question of whether Bills C Mitch Morse will be out, it’s only a question of when, and for how long“. Were the Bills all-in on their 4-year contract offer to Morse? Is there a backup plan with Jon Feliciano, Spencer Long, and/or Ike Boettger? Was there interest in any Day 3 draft pick that Daboll knew from his days with the Crimson Tide? The Bills appear like they’re on a “ride-or-die” course with the NFL’s highest-paid Center. On my own depth chart, I have the younger, higher-graded Boettger (PFF=61.1, 75.9 pass pro, 6-6, 313 lbs) at backup Center over Long (45.9, 43.7, 6-5, 318), despite Long’s experience and 3-year contract. Long’s most likely lining up at Guard. Pierschbacher, who had experience at G and C, likely got a look from Daboll and the front office, but was not brought in for a visit or even sought out at the Combine or postseason bowls. Garrett Bradbury (SrBwl; picked 18th -Vikings), Erik McCoy (Combine, picked 48th – Saints), Michael Jordan (Pro Day, picked 136 – Bengals), Bunchy Stallings (Shrine), and Elgton Jenkins (SrBwl, 30-visit) did. Judging from the size of the linemen the Bills brought in (average 6-5, 326), and the weight of Morse (6-6, 305), the Bills opted for experience, smarts, and great feet for their pivot man. Next year’s crop has four potential centers in the 315+ pound range, with three of them going RD1-3.
EDGE (RD5)—Charles Omenihu, Texans
EDGE rusher remains a need for the Bills, despite the selection of RD7 Darryl Johnson. Why? Now a 31-year-old, Jerry Hughes got a contract for 2 more years, giving the Bills a chance to groom a home-grown successor. Shaq Lawson and hardworking Eddie Yarbrough are in the final year of their current contracts. Trent Murphy is hopefully well past his torn ACL and groin injuries from last preseason, and can show skills like these in 2019 and 2020. The Bills entertained EDGE rushers in free agency, but the entire Bills EDGE group feels thin. EDGE dominated the pre-draft, 30-visit landscape: Josh Allen, Rashan Gary, Montez Sweat, Brian Burns, Jaylon Ferguson, Maxx Crosby, and Shareef Miller all came to One Bills Drive. Others, including Darryl Johnson from NC A&T, Tennessee’s Kyle Phillips, and Derick Roberson from Sam Houston State, got postseason face time with Bills scouts. Darryl Johnson won, and here’s why: the number 1.44. That’s the Tackles For Loss per Game that Darryl Johnson averaged enroute to his Conference Defensive Player of the Year title. That’s second among ALL EDGE rushers in this class. Johnson ‘s weight (254) and 4th-best forty (4.69) match Jerry Hughes, although Darryl’s a full 4″ taller. Look for similar TFL, weight, and speed factors in this year’s EDGE draft selection. I assure you it’ll be a Top-100 player. Omenihu’s TFL per game of .43 just didn’t come close. Omenihu will also be more effective as a 5-tech in a 3-4, so the scheme match wasn’t a fit for the Bills, even this late in the draft.
TE (RD7)——-Isaac Nauta, Lions
It might have been the Bills’ intent to double-dip at TE all along, and I think they had their eye on Isaac Nauta as well as Tommy Sweeney. Nauta went the pick before the Bills’ #225, and the choice became easier. Both TEs weren’t speed merchants, but both were known for blocking prowess and reliability. Nauta’s 87% catch rate was second-highest in the entire class, and Sweeney’s 72% was top five. Sweeney wasn’t necessarily the consolation prize, either: Sweeney’s bigger, faster, and had more games’ experience in college, all of which resonate with McBeane. Indeed, Sweeney might be the best pure-blocking TE in this class. He’s that pure-grit and perseverence type that Beane and McD appreciate so much. While the Bills may not choose a TE in 2019, you can read more about them here to see which ones fit the Bills’ archetype.
Editor’s babble: This is so hot I can hardly read it. BIG thanks to Dean Kindig for sharing his razor sharp insight, as always. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.