I plan to do a mock draft every month to dipstick the 2020 NFL Draft as it applies to the Bills. It’s wacky to do this before we’ve seen Dawson Knox in NFL-issue shoulder pads, how Ed Oliver handles double-teams in a new position and scheme, and how Josh Allen connects with 4 new WRs. Can we really project a need for RT before Cody Ford even experiences a preseason game?
Yes and no.
RD1: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Ty Nsehke is 33 years old and on a 2-year, $10M contract with a $4.8M cap this year. He’s Brandon Beane’s insurance policy for Cody Ford and Dion Dawkins. Nsehke is an excellent short-term answer as a “bridge” or “swing” tackle, and, at worst, an excellent mentor to Cody Ford, no matter what position he ends up playing.
Nsehke played 3 games at LT and 2 games at LG for the Redskins in 2018 (~36% of offensive snaps), and wanted more playing time, and he’ll get it one way or another. My thought is that the Bills will look early in 2020 for a long-term, Pro-Bowl-quality contributor at Tackle.
I considered WR, OLB, and EDGE here, and have simulated all three using FanSpeak On The Clock Premium. It’s a deep OT class, and it’s entirely possible Beane takes a playmaker or front-7 defender first. Here’s why he doesn’t: I believe Foster/Brown on the outside and Beasley/Jones in the slots are going to be far better than folks are predicting.
EDGE may be a lesser need than we think if Trent Murphy and Darryl Johnson pan out, or if the Bills sign a waived vet EDGE in August. Lorenzo Alexander just had his best season and Vosean Joseph may turn out to be a stud. I mean, bumblebees can fly only because nobody told them they can’t, right?
Tristan Wirfs (6-5, 320) has the size, power, and hands to play either LT or RT in a power-blocking scheme like Bobby Johnson’s. I love his balance and control. Wirfs has the athleticism, hands, and bend to be effective on run or pass plays. I expect Beane and scouts to attend Iowa games this year, just as they did last year.
RD2: Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State EDGE
“YEE-tor” has skills: Reach, speed to close, good club move, strength to move blockers away like rag dolls. He has the ability to eventually play the LorAx role while being a great understudy for Jerry Hughes & Company. Terry Pegula will be happy, as this 6-5, 262 Nittany Lion hails from his alma mater. I think we have a couple years left in Lorenzo, who’s still going strong with 22 sacks and 3 INTs over his last three years, and Jerry Hughes’s contract is up in 2023, when he’ll be 34 years old.
With Shaq Lawson in his “do or die” contract year, EDGE is a high long-term need that the RD7 pick of Darryl Johnson probably didn’t fill. Alaric Jackson, the Iowa LT #77 opposite Wirfs, did such a good job on Gross-Matos that Gross-Matos dropped out of RD1 for me and put Jackson’s in that RD1 convo with Wirfs, in my opinion.
RD3: Charles Snowden, OLB, Virginia
It would be cavalier [pun intended] of me to dismiss Vosean Joseph before I even see him at Training Camp. F.Y.I., I’ll be at St. John Fisher for every practice in the far top corner of the bleachers, writing furiously on my clipboard; check in right here on the Bills Mafia Blog about 1pm for my detailed “Astro-Notes”.
I just don’t feel good about Vosean’s match for this scheme. Beane mentioned his reckless abandon when he drafted Joseph, and the need to tame that tendency with the Bills’ “do your job” mentality. Joseph (RD5#147) was a +79 Value when the Bills took him, but there are reasons why he dropped a full 2 rounds past where our DraftTek Big Board had him slotted.
Charles Snowden is an ideal linebacker fit for Buffalo. Tremaine Edmunds’ 6-4.5-253 height and 83″ wingspan impressed the Bills’ brain trust enough to make the youngster the NFL’s youngest defensive signal-caller. This year, they’ll ogle at Snowden’s 6-5 height, then covet his 85″ wingspan next to Edmunds’.
Snowden was originally going to do basketball, but don’t question where his head’s at. He’s now a dedicated football enthusiast with immense upside. McBeane will check out Snowden’s work ethic, which will impress, and they’ll gladly take a 2-round discount on how raw he is and work with it, opting to use LorAx in his twilight years or Vosean Joseph. The Bills need at least 3 starting linebackers in an NFL that now employs a slot receiver 73% of the time. They may end up with four.
RD4: Trade With Eagles, get RD4#26 and RD4#37
FanSpeak Premium Version allows you to make trades, and I thought I could take this trade offer from the Eagles and still get my player. I was right.
RD4#26: Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina
Despite the great additions through Free Agency of Cole Beasley, John “Smokey” Brown, Duke Williams, and Andre Roberts, and UDFA hopefuls David Sills V and Nick Easley, the WR room is still missing the height of other playoff teams.
The Bills scouted SCAR more than once last season, and I expect in the Gamecocks to continue this year. Bryan Edwards, 6-3 and a thickly-built 220, offers the vert without sacrificing the zigs and zags. Beane has already paid a visit to the South Carolina campus, and has likely heard great things from Muschamp about Edwards the person: “Bryan is a very mature young man. He gets it. He has a real good work ethic. He pushes himself through adversity….The intangible qualities you look for in any player, Bryan has.”
RD4#37: Tanner Muse, S, Clemson
Buffalo is known for its stout safeties, and Beane is known for having in competition in camp for when new contracts are being negotiated.
Hyde’s contract is up in 2022 (he’ll be 31) while Poyer’s contract is up in 2021 (he’ll be 30). So, Beane adds a 6-2, 225 safety with plenty of experience to the backfield mix. Muse has 35 games under his belt already, and will add to that total this fall, as he’s returning for a final year.
He covers the edges well, has played up in the box, tackles with a textbook wrap-up style, and reads the field extremely well, which is an advantage in this defensive system. Watch these four qualities, beginning with this play right here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Beane gets a safety earlier than RD4, beginning with Grant Delpit in RD1, but RD4 will be a “sweet spot” in the draft, where four or five FS and SS candidates have value.
“OG? Who is OG?” I hear you cry. Just as RD4 was a sweet spot for Safety, RD5 is a sweet spot for Guard. The Bills are not locked in at Guard just yet. Current Bills’ OGs Spain and Sirles have 1-year deals, Feliciano has a 2-year contract, and only Spencer Long has a 3-year deal. Three interior linemen should attract the Bills’ attention here: Gus Lavaka, Logan Stenberg, and Ben Cleveland.
Oregon State’s Gus Lavaka (6-4, 353) is on the Watch List for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award. His claim to fame is run blocking, which could capture Beane’s attention. His PFF run-block score of 71.2, third among all Guards in the PAC-12, is notable, and I count 6 games where he graded over 80 in pass protection.
Kentucky’s Logan Stenberg (6-6, 320) is almost prototypical size for the Bills’ current crop of guards, and his claim to fame is having blocked for All-SEC RB, Benny Snell Jr., but the real reason Stenberg will be a Bill is his work ethic. He grinds at becoming the best he can be through work on the technical side of his game. Beane mentioned that he wants aggressive, tough, physical linemen, and Stenberg is all that.
Georgia’s Ben Cleveland (6-6, 335) currently plays RT, but will kick inside in the pros. This Georgia boy has some Cody Ford upside: OT size, big strong, and good commo skills on the Bulldogs’ right side along with with Isaiah Wilson. Cleveland also reminds me of Jonah Williams in that he sets “STOs”: short-term objectives for each practice (“placement of hands in pass protection today”), so he has the key temperament ingredient to make a high-ceiling developmental prospect. The contracts at Guard already in place allow Beane to take that kind of lineman and mold him into the finished product, one “STO” at a time.
RD6: Lamical Perine, RB, Florida
“Wait! What??!? a Running Back? We lead the league in running backs!” Yeah, but set your fast-forward for two years. Will you have Frank Gore, who turned 36 recently, and whose contract is one year? Will you have LeSean McCoy (read this excellent article first)?
The 1-year agreement with Senorise Perry or the 2-year T.J. Yeldon deal will already be up, depending on the one you actually kept on the roster. Your stable has one pony in it: Devin Singletary. To complement what he brings, you need a big back whose work ethic is Gore’s and missed tackles forced is McCoy’s or actually Chris Ivory’s.
You’re describing Lamical Perine, the cousin of Samaje Perine (RD4, Redskins) and the cousin of Myles Jack’s uncle (RD2, Jaguars). Lamical may be the hardest worker on the Gators. He fumbled in the first game he ever played for Florida, so Perine watched tape, listened to coaches, worked doggedly in practice, and slapped 105 yards and a TD reception on Kentucky in the next game.
He had 1 over the next 3 years. I don’t expect Perine to last until RD6, really, because this spring, Perine looks faster and quicker than 2018’s version. He looks stronger, too, and he could already do this.
I like Perine’s second effort, his downhill running style (a good complement to Singletary’s bounce-it-out style), his vision, the Marshawnesque tackle-breaking beast mode, and his above-average receiving skills.
Unlike Singletary, Perine’s a low-mileage model because of how Mullen uses his backs. An accusation of battery, where Perine grabbed a tow truck driver by the arm when he tried to tow his mother’s car, has since been dropped. It would be thoroughly investigated for the Bills to call his name, even this late in the draft. That’s how we roll.
Editor’s babble: Many thanks to our draft guru Dean Kindig for his terrific contributions to our blog. Thanks to Dean and Rob Quinn (Twitter: @RobQuinn619) for introducing me to the NFL Draft process. I’m forever grateful to them for their patience. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro. Don’t forget to look for his “Astro Notes” here during training camp.