The Bills generally did not have quality play from their linebacking corps this past season. Manny Lawson was just OK, while Nigel Bradham struggled in Rex Ryan's scheme. Bradham went on to sign with the Eagles this offseason, so a replacement is needed. Reggie Ragland, one of the top players available, projects well to Ryan's scheme.
*** OTHER 2016 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. Darron Lee, LB - Darron Lee is probably Buffalo's top realistic target, but the Falcons are likely to take him.
2. Jarran Reed, DT - The Lions have shown interest in Reed, but if they don't take him, Buffalo very well could.
Rd. 2, Pk. 18
Austin Johnson, DT/3-4DE/NT, Penn State
Defensive tackle is a big need, as the declining Kyle Williams won't be on the roster much longer. I've underrated Austin Johnson, who appears to be a sure second-round pick.
I think this pick will come down to Ragland, Darron Lee and Jarran Reed. In this mock, Lee is off the board, and this draft is deeper on the defensive line. Thus, the Bills can take Ragland here and add to the defensive line on Day 2. They could use help at inside linebacker, and Ragland would be able to play immediately. If all three of those players are off the board, I believe Taylor Decker would be in play for Buffalo.
Ragland totaled 102 tackles with 6.5 for a loss, seven pass breakups, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2015. His man coverage on tight ends like Arkansas' Hunter Henry and Ole Miss' Evan Engram was particularly impressive. That, in combination with Ragland's pass rush as a defensive end, illustrates his three-down starting potential for the NFL. In 2014, Ragland notched 95 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, three passes broken up, one interception, one forced fumble and 1.5 sacks. The 6-foot-1, 247-pounder is a big, physical in-the-box defender.
Rd. 2, Pk. 18
Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
The Bills want to improve their defensive front seven, but Joseph is too good to pass up.
Joseph was excellent in his abbreviated 2015, leading the nation with five interceptions before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. The 4-year starter also had 20 tackles and was well-balanced in coverage along with good run defense. In 2014, Joseph totaled 92 tackles, three passes broken up, one interception and two forced fumbles. The 5-foot-9, 205-pounder is a gritty, physical defender who is a good tackler and hard hitter. Joseph has tremendous instincts and quick feet.
Pick change; previously Andrew Billings, DT
Rd. 3, Pk. 17
Willie Henry, DT/NT, Michigan
The Bills make this value pick to fortify their defensive line.
Scouts told me during the fall that they liked Henry, but they weren't expecting him to enter the 2016 NFL Draft. Henry (6-2, 303) did declare early though after a solid season for Michigan. In 2015, he totaled 34 tackles with 10 for a loss and 6.5 sacks. As a sophomore (20 tackles) and freshman (32 tackles) Henry played, but didn't have big seasons. Teams view him as a nose tackle for a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.
Rd. 4, Pk. 19
Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
The Bills grab some quarterback competition.
As a senior, Hogan completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,867 yards with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions. In his good games, he looked like an early rounder; in his bad games, he looked like an undrafted free agent. Hogan has a good enough skill set to play as a pro, but looks more like a backup-caliber signal-caller in the NFL. Sources said they like Hogan's intelligence to quickly master the playbook and become a quality backup quarterback early.
Rd. 4, Pk. 41
Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State
The Bills could use a kicker.
Aguayo is one of the top kickers in college football history and is a three-time First-Team All-American. He connected on 81 percent, 90 percent and 96 percent of his field goal attempts over the past three seasons, respectively. Aguayo has a strong leg and never missed an extra point over three years. With the change of the NFL's extra-point rules, Aguayo is even more valuable. He is a rare prospect who could go in the early rounds on the third day of the draft.
Rd. 5, Pk. 17
James Cowser, DE/3-4OLB/OLB, Southern Utah
The Bills grab more edge-rushing talent after losing Mario Williams.
Had it not been for a bizarre off-field issue where Nkemdiche inexplicably fell from a hotel room window, and was later charged with possession of synthetic marijuana, we'd be talking about this immense talent from Mississippi much, much early than at 19th. Not every day do you see a 300 pound specimen consistently blow up plays in the backfield and have an equally effective impact on games from both inside and outside, but that's exactly what he did in 2015. His rare athletic ability allows him to man either end or tackle spots on the defensive line, and his first step is quick enough that he can cause trouble in the backfield on run plays, while shooting through gaps to take down quarterbacks the very next down. He'll have to work on his consistency and motor, which is evident in his lack of solid numbers, but Rex Ryan is exactly the kind of motivator that can, and will, get the most out of him. The idea of pairing this wrecking ball with Marcel Darius, Kyle Williams, and other members of this already stout Buffalo D has to be enticing to both Ryan and GM Doug Whaley. This is a definite gamble pick, to be sure, but its one that has the most potential to pay off in a big way.
Reggie Ragland would give the Rex Ryan the David Harris he had with his time with the Jets. Ragland is a classic old school thumper linebacker who delivers big hits at the point of attack and is a menace against the run. The concerns with Ragland are he is a bit sluggish in his movement and could probably benefit playing at a lighter weight. Nevertheless is Rex Ryan's 3-4 scheme you need a middle linebacker who can stuff running lanes and no linebacker is better at that than Ragland in this draft class.
Buffalo may be in the market for some defensive line help as both Mario Williams and Kyle Williams have struggled mightily this year. Since neither player may be back in 2016, look for the Bills to grab the rising Jarran Reed out of Alabama. Reed (6'3", 313) is a stout lineman who has experience in a multiple front, pro-style defense. He is not a stat guy, but he can push the pocket and should team up well with Marcell Dareus.
Rex Ryan is at it again. Noah Spence is a very special player, such as Jaylon Smith. Spence has a bad reputation of drug use. He was kicked off the Ohio State team and landed in Eastern Kentucky. Noah Spence is one of the most talented players in this draft, but he has character concerns. Spence's situation is like Dorial Green-Beckham's. Talented yet troubled. Hopefully Spence ends up like DGB, as he is clean in the NFL. Spence is going to be a valuable asset in the front seven, able to play almost anywhere. He will free up lanes for other good players such as Marcel Dareus and Nigel Bradham. Spence will likely be double teamed most of his games and still put up good numbers. And If he clears up his act, Noah Spence will be the steal of the draft as he has immense talent and drive. Spence will be a 12+ sack guy for years in the perfect scenario for him and the Bills.
NFL Ceiling - Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Detroit Lions
Bills are looking to add to their D line and pick up Darron Lee here.
Scouting report: Quick to diagnose and flow to the ball. Has unusual ability to find the most efficient routes to the ball. Has athleticism and flexibility to contort his body and succeed through difficult tackle angles. Plays with loose hips, quick feet and desired agility of an NFL weak-side linebacker. Former high school quarterback with the change of direction and speed to be a rangy playmaker. Comfortable in space and excels there. Has plus man cover talent. Willing to stand in and take on blockers with a leveraged strike if his gap is being threatened. Capable gap blitzer with ability to get skinny through the holes.
Other possibilities: Shaq Lawson DE, Laquon Treadwell WR
Show/Hide Other Mocks with Darron Lee Going to Bills
Rd. 1, Pk. 19
Shaq Lawson, DE/3-4OLB,
Some teams told us that they had Shaq Lawson in the second round early on during the draft process. His shoulder was the concern, but once that medically checked out, it became apparent that he could be chosen as high as No. 11 to Chicago. With that in mind, the Bills are getting a steal. Lawson is an athletic freak, and he should fit in extremely well into Rex Ryan's defense. Ryan had to find an edge rusher to replace the lethargic Mario Williams, and Lawson figures to be an instant upgrade. The one concern is Lawson's attitude, but he's well worth the risk at No. 19 overall.
Rd. 2, Pk. 10
Reggie Ragland, ILB,
I had the Bills picking Reggie Ragland in the first round of my 2016 NFL Mock Draft, and had Shaq Lawson not dropped to them, it sounds like they may have taken him as high as No. 19. Thus, this is an incredible value for a very underrated player who can play all three downs. The Bills had to move up for Ragland, but rightfully so, since there were so many teams that could've taken him prior to No. 49.