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.
Buffalo needs to strengthen its defensive backfield, and luckily for the organization, in this mock, Lattimore is available. The Bills need a replacement for Stephon Gilmore.
Lattimore played really well in 2016, recording 41 tackles, four interceptions and nine passes broken up. Scouting sources raved about how Lattimore looked in fall camp before the 2016 season, and during the year, some team sources said they graded him as a top-16 pick. The 6-foot, 192-pounder has good size to go with athletic ability. As a backup in 2015 during his redshirt freshman season, Lattimore recorded three passes broken up and five tackles.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
Buffalo needs a No. 2 wide receiver to pair with Sammy Watkins. This would be a perfect complement.
In 2016, Smith-Schuster totaled 90 receptions for 914 yards and 10 scores. He was completely shut down in the 2016 season opener by Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick, two future NFL cornerbacks. In 2015, Smith-Schuster took over as the No. 1 receiver with Nelson Agholor in the NFL and was excellent with 89 receptions for 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder had an impressive freshman season in 2014, totaling 54 catches for 724 yards and five touchdowns.
For the NFL, Smith-Schuster is more of a possession receiver, but he runs good routes and has size, generally quality hands, yards-after-the-catch skills, and enough quickness to produce in the short to intermediate part of the field. He is good at winning 50-50 passes and should be valuable in the red zone. Smith-Schuster could be a quality starter quickly in his NFL career, but may never become an elite No. 1 receiver as a pro.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Dion Dawkins, G/OT, Temple
Buffalo could use more competition at right tackle.
The 6-foot-3, 317 pound Dawkins has some fans in the NFL scouting community. They feel that Dawkins has some athleticism and could turn into a good functional blocker. The sources that really like Dawkins have him graded in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft and think he has tackle potential for the NFL. Some other teams have him graded a round or two later and think he would be a better fit at guard in the NFL. Still, Dawkins had a fine senior season to put himself in position to get drafted come April.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Tedric Thompson, SS, Colorado
The Bills grab a safety competitor.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Josh Malone, WR, Tennessee
The Bills add more wide receiver depth.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Nate Hairston, CB, Temple
The Bills could target a couple of corners given the strength at the position.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
The Bills could use multiple wide receivers around Sammy Watkins.
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.