Buffalo Bills Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama – Round 2
Ragland was in the running to be one of the safest picks in the entire 2016 NFL Draft. Over the past two seasons, he was an excellent linebacker for Alabama and one of the top players at his position in college football. In my final 2016 Mock NFL Draft, I had the Bills taking Ragland, and he looks like a perfect fit to upgrade the middle of Buffalo’s defense.

For the NFL, Ragland looks like a three-down starter and difference-maker. He is a very physical linebacker who is capable of taking on and shedding blocks from offensive linemen. Ragland has good instincts to read plays and takes good angles to get to ball-carriers. He is excellent at producing good down and distance situations for his defense. Routinely, Ragland can fire into the hole or to the perimeter to cut down a running back before he gets good yardage. Not only does Ragland get in position to make the play, he also packs a punch when he gets there. Ragland is a hard-hitter who puts ball-carriers into the turf with ferocity. He displayed some ability to blitz off the corner as well.

The real test that NFL scouts wanted to see as a senior was if Ragland had the quickness, agility, and athleticism to function in pass coverage. Ragland proved that he is a three-down starter as he performed well against good receiving tight ends from Ole Miss (Evan Engram) and Arkansas (Hunter Henry). It was very impressive how Ragland maintained close coverage running with them in man coverage. Aside from covering those tight ends, he made good open-field tackles and picked up receivers well in zone coverage. Ragland also did a nice job covering backs out of the backfield.

As a pro, Ragland is ready to play immediately and has the potential to become a Pro Bowler quickly in his NFL career. He also is known as a team leader with good character. Ragland will be an asset in the locker room as a player to rally the team and is a winner. I think Ragland will be a solid starter for a long time for the Bills.

Most Likely To Bust

Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State – Round 4
This was a really hard choice. I felt the Bills had the best draft in the NFL and nailed their picks from start to finish. There wasn’t a pick who I disliked, and all of them were great values. I have to pick one who is most likely to bust, and Jones seems to have the most risk. Of the Bills’ early rounders, Jones is the most boom-or-bust prospect who Buffalo selected.

As a quarterback, Jones (6-5, 253) has a devastating arm that can make throws other quarterbacks don’t even bother attempting. He can make brilliant throws deep downfield. Jones does need to improve his accuracy and ball placement. He also needs to work on throwing more touch passes, having his ball be more catchable, and not relying on the fastball so much. Jones needs to improve his ability to throw while under heat, and get faster working through his progressions, moving his eyes and getting rid of the ball. Jones can hold onto the ball too long when plays start to break down on him.

Jones also enters the NFL with only 11 starts in college. He is a raw player who needs a lot of development. The new collective bargaining agreement has really restricted the amount of time players can work with coaches during the offseason, and during the season, teams are focused on winning their games. Thus it is very hard for young quarterbacks to develop, especially when they aren’t starters. Coaches around the league have cited this problem. Therefore, the time to develop may not be there for Jones, and it could be that leads to him never improving on the aspects that he must getter better at for the professional game. Of the Bills’ early rounders, I think Jones is at the greatest risk of not panning out in the NFL.

Potential Boom Pick

Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State – Round 3
This was a tough choice for me because I liked so many of Buffalo’s picks. I considered going with Shaq Lawson. I think Lawson will turn into a quality edge rusher and a player who will be an 8-10-sack-per-season-type contributor. That isn’t really a boom pick. However, I think that Washington could end up being a huge steal and a rare defensive tackle who is capable of putting a lot of heat on the quarterback.

Washington showed legitimate pass-rushing skills at Ohio State with 8.5 sacks the past two seasons. At the Senior Bowl, he flashed plays where he was killing the offensive linemen in the one-on-ones with explosion out of his stance, speed to close, strength to shed blocks, and speed to power.

From a skill-set perspective, Washington has excellent speed at the point of attack. He bursts out of stance with explosion to fire his gap. His quickness often takes offensive linemen by surprise, and they are in a bad position to prevent him penetrating the backfield. That speed makes him an effective interior pass-rusher, a tough commodity to find for the NFL. As a pro, Washington will be on the field to get after the quarterback. With his quickness at the point of attack and ability to get to the signal-caller, Washington has Pro Bowl potential and could produce quality sack totals in the NFL for a defensive tackle.

I think that Washington could be a Brandon Mebane-, Jonathan Babineaux-, or Kawann Short-type interior defensive lineman. All three players were second-day steals. Washington also will benefit with offenses being more concerned with Marcel Dareus, Jerry Hughes, and Lawson. Thus, Washington should get a lot of one-on-one blocks. I think Washington could be a special player for Buffalo.

Future Depth Player

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas – Round 5
With LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, the Bills don’t need Jonathan Williams to be a starter. However, I think the younger Williams could be a steal for Buffalo. As a runner, Williams has tremendous balance and an impressive ability to pick up yards after contact. He has a good body lean and runs with power. Sources from some teams were targeting Williams in the mid-rounds believe he could be a steal because of his injury. Williams also drew rave reviews off the field, and his teammates gushed about him in team interviews. With the players they have in house, Jonathan Williams may not be in contention to be Buffalo’s starter any time soon, but I think he could be an excellent backup running back.

Walt’s 2016 NFL Draft Grades:

19. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson A Grade
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.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

41. Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama A Grade
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.

80. Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State C+ Grade
Adolphus Washington was one of the worst testers at the NFL Combine. His stock sunk as a result, as teams weren’t interested in one of the worst athletes in the entire draft class. Washington’s size is a plus, but that’s all he has. Making matters worse, there are some character concerns with him, albeit minor ones. The Bills probably could’ve obtained Washington a round later.

139. Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State A Grade
Cardale Jones made a huge mistake by not declaring for the draft last year. He may have emerged at the end of the first round. Teams told us that they were highly intrigued with Jones’ physical talents, and that if he put together a dynamic 2015 campaign, he would’ve been a top-10 pick. Of course, that didn’t happen. Jones struggled and was exposed. Still, he has immense upside and probably should’ve been taken two rounds earlier. He’s a nice backup and possible future starter for Buffalo.

156. Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas A- Grade
Another quality selection on a running back who dropped. This isn’t a surprise, as the Bills needed a runner with LeSean McCoy’s legal issues and an expiring contract after this season. Plus, with the value available here, why not? Williams missed all of 2015 with a foot injury. Had he played, he probably would’ve been chosen a couple of rounds earlier.

192. Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU B+ Grade
It’s surprising that the Bills didn’t take a receiver before this, given their glaring need across from Sammy Watkins. I don’t know if Kolby Listenbee will ever emerge as a starter, but his speed will give him a shot. He can provide some game-breaking ability, but needs to learn how to play the receiver position.

218. Kevon Seymour, CB, USC B Grade
USC fans might be wondering if I plan on giving the Bills a Millen grade for this pick, given that Kevon Seymour was so bad that he was benched as a senior. However, Seymour, who played well beforehand, is a tall (6-0) cornerback with plus athleticism. He has untapped potential, and perhaps Rex Ryan will be able to get the most out of him.

2016 NFL Draft Team Grade: A- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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