Buffalo Bills Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma – Round 2
At the start of the 2019 NFL Draft, it was a consensus around the scouting community that Cody Ford was going to be a first-round pick. However, Ford happened to be one of those players who surprisingly slipped to Round 2. Buffalo moved up in the second round to land Ford, and it was an astute move by the team to land a first-round-caliber player on the second night of the 2019 NFL Draft.

As a pass blocker, Ford (6-5, 335) possesses quick feet and surprising athleticism for such a big athlete. He has the ability to use his feet to wall off speed rushers and get depth in his drop. Due to his rare agility for a big, thick blocker, Ford is able to handle speed rushers coming off the edge. His size also leads to him having a good anchor to stone wall bull rushes and keep them from pushing him back into the pocket. Ford’s pass-protection skills looked better at right tackle than his earlier time at guard, but for the NFLm he should be an asset at guard or tackle in pass blocking.

Ford is an interesting player in the ground game. Given his size and bulk, many would expect him to have been a road grader against the Big XII’s weak defenses, but that was not Ford’s game in college. He would generate movement by leaning on defenders, getting within their frame to push and manipulate them. However, he was not a bull dozer who bullied defenders and rolled them around the field. Part of that could be scheme related due the Sooners’ employment of a high-paced spread offense rather than running an old-school downhill power run offense. In the NFL, Ford may not ever be a true road grader. But he should be a dependable run blocker who generates movement in the ground game at right tackle or guard.

On top of Ford being a talented blocker, he has the versatility to upgrade the Bills’ offensive line at guard or tackle. Buffalo needed to improve its blocking for quarterback Josh Allen, and Ford could be a plug-and-play solution who is a solid starter quickly in his NFL career.

2018: Harrison Phillips, DT
2017: Dion Dawkins, OT/G
2016: Reggie Ragland, LB
2015: John Miller, G
2014: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT
2013: Robert Woods, WR

Most Likely To Bust

Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss – Round 3
The Bills entered the offseason needing to add more receiving weapons for Josh Allen, and they grabbed a potential receiving tight end in Knox in the third round. At Ole Miss, Knox flashed some receiving ability at times over the past couple of seasons, but he should have returned for his senior year rather than enter the 2019 NFL Draft. The junior totaled 15 receptions for 284 yards in 2018. His best season came as a sophomore, with 24 receptions for 321 yards. He did not score a touchdown during his collegiate career with the Rebels.

Knox looks like a limited receiving tight end for the NFL who won’t be much of a factor as a blocker. As a result, I could see Knox being a role player who never develops into a starter. Third-round picks are viewed by NFL teams as players who are “backups to starter,” and I think Knox is the most likely candidate of the Bills’ early-round picks to fall short of that. Thus, I see him as the Buffalo pick who is most likely to bust.

2018: Josh Allen, QB
2017: Tre’Davious White, CB
2016: Cardale Jones, QB
2015: Karlos Williams, RB
2014: Ross Cockrell, CB
2013: E.J. Manuel, QB

Potential Boom Pick

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston – Round 1
In the days before the 2019 NFL Draft, I reported the Bills had done a lot of work on Oliver, with their top evaluators including general manager Brandon Beane and top executive Dan Morgan traveling to Houston during the draft process to watch him. Hence, I had Oliver going to Buffalo in my final mock draft, and that pick came true as the talented lineman fell to the organization’s first selection.

Oliver is an impactful interior pass-rusher with rare ability to harass the quarterback from the inside. His pass-rush potential is very hard to find and made him a beloved prospect across the scouting community. Oliver is extremely fast at the point off attack. He explodes out of his stance and immediately penetrates into the backfield. On top of his speed and tremendous pad level, Oliver has active hands to slap away blockers hands. He can bend and has the agility to redirect to the quarterback. Oliver displays rare explosive speed off the ball and constantly lives in the backfield.

It is common to say that a defensive tackle has a burst to close or gets upfield quickly, but is very rare to say that a defensive tackle has excellent pursuit skills. However Oliver is that rare kind of defender with the way he flies to the ball. Oliver has a relentless style of play to chase down ball-carriers away from the tackle box, and his rare speed allows him to make plays that others can only dream about. Of course, Oliver has superb closing speed given his explosiveness off the snap. He also has good instincts and recognition skills that put him in position to make a lot of plays. His intelligence and instincts also lead to him batting a lot of passes for a defensive tackle.

Oliver plays hard as a run defender. He is at his best when he is firing into the backfield to blow up runs behind the line of scrimmage. His tackles for a loss total was no fluke. The problems that Oliver has in the ground game is being undersized and holding up against downhill runs coming straight at him. He does not have a strong lateral anchor and can get covered up in the ground game. Oliver’s lateral anchor is going to be problematic in the NFL, so he should not be played as a nose tackle. Double teams also can give him problems, but the Bills have a good situation to help him avoid some of these issues.

The Bills have nose tackle Harrison Phillips able to occupy some blockers next to Oliver with edge rusher Jerry Hughes on his other side commanding attention. Oliver is a great fit as a three-technique for head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. He could be a boom pick for the Bills and a defensive franchise player for them to build around for many years to come.

2018: Tremaine Edmunds, LB
2017: Zay Jones, WR
2016: Adolphus Washington, DT
2015: Ronald Darby, CB
2014: Sammy Watkins, WR
2013: Marquise Goodwin, WR

Future Depth Player

Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami – Round 6
The Bills grabbed a nice sleeper safety in the sixth round. In 2018, Johnson totaled 92 tackles, one pass broken up and two interceptions. Sources at other teams liked Johnson (5-10, 191) as a player, but his size hurt his grade from scouts. The Hurricanes reestablished themselves as a team to be reckoned with in 2017, and their turnover chain became a media sensation. The player who sported that chain most often for the Hurricanes was Johnson, who totaled four interceptions and three forced fumbles on the year. The junior also was a solid run defender with 96 tackles. Johnson may not have the size and speed to become a three-down starter, but he is a player with good instincts and finds a way to overachieve. Thus, I think Johnson could be a solid backup for Buffalo.

2018: Siran Neal, S
2017: Nathan Peterman, QB
2016: Jonathan Williams, RB
2015: Nick O’Leary, TE
2014: Seantrel Henderson, OT
2013: Duke Williams, S

Walt’s 2019 NFL Draft Grades:

9. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston A+ Grade
It took an unreasonable agent, a reach on a quarterback and a mediocre top-eight pick used on a tight end, but the Bills won the draft. Congrats, Buffalo! Oliver could end up being the best player from this entire class. He’s drawn Aaron Donald comparisons for a reason, and he’ll be a great replacement for Kyle Williams. Buffalo wanted to trade up for Oliver, yet didn’t have to at all. This is an easy A+ grade.

38. Cody Ford, G/OT, Oklahoma A+ Grade
The Bills moved up two spots to ensure that they’d land Cody Ford. Well done. For the second time in two picks, they obtained an absolute steal. Ford is someone who could’ve been drafted at No. 14 overall without any sort of criticism. I currently don’t know why Ford fell into Round 2 – if there’s even a reason – but the Bills are clearly able to take advantage of this situation, finding themselves a much-needed upgrade for Josh Allen.

74. Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic A- Grade
The Bills have their running back of the future for when LeSean McCoy retires or becomes a film critic who spoils all of the major plot lines. Devin Singletary is a very talented running back who could have been chosen in the second round, so I like the value with this choice. The only problem is that Lane Kiffin ran Singletary into the ground, so Singletary might have a shorter career than expected.

96. Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss B+ Grade
The Bills could’ve chosen a tight end earlier than this, but they’re potentially filling that need at the end of Day 2. It’s a solid pick, as Dawson Knox has good athleticism and upside. He wasn’t productive at Ole Miss, but that can be blamed on the program being a complete mess lately. It’s worth taking a risk on Knox at this juncture.

147. Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida A- Grade
Charlie Campbell reported that Vosean Joseph would fall into Day 3, and here we are. Still, I think this is a great bargain for the Bills, as Joseph is a very instinctive linebacker who can blitz well. There are some concerns with his ability in coverage, but he could end up being a contributor in Buffalo’s defense at some point.

181. Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami B Grade
I had Jaquan Johnson being selected in the sixth round, so the range makes sense. Johnson would’ve been drafted much earlier than this if his testing numbers were better, but he’s sadly a small (5-10, 191) and slow safety. Johnson was a highly productive team captain in Miami, but may have to be relegated to special teams in the NFL. I could see him developing into a special-teams ace.

225. Darryl Johnson, DE/OLB, North Carolina A&T B Grade
Darryl Johnson didn’t face much competition at North Carolina A&T, which is a concern, as is his lack of strength, which needs to be developed. The one promising thing here is that Johnson posted a solid 3-cone time, which translates well. Johnson is a project, but perhaps the Bills will be able to make something out of him.

228. Tommy Sweeney, TE, Boston College B Grade
Tommy Sweeney was highly productive at Boston College, both as a receiver and a blocker. He’s a solid player, but doesn’t have much upside because of sub-par athleticism. Still, he’s good at what he does, so he could stick as a backup tight end in the NFL.

2019 NFL Draft Team Grade: A+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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