Maiorana: Taking a swing at seven-round Bills mock draft
With the Buffalo Bills scheduled to make the 30th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night, the chances of me correctly guessing who that player might be are about the same as Giancarlo Stanton laying off the slider down and away.
Sorry, couldn’t pass up the chance to take a swipe at the Yankee slugger who may be the face of that team’s epic offensive struggles to begin the 2021 baseball season.
Alas, back to football and the draft where the Bills really don’t have a glaring hole on their roster, meaning they could go a number of different ways with their first pick.
There have been some hot rumors that general manager Brandon Beane is exploring options to trade up in the first round so that he can pick dynamic Clemson running back Travis Etienne. There are also whispers that he’d love to trade down and out of the first round altogether in order to procure an extra pick.
And if Beane stays put and Etienne doesn’t fall to him, the most likely avenues for the Bills are cornerback and edge rusher.
So yes, it’s hard enough to figure out the first-round pick let alone what the Bills will do over the rest of the three days, but giving it the old college try, here’s my attempt at a seven-round Bills-only mock draft.
Round 1, Pick 30, CB Asante Samuel Jr.
There has been lots of smoke around Etienne for the Bills, but I just don’t see Beane giving up draft capital to do it.
However, if there’s any year to do it, this would be it. The Bills don’t need a full boat of picks in this draft because much of their roster is already intact. As it is, some of the guys who they pick may not even make the team, so giving up an extra pick, or perhaps two, to move up and take Etienne is certainly doable.
But staying at No. 30 and picking Samuel, the cornerback from Florida State, makes just as much sense. Samuel could finally be the guy who beats out Levi Wallace for the starting job opposite Tre’Davious White.
Even if Samuel didn’t win the job immediately, he would upgrade the depth at a position where you can never have too much of it, and depth is an issue for the Bills unless you truly believe 2020 seventh-round pick Dane Jackson can become a starter.
“Continue to add talent in the secondary; that wouldn’t surprise me,” said NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah when asked about the Bills. “You can’t have too many corners.”
Round 2, Pick 61, DE Payton Turner
If the Bills were to get the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder, he’d be the second defensive linemen they’ve taken in the past three drafts from Houston, following Ed Oliver in 2019.
What’s intriguing about Turner for the Bills is that he showed the ability to play out on the edge or in the interior, a trait the coaching staff loves because it would allow them to mix their looks and personnel groupings.
The Athletic’s draft analyst, Dane Brugler, pointed that out in his overview of Turner, saying, “Turner needs to cultivate his pass rush sequence, but he has outstanding length, foot quickness and competitive energy. He projects as an eventual NFL starter with inside/outside versatility.”
Round 3, Pick 93, OG Jackson Carman
The 6-foot-4, 317-pounder played left tackle his last two years at Clemson, starting 27 games in a row after serving as a backup on the Tigers’ 2018 national championship team, but he projects as a guard in the NFL.
Once the Bills’ strength and conditioning staff gets him, Carman has a body that can add 15 pounds without costing him any of his athleticism. He’ll also have the added benefit of sitting and learning for a year behind players like Cody Ford, Jon Feliciano and perhaps Ike Boettger, and then can make his move in 2022 when Feliciano might not be around.
Another plus for Carman is that if the Bills were in an emergency at tackle, he could probably move to the outside in a pinch.
Round 5, Pick 161, CB Shaun Wade
The Bills don't have a fourth-round pick at this point, so it's on to the fifth round and again, it never hurts to have a stable full of cornerbacks, especially if injuries become an issue. In today’s NFL, with so many nickel and dime alignments to counter all the receivers in the pattern, you have to keep pace and Wade would give the Bills nice size at 6-foot and 196 pounds.
Wade played both on the outside and in the slot for Ohio State, so the Bills would need to figure out where he’s best suited. They may also determine that his ideal spot could be safety, or perhaps the big nickel that we so often hear about.
Regardless of where Wade ends up, he proved to be an excellent and willing tackler for the Buckeyes so special teams would be his primary area of contribution, at least early on.
Round 5, Pick 174, LB Buddy Johnson
The 6-foot, 229-pounder played 47 college games for Texas A&M including 32 starts going back to his freshman year. You like to see that kind of experience, especially in the later rounds of the draft.
Johnson led the Aggies in tackles his last two seasons even though he’s not a true thumper, and he would need to make big strides to improve in pass coverage. But what the Bills are really looking for is more help on special teams and he fits that role.
Round 6, Pick 213, RB Kene Nwangwu
Speed. That’s what the Iowa State back would bring to the roster, and if the Bills do not draft Etienne in the first round, the 6-foot, 210-pounder ran a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, pretty amazing for a man his size.
Nwangwu wasn’t really a factor on offense as he rushed for just 744 yards in four seasons, so his main role was as a returner and he averaged 26.8 yards on kickoffs. That’s what his role would be for Buffalo, to try to win that job over veterans Isaiah McKenzie and Brandon Powell who are the presumptive top two challengers.
Round 7, Pick 236, WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette
At this point, similar to Nwangwu, the only thing the Bills should be looking for is someone who could perhaps come in and challenge for the kickoff return duties.
A four-year starter at Iowa, Smith-Marsette caught 110 passes for 1,615 yards and 14 TDs, and across his career he averaged 28.7 yards per kick return, winning the Big 10’s specialist of the year award in 2018.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.