Hello there, Football Fans! It’s arrived: NFL Draft Day 2023. What started as a COVID project with my sons has become an annual event for me. It’s become easier and more entertaining with the various Big Boards, Mock Drafts and Mock Generators out there (I’m a fan of The Athletic’s Dane Brugler from whom you can learn details about each player mentioned below). With the 49ers not having any picks until Round 3, I’ve decided to keep it to one team this year. So let’s dive right in.
The Buffalo Bills have six picks and plenty of places to use them. In my predictions, I’m deferring to what GM Brandon Beane and HC Sean McDermott have said publicly as well as the obvious places needing depth. While there are clear patterns in the analysis I’ve done, the wild card, of course, is trades. While I did do some simulations to test a few trade scenarios based on who was available at the time, my predictions are based on the Bills staying put.
R5 137 (from Cardinals)
1. WR — Consensus number one need for the team, and it’s a deep class.
2. DT — None of the incumbents are signed past this year.
3. TE — Inline player who enables double sets with Knox.
4. LB — Public statements to the contrary, must be a consideration.
5. OT — Competition and depth.
6. DB — Depth and development.
7. IOL — Depth and development.
8. EDGE — Because its Beane.
Potential Curve Balls
DeAndre Hopkins — If the Bills can work a trade with the Cardinals for a R2 or preferably R3 or future picks, it dramatically alters their draft strategy by dropping WR down the priority list.
Bijan Robinson — I have an extremely hard time seeing the Texas RB dropping to anywhere near the Bills at 27. But that’s exactly what happened in a number of the mocks I did. Two words: TAKE HIM. He’s a three-down threat who can lineup anywhere and would make the Bills offense a matchup nightmare.
ROUND 1, PICK 27: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
In almost every mock I did, Flowers was available here. He’s a great fit for the Bills having experience on the boundary as well as at slot and would instantly improve their offense.
WRs Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba and USC’s Jordan Addison would be excellent choices but are unlikely to fall to 27, with Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt a backup if Flowers is gone too. DT is the other position to watch here. Clemson’s Bryan Bresee fell to me in several simulations and would be intriguing. Michigan’s Mazi Smith would be a prime target if the Bills decide to trade down several spots as a future starter next to Oliver.
ROUND 2, PICK 57: Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin
Benton was always one of the top players available in my mocks at this spot, while Smith was gone by now. He’s primarily a one who can play next to Oliver but also move to three.
DT Gervon Dexter Sr., Florida is also a possibility here, but I prefer Benton. Most of the time the LB question was answered for me when Drew Sanders, Arkansas and Jack Campbell, Iowa came off the board earlier, with Trenton Simpson, Clemson less of a fit. But if Sanders or Campbell are there, I’m thinking long and hard. If Beane goes DL in R1, then WRs Josh Downs, North Carolina and Tyler Scott, Cincinnati are possibilities here. If one of the curveballs gets thrown dropping WR down the list, then Syracuse OT Matthew Bergeron would be a very tempting option. Other OL candidates here include TCU G/C Steve Avila, Wisconsin C Joe Tippmann, North Dakota State G Cody Mauch, and Minnesota C John Michael Schmitz.
ROUND 3, PICK 91: Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan
Completing the trifecta of players highly likely to be available, Schoonmaker gives the Bills an upgrade behind Knox and enables Dorsey to use more two TE sets.
If a WR is still needed, Michigan State’s Jayden Reed, Nebraska’s Trey Palmer, and Houston’s Nathaniel “Tank” Dell are all worth consideration. South Carolina DT Zacch Pickens and Wisconsin LB Nick Herbig are potential names to watch for. A trio of Safeties who could also be in the mix are Illinois’ Quan Martin, Penn State’s Ji’Ayir Brown and Alabama’s Jordan Battle.
Predicting Day 3 of the draft is much more a crapshoot because so many players are off the board and the difference from one player to another is as much a matter of fit and preference as anything else. But here are some players to watch for who caught my eye, some of whom could be dark horse candidates to sneak into R3.
RB: Tank Bigsby, Auburn; Roschon Johnson, Texas; Kendre Miller, TCU; DeWayne McBride, UAB; Zach Evans, Ole Miss
TE: Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion; Payne Durham, Purdue
IOL: Chandler Zavala, NC State; Emil Ekiyor Jr., Alabama; Luke Wypler, Ohio State; Sidy Sow, Eastern Michigan; Juice Scruggs, Penn State; Andrew Vorhees, USC
OT: Nick Saldiveri, Old Dominion; Braeden Daniels, Utah
DT: Byron Young, Alabama
Edge: YaYa Diaby, Louisville; Viliami Fehoko, San Jose State; Andre Carter II, Army
LB: Dorian Williams, Tulane
CB: Cory Trice Jr., Purdue; Garrett Williams, Syracuse
S/LB: Marte Mapu, Sacramento State
S: Jammie Robinson, Florida State; Sydney Brown, Illinois; Daniel Scott, California
This year there are eight players between my two Alma Mater listed in the Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s Top 300 players. Skronski is out of reach and the Bills don’t need a QB like McKee. But the other six are viable options to be selected by the Bills. Listed in order of ranking.
7. Peter Skoronski, G/T, Northwestern
68. Adetomiwa Adebawore, DT, Northwestern
85. Cameron Mitchell, CB, Northwestern
114. Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford
124. Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford
169. Elijah Higgins, WR, Stanford
175. Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford
219. Evan Hull, RB, Northwestern
Getting this in just under the wire. We’ll get an idea of how I did in just a few hours. Bottom line: #InBeaneWeTrust.
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