Another NFL draft has come and gone, and with that, it’s time to do an initial evaluation on how it appears the team did. While you can’t truly evaluate a draft class for at least three years, here’s how I think the team did in matching value to need in the draft.
Round 1, 27th overall – LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White
After losing Stephon Gilmore to the Patriots, the Bills were in desperate need of a cornerback to start opposite Ronald Darby. The Bills seem to have found their guy, as Tre’Davious White has experience playing a variety of techniques effectively, and has both the short-area quickness (6.90 second three-cone) and size/strength profile (5’11”, 16 reps of 225, 32 1/8″ arms) to play in either the slot or outside. By trading down from 10th to 27th overall, the Bills also received the 91st overall pick, as well as the Chiefs’ first round pick in 2018.
Round 2, 37th overall – East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones
With the top three receivers in the draft off the board by the time the Bills were on the clock at #10 overall (prior to trading back with the Chiefs), the Bills traded up with the St. Louis Rams, sending their second (44th overall) and third round (91st overall) picks in exchange for the Rams’ second round (37th overall) and fifth round (149th overall) picks.
The Bills’ coaching staff has familiarity with Jones, as current Bills wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan was Jones’ position coach at ECU. Jones gives a wide receiver capable of competing for the #2 wide receiver spot opposite Sammy Watkins, and the versatility to play either in the slot or outside. Jones did play in a gimmicky offense in college, but has tremendous quickness (6.79 three-cone) and is arguably the best route-runner in this draft class.
Round 2, 63rd overall – Temple tackle/guard Dion Dawkins
The Bills were again active, moving back into the second round to select Dawkins. The move up cost the Bills their 3rd round (75th overall), as well as two 5th round picks (149th via Rams and 156th overall). Dawkins is another solid athlete with a ton of experience. My only issue with the selection of Dawkins whether he can be an effective tackle, as I think he is a more natural fit at guard, a position the Bills are already solid at.
Round 5, 163rd overall – Boston College linebacker Matt Milano
The Bills are very thin in true 4-3 linebackers, as the team is transitioning from a 3-man front that former head coach Rex Ryan preferred. Milano is a bit undersized (6’0″, 223 pounds), but has the strength and athleticism to contribute immediately on special teams. I also believe he will push for Ramon Humber for the starting weak-side linebacker job held currently by Ramon Humber.
Round 5, 171st overall – Pittsburgh quarterback Nathan Peterman
Despite a fair amount of draft analysts pegging Buffalo as a team in play for an early-round quarterback, the Bills waited until the fifth round to select their quarterback. While there are no sure bets on players taken in the fifth round, Peterman has very good short-to-intermediate accuracy on his passes, and comes from a pro-style offense at Pittsburgh. Those traits alone should place him firmly in the running for the backup spot behind incumbent Tyrod Taylor.
Round 6, 195th overall – Boise State linebacker Tanner Vallejo
Another gritty, undersized linebacker, Vallejo battled injuries a lot in college, Vallejo is a bit more natural of a cover linebacker than previous selection Matt Milano, but his injury history and small-ish build could limit him to being a core special teamer. Still, that can end up being solid enough for a 6th round selection.
Overall I thought the Bills did a very good job of fitting value with team need. I especially liked the decision to trade back from 10. In what is widely considered a weak QB class, the team was able to maximize value for this season, as well as getting a second first-round pick in what should be a much better QB draft class in 2018. The only area I would ding the Bills slightly is the trade up for Dion Dawkins, though he should still be able to push Jordan Mills for a starting spot this season.
Overall Draft Grade: B+