It’s finally here. Draft day. No more sifting through mock drafts. No more deciphering which rumors are true and which rumors are false, or which players the Bills are interested in and which ones they’re just bluffing on. Tonight we finally get to see at least one player drafted – maybe more if a trade scenario presents itself – and tomorrow we can start taking about the newest Bill(s).
Despite some last minute murmurs that Buffalo was thinking quarterback – perhaps a Paxton Lynch or Christian Hackenberg – in the days leading up to today, it’s hard to fathom – based on the team’s current situation – that they go anything but defense if they stay put at 19. There are just too many needs defensively and too many talents on that side of the ball to pass up. Specifically, we know of numerous names the Bills will consider, from Ohio State’s Darron Lee, Alabama’s Jarran Reed or Reggie Ragland, Georgia’s Leonard Floyd or even Clemson’s Shaq Lawson. If any of those players are available when the Bills are on the clock expect there name to be ferociously written on the card and delivered to the podium. But what if none of guy’s are available? Then what?
Well, here are three players to keep an eye on for Buffalo at that 19th pick.
1) DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss – If it weren’t for the odd arrest where he fell out of his hotel window in Atlanta, then got charged with marijuana possession and missed the Sugar Bowl, Nkemdiche would be a no-brainer first-round pick and maybe even a top-10 selection. However, those character concerns and a bad media session at the combine have left his value a bit of a mystery. He could easily go in the early teens, drop to the last few picks of the round or out of it entirely. No one really knows, but one thing we do know; Rex Ryan is all about second chances. Look no further than IK Enemkpali last season, who after sucker punching Jets’ QB Geno Smith and breaking his jaw last August was swiftly added to the Bills roster just days later. Drafting Nkemdiche is a high risk, high reward venture, but with a void to fill along the defensive line he may be too talented for them to pass up if some of the aforementioned names are no longer available. If Ryan and Buffalo staff give the Ole Miss product a shot and can keep him out of trouble they’ll have added a dominant force to their front seven. Don’t sleep on the possibility that Nkemdiche becomes your newest Buffalo Bill.
2) S Karl Joseph, West Virginia – I know what you’re thinking – “we have more pressing issues than safety, Spencer” – and you’re not wrong. However, Joseph is a tremendous talent. A hard-hitting safety who is great at diagnosing run plays from the secondary, Joseph’s big knock is that he’s returning from a senior season ending ACL injury/surgery. If you take that out of the equation there is no question he was bound to be a first-rounder. The concern over knee issues is completely understandable, but as we’ve seen in today’s day and age players are returning from serious knee injury faster than ever. It’s worth noting that Joseph was one of Buffalo’s pre-draft visitors, so the interest is clearly there. Also, given the concerns over Aaron Williams ability to absorb contact, plus an open competition expected between Corey Graham and Robert Blanton for the other safety spot this season, there is a more urgent need than meets the eye. Don’t be surprised if the Bills grab this thumper to bolster their secondary if most of those linebacker talents listed above are off the board.
3) DE/OLB Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky – The thing to consider with Spence is that before his addiction to Ecstasy boiled over into a departure from Ohio State, he was arguably the best talent along the Buckeye’s front seven. As just a sophomore he led the team in sacks (8.0) and earned All-Big Ten accolades. As his career resumed at Eastern Kentucky after addressing his addiction head on, he compiled 22.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks and was awarded co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Ohio Valley Conference. So the domination continued. Yet another player with a troubled past that Rex Ryan would likely being willing to forgive if it bettered his team. Spence could most definitely do that in a hybrid DE/OLB roll and he could honestly be considered the best edge rusher in this draft. Unlike Nkemdiche who has still left scouts with a sour taste in their mouths, Spence has proven that those addiction issues are behind him and has said all the right things. His talent may be too good to pass up if the Bills miss out on some of their favorite potential draftees.