SEAN McDERMOTT was a hero back in January when he led the BILLS to their first Play-Off appearance in 17 years, and deservedly so. They then lost a close game in Round 1 to the JAGS. The off-season mantra for the team might as well have been onward and upward. The biggest changes took place at the QB position where McDERMOTT and GM BRANDON BEANE traded away TYROD TAYLOR and signed VFA A.J. McCARRON away from Cincinnati. The hope is that A.J. can be better than TYROD was as a passer, and actually win as a short-term bridge to their newly drafted Franchise QB JOSH ALLEN.
The team had to trade up into Pick 7 to get ALLEN, when as expected, the top of the QB class was flying off the Board in the Top 10. The question now is how long McCARRON will have to run the team while the admittedly raw ALLEN is tutored by QB Coach DAVE CULLEY, and OC BRIAN DABOLL. ALLEN has the strongest arm, by far, of the QB class of 2018. He ripped his throws around at about 62 MPH at the Combine. His caveats are two fold. He had injury issues at Wyoming, and his completion percentage of 56.3% is not going to cut it at the pro level. His size and arm strength are tantalizing, but the other issues are worrisome. So in essence ALLEN comes to town as a high risk/high reward prospect. Let’s hope the best for the fans in Buffalo who deserve some good things as a truly diehard fan base.
From that point on the Draft became a race against the pack for the BILLS, who had more needs than they did Picks (of course). Once ALLEN was in the fold the team turned to defensive needs with their next 4 Picks, starting with the youngest prospect in the Draft, in teenager TREMAINE EDMUNDS/LB/VA Tech. The super-athletic EDMUNDS will be expected to grasp the defensive schemes of Coordinator LESLIE FRAZIER in short order and win a starting job right away. He can do it all with 4.55/40-speed, at 6’5, 253 lbs. He should be the star to build a defense around and should never have lasted until Pick 16. His slide into the teens reminds me of a guy named JJ WATT not going in the Top 10 some years ago. Silly personnel People!
The team got one more shot in the Top 100, and made the most of it IMO, when they tabbed HARRISON PHILLIPS/DT/Stanford at the 96th Pick, as proudly announced by Bills Super Fan PANCHO BILLA, at the Draft proceedings in Arlington, TX. The former HS wrestler is tough as nails, very productive, has a high FBI and is a born leader of men. The beautiful irony of this Pick for the BILLS and their fans is that they have just gotten their replacement for the heart and soul of their their DL for over a decade in KYLE WILLIAMS. PHILLIPS should be a solid contributor in their DL rotation right away.
The team went after a couple of FCS players to bolster the depth in their secondary. They both can play in sub-packages right away and have starting potential long term. At Pick 121, Round 4 they tabbed TARON JOHNSON/CB/Weber State. JOHNSON has decent size and good athleticism. He pretty much proved he could play with the big boys with his work in Mobile at the Senior Bowl venue. His play in run support is lacking, primarily because of his size (6’0/180), but he is a willing participant. Best of all he shows ability to handle himself in both man and zone coverage.
In Round 5, at Pick 154 the team tabbed a very effective and versatile athlete who started at CB, S and nickel LB at Jacksonville State (AL) by the name of SIRAN NEAL. He too was at the Senior Bowl venue and pleased the scouts with his work. At 6’0/206, he plays the run aggressively and has multiple DB skills. He should also make a solid Special Teams contributor. Will have to learn to limit his hand usage a bit before he becomes a flag magnet though.
The BILLS have a strong core group of DB, but needed some young talent for depth. Both of these guys should help.
The BILLS have shaken up their OL more than a bit this off-season. They lost ERIC WOOD and RICHIE INCOGNITO to retirement, and SEANTREL HENDERSON TO VFA. They also gave up OT CRODY GLENN to the Bengals in their trade up move for QB/ALLEN. They signed MARSHALL NEWHOUSE and RUSSELL BODINE. as VFA to replenish the OL group, but I think the drafting of WYATT TELLER/OG/VA Tech with Pick 166 was a master stroke on their part. The big fella (6’4/314) played both T and G for the Hokies and has a shot at Cognito’s interior starting spot IMO. He showed that he is versatile, athletic guy with his work at the Senior Bowl and the Combine, where he tested out as the 7th best athlete in a group of 38 OL prospects. I expect OL Coordinator JUAN CASTILLO to coach this guy up in a hurry. If you don’t realize his strength please note that he had 30 reps in the Combine Bench Press with 34″ long arms. That’s good stuff folks.
For their final 2 Picks the BILLS tried to capture lightning in a bottle by drafting 2 wideouts to juice up a thin WR group, which is not a great thing for either McCARRON or ALLEN. In Round 6, at Pick 187, they selected RAY-RAY McCLOUD, a quicker than fast smallish guy (5’10/180) who flashed at times while at Clemson. McCloud flashed some big play ability, but the BILLS need more than that from him, and right away. He may also be able to help in the return game for them.
In Round 7, with their last Pick at 255, they selected AUSTIN PROEHL/UNC, son of Ricky, who had a very productive career as an undersized but sure-handed receiver. AUSTIN was injured much of 2017 so he could not fully demonstrate his athleticism. But at 5’10/175 he will have to flash early and often at the next level. He will get the chance to do so as the team beats the bushes to assemble a solid group of WR for their new QB group.
Good work here both short and long term. The only Pick I really question is McCloud, but in Round 6, who knows. Let’s just say the toughest job for anyone on their coaching staff may be that of putting together a solid receiving corps by vet Coach TERRY ROBISKIE. Expect possibly a training Camp trade or two, and/or some waiver pick-ups. How about DEZ BRYANT, anyone? I just can’t see BRYANT wanting to play along Lake Erie for the latter months of the season.
Good Draft, with greatness in play for both Round 1 Picks.