Expert Analysis


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On the Clock: Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills enter the 2021 offseason coming off their most successful season in the last 20 years. Quarterback Josh Allen took a gigantic step forward in his progression and solified his status as a franchise quarterback and MVP contender. Their conference championship appearance last season was their first since 1993, but it was also their third trip to the playoffs in Sean McDermott’s four seasons as head coach. Barring any trades, this will be the first time in franchise history the Bills will have a first-round pick in the 30s.

Some quick history, the following are the Bills’ last five years’ worth of first-round draft picks.

  • 2020: None (traded for Stefon Diggs)
  • 2019: Ed Oliver DT)
  • 2018: Josh Allen (QB), Tremaine Edmunds (LB)
  • 2017: Tre’Davious White (CB)
  • 2016: Shaq Lawson (LB)

The Bills have drafted only one offensive player in the first-round since 2014. That one player was Josh Allen.

The following are players who could possibly be on the move, either through trade or being cut, due to their 2021 cap hit (age is in parentheses):

  • Jerry Hughes (32)
  • John Brown (30)
  • Vernon Butler (26)
  • Micah Hyde (30)
  • Jordan Poyer (29)
  • Tyler Matakevich (28)

The Bills’ are $1 million over the cap for the 2021 season, not including any of the possible trade or cut candidates listed above.

The Bills head into this draft with very few holes on their roster. They will have the luxury to either address a position of need at the back end of the first round or add more talent to a position group that may be lacking depth. Overall, the Bills are in a good position roster-wise and hitting on an impact player with their first-round pick could go a long way toward making a Super Bowl run.

Possibility #1: Michigan OT Jalen Mayfield

Career: 15 starts; 2 games started in 2020

Why: The Bills have a great roster. Their only real position of need is at right tackle. With both Daryl Williams and backup Ty Nsekhe set to hit free agency this offseason and Buffalo’s cap space already pretty thin, re-signing both seems like a stretch. Allen was sacked 26 times last season (16th most), which isn’t a bad number but protecting the quarterback and face of the franchise is key in the NFL.

Mayfield is an exceptional run blocker and has all the tools to be an above-the-line pass protector as well. He shows patience in pass protection and good use of his hands and length. Strong upper body and lower body strength that allowed him to win matchups using pure strength at times at the college level. He still has some polishing that needs to be done, but as long as he is coached up he has the potential to start at either right or left tackle and would give Buffalo positional flexibility and a starting tackle right away.

Possibility #2: Tennessee G Trey Smith

Career: 41 starts; 10 games started in 2020

Why: Buffalo is projected to lose starting guard Jon Feliciano to free agency as well as backup guard Brian Winters this offseason. Depth along the offensive line is huge and adding a guard through the draft is cost effective and gives them four years of contract control. More importantly an upgrade at the guard position could be very beneficial for Buffalo’s run game, which ranked 20th in rushing yards, 17th in rushing touchdowns and 21st in yards per attempt last season.

Smith is a mountain of a human. The 6-6, 315-pound guard started 41 games while at Tennessee. He’s very athletic for his frame and his size is a mismatch for many defenders. Plays with aggression. His initial punch is one of the best in class and when he gets defenders off balance, it almost always results in them being pancaked. He is a great run blocker with the size and athleticism to improve in pass protection. Needs to work on his pad level and keeping his head up while blocking. Smith would help Buffalo improve a run game that struggled last season.

Possibility #3: Kentucky CB Kelvin Joseph

2020 stats: 9 games, 25 tackles, 5 PDs, 4 INTs

Why: Cornerback Josh Norman is expected to depart as a free agent this offseason and the depth behind him isn’t the highest caliber. Coming off a season in which they ranked above league average in passing touchdowns allowed, interceptions forced, and first downs allowed through the air, finding a worthy replacement for Norman would be key to help maintain that success.

Joseph was a ball magnet while at Kentucky. He brings plenty of potential to the table and is not scheme dependent. He has above average ball skills, physicality, processing ability and athleticism, and it showed this past season at Kentucky. Also has the potential to play free safety due to his range and ball skills. His biggest weaknesses are his off-the-field issues and penalties. His penalties are often avoidable and after the play and need to be cleaned up at the next level. Joseph could provide Buffalo with the perfect complement to Tre White and help solidify their secondary for years to come.

Possibility #4: Missouri LB Nick Bolton

2020 stats: 10 games, 95 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 2 sacks, 5 PDs

Why: Buffalo’s defense was average across the board last season. They ranked 17th in points allowed and 19th in total yards allowed. They struggled in the run game, allowing the sixth-most rushing touchdowns to opponents last season. Matt Milano is expected to depart via free agency and a replacement for him in the draft would be cost effective and the right player could help them improve their run defense in 2021.

Bolton is the most instinctual linebacker in this draft. His play recognition and ability to read what opposing offenses do is best-in-class. He is an above-the-line tackler who made plays all over the field for Missouri’s defense. He is a high-effort player. He’s not the best athlete but his athletic traits won’t hinder him at the next level. He has undersized length--at 6-0 and 232 pounds--which does hurt his ability at the point of attack and when block shedding. Bolton would fit next to Tremaine Edmunds in the Bills’ defense and replace undrafted free agent Matt Milano.

SEE ALSO: On the Clock archive