The Buffalo Bills have to be ecstatic about how their 2016 NFL draft unfolded.
The Bills went into the draft looking to improve the quality of talent and depth along their defensive front seven, which they did in the first two days of the draft. Then the Bills addressed the rest of their needs on Saturday via the draft and the signing of several undrafted free agents.
Buffalo received high marks for their six draft selections from both Pro Football Focus and ESPN. The Bills used their first three picks of the draft on Clemson DE Shaq Lawson, Alabama LB Reggie Ragland (after trading up for him in the second round) and Ohio State DT Adolphus Washington. According to the Buffalo News, the Bills filled four of their five needs on Day three of the draft, with the selections of QB Cardale Jones, RB Jonathan Williams, WR Kolby Listenbee, and CB Kevon Seymour.
Buffalo’s No. 1 need heading into the draft was a defensive end that could get after the quarterback and the found a good one when Lawson slipped down to the No. 19 pick. The 6-foot-3, 269-pounder edge rusher led the nation in tackles for losses and compiled 9.5 sacks in 2015. There are concerns about Lawson’s shoulder, but he is expected to compete for a starting spot opposite Manny Lawson, if healthy.
In the second round, the Bills traded up to pick No. 41 from pick No. 49 to get Ragland – who was projected to be a possible first round pick. The 6-foot-2 inside linebacker was considered the best run- stuffing linebacker, which Buffalo needed as the Bills ranked 16th in rushing yards allowed per game last season. Ragland was tabbed as the Bills best draft selection by Todd McShay of ESPN.
Buffalo finished its run on defensive players by taking Washington in the third round. The 300-pounder is expected to provide depth on the interior defensive line with incumbent starter Kyle Williams still recovering from a knee injury that sidelined him for 10 games last year. Washington struggles against the run though he has the ability to get after quarterbacks.
The Bills started the draft with two fourth round picks but ended up with just one, following the trade with Chicago for Ragland. Buffalo used the selection on Jones. Jones led Ohio State to a national championship in 2015, however, he regressed last season. The 6-foot-5, 253-pounder has excellent size and arm strength to contribute to the team down the road. He likely won’t see the field this year as E.J. Manuel is slated to backup Tyrod Taylor.
Williams, out of Arkansas, was an interesting fifth round choice. The Bills ranked No. 1 in rushing last year and have three very capable backs on its roster – LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, and Mike Gillislee. Plus, he did not play last year as he broke his left ankle during a scrimmage.
Buffalo concluded its draft by selecting Listenbee and Seymour in the sixth round. Listenbee could help the Bills’ vertical passing game, if he makes the squad. The former TCU star, who also ran track while in school, is very quick and explosive. He ran the eighth-fastest 40-yard dash (4.39 seconds) at the NFL combine in February.
“I’m the fastest player probably in the NFL,” Listenbee told reporters after being drafted. “So I bring speed, I got great hands. Right now, I got a chip on my shoulder because I got to go out there and show what I have and I mean. I just work hard.”
Listenbee had 30 receptions for 597 yards and five touchdowns for the Horned Frogs last year. The 192nd overall selection will be fighting for a roster spot along with fellow wide receivers Marquise Goodwin, Leonard Hankerson, Greg Salas, Jarrett Boykin, Greg Little, and Dezmin Lewis.
Seymour, like Listenbee, will have his work cut out if he is going to make the 53-man roster this year. The former USC Trojan dealt with a couple of injuries last year that hampered his season. Seymour has some speed and does possess decent coverage skills. The 218th overall pick recorded 24 tackles and one interception last year. Veterans Mario Butler, Sterling Moore, Corey White, and Javier Arenas will likely be Seymour’s chief competition for a roster spot.
SB Nation reports that of the 15 undrafted players that the Bills drafted, three were wide receivers and four were offensive linemen. Buffalo area native, and brother of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Glenn Gronkowski was among the Bills’ most intriguing signings after the draft. Gronkowski, a fullback, played collegiality at Kansas State.
[Photo by Bill Wippert/Associated Press]