The Buffalo Bills had needs all across the board entering the 2019 NFL Draft. With 8 picks in the draft, including the 9th overall pick, the Bills have done enough to move the needle in their favor for the upcoming season. However, is it enough to reach the playoffs?
The Buffalo Bills could use improvement in arguably every position of the team. After multiple trades for draft picks, the Bills selected 8 players in the 2019 NFL Draft. While some picks were a steal for the Bills, a couple could be considered reaches as well. If the Bills hit on most of the picks detailed below, look for them to compete for an AFC Wild Card spot.
Round 1, Pick 9: Ed Oliver, Defensive tackle, Houston
Although the Bills ranked first in passing defense last year, they also ranked 16th in rushing defense. The retirement of long term Bills DT Kyle Williams further injured the Bills rushing defense. Defensive Tackle Ed Oliver immediately addresses this concern. Oliver was consistent and dominant on defense, earning first-team All-American honors in each of his three seasons in Houston.
Round 2, Pick 38: Cody Ford, Offensive tackle/guard, Oklahoma
The Bills got themselves a steal with their second-round selection. Cody Ford, the fifth-highest ranking OT and fourth-highest rated run-blocking OT per PFF, was projected to be a first-round pick. Although the Bills traded away a fifth-round pick to move up just two spots, they found a player who can immediately contribute to their offensive line. With the offensive line being as unstable as it was, look for Ford to start at the right tackle spot. If he struggles mightily, he could be moved to right guard, where there is no set and stone starter either. Either way, the Bills walk away with an immediate starter for their porous offensive line.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 26, 2019
Round 3, Pick 74: Devin Singletary, Running back, Florida Atlantic
Running back was one of several positions addressed in free agency with the additions of Frank Gore & T.J. Yeldon. However, Gore is 35 years old, and LeSean McCoy 30, and both their contracts expire after this season. In comes Devin Singletary out of Florida Atlantic. Although concerns were raised regarding his size and combine performance, Singletary was the third RB selected in the 2019 NFL draft. Singletary brings youth to the unit while being able to sit and learn from two of the best running backs in the league. With McCoy coming off a disappointing season, the Bills could run a committee approach at RB. However, the unit appears too crowded for Singletary to contribute significantly until next year.
Round 3, Pick 96: Dawson Knox, Tight end, Ole Miss
Bills general manager Brandon Beane lived up to his reputation as a common trader on Draft Day. The Bills completed a second draft-day trade, this time a trade less favorable by analytics. In exchange for both their fourth-round picks, the Bills received pick 96 from the Washington Redskins. With this pick, the Bills selected Dawson Knox, a tight end out of Ole Miss.
With the departure of tight end Charles Clay in free agency, Knox can provide a potential replacement. What Knox lacks in receiving skills, he makes up for in blocking. Although he has no touchdowns, Knox showed flashes of big-play possibility. With time to develop, Knox could become a starter caliber player, but patience is required. While other teams still found immediate starters this late in the round, the Bills selected a player that will require time to grow before contributing to the offense. The fact that the Bills gave up two fourth-round picks further lowers the grade for this pick.
Round 5, Pick 147: Vosean Joseph, Linebacker, Florida
Round 6, Pick 181: Jaquan Johnson, Safety, Miami
With their sixth-round pick, the Bills selected Jaquan Johnson, a safety out of Miami. Johnson can provide depth in the defensive backs unit while he develops his coverage skills. Johnson’s aggressiveness towards ball carriers will assist with the Bills 16th ranking run defense. However, his size will be targeted and exploited by opponents in the passing game. This was a pick selected to assist the Bills main defensive concern, stopping the run. Johnson has potential if he increases his size and improves his skill set.
Round 7, Pick 225: Darryl Johnson, Defensive end, North Carolina A&T
With their first pick in the seventh round, the Bills selected a developmental defensive end in Darryl Johnson. Standing at 6’6″, 250 pounds, Johnson was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Johnson has the size and athletic ability that allows him to stand out late in the draft. With the right coaching and development, Johnson can become a contributor on special teams and possibly a rotational player on the defensive line.
Round 7, Pick 228: Tommy Sweeney, Tight end, Boston College
Tommy Sweeney is seen as a complimentary number 2 tight end. Tallying 1281 yards and 10 touchdowns in four years, Sweeney developed good hands for pass catching. Furthermore, Sweeney was able to hold up one on one against effective pass rushers, including Clelin Ferrell. If he develops his route running, Sweeney can become a potential future number two TE on the Bills roster.
The Bills focused their 2019 NFL Draft defensive picks on aggressive players to further improve their top-5 defense. Most of the players the Bills selected carry size concerns, yet they present high reward possibilities. The Bills appear to be focusing their offensive weaknesses in free agency while building their defense through the draft to last for years to come.