Last season, Josh Allen, Sean McDermott, and the Buffalo Bills were on the cusp of overtaking the Kansas City Chiefs as the superpower in the AFC until everything went horribly wrong. The Chiefs manhandled Buffalo in the Conference Championship the way a varsity squad boosts its self-esteem by scrimmaging freshmen. McDermott can’t overcome Kansas City through the draft, but he can continue closing the already shrinking gap.
Buffalo already retained most of its key starters and role players from 2020. The Bills seem primed for another deep playoff push, assuming Allen’s production remains steady. However, general manager Brandon Beane and McDermott could reward star coordinators Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier with new starters and depth pieces at cornerback, defensive end, running back, and wide receiver.
I used The Draft Network’s mock draft machine and Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to justify each of my selections. At least one website had the chosen players available at their listed picks over several simulations. I didn’t include any trades and added an “ideal pick” after every selection for optimistic fans.
Round 1 (No. 30): Asante Samuel Jr., CB Florida St.
Buffalo has two glaring needs entering the draft. With all respect to Jerry Hughes, the Bills don’t have a premier edge rusher, and they don’t have a high-end cornerback opposite of Tre’Davious White. Instead of taking a shot on Carlos Basham Jr. or Gregory Rousseau, I have Beane and McDermott taking the son of a former All-Pro cornerback.
Samuel is 5-10 and weighs 180 lbs. Some teams probably view him as a nickel-only option, but Samuel has the elite footwork and mirror ability to play outside. He doesn’t possess high-end speed but makes up for it with great agility and physicality. While Samuel dropped several interceptions in college, he’s constantly making plays on the football.
At worst, Samuel is an upgrade in the slot over Taron Johnson.
Ideal pick: Kwity Paye, EDGE Michigan
Round 2 (No. 61): Payton Turner, EDGE Houston
Turner is a raw prospect that might need a year of development before becoming a full-time starter. The Bills want an immediate impact edge rusher this year, but Turner presents the best long-term outlook of any 4-3 rushers available at 61st overall. He was a three-year starter at Houston that made strides each season, finishing with 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in just five appearances as a senior.
Few players in this year’s class possess a frame on par with Turner’s. He’s 6-6, weighs 268 lbs., and has over 35-inch arms. The Houston product has an elite closing burst and enough agility to track ball carriers in small spaces. Turner also flashes tremendous bend and explosiveness off the edge.
I took Turner even though Basham and Rousseau were available in TDN’s simulation. While Basham might make it to 61, I don’t believe Rousseau falls that far. Basham is more of a consistent plug-and-play option than Turner, but the Houston product has higher upside.
Ideal pick: Elijah Molden, CB/S Washington
Round 3 (No. 93): Hunter Long, TE Boston College
Long’s ceiling won’t blow evaluators away, but he’s a well-rounded player that offers significantly more than Jacob Hollister or Dawson Knox. Over his final two years with the Eagles, Long caught 85 passes for 1,194 yards and seven touchdowns. No other third-round tight ends have that kind of production.
Long lacks elite athleticism and play speed, but he can beat most linebackers and excels at finding soft spots in coverage. He picks up enough speed throughout his route to offer some deep ball ability. Long has good hands and adjusts well to errant throws. He won’t erase defenders in the running game, but the Boston College product can hold his ground as a blocker.
Ideal pick: Tommy Tremble, TE Notre Dame
Round 5 (No. 161): Kary Vincent Jr., CB LSU
Unlike Samuel, Vincent isn’t a feisty corner. He’s only 5-10, 185 lbs. and doesn’t offer much against the run. However, Vincent is an exceptional athlete that ran a 4.38 40-time at LSU’s pro day and had great ball production in 2019. During LSU’s championship season, Vincent intercepted four passes and swatted away eight other attempts.
Vincent has the fluidity to mirror routes and burst to recover on deep throws. Slot corners see so much action in the modern NFL that the Bills can write this selection off as adding another potential starter. Vincent is a slot-only option that could challenge Johnson for snaps before the season’s end.
It’s dangerous to double up with Samuel and Vincent in the same class. I’m comfortable making this pick because of my faith in Samuel’s ability to stick outside.
Ideal pick: Dez Fitzpatrick, WR Louisville
Round 5 (No. 174): Cornell Powell, WR Clemson
I would apologize for picking Powell in another seven-round mock draft, but I’m not sorry. Similar to Long, Powell doesn’t have one standout trait that makes him a draftable commodity. It’s his whole game that inspires confidence among scouts. Powell has great body control, is an excellent contested-catch receiver, and battles for yards after the catch.
Like other Clemson receivers in recent years, Powell finds ways to get open and capitalize on his opportunities. The Bills could add him to an already stellar rotation.
Ideal pick: Jaylen Twyman, IDL Pittsburgh
Round 6 (No. 213): Chris Evans, RB Michigan
Many analysts have the Bills chasing one of the draft’s elite running backs in the first two rounds. The value doesn’t make much sense to me there, especially when defensive upgrades are on the board. While the running game hasn’t blossomed in Buffalo, the team spent back-to-back third-round selections at the position. At least give those players another year before writing them off as busts.
Evans is an excellent value selection for the Bills, assuming they still want a new face in the backfield. He ran a 4.44 40-time after weighing in at 5-11, 211 lbs. at Michigan’s pro day. Evans will create yards after contact and offers value as a receiver on late downs. He plays with an excellent pad level and a surprising amount of wiggle for his size.
Ideal pick: Darius Stills, IDL West Virginia
Round 7 (No. 236): Joshua Kaindoh, EDGE Florida St.
From a raw production standpoint, Kaindoh peaked as a freshman. He’s the latest athletic stud that Florida St. failed to develop properly. Kaindoh checked in at 6-5, 260 lbs. with 34.5-inch arms at his pro day. His traits are off the charts, but Kaindoh only tallied eight sacks during his time at Florida St. and never had over 20 tackles in a single season.
Buffalo already has several developmental edge rushers, including A.J. Epenesa and Payton. By adding Kaindoh to the mix, the Bills ensure they’ll end up with at least one long-term success at defensive end.
Ideal pick: Robert Jones, IOL Middle Tennessee