Finally, it's time for the 2016 NFL Draft and, man, it's a big one for the Buffalo Bills. Our preview section dropped today on newsstands and you can read all of our stories on the BN Blitz Blog. Which players fit Rex Ryan's defense and could help on Day 1? How do the the Bills navigate the quarterback position this spring? We'll get answers on all of this over the next 72 hours.
With the draft not starting until 8 p.m. EST, we'll keep the conversation going on the blog here after taking your questions on Twitter.
Here we go...
A: This is the big question going into tonight. My guess is he slides into the teens. Suddenly, Myles Jack's health is a major, major question mark. Teams are concerned about degenerative meniscus issues in his right knee from a 2016 injury. And for those who missed it, the dynamic UCLA linebacker told The New York Post himself that he may need microfracture surgery, which could end his career. "Nobody knows how long anybody is going to play in this league," Jack told The Post. "To play three years in this league would be above average.” This is a stunning admission on the eve of the draft. You never hear players themselves use that dreaded m-word... "microfracture." This isn't coming from an anonymous scout or a draftnik. It's coming from Jack himself.
While he should be good to go Day 1, Jack's career may only last a couple seasons. So, yeah, there's a chance he slides out of the Top 10 and even makes it to the Buffalo Bills at No. 19. Is he worth the risk? Jack is arguably the best defensive prospect in the entire draft but not sure it's worth the gamble. This sounds serious.
A: You might be onto something, Craig. That'd be the best plan of attack, in my opinion. First, take advantage of a loaded defensive line class in the first round. Alabama's Jarran Reed (who envisions Super Bowls in Buffalo) or Mississippi State's Chris Jones could really open up the playbook for Rex Ryan. The Bills head coach was, to be fair, really put in a bind when Kyle Williams went down with a knee injury a month and a half into the season. Williams' presence would've allowed him to move Marcell Dareus around instead of sticking him on the nose. Sure, Williams returns in 2016 but he's also 33 years old in June and has played in 136 career games. That's a ton of mileage for someone whose job it is to smash into 320-pounders 60-plus snaps a game. The Bills would be very, very wise to take advantage of Dareus in the prime of his career. They just paid the guy a $100 million contract. Draft a Reed, a Jones, a Vernon Butler, a Kenny Clark and you're accentuating Dareus' game.
Into the second round, I'd take the best available pass rusher if there's one on the board, like Boise State's Kamalei Correa (who had a great visit with the Bills in Indy) or Utah State's Kyler Fackrell --- last year's Super Bowl was further proof of just how important it is to stockpile pass rushers. Foam-at-the-mouth edge rushers change games.
Maybe the third round is the sweet spot for a quarterback. Hackenberg makes sense at this point of the draft, but really wouldn't have a problem with the Bills taking the best available defensive player, waiting another round or two, and snaring Stanford's Kevin Hogan, NC State's Jacoby Brissett or Louisiana Tech's Jeff Driskel later.
A: Very possible. Rex Ryan knows the Clemson pass rushers more than any defensive mind in the NFL. The D-Line coach at Clemson, Marion Hobby, made it seem like Shaq Lawson was the more polished of the two. Hobby wanted Kevin Dodd to stay in school and dominate the college game in 2016. Lawson's ability to rush in a three-point stand and standing up is intriguing. He has the bulk to take on offensive tackles vs. the run, too. Hobby likened Lawson to Shaun Ellis and Charles Grant. Not sure if Lawson can get as many pure effort sacks in the pros as he did in college but there's a lot to like in his game. One other interesting note: Lawson, Dodd and Jarran Reed all attended Hargrave Military Academy out of high school. Why is that important? Rex Ryan previously drafted two players who had a stint at Hargrave as the Jets head coach (Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples).
A: Reggie Ragland is a throwback bruiser, a load at 247 pounds. But as Doug Whaley said himself, in today's game, the lighter, more athletic linebacker is in demand. Now, Whaley did catch himself and say Ragland is a three-down guy. But considering the Bills already have a bigger 'backer in Preston Brown, it'd make a lot more sense for them to draft an athletic running mate such as Ohio State's Darron Lee or USC's Su'a Cravens.
A: It'd be tempting. As a source told me, Bills senior offensive assistant Chris Palmer "loves" Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. After so many years of ignoring the quarterback position in the draft, it'd be hard to slam such a pick. And can you imagine if the New York Jets drafted Lynch one pick later and he ended up haunting Buffalo for years? Geesh, that'd sting. All that being said, Rex Ryan is going to have his fingerprints all over this draft. Look at this off-season. The guy hired his twin brother, who oversaw one of the worst statistical defenses in NFL history. He hired Ed Reed. He fired Karl Dunbar. He introduced Donald Trump at a rally with 11,000 people in the stands. The Bills are empowering Ryan to do what he'd like. It's been all about Rex and, the guess here is the 19th pick will be about Rex, too.
And does Paxton Lynch help you win in 2016? Probably not. Does a defensive weapon at 19 help you win in 2016? Yes. Not to mention, Ryan has been a Tyrod Taylor guy for a long time, back to his days with the Jets. He'll make a strong case for someone on defense --- a pass rusher, an interior D-lineman, a safety, an inside linebacker --- tonight at One Bills Drive.
A: "Listen to what the fans want on Twitter, Doug. Let that guide you."
A: The Bills like to wheel 'n deal. But, no, this will not happen. And of the Cordy Glenn-Stephon Gilmore-Tyrod Taylor trio entering contract years, Glenn might be the one they're able to get done sooner. Gilmore's price tag absolutely skyrocketed with Josh Norman getting a five-year, $75 million deal with the Washington Redskins because Gilmore's reps can make the point he deserves more. Whereas Norman played zone and got help, Gilmore is left alone on an island in Buffalo's defense as he detailed. Whaley and the Bills have made it clear they need to see more out of Taylor. So if they're looking to lock someone up, that someone could be Glenn first. Seantrel Henderson's future is still up in the air and Cyrus Kouandjio has not cracked the line-up two years in.
A: Robert Nkemdiche is absolutely a Rex Ryan'ish pick, right? As we've written, Ryan is magnetically pulled to prospects just like Nkemdiche. And Whaley has never shied from gambles, either. Maybe Ryan believes he can pull the best out of the ridiculously talented Nkemdiche. The No. 1 recruit out of high school, Nkemdiche had moments of brilliance at Ole Miss --- he took over the game against eventual-champion Alabama. But he also vanished for stretches, admitted he was "lazy" at times in 2015 and scouts have questioned his love for the game. Will he stay focused? Then, there's that whole drunken episode in the Atlanta hotel when he fell out of a window and was arrested for marijuana possession.
Red flag city, indeed.
Still, you can bet the Bills' scouting staff dug deeper. For what it's worth, Nkemdiche's old high school coach could not say enough good things about him as a person. This wasn't the standard defense, either. The Nkemdiche Mickey Conn knows --- the one who lived under his roof for a year --- showed up to his kids' birthday parties, sports games and spoke in elementary classrooms. The one he knows can stay focused and determined on the field with a disciplined coach. Is that Ryan? That's up to Ryan and the Bills. Would personally go with Jarran Reed. He's the best run defender in the draft and a much better bull rusher, pocket-collapser than his one-sack total suggests. But Nkemdiche's upside is tantalizing and would warrant the 19th pick.