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O.J. Howard-to-Bills talk picks up steam in latest projection

A pass catcher and cornerback would rank on just about anyone's list of pre-draft needs for the Buffalo Bills.

So in that regard, the latest mock draft from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. makes plenty of sense. Kiper gives the Bills Alabama tight end O.J. Howard at No. 10 overall in the first round and Southern California cornerback Adoree' Jackson at No. 44 in the second.

Howard's ability to be a do-it-all player makes him a top-1o picks, according to Kiper. Just three tight ends in the last 20 drafts have been taken that high.

"Having a weapon that's not only a receiving entity but a heck of an inline blocker – we haven't seen tight ends over the last few years with this type of multi-dimensional talent," he said. "You saw these tight ends in the '70s, '80s and '90s. Now you have kind of the glorified wide receivers who can't block. He is an extension of your line. He will help your running game. So I think a tight end that can block inline is a rarity these days."

Howard has been an increasingly popular pick for the Bills in mock drafts.

"For Buffalo, with Tyrod Taylor, and wanting to be both a running-oriented and pass-oriented team, I think a guy like Howard who can help you both ways would be a nice fit there," Kiper said. "He'd be a really nice fit anywhere, but I think he could drop down to 10 where Buffalo is picking and I think at that point it would be pretty easy to make a predicion on him."

In the second round, Kiper gives the Bills a cornerback, which became a position of big need when Nickell Robey-Coleman was cut and Stephon Gilmore signed with New England in free agency.

"Jackson played corner and receiver and was a dynamic returner for the Trojans," Kiper wrote in his explanation of the pick on espn.com. "He's only 5-10, 186, but I think he could play slot corner on Day 1 in the league. Jackson needs some work on technique, but he's very talented."

Kiper's counterpart, Todd McShay, has the Bills going defense in the first two rounds, with Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore at No. 10 and Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham in the second round.

"If Lattimore fell this far, his history of hamstring injuries would probably be the biggest reason," McShay explained. "Durability issues aside, the Bills would be thrilled to see Lattimore available here. He has elite coverage ability and good ball skills. Plus, cornerback is suddenly a much bigger need in Buffalo after it lost Stephon Gilmore in free agency."

The question is whether the Bills feel like they can wait to get a cornerback later in the draft and address another position of need early. Kiper said "18 or 19" defensive backs could be drafted in the first two rounds.

"I think it goes really deep," he said. "You can go 30, 35 deep in terms of corners that can play in this league this year. This is an extraordinary year because of the depth."

With the Bills losing Zach Brown in free agency to Washington, linebacker is also on the shortchanged list of draft needs. McShay addresses that in the second round.

"You can't coach Cunningham's length (nearly 34½-inch arms), athleticism (10-foot-5-inch broad jump) and range (in coverage and versus the run)," McShay wrote. "He projects as an every-down LB in the NFL and could be a star if he improves his take-on skills and tackling as he gains more experience and strength."

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