The Buffalo Bills have played a good game of poker leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft.
The team has given every impression it’s serious about drafting a quarterback with the 10th overall pick – with owner Terry Pegula even accompanying coach Sean McDermott on scouting missions. Whether the Bills would actually do that, however, depends both on whether that’s just masking their true intentions – and what happens before they pick.
With no consensus among draft experts about the quarterback pecking order, Thursday’s first round figures to be unpredictable. But that won’t stop us from trying.
The Buffalo News’ final mock draft sticks with an earlier selection for the Bills, albeit one that is made after moving down in the draft order. In our estimation, the Bills’ list of needs, in no particular order, includes: quarterback of the future, three-down linebacker, starting wide receiver, starting cornerback, possible starting right tackle, depth wide receiver, depth safety, depth tight end. Considering that, and the fact a new coaching staff will want players that fit the scheme, adding more picks in a deep draft should be the Bills’ top priority. Let the fun begin:
1. Cleveland Browns. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M. Reports are the Browns are split – with ownership wanting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the football department wanting Garrett. The lesson: Never, ever think the Browns actually have it together. Their ability to out-dysfunction every other team is unmatched.
2. San Francisco 49ers. Jamal Adams, S, LSU. Stanford’s Solomon Thomas is a popular pick here, but that would be the third straight defensive lineman picked in the first round. The 49ers would love to trade down, but if they can’t find a partner, Adams is a great choice to take over as the quarterback of the defense.
3. Chicago Bears. Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford. Either one of Adams or Thomas would be a win for the Bears, who need plenty of help on defense. Thomas can lay anywhere on the defensive line.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama. The big question for Allen will be how teams evaluate his shoulders, which reports have suggested are arthritic.
5. Cleveland Browns (projected trade with Tennessee). Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina. The Browns use their arsenal of draft picks to move up and get their quarterback after all, making a move ahead of the Jets to make sure Trubisky, a hometown product, joins their roster.
6. New York Jets. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State. There is a concern about an injury history with his hamstrings, but Lattimore would step right into the No. 1 cornerback job for the Jets, who cut ties with Darrelle Revis this offseason.
7. Los Angeles Chargers. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. This would be a bold pick by St. Francis product Tom Telesco, but the Chargers could use an heir apparent to Philip Rivers. This would be a good fit for Watson, who can learn behind a veteran, and also give hope to a new fan base.
8. Carolina Panthers. Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford. Love this fit with Cam Newton. Panthers would be happy to have their pick of McCaffery or LSU’s Leonard Fournette.
9. Cincinnati Bengals. Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State. The Bengals stay in state to grab one of the best playmakers available in the secondary.
10. Arizona Cardinals (projected trade with Buffalo). Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech. Moving down would be the ideal scenario for the Bills, who have numerous roster holes to fill. Mahomes looks like a perfect fit with Bruce Arians’ aggressive passing attack, and would be able to sit behind Carson Palmer next year. The Bills pick up the 77th overall pick in the third round, which might not seem like much, but could yield a starter in a deep draft.
11. New Orleans Saints. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama. It doesn’t seem like a trade is going to get down with New England for Malcolm Butler, so the Saints address their annual needs on defense this way instead.
12. Tennessee Titans (from Cleveland). O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama. The Titans, who would add the coveted first pick in the second round with their trade with the Browns, add a tight end to pair with Delanie Walker at the position, an intriguing scenario for quarterback Marcus Mariota.
13. Buffalo Bills (from Arizona). Mike Williams, WR, Clemson. With three quarterbacks gone – as well as Howard – the Bills stay true to their love of the ACC by taking Williams, who immediately takes over as the No. 2 receiver and provides some insurance in case Sammy Watkins isn’t able to stay healthy.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (projected trade with Philadelphia Eagles). Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU. The Bucs move up five spots to end Fournette’s slide. Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin has to serve three more games of a suspension to start 2017, leading to speculation the team may move on from him.
15. Indianapolis Colts. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee. After finishing 30th in total defense a year ago, this is a good match of need and available talent. Barnett was highly productive in the SEC with 13 sacks last year.
16. Baltimore Ravens. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan. Davis recently spoke of what a good vibe he got when meeting with the Ravens. He set an FBS record with 5,285 career receiving yards and 52 touchdown catches in 50 starts.
17. Washington Redskins. Haason Reddick, LB, Temple. A steady riser in the pre-draft process, Reddick has developed from a 185-pound walk-on to a pass rusher who registered 10.5 sacks last season, along with 22.5 tackles for loss. Buzz in recent days suggests the Bills might take a long look at Reddick if they stay at No. 10 overall.
18. Tennessee Titans. Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU. The Titans have drafted an offensive player in the first round the past five years, and would add a sixth with Howard. That means it’s time to turn the attention to the other side of the ball.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (from Tampa Bay). Charles Harris, DE, Missouri. Moving down – which nets them third-round picks in 2017 and ’18 – doesn’t cost the Eagles a chance to add a much-needed pass rusher, and gives them a chance to address receiver and/or cornerback on Day Two.
20. Denver Broncos. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin. There are only a handful of offensive tackles projected to become starters out of this draft. Ramczyk is one of them, despite only one year of major college experience.
21. Detroit Lions. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama. A diluted urine sample at the NFL Scouting Combine was the latest red flag surrounding Foster. It wouldn’t be a shock if he slipped on draft night. The Lions, however, roll the dice on the three-down linebacker they need.
22. Miami Dolphins. David Njoku, TE, Miami. Needs along the defensive line and at cornerback can wait. Keeping Njoku in South Florida gives quarterback Ryan Tannehill another weapon on an increasingly impressive offense.
23. New York Giants. Garett Bolles, OT, Utah. Like the Broncos, the Giants need to act fast if they want to address their offensive line. Bolles would ideally replace Ereck Flowers in the starting lineup at left tackle.
24. Oakland Raiders. Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan. The Raiders seem like the perfect team to roll the dice on a prospect who doesn't have a clearly defined positions, but is plenty talented. Peppers might be a linebacker or a safety, depending on the coaching staff, but that type of versatility will make him an attractive option for some teams. Whichever team drafts him will have to do a quick turnaround after Peppers' urine test at the combine came back diluted, but as long as that checks out, he's got first-round potential.
25. Houston Texans. Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky. Houston needs a quarterback in the worst way, but DeShone Kizer feels like a bit of a reach here, so the Texans elect to repair the offensive line.
26. Seattle Seahawks. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama. The run of offensive lineman comes to an end with Seattle addressing its biggest need.
27. Kansas City Chiefs. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame. With 10 picks in a deep draft, the Chiefs can afford to reach a little for their quarterback of the future. Kizer can sit behind Alex Smith while the Chiefs address their defensive needs over the remaining rounds.
28. Dallas Cowboys. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan. Upgrading the secondary will also be a goal for the Cowboys, but Charlton gives them the pass rusher they are missing up front.
29. Green Bay Packers. T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin. Staying in state to draft J.J.’s younger brother is a pick that will likely go over well with the cheeseheads.
30. Tennessee Titans (projected trade with Pittsburgh). John Ross, WR, Tennessee. The Titans make their third first-round pick, moving up from No. 33 by giving the Steelers that pick and No. 100 overall. Ross has durability concerns that cause him to drop, but the fastest player at the NFL Scouting Combine would add a dynamic option to a Tennessee offense that is taking shape nicely.
31. Atlanta Falcons. Kevin King, CB, Washington. Secondary depth is a big-time need in the NFC South. The Super Bowl showed Atlanta needs more of it.
32. New Orleans Saints (from New England). Budda Baker, S, Washington. The Saints have five of the first 103 picks, but might be tempted to move down here if there is a team that’s desperate to get back into the first round to have control over a player with the fifth-year option. If they stay put, Baker would be another part of a rebuilt secondary.
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44. Buffalo Bills (second round). Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt. The departure of Zach Brown leaves the Bills with a need for a three-down linebacker. Cunningham led the SEC with 125 tackles (including 16.5 for loss) and earned first-team all-conference honors for the second straight season.