Mock draft season doesn't officially get started until ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. puts out his first effort.
That came Thursday, with Kiper forecasting the Bills will select Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen with the 19th overall pick in the first round of April's NFL Draft.
Of course, for that to happen, Allen will have to declare for the draft. The 6-foot-3, 283-pounder just finished his junior season with a victory in Monday's national championship game against Clemson. Allen finished 2015 with 36 tackles, 12 sacks, five passes defensed and three forced fumbles in 15 games.
"Will there be a tandem under more pressure to see improvement out of a defense than the Ryan brothers in Buffalo? It's probably not close," Kiper wrote on ESPN.com, explaining his selection. "Allen is a good get at this slot; he's a versatile D-lineman with the frame to win with quickness on occasion but also push the pocket from the interior. The Bills are going to need to retool on the D-line even beyond the draft, and Allen would be a solid addition."
On Thursday afternoon, Kiper conducted a national conference call, during which he expanded on why Allen makes sense for the Bills – and what else they need to do to retool a defense that finished 19th in the NFL.
"With Mario Williams' situation, do you find somebody to bring in there? Obviously, you look at the defensive end spot," Kiper said. "They want a big guy who can stop the run. ... You look at Jonathan Allen – outstanding pass rusher, 280, 285 pounds – he can stop the run. Underrated player all the way through his career. It was always A'Shawn Robinson, and then it became Jarran Reed, and then there was Allen, showing up big in key moments of just about every game. So (it would be good) if you can get a guy like that at that point. We have to see what happens, these underclassmen still making some decisions there."
Allen was chosen to the All-Southeastern Conference first team and had 11 of his 12 sacks against ranked teams. Kiper ranks Allen as the No. 5 defensive end in the draft class.
Allen won't address all the Bills' needs on the defensive side of the ball. Kiper suggested linebacker and defensive back as two other positions the Bills could address, while also praising the rookie season of cornerback Ronald Darby.
"The offensive line is another area you can look," Kiper said of what else the Bills may address over the three-day draft. "And add another receiver at some point."
Story topics: Mel Kiper