A good sign of the perceived depth in the 2016 draft class can be found in the mock drafts of those brave souls who take on more than just the first round in their projections.
Take, for example, the recent mock draft co-authored by ESPN draft gurus Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. In it, they rotate picks, with the Bills landing Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson and Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas in the first two rounds. Let’s say Lawson was gone, though. If the Bills picked Thomas in the first round, some might consider it a slight reach, but it wouldn’t be an indefensible selection.
That goes to show that between No. 19 and No. 49, there is not a huge drop off in perceived talent. Given that the Bills would do well to come out of this week’s draft with at least two starters, that’s good news.
It also supports the idea that trading down for extra picks would be savvy if a dance partner can be found. An extra pick in the top 100 could produce an immediate contributor.
While The Buffalo News’ final mock draft does not project a trade down, it does give the Bills immediate help for their defensive front seven and a new weapon for offensive coordinator Greg Roman to utilize.
1. Los Angeles Rams. Jared Goff, QB, Cal. The California kid stays in his home state and immediately becomes the face of the Rams in their return to the West Coast. Goff should start as a rookie over Case Keenum.
2. Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State. The Eagles’ plans at quarterback are a bit bizarre given that Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel will combine to make $25 million this year, but a team doesn’t trade all the way up to No. 2 overall to take a position other than quarterback.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (projected trade with San Diego). Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State. Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell makes a call to Chargers GM Tom Telesco, his classmate at St. Francis High School, to move up and take Ramsey, who can play either safety or cornerback.
4. Dallas Cowboys. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State. The Cowboys’ pass rush is a mess with DeMarcus Lawrence facing a four-game suspension and Greg Hardy not being re-signed. Bosa fills a big need.
5. San Diego Chargers (projected trade with Jacksonville). Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss. The Chargers have made it sound like they’re happy with King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale at the tackle spots, but Tunsil is too good to pass up here.
6. Baltimore Ravens. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA. There have been rumors that teams are concerned with Jack’s surgically repaired right knee, but that seems more like teams leaking such a report in hopes Jack falls to them. The Ravens haven’t picked this high since 2000, and don’t pass on the chance to add one of the draft’s most explosive players.
7. San Francisco 49ers. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon. Chip Kelly taking another one of his former Ducks? Get out of town!
8. Chicago Bears (projected trade with Cleveland). Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame. Any chance the Bears have depends on keeping Jay Cutler healthy. Stanley started for three seasons and should step right into Chicago’s lineup from Day One.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida. He’s got just average size (5-foot-10, 204 pounds), but top-notch production, with seven interceptions and multiple All-American honors the past two seasons.
10. New York Giants. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State. Running backs have to be extra special to go in the first round these days, and that’s exactly what Elliott is. He is one of the best prospects in years at his position and would give the Giants a nice “Big Three” with quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
11. Cleveland Browns (projected trade with Chicago). Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State. After a second trade down nets them even more draft picks, the Browns land a highly respected player in Conklin, a former walk-on at Michigan State who has played his way into the first round and should replace the departed Mitchell Schwartz as the starter at right tackle.
12. New York Jets (projected trade with New Orleans). Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis. With Lynch having fallen out of the top 10, the Jets strike to get their quarterback of the future - and possibly present if they can’t work out a new contract with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
13. Atlanta Falcons (projected trade with Miami). Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State. Lee’s elite speed (4.52-second 40-yard dash) makes him one of the most valued commodities in today’s NFL: A linebacker who can play all three downs.
14. Oakland Raiders. Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia. The Raiders have a gaping hole in their secondary with the retirement of Charles Woodson. Joseph is one of the most physical players in this year’s class and has steadily risen up draft boards.
15. Tennessee Titans. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss. Quick, who is the Titans’ No. 1 receiver? Chances are, you weren’t able to answer that question without a Google assist. Treadwell doesn’t have a blazing 40 time, but he’s got big-time production in the SEC. The idea that his stock has fallen that much since the end of the season seems silly.
16. Detroit Lions. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville. It’s hard to call a person 299 pounds undersized, but that’s one of the knocks against Rankins. He is versatile enough to play multiple spots along the defensive line, though, which should help overcome any questions about his size.
17. Miami Dolphins (projected trade with Atlanta). Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State. He struggled with penalties at times with the Buckeyes, but Apple has the desired physical traits to be a No. 1 cornerback in the NFL. To move down, the Dolphins pick up Atlanta’s third-round pick.
18. Indianapolis Colts. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State. Here’s a new rule the Colts should implement: “As long as Andrew Luck is our starting quarterback, we’re drafting offensive lineman in the first round to keep him upright.”
19. Buffalo Bills. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson. Let’s start with the obvious. Rex Ryan loves Clemson. His son goes there. Rex has shown up to a news conference in a Clemson helmet. If there’s one college team he knows better than any other, it’s the Tigers. The Bills also have a clear respect for the way the Tigers run their program, drafting both C.J. Spiller and Sammy Watkins in the first round in the past six years. On top of all that, Lawson checks many of the boxes the Bills want. He led the nation with 25.5 tackles for loss, has been praised by scouts for his football character and has the versatility to play in different spots along the defensive line. All of that should appeal to Ryan and the Bills.
20. New Orleans Saints (projected trade with the New York Jets). Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State. When a team is as bad on defense as the Saints were in 2015, it’s time for a total rebuild. The Saints come into the draft with only six draft picks, so moving down to add more would be a way of hastening that rebuild.
21. Minnesota Vikings (projected trade with Washington). Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame. Perhaps sensing a run of wide receivers coming, the Vikings move up a couple spots to grab Fuller, who ran the fastest 40 time at the NFL Scouting Combine this year (4.34 seconds).
22. Houston Texans. Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas. New quarterback Brock Osweiler needs a best friend, and the Texans hope Henry can be that. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder looks like he’ll have the ability to contribute as both a receiver and blocker.
23. Washington (projected trade with Minnesota). Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama. Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan filled a big need with the signing of cornerback Josh Norman, and now adds an immediate leader in Ragland, a battle-tested, tough linebacker with plenty of big-game experience.
24. Cincinnati Bengals. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor. The run of receivers turns out to be real, as the Bengals move to replace the departed Marvin Jones (and Mohamed Sanu) in their lineup.
25. Arizona Cardinals (projected trade with Pittsburgh). Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia. He has to add more weight, but the Cardinals are deep and can afford to take it slow with Floyd, using him in sub packages while he fills out.
26. Seattle Seahawks. Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama. A three-year starter at Alabama, Kelly should challenge for a starting job right away.
27. Green Bay Packers. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame. He’ll likely need a “redshirt” season as a rookie as he recovers from a devastating knee injury, but Smith had top-10 talent before he got hurt and the Packers are willing to wait for it.
28. Kansas City Chiefs. Josh Doctson, WR, TCU. Some believe Doctson will be the first wide receiver off the board. He lasts deep into the first round here, but would be a good fit paired with Jeremy Maclin on the Chiefs.
29. Arizona Cardinals. William Jackson III, CB, Houston. Scouting reports say Jackson might need a year or two to adjust to the NFL level, but the Cardinals have the ability to allow him to do that with their deep roster.
30. Carolina Panthers. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson. The Panthers’ draft plans change after losing Josh Norman in free agency.
31. Denver Broncos. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State. Going into a season with Mark Sanchez as the starter would be the new definition of insanity.
49. Buffalo Bills (second round). Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State. The Bills find their new No. 2 receiver in the Swiss Army knife that is Miller, a threat as a runner, passer and receiver.
Note: The New England Patriots’ first-round selection is forfeited as part of their punishment for the “Deflategate” scandal.