INDIANAPOLIS – Legendary NFL personnel executive Gil Brandt turned 84 this week.
He’s been around for a scouting combine or two. So when Brandt, who is a senior analyst for the NFL Network, identified the Buffalo Bills as one of six teams with the most riding on the combine, it’s noteworthy.
He did that this week in a column on nfl.com, writing “the Bills only have six picks, which makes it extremely important that they get as many right as they can. You can survive a botched pick when you have eight or nine, but when you have six, it can really set you back.”
So that’s the challenge that new coach Sean McDermott faces as he evaluates the 330 college prospects who are here auditioning for a job in the NFL.
“Doug and I are going to work on this together,” McDermott said, referring to General Manager Doug Whaley. “That's what we're here to do. This is the team within the team. I'm counting on Doug as well as he's counting on me. I've got a lot of trust in Doug and his staff. And we're off to a great start. They've laid the foundation for us to come to the combine as coaches and have a chance to succeed.”
On-field workouts began Friday for offensive linemen, running backs and specialists. Workouts will continue Saturday with quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. Linebackers and defensive linemen hit the field Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, while defensive backs wrap up the workouts Monday.
Excluding quarterbacks, who will be analyzed in depth in Sunday’s Buffalo News, here are 10 prospects the Bills might consider, especially given their positional needs.
• Safety Jamal Adams: A contributor in the LSU secondary as a true freshman – which is no small accomplishment on the Tigers – Adams is considered a top-10 talent with few weaknesses in his game. He’s also highly praised by scouts for his leadership abilities. The big question would be if he lasts until No. 10 overall when the Bills pick in the first round.
• Wide receiver Corey Davis: The Western Michigan product dominated the Mid-American Conference, being named a first-team All-American in 2016 by finishing with 97 catches, 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s got a reputation as being a smooth route runner and has the size (6-foot-3) teams look for. He’s in the running to be the first receiver drafted.
• Outside linebacker Haason Reddick: A former walk-on at Temple, Reddick registered 21.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in 2016. He projects best as a weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 defense, and the Bills could have a big need there if Zach Brown departs in free agency.
• Cornerback Rasul Douglas: At 6-foot-2, he’s got exceptional height for his position, and had the production to match in 2016, when he led the nation with eight interceptions for West Virginia. Scouts will pay close attention to Douglas’ time in the 40-yard dash Monday.
• Wide receiver Zay Jones: The FBS leader for both single-season and career receptions, Jones has good bloodlines. His father, Robert, won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s. Jones played for current Bills wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan at East Carolina.
• Defensive tackle Jarron Jones: The Notre Dame product, who played in high school down the 90 at Rochester’s Aquinas, suffered through an injury-plagued college career that makes him a tough projection. An anonymous NFC scout told nfl.com Jones’ character makes him a risk, as well, so the interview process will be important.
• Tight end Jeremy Sprinkle: A shoplifting charge before Arkansas’ bowl game might push Sprinkle down some draft boards, but the Bills haven’t been shy about taking players with character concerns in the past. Sprinkle has ideal size (6-foot-5, 256 pounds) and is a good blocker. He had 33 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns in 2016.
• Cornerback Howard Wilson: The Bills have drafted at least one cornerback every year under Whaley. Wilson averaged one interception for every 15 targets at Houston, the type of production that could make him a steal in the middle rounds.
• Running back D.J. Pumphrey: Despite being just 5-foot-8 and 169 pounds, Pumphrey carried the ball 349 times in 2016, tied for the most in the FBS. He had 2,133 yards and 17 touchdowns on his way to being named All-American. He doesn’t have the size to be an every-down back, but could be a specialty offensive player and return man.
• Kicker Zane Gonzalez: The Arizona State product holds the FBS career record for field goals (96) and points by a kicker (494). The Bills could be in the market for a new kicker if Dan Carpenter is a cap casualty.