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ESPN analyst: Bills had 'one of the best drafts they've had in years'

Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. are in agreement: The ESPN analysts both like what the Buffalo Bills did over the weekend in the NFL Draft – particularly in awkward circumstances.

“I thought the Bills had a great draft,” McShay said on a conference call wrapping up draft weekend. “You know, obviously, they were working through their front-office situation, but just focusing on the football part of it and what they did, I thought it was one of the best drafts that they’ve had in years.”

That “situation” was the firing of General Manager Doug Whaley, which came Sunday morning, just over 12 hours after the draft ended. It’s hard to fathom Whaley didn’t know his fate before the draft started, but either way, the Bills added six players who should help in varying ways in 2017, including one who could be the sleeper of the draft.

“The Nate Peterman pick jumps out right away just because they got what I believe to be the most pro-ready quarterback in this year’s draft,” McShay said of the Bills’ fifth-round pick, a quarterback out of Pittsburgh. “Now, he doesn’t have the high upside. Trubisky’s a better player, Deshaun Watson had a better career and brings a different skill set. Pat Mahomes has a much better upside and a much better arm.

“But to me, Peterman, having gone through three schemes, some pro-style looks, reads and responsibilities, understanding how to make the pre-snap decisions and set protections, he comes into the league with a lot more knowledge and experience of what you have to do to be an NFL player than a lot of these other quarterbacks. So I thought that was, to me, probably their best value pick.”

Kiper concurred.

“Peterman, I just hope with his big hands and his cerebral approach, and how accurate he is and how  tough he is, that his arm will improve,” he said. “It’s going to have to improve for Buffalo, because look at the conditions you have to play in there and in New York and in New England. So I think if his arm improves – which it has improved for a lot of quarterbacks in the NFL once they get into the league, if it does – he’s got a shot to be a great fifth-round pick.”

The rest of the Bills’ draft was met with similar praise.

On first-round pick Tre’Davious White, a cornerback out of LSU, McShay said, “I think he’s a starter. I don’t think he has the best man-to-man cover qualities, in terms of just speed and fluid hips, but I think he is one of the most consistent on tape and he’s a guy who just understands the game. Really good instincts and awareness. They got a great value at 27 for him.”

Kiper added that White could have gone as early as 20th, so the Bills did well to draft him No. 27. He had White rated higher than Mahomes, the Texas Tech quarterback the Chiefs traded up with the Bills to get.

Regarding East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones and Temple right tackle Dion Dawkins – Buffalo’s two second-round picks – McShay sees two more starters.

“Zay Jones at 37 is right where we expected him to come off the board. He’s a player who can get down the field. He’s much more than just a bubble-screen receiver. He can create after the catch. Big hands, good hands. He had a great week at the Senior Bowl against better competition. I thought he just killed the process after having unbelievable production in college, and I think Dion Dawkins can be a plug-and-play starter.

Fifth- and sixth-round picks, linebackers Matt Milano and Tanner Vallejo should contribute immediately on special teams, Kiper said.

That Sean McDermott ran the show as well as he did in his first draft as a head coach was impressive to both Kiper and McShay.

“McDermott, obviously he knew what he wanted,” Kiper said. “He handled the draft.”

“What they did, moving back, getting some collateral, I was impressed,” McShay said. “I think it’s really promising if you’re a Bills fan to see how things went this year.”

That collateral could come into play for the Bills in a big way.

“We don’t know the future of Tyrod Taylor or Nate Peterman at this point,” McShay said. “We’ll see. If everything works out great, great. But if the end of next season comes and they’re not happy with their quarterback, now you’ve got two first-rounders next year to potentially move up to where you need to to go get a Sam Darnold or a Josh Allen or Josh Rosen from UCLA.

“So it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward, and hopefully they don’t need to, but it makes sense to me how they managed this draft.”

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