The Buffalo Bills should be able to get defensive help throughout the 2018 NFL Draft at some of their prime need positions, according to the assessment of draft guru Mike Mayock.
Mayock, the NFL Network analyst, likes the talent at defensive tackle and coverage linebacker into the middle rounds.
"I think interior defensive line at the high end is outstanding, and I think at least four are going to go in the first round," Mayock said on a conference call with reporters to preview this week's NFL Scouting Combine.
Those four are Washington's Vita Vea, Alabama's DaRon Payne, Michigan's Maurice Hurst and Florida's Taven Bryan, in Mayock's eyes.
There's a group of at least 10, headed by Stanford's Harrison Phillips, who could go on the second to fourth rounds of the draft.
The Bills have a glaring need at defensive tackle, given their trade of Marcell Dareus and the fact Kyle Williams, whose contract is up, will be 34 next season.
With linebackers Preston Brown and Ramon Humber due to hit free agency, the Bills have a big need for more speed at that position.
"I also think the off-the-ball linebackers are really good this year," Mayock said.
Mayock lists Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds, Georgia's Roquan Smith, Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch and Alabama's Rashaan Evans as potential first-rounders.
"Those four have the chance to go as off-the-ball linebackers," Mayock said. "Typically, there's only two off-the-ball linebackers. So that would be a big year."
"After that, I think Uchenna Nwosu from USC is an intriguing guy," Mayock said. "He’s primarily an edge rusher. He’s probably going to have to do what Hasson Reddick did a year ago out of Temple, which is stand up play off the ball linebacker and then perhaps be used in the sub-package as kind of a joker-rusher. Nwosu is really interesting. ... I think there’s a lot of off-the-ball linebackers for the first two, three, four rounds."
Other items of note from Mayock's conference call:
• His top six quarterbacks: one, Southern Cal's Sam Darnold; two, Wyoming's Josh Allen; three, UCLA's Josh Rosen; four, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield; five, Louisville's Lamar Jackson; and six, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph.
• He loves Louisville's Jackson but acknowledges a team would have to mold its entire offense around the Heisman Trophy winner's running style.
"Lamar Jackson, I think, is the most electrifying player in the draft," Mayock said. "Somebody’s going to take him and commit their offensive philosophy to him. I would tell you that the most nervous 31 people in the league would be the defensive coordinators who would have to play him. Now it’s a different kind of commitment and a different kind of philosophy."
• He thinks both Darnold and Allen are an ideal fit for the tastes of Cleveland general manager John Dorsey, who came to the Browns from Kansas City.
"He traded up to No. 10 last year for the biggest-arm quarterback in the draft in Patrick Mahomes," Mayock said.
• Mayock said Indianapolis must seriously consider trading out of the No. 3 position, since the Colts do not need a quarterback. Cleveland picks first and the New York Giants second.
"I think he has to be open for business No. 1," Mayock said of Colts GM Chris Ballard. "They’ve got a variety of needs. I think the NFL is all about filling needs in free agency and the draft. ... I think the day before the draft or the day of the draft, you’re hoping they’re getting a lot of people who want to move up ahead of Cleveland at 4 and Denver at 5."
• Mayock's review of last year's draft: "Last year 63 of 107 players that went in the first three rounds were on defense. That was by far the most ever. It was a defensive draft in 2017. It was also the worst offensive line year ever, as far as offensive linemen drafted. There were 33 total, none in the top 15, and only two in the first round. Typically we get 44 offensive linemen drafted. It’s kind of amazing to look at that and ask the question why.
"Beyond that, the running back impact last year was really good at the top end. The first six running backs taken were outstanding. The wide receiver production has been down since the historic 2014 draft."