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Draft grades: Bills get only A from Mel Kiper; others less optimistic

Grading an NFL Draft is a subjective exercise.

What some analysts may consider a reach, others would contend is a steal. Such is the nature of evaluating prospects. Not surprisingly, then, there is a wide range of opinions about the eight-man 2018 class of the Buffalo Bills.

One respected analyst gave the Bills his only "A" grade of the entire draft, while an analytics website found Buffalo's selections to be only "average." Another analyst graded the Bills as the only  "D" because he projects Josh Allen to be a bust.

Here's a look at what some of the big national outlets think about the Bills' draft:

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN

Grade: A (Bills were only team to receive an A)

"That the Bills were targeting a quarterback tends to make you forget this was a playoff team, so the first round was an interesting mix, as they added both high-upside potential at the game's most important position, and also immediate help at a spot where rookies can often be found contributing. They gave up some notable draft value in second-round picks to maneuver, but I'm not sure any team added this kind of high-upside talent. Key word: upside.

"We know Josh Allen (pick 7) needs development as a player with great traits but lacking polish out of Wyoming, but development is a given for any QB. The addition of Tremaine Edmunds (16) means that the Bills managed to get two of my top 11 players in this draft class, and Edmunds is likely to help right away. The useful immediate help and long-range upside wasn't limited to Round 1, either. Harrison Phillips (96) is an interior disrupter who can jump into the mix in Week 1. Kyle Williams won't play forever (probably?) so this was a good fit. Taron Johnson (121) can get on the field early. He won't be a No. 1 corner, but in the fifth round, he's a decent get. Ray-Ray McCloud (187) is a wildcard, but he can jump into the return game and could factor into the wide receiver depth chart.

"Yeah, it'll come down to Allen, but if he reaches his upside, you change the direction of the franchise. He could be a perfect fit in Buffalo. As it always goes with big bets on quarterbacks, time will tell the story."

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

Grade: D 

Edmunds and Phillips were the standout picks for Sean McDermott's front seven in his first draft with Brandon Beane. But this grade is based on the fact that Allen is likely to be a big-armed bust. The QB wasn't worth the trade, especially at the cost of two second-rounders. The Bills drafted like a team set to return to the playoffs; their glaring weaknesses on the offensive line and at wide receiver should have been addressed earlier. QB desperation is never a good way to draft, and it led to a chain reaction that gave Allen and AJ McCarron little support.

 

Sam Monson and Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus

Grade: Average

"Day 1: The rumors were heavy that the Bills would move up to take Josh Allen, and they did just that. Allen has a cannon for an arm, combined with the size and athleticism to make spectacular plays outside the pocket, but he comes with big question marks in key areas, namely his accuracy and decision-making. He’s ranked among the nation’s worst in negatively-graded throws over the last two years and he finished 29th out of 38 quarterbacks in the draft class at avoiding turnover-worthy throws last season. The big-time throws are a part of his game as Allen had the highest percentage in the nation in 2016, while ranking seventh in the draft class last year, and the Bills must let him use his arm and playmaking ability down the field while trying to mitigate the accuracy issues and play recognition that has held his game back despite his electric skillset.

"Buffalo then made a move to grab Tremaine Edmunds, adding a much-needed athletic presence for the middle of their zone-heavy defense. Edmunds is not as polished as some of the other top linebackers in this class as he’ll often take the wrong gap in the run game, but his movement skills make him a weapon in coverage, whether covering ground in zone or matching up against opposing tight ends. He ranked ninth in the draft class with a run-stop percentage of 12.5 while posting a solid coverage grade of 81.0."

Nate Davis, USA TODAY Sports

Grade: B+

"Must admire GM Brandon Beane's aggressiveness in his first draft, as he completed his weeks-long trek up the board to get Wyoming QB Josh Allen at No. 7 before dealing up a second time Thursday night for Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds at No. 16. Both have massive ceilings but should be afforded the patience to develop. Third-round DT Harrison Phillips will become a fan favorite (he somehow managed to make 103 tackles last year from a position not known for staggering numbers). However, will Beane regret not doing more to replace retired linemen Eric Wood and Richie Incognito?"

Andy Benoit, SI.com

Grade: B

"The Bills traded up to get the quarterback they wanted and the linebacker they needed … in theory, anyway. We can debate Josh Allen’s merits and future prospects, but it’s easy to believe the Bills when they say that arm strength, size and mobility make him the best fit for playing in the sometimes-difficult Buffalo conditions. With head coach Sean McDermott, GM Brandon Beane and others, this team is becoming the Panthers North. Stylistically, Allen can provide the same base run-game dimensions as Cam Newton; he might not quite be as dynamic as Newton, but he has a chance to become a better on-the-move thrower.

"The Edmunds pick was necessary, given how crucial linebackers are in McDermott’s foundational double-A-gap pressure looks and zone coverages. Edmunds may need time to develop, though, leaving the Bills thin at a critical spot when they’re trying to build on their surprising 9-7 season.

"The only gripe is Buffalo did not find a true edge rusher. (And the team is wrong if it thinks that free-agent pickup Trent Murphy is that guy.) Doing so would have buttressed the pass rush opposite Jerry Hughes and inside, since it’d allow 2016 first-rounder Shaq Lawson to be a passing down three-technique, where his skills are better suited. The third-round pick that could have addressed this was instead spent on run-stuffer Harrison Phillips, whom they hope can replace soon-to-be 35-year-old Kyle Williams after this season."

Chad Reuter, NFL.com

Grade: B+

"Tackle Cordy Glenn was shipped to Cincinnati in a swap of picks, setting Buffalo into a position to move up again to pick Allen. Giving up two second-round picks without trading the No. 22 pick this year or next year's first-round pick is fine. Allen's inaccuracy as a thrower against marginal competition makes him a risk that many teams wouldn't want to take. He showed improvement through the draft process, though, so it's possible this will turn out.

"The Bills also moved down in last year's draft to get a second first-rounder this year via Kansas City, and then moved back up when the exceptional Edmunds was available at 16. A good trade, especially since they only moved from the third to the fifth round in the deal. Trading to land Allen made Friday night quiet for the Bills, and we'll have to see if he was worth it. But picking up Phillips late in the third round was a great deal, as he could be a perfect replacement for nose tackle Kyle Williams whenever he retires. The guy led Stanford in tackles last year as a nose tackle.

"Think about that. Buffalo was looking for interior O-line depth coming into the draft, and found a future starter in Teller, one of the strongest players in the draft. Their secondary needed bodies, as well, and two small-school players (Johnson and Neal) will more than just fill roster spots. McCloud and Proehl provide very good depth as inside receivers."

Dan Kadar, SBNation

Grade: B-

"The draft for the Bills will be judged on whether or not seventh overall pick Josh Allen becomes a franchise quarterback. If he does not, the Bills paid a steep price to go up and get him. If he does, it’s obviously great. Personally, I question whether or not he’ll become a more accurate passer in the NFL.

"Much of the rest of Buffalo’s draft was a delight. Getting Tremaine Edmunds with the 16th pick was a strong move. Some expected him to go top 10. He has the tools to be a star in the NFL. The cost to trade up was worth it. Then on the draft’s second day the Bills got a steal in Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. He can line up over the nose and produce. Fourth-round pick Taron Johnson of Weber State is a solid nickel cornerback. Guard Wyatt Teller was a nice fifth-round pickup. Don’t be surprised if he pushes for a starting job early."

Bills go small (school) to add secondary depth on draft's final day

 

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