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Why the Bills could be players in Wednesday's supplemental draft

The supplemental draft usually falls somewhere behind the fourth week of the preseason on the NFL’s relevance scale.

For the Buffalo Bills – and 31 other teams – that could change this week. Five players are eligible for Wednesday’s draft. It’s a good bet that at least one of them will be selected, making it the first time since 2015 a player has been taken.

First, a refresher on what exactly the supplemental draft is. It accounts for players who did not declare for the spring draft, but are eligible to enter the NFL. That means they are at least three years removed from high school. Typically, players who enter the supplemental draft have gone through a change in their college eligibility – either because of discipline, academic performance, or some combination of the two. Players have to petition to be eligible for the supplemental draft.

The supplemental draft also follows a different order than the regular draft. Teams are separated into three groups: Those with six or fewer wins, those with more than six wins that missed the playoffs, and then teams that qualified for the postseason. A weighted lottery is then used to order those groups, with the teams with the fewest wins having the best chance to win the earliest picks.

Once the first round of the supplemental draft begins, teams have 10 minutes to inform the NFL electronically if they wish to use a pick on a player. That process repeats itself for all seven rounds. If multiple teams submit a bid for a player, he’s awarded to the team highest in the draft order.

The catch is, when a team makes a supplemental draft pick, it forfeits that selection in the same round of the following year’s draft. Just six players have been chosen in the supplemental draft since 2009, with the most recent being offensive tackle Isaiah Battle by the St. Louis Rams in the fifth round in 2015. Before that, the Cleveland Browns used a second-round pick on wide receiver Josh Gordon in 2012 and the Oakland Raiders used a third-round pick on quarterback Terrelle Pryor in 2011.

So why could the Bills be players in this year’s draft? No. 1, they’ve got 2019 draft capital to work with. General Manager Brandon Beane currently possesses all of his picks next year, plus an extra fourth rounder from Kansas City and an extra seventh rounder from Carolina. That could mean Beane feels comfortable giving up his own pick in the fourth or seventh round, knowing he’s still got another.

No. 2, the consensus top available player could fill a looming big need for the Bills. Some draft analysts, including ESPN’s Steve Muench, consider Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal to be a second-round talent. Beal decided to leave school after falling behind on his credit hours, which put him in danger of being ruled academically ineligible. A starter for the past two years, Beal has appeared in 37 total games for the Broncos, with 96 tackles, 21 passes defensed and two interceptions (the first of which came off first-round draft pick Sam Darnold last year).

He’s 6-foot-1 and ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at a workout this spring, hitting the size-speed measurable NFL teams crave in boundary cornerbacks.

With Vontae Davis coming off a serious groin injury and playing on a one-year contract, it’s possible the Bills look at Beal as a long-term answer. Would they use a pick in the first three rounds on Beal?

Only Beane knows for sure, but it seems unlikely. If Beal makes it to the fourth round, however, maybe then it becomes a consideration. That’s where Greg Gabriel, Buffalo native and former director of college scouting for the Chicago Bears, thinks Beal will go.

“Overall, Beal has cover skills and the talent to eventually become a No. 2 corner in the NFL, but he needs to improve in many areas,” Gabriel wrote in his scouting report of Beal for Pro Football Weekly. “He must get bigger and stronger and improve his hands. With his lack of strength, aggressiveness and missed tackles, I don’t see him as a special teams player his rookie year. That will hurt his value in the supplemental draft. In a regular draft he may be a third-rounder, perhaps even a low second, but I can’t see a club giving up a third-rounder at this late date. I doubt he goes before the fourth in the supplemental draft. Not being part of an offseason program has already caused Beal to miss a large part of development time. I would not expect him to be much value to the team that drafts him in the first half of the 2018 NFL season, and I doubt he gets drafted as high as my grade says.”

Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander is also considered a potential supplemental selection. He’s even bigger than Beal, at 6-3, 207 pounds. In 32 games over three seasons, he finished with seven interceptions, 17 passes defensed and 125 tackles.

He declared for the supplemental draft after being ruled academically ineligible. He also has an arrest for marijuana possession on his record for 2016. Gabriel has Alexander ranked as a sixth- or seventh-round supplemental prospect.

“Alexander is a tough guy to grade,” he wrote for PFW. “He has talent — but does he really want it? Off-field issues say no. At his best, he's an aggressive press corner with good ball skills and run-stopping ability. He is not as good a player when in off or zone but has the talent to improve. Some clubs may want to move him to safety because of his size, timed speed and tackling skills. Pro Day results are a concern because he ran slower than expected and his agility drills were average to below average. Not being part of an offseason program will slow his progress. He can contribute on special teams because of his aggressiveness. In a regular draft, Alexander is a mid-round pick with the information that we have. He may not get drafted — or get selected late because of his upside — in the supplemental draft. His issues, pro day results and undisciplined play are a huge concern, but Alexander has the talent to become a very good player — can he be trusted?”

Mississippi State safety Brandon Bryant, Oregon State linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu and Grand Valley State running back Marty Carter are the other players eligible for the supplemental draft, which begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

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