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ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper thinks risk might pay off for Bills in draft

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. thinks the first round of the NFL draft might be the time for the Buffalo Bills to take a bit of a risk in the quest to add an elite receiver to the roster.

Kiper projects the Bills taking Mississippi receiver D.K. Metcalf with the ninth overall pick in his latest mock draft, released this week.

Metcalf is an all-world physical specimen, at 6-foot-3 1/2 and about 235 pounds. But he missed most of the 2016 season with a foot injury and the last five games of the 2018 season to a neck injury.

“We use the word upside,” Kiper said in talking about Metcalf on an ESPN conference call Tuesday. “He’s got as much upside as anybody. That’s why I thought maybe at 9 he would make sense.”

Metcalf is the first receiver off the board in Kiper’s projection. Kiper has Oklahoma wideout Marquise Brown going 13th to Green Bay. Brown reportedly will miss the individual drills at the NFL Scouting Combine later this month after undergoing surgery last month to repair a Lisfranc fracture in his foot.

Kiper has only one other wide receiver being take in the first round – Mississippi’s A.J. Brown at No. 24.

“I think the wide-receiver group is not that strong,” Kiper said. “Now Marquise Brown with the injury. (I think) that you could see a little bit of a reach there for (Metcalf)."

Bills decision-makers Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane aren’t known as big gamblers in the NFL draft, their move up last year to get quarterback Josh Allen notwithstanding. Beane and McDermott have leaned toward players with consistent production.

Yet there’s little doubt the Bills need more weapons for Allen.

“Josh Allen had an up-and-down rookie season in Buffalo, but he needs better pass-catching options in Year 2,” Kiper reasons. “That's how we can fully evaluate his development.”

After playing only two games in 2016, Metcalf averaged 16.6 yards on 39 catches with seven touchdowns in 2017. In seven games last season, he averaged 21.9 yards on 26 catches with five TDs. The yards-per-catch total was fourth best in the nation.

“He’s had two years of injuries,” Kiper acknowledged. “He had the foot in 2016 and the neck this year, 67 career receptions. Not that many, not a huge number there. But he’s got tremendous talent. He flashes that big-time ability.”

Metcalf’s father, Terrence, had a nine-year NFL career on the offensive line after being a third-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2002. His grandfather is Terry Metcalf, who was a three-time Pro Bowl running back for the Cardinals in the 1970s. His uncle, Eric, also was a three-time Pro Bowl running back during a 13-year NFL career, from 1989 to 2002.

“Obviously, great bloodlines,” Kiper said.

Meanwhile, Kiper sees University at Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson only as a fourth- or fifth-round prospect.

Kiper’s projection on UB’s Jackson no doubt would be a bit of a disappointment for the Bulls star. Kiper said he was surprised the 6-7 quarterback opted to forego his final season of college eligibility.

“Tyree Jackson competes,” Kiper said. “I thought he had some inconsistencies this year. But I thought he would go back and have another season. But with Anthony Johnson moving on as well as (K.J.) Osborn transferring, he can see that. He’s a developmental quarterback. I can see him in the fourth or fifth round.”

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