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Day 3 recap: Bills go heavy on defense, double down on tight end to close out draft

The Buffalo Bills took talents from South Florida on Saturday.

On the final day of the NFL Draft, the team looked to the Miami area twice, selecting Florida linebacker Vosean Joseph in the fifth round and Miami safety Jaquan Johnson in the sixth round. Both Joseph and Johnson list Miami as their hometown, while running back Devin Singletary – chosen Friday in the third round – is from nearby Deerfield Beach.

“Just growing up in South Florida, playing little league football, it’s big down there,” Singletary said Friday night.

Johnson and Joseph both admitted Saturday they didn’t know much about Buffalo – other than that it was cold. They’ll get up to speed in a couple weeks when the team reports for rookie minicamp.

Here's a look at the final four members of Buffalo's eight-man draft class:

Fifth round: Florida linebacker Vosean Joseph

Backup linebacker was a need for the Bills, which they filled with the 147th overall selection. A 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker, Joseph is the modern NFL outside linebacker – light and fast. He is similar in build to Matt Milano, the Bills’ promising weakside linebacker.

The Bills entered the draft with Julian Stanford, Deon Lacey, Corey Thompson and Maurice Alexander as reserve linebackers. Stanford served as the backup to starting middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds last season.

Joseph had his best year in 2018. He finished with 93 tackles, which ranked ninth in the Southeastern Conference, and also had nine tackles for loss and four sacks. In three years with the Gators, he totaled 161 tackles, four sacks, one interception, seven passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.

“They definitely drafted a dog,” Joseph said of the Bills. “Somebody that’s going to come in and just try to compete at every level. Somebody that will just basically give my all every time. I can contribute to the team in any way. They’re getting somebody that really loves the game and just wants to be just successful at everything he does on and off the field.”

Joseph made an official pre-draft visit to the Bills.

“Everybody seemed cool, everybody seemed laid back,” he said. “Really just about business basically and I saw that as soon as I stepped in the building. The main thing was basically just grasping the defense and trying to bring it all in and understand it quickly enough so we can just play fast enough. As a coaching staff, you didn’t see anybody down. Everybody smiling, and the one thing I really took in was that it felt like I was home.”

A hamstring injury meant Joseph did not participate in drills at the scouting combine, and limited him to just the 20-yard shuttle and positional drills at Florida’s pro day. He estimated his 40-yard dash time would have been in the range of 4.5 seconds had he been able to run.

What They Said: Beane and McDermott wrap up NFL Draft

Sixth round: Miami safety Jaquan Johnson

Johnson, the 181st overall selection, was a 2018 All-Atlantic Coast Conference second-team selection. His best game of the season came in the Pinstripe Bowl against Wisconsin, when he recorded 13 tackles and one interception. A 5-foot-10, 191-pounder, he solidified himself as an NFL prospect during the 2017 season, when he led the Hurricanes with 96 tackles (including three for loss) while tying for the team lead with four interceptions (returning one for a touchdown) on the way to receiving second-team All-ACC recognition. In 2018, he again was a second-team all-conference pick after having a team-high 92 tackles, making two interceptions and forcing two fumbles. Johnson missed two games as a senior with a hamstring injury.

“Johnson is fun to watch. Playing in the middle of the field, he's got tremendous burst,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “There's no hesitation, no fear. For a guy that's [191] pounds, he'll throw his weight, throw his body into people. Seemed to me when you watch him on tape, you can see him really directing traffic. He seems like kind of the leader back there, getting everybody where they need to be.”

Johnson agreed with that scouting report, saying on a conference call that he is “very physical. I never turn down contact. I'm excellent in zone coverage, man coverage, really whatever the team needs me to do. That's going to be my mindset going up there to Buffalo.”

An example of Johnson’s leadership came at halftime of the game against Florida State. With the Hurricanes trailing, 20-7, Johnson gathered the defense for a meeting.

“I'm a communicator,” he said Saturday. “I communicate well on the field. … Basically we weren't playing up to our standards and I realized that.”

Johnson had a FaceTime call with Bills safeties coach Bobby Babich that he felt left a lasting impression on the organization.

“Basically, we went over formations, and pretty much I killed it,” he said. “Coach loved me, he told me they would try to get me. ... They came out and got me, finally.”

Seventh round: North Carolina A&T defensive end Darryl Johnson

The Bills took a shot on a developmental edge rusher with their first pick of the seventh round, No. 225 overall. Darryl Johnson is a 6-foot-6, 253-pound defensive end who had 10.5 sacks as a senior last season for his team, which plays in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). Johnson was Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and he was one of four finalists for the Black College Player of the Year Award. He played at about 230 pounds last season but bulked up some in preparation for the NFL.

Before I started prepping for the combine I was 230, and I got up to 250,” he said. “With my frame, I believe I can put on 10 more pounds, 20 more pounds, whatever I have to do, I'm going to be willing to do.”

Like every team, the Bills can use some young defensive end prospects. Most teams like to have a rookie edge rusher or two on their practice squad.

Johnson, nicknamed “Bam,” is the third A&T player drafted in the past three years, joining Bears running back Tarik Cohen (2017) and Raiders offensive tackle Brandon Parker (2018). Johnson had 6.5 sacks in 2017.

“Those guys, they are putting on in the NFL,” Johnson said. “Just to be able to follow their footsteps, it shows a lot. ... I've still got a lot of work to do, but I'm ready just to show everybody and prove a lot of people that had doubts (wrong).”

Johnson is the first player ever drafted by the Bills from North Carolina A&T.

“Wow. That's crazy,” he said. “I'm already making history. I hope I continue to do that, and help the Bills any way I know how.”

Seventh round: Boston College tight end Tommy Sweeney

The Bills closed out the draft by taking their second tight end of the weekend, using the 228th overall selection on Boston College’s Tommy Sweeney. He joins third-round selection Dawson Knox, and becomes his school’s first tight end drafted since Buffalo native Sean Ryan in 2004 by the Dallas Cowboys.

Sweeney, 6-foot-4 and 251 pounds, played in 50 games for the Eagles and finished with 99 catches for 1,281 yards and 10 touchdowns during his career. He earned first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors as a senior in 2018, with 32 catches for 348 yards and three touchdowns. In 2017, he was a third-team All-ACC pick in 2017, when he led the Eagles with 512 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He capped the year with seven catches for 137 yards and a touchdown against Iowa in the Pinstripe Bowl.

“I knew what I was capable of and what I could do and it was just a matter of going out and proving that and I think I did so,” Sweeney said. “So now I’m an NFL draft pick, it’s about making the team and contributing in whatever way I can.”

Sweeney was not heavily recruited out of Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. That slight has served as motivation.

“I used it to kind of put a chip on my shoulder and it drove me,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason, so I’m just happy that it worked out that way. I’m not trying to use that against anybody, but to kind of use it for me.”

Sweeney played with Milano at BC.

“Matt’s a great guy, he’s done a lot of great things for the Bills, he says he loves Buffalo and I can’t wait to join him,” Sweeney said. “It’s an honor. I can’t wait to get out to Western New York and get to work. It’s a terrific organization, a class act and I’m just so excited.”

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