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Bills Notebook

NFL grants special draft eligibility to 99 college underclassmen

The crop of prospects for the 2020 NFL draft came into clearer focus Tuesday.

The NFL announced the list of 99 players who have been granted special eligibility for April’s draft. In addition, 16 more players who have completed their college degree were granted eligibility.

The 99 players marks the third straight season underclassmen entries into the draft have decreased, down from 103 in 2019 and a record 106 in 2018. Last year, 30 players granted special eligibility went undrafted.

To be granted special eligibility, players must be out of high school for three years and submit a written application in which they renounce their remaining college football eligibility. The deadline for submissions this year was Friday.

Underclassmen are expected to dominate the first round of the draft. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah released his first mock draft Tuesday, and 26 of his 32 selections are underclassmen. That includes Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, whom Jeremiah has going fifth overall to the Miami Dolphins – even though he may miss all or a significant portion of his rookie season following hip surgery. 

Ohio State’s Chase Young, the presumptive second overall pick behind LSU senior quarterback Joe Burrow, is also an early entry, having just finished his junior season at Ohio State. Nine LSU players were granted special eligibility after their win in the national championship game, the most of any school. 

Jeremiah has the Bills selecting an underclassmen with their first pick at No. 22 overall – Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins.

One other name of note that may interest Bills fans is that of Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. He’s the son of former Bills cornerback Antoine Winfield.

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Bills return specialist Andre Roberts was added to the AFC team for the Pro Bowl, it was announced Tuesday. Roberts, who will make his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance, replaces Kansas City’s Mecole Hardman, who can't participate because the Chiefs are in the Super Bowl. 

Roberts finished second in the AFC with 664 kickoff return yards, an average of 26.6 yards on 25 attempts. He also had 223 punt-return yards. Roberts is the first return specialist to make the Pro Bowl for the Bills since Terrence McGee in 2004. 

Cornerback Tre’Davious White and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds will also represent the Bills on the AFC squad for Sunday’s game in Orlando, Fla.

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Analytics website Pro Football Focus released its list of top 100 pending free agents Tuesday. The Bills have just one player on the list – defensive end Shaq Lawson at No. 68.

One notable omission to the list from the Bills is defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. He’s coming off a season in which he racked up a career-best 9.5 sacks. 

The No. 1 available free agent, according to PFF, is Dallas receiver Amari Cooper. The quarterback class – which includes Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, among others – was not included in the rankings.

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Bills defensive tackle Corey Liuget has settled a lawsuit against his former trainer that was scheduled for trial in February, USA Today reported. Liuget had sued trainer Ian Danney, alleging that Danney injected him with a banned performance enhancing drug without permission in late 2017 that led him to fail a drug test and get suspended for four games in the 2018 season.

Liuget also alleged the positive test impacted his contract negotiations and cost him $15 million.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Danney has denied the accusation.

Liuget signed with the Bills in November after spending time with the Oakland Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers.

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