Buffalo Bills fans don’t have to do any sweating over the No. 22 overall pick in the wake of the blockbuster deal to acquire wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
Make no mistake: There would have been sweating come Day One of the draft April 23 because it was increasingly looking like the draft did not fall perfectly to meet the Bills’ two biggest needs.
The Bills would have gotten a good player at No. 22. But would they have been able to get a wide receiver or edge rusher who would qualify as an “ideal fit.”
Let’s look at wide receiver. Clemson’s Tee Higgins, at 6 feet, 3 5/8 inches and 216 pounds, is the perfect body type to be an outside receiver opposite John Brown. But the more you watch Higgins, the more you worry about his ability to separate.
Ex-NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah has Higgins falling out of the first round in his latest mock draft. Early draftnik projections of Higgins as a top-25 player may not match up to NFL teams’ rankings.
Alabama speedster Henry Ruggs would be a slam-dunk, feel-great pick for the Bills but he’s highly unlikely to last to No. 22.
That could have left the Bills to pick from Justin Jefferson of LSU, Laviska Shenault of Colorado or Brian Aiyuk of Arizona State if they wanted a wideout. Jefferson has a lot of the same traits as Diggs. Shenault and Aiyuk are super-jet-sweepers and ball-in-their-hands, run-after-catch demons. They both may be a bit of a reach at 22. All three are good prospects but none are ready to step in and produce like Diggs.
Now consider the edge-rush situation. Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa was a popular target for the Bills at No. 22. He’s a no-bust kind of guy with a low ceiling. He’s not an edge bender. Think Trent Murphy. Actually, Murphy’s athleticism numbers from the NFL combine were better across the board than those of Epenesa. Epenesa’s quickness tests at the combine were brutal – 4.46 in the shuttle and 7.26 in the 3-cone drill. Murphy’s were a respectable 4.20 and 6.78. Epenesa is an Iowa guy who breathes football. But he may well be best suited rushing from an inside position in the NFL.
Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos is another guy who isn’t truly an edge bender as a pass rusher. Good player. Unlikely to bust. But is he a difference-maker on third down? It’s not a lock.
LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson is a bender with all the quickness and speed – the explosive first step – that you want off the edge. Would he be there at No. 22? That’s iffy at best. Many projections have him going as high as 14.
The Bills would have gotten a good player at No. 22. But it’s hard to say they would have filled their biggest needs this year better than Diggs at that spot.