Buffalo Bills Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades
Buffalo came into the draft with the No. 9 overall pick, but a quick move up the board to select Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, one of the draft's premier talents.
Because of the resources the Bills put into the trade up, the success or failure of this year's draft will be largely defined by how big of an impact Watkins makes for Buffalo. That said, the rest of the draft is also full of opportunities to improve the roster.
On Day 2, the Bills selected Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and Louisville linebacker Preston Brown, and also picked up a fifth-round selection in a trade down. That left the Bills with four picks on Day 3, as they go in with all of their original Day 3 draft picks except their sixth-rounder, which they traded earlier this offseason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for another wide receiver, Mike Williams.
We are analyzing and grading every selection the Bills make, as the picks happen, in this year's NFL draft.
Round 1, Pick 4: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
After weeks of rumors that the Buffalo Bills wanted to trade up, they made it happen by trading their 2015 first- and fourth-round selections to the Cleveland Browns in order to move up five spots and select Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins with the No. 4 overall pick.
A triple threat as a receiver, returner and gadget-play runner, Watkins has the ability to burn defensive backs deep with his speed and make defenders miss with his quickness in the open field.
In moving up for Watkins, the Bills certainly added a go-to target for their developing young quarterback EJ Manuel. Watkins has the size, athleticism and route-running ability to immediately emerge as the team's No. 1 wide receiver.
To grade the pick as a whole, however, one must consider whether the player is worth the deal.
While Watkins should make the Bills offense instantly better, he will need to immediately and consistently be one of the NFL's best wide receivers to justify the cost of moving up for him. The Bills could have stayed put and landed another top pass-catcher such as Texas A&M's Mike Evans, LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. or North Carolina's Eric Ebron.
Furthermore, if the Bills fail to make a playoff run in 2014, they will have given the Browns two top-20 picks, plus another future selection, for one player.
Bills fans certainly have reason to be excited about the addition of Watkins, but it certainly qualifies as a high-risk, high-reward move that will backfire if it doesn't meet both immediate and long-term expectations.
Round 2, Pick 44: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
After trading up in Round 1, the Buffalo Bills decided to go the other way and move back from their first pick in Round 2. The Bills traded the No. 41 overall pick to the St. Louis Rams, picking up the Rams' fifth-round pick (No. 153 overall) to move down just three spots.
This might have been sparked by the Detroit Lions jumping ahead of the Bills to secure BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who would have been an excellent value selection as an impact player for the Buffalo defense in Round 2, but the Bills got great value in this trade. Having traded their sixth-round pick earlier this offseason, the Bills can certainly benefit from adding another Day 3 draft choice.
Despite moving down, the Bills still landed Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, the player they likely would have selected at No. 41 overall anyways. A 6'7", 322-pound offensive tackle with 35.625" arms and terrific power, Kouandjio could immediately emerge as a dominant run blocker at either right tackle or left guard.
Kouandjio has technical issues to work out, and could struggle with outside speed rushers on the edge if he is kept at offensive tackle, but he was the most talented offensive lineman remaining on the board. He should have a good shot of beating out Erik Pears and Chris Hairston for the starting RT job as a rookie.
The Alabama blocker would have been a strong pick at No. 41, but the Bills made the value even better.
Round 3, Pick 73: Preston Brown, ILB, Louisville
The Buffalo Bills continued their trend of selecting players hosted by the team on official predraft visits when they selected Louisville inside linebacker Preston Brown with the No. 73 overall pick in this year's draft.
Drafting an inside linebacker made sense for the Bills, as Buffalo lacks depth at the position. And while Brandon Spikes was signed to be the team's middle linebacker this offseason, he was only signed to a one-year contract.
There were better linebackers available here, however, that the Bills could have drafted. Chris Borland and Shayne Skov were more widely projected top-100 selections who would bring a more well-rounded game to the Buffalo defense.
Specifically, Buffalo should have been looking for a linebacker who can help them in coverage subpackages, as that is the weakest part of not only Spikes' game, but also that of fellow free-agent linebacker addition Keith Rivers. But that's also the weakest part of Brown's game.
This might have been a forced selection for the Bills. Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton, who was selected one pick before Buffalo with the 72nd pick, was another predraft visitor who would have a perfect choice to not only fill a need but also be tremendous value. If that's who the Bills were targeting, they might have been forced into settling for Brown as a plan B.
Nonetheless, this is a pick that could pay dividends for their defense, but far from the best choice they could have made in regards to both value and need.
Round 4, Pick 109: Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
The Buffalo Bills continued to follow their predictable strategy of selecting players from their predraft visitor list and selected Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell with the No. 109 overall selection.
As a run on defensive backs has started to develop early in Day 3, the Bills were smart to go after the top talent at the position now, and Cockrell was the most well-rounded defensive back on the board going into the draft's third day.
While Cockrell doesn't have elite physical traits, he has the tools to develop into a starting-caliber player at the cornerback position. He is a technically sound player in coverage who uses his hands well and has great ball skills, fluid hips and quick feet.
As the Bills already have a strong top quartet at cornerback in Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Nickell Robey and Corey Graham, Cockrell is firmly a depth selection, but as it seems to be said by NFL coaches every year, "you can never have too many cornerbacks."
He was one of the best players available in this scenario, and should at the very least be an immediate contributor on special teams.
Bills Trade out of 149th Overall Pick with Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buffalo Bills were set to pick twice in a five-pick span in Round 5, but they instead traded their own fifth-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for Tampa Bay's seventh-round pick (No. 221 overall selection) and the Buccaneers' 2015 fifth-round pick.
Prior to making this trade, the Bills had already traded two of their own 2015 fifth-round picks to acquire Sammy Watkins in Round 1. Although they added a 2015 conditional fourth-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for veteran wide receiver Stevie Johnson, they moved that pick today to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire veteran running back Bryce Brown.
With that in mind, the Bills made a smart move for their future—which some might say they had been mortgaging—in trading out.
While there is a significant drop-off from the fifth round to the seventh, being able to still pick three times today while bringing their 2015 pick total back up to six was a smart, calculated decision that puts them in a better position for what looks to be a shorthanded draft for Buffalo next season.
Round 5, Pick 153: Cyril Richardson, G, Baylor
The Buffalo Bills continued to reinforce their offensive line with the No. 153 overall pick, the fifth-round selection they acquired from the St. Louis Rams, by selecting Baylor guard Cyril Richardson.
With their additions to the offensive line in recent years, including Cyrus Kouandjio in Round 2, the Bills have made it clear that they emphasize size—and the ability to convert that size to power—in their blockers up front. Richardson, a 6'5", 329-pound guard who excels at drive blocking defenders off the line, fits that mold.
Like Kouandjio, Richardson has some limitations in terms of athleticism, but his size and strength give him a lot of upside. A three-year starter who played both left tackle and left guard at Baylor, he could immediately compete for the team's starting left guard job.
Richardson was the best guard still available in Round 5, and a strong value selection outside the top 150 That value looks even better with the fact that the Bills were able to turn one pick into two potential starting offensive linemen with their trade down in Round 2.
Round 7, Pick 221: Randell Johnson, LB, Florida Atlantic
With the seventh-round pick they acquired from trading down with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Buffalo Bills added more linebacker depth in selecting Florida Atlantic linebacker Randell Johnson.
Johnson, the No. 221 overall selection in this year's draft, is very much a project who will likely have to fight with fringe roster players and undrafted free agents for a roster spot.
He has intriguing measurables; according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, Johnson measured in at 6'3" and 244 pounds at Florida Atlantic's pro day, where he ran his 40-yard dash in the 4.6-second range and posted a 38.5" vertical jump and 10' broad jump.
Even on a non-powerhouse program, however, Johnson wasn't a standout. His physical traits give him developmental potential, but he possibly could have been had as an undrafted free agent.
Without much need at linebacker, the Bills might have been better served in drafting a defensive end such as Virginia Tech's James Gayle or West Texas A&M's Ethan Westbrooks.
Round 7, Pick 237: Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
There are few players in this year's draft class with more physical upside than Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson. Unfortunately for the Bills, there's also few players with more red flags than their No. 237 overall selection.
Like Cyrus Kouandjio and Cyril Richardson, Seantrel Henderson meets the Bills' "big wins" mantra. At 6'7" and 331 pounds with 34 5/8" arms, Henderson has the size and strength to dominate his opponents with power, yet also has exceptional athleticism for his size.
The problem for Henderson is you rarely see him actually dominate when he is on the field.
Furthermore, he has a highly concerning off-field history. After being suspended three times during his Miami career, which he told teams was the result of marijuana use, he tested positive again for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The Bills need to draw a hard line with Henderson, and should not hesitate to move on from him immediately if he runs into any more off-field trouble. That said, if the Bills can find a way to motivate him to finally start playing up to his ability, he has all the tools to develop into a starting-caliber right tackle.