Our series “32 NFL Mock Drafts in 32 Days” continues with the AFC East champions and AFC Championship Game runners-up, the Buffalo Bills. Just five years ago, the Bills finished the 2016 season with a 7-9 record, missing the playoff for the 17th year in a row, then the longest such streak in American sports. Moreover, it was their fourth losing campaign in the previous six seasons.
Fast forward to January 2020, when the Bills visited Arrowhead Stadium for their first AFC Championship Game since 1993. In contrast, Buffalo has now reached a berth in the NFL’s postseason bracket on three occasions in the last four years.
The club also remains the main frontrunner in the AFC East division for the foreseeable future. The Buffalo Bills have methodically built a wildly stacked and balanced roster that has very few really “urgent” needs heading into the next part of the NFL Offseason – the 2021 NFL Draft.
In addition to retaining one of the best secondaries in the league and a solid offensive line, general manager Brandon Beane added some important depth pieces to the team’s receiving corps. Most of the other components of Buffalo’s roster, such as the pass-rush, stand near the middle of the pack.
Although the New York-based club’s squad is one of the most balanced when comparing the units within the roster, there are still some problematic areas that left the Bills vulnerable during the past campaign. The Bills turned in an abysmal performance running the ball last year, increasing the need to bring help alongside Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. The same applies even more to the defensive front line’s ability to stop opposing running stables. Both groups were amongst the worst in the league in their respective departments.
Furthermore, the receiving core could use more options in Josh Allen‘s weaponry. Meanwhile, the lack of a dominant edge-rusher might lead to a drop in the pass rush’s sack production whereas Levi Wallace‘s expiring deal calls for an acquisition at the outside corner post.
It is clear that even though they won’t be in the spotlight – their first pick is the 30th overall, the Bills will have a very interesting draft weekend. Their tasks throughout the three days in Cleveland will be well-defined yet crucial to the team’s ambitions to return to the late stages of the AFC playoffs.
Buffalo Bills 2021 NFL Mock Draft: Day One
1.30 | Christian Barmore | DT | Alabama
Very few teams can benefit more greatly from drafting a defensive tackle in this year’s draft than the Buffalo Bills. Stopping the run turned into the team’s biggest weakness last year, despite the highly successful campaign registered by Sean McDermott‘s squad.
During the 2020 NFL season, the Buffalo Bills allowed 4.6 yards per carry on average. This was the tenth-highest figure in the National Football League. With the Bills regularly going for a 4-3 defensive scheme, the problems primarily came from the two defensive tackles on the middle. The starters at these positions were two former first-round picks – Ed Oliver and Vernon Butler.
While Ed Oliver put on a very decent campaign in terms of both run defense and as a part of the pass-rushing unit, Butler wasn’t in the same boat. According to Pro-Football Reference’s Approximate Value (AV) metric, Vernon Butler was rated at nine. This made him one of just two defensive starters, alongside Mario Addison, who failed to hit the ten mark.
Earlier this month, Butler and the Bills agreed to a contract change that would reduce the interior lineman’s salary for 2021, the last season of his two-year deal. That could serve as an indicator the former Panther’s duties might be eased heading into the upcoming campaign. After that restructuring, Butler’s deal now has about the same amount of remaining guarantees as Addison, the other potential candidate to have his starting job put into jeopardy.
However, Buffalo’s defensive end will have a higher 2021 cap hit and dead cap, both by approximately $2,5-$3 million. Although Addison’s release would free up more resources, neither is likely to be cut between now and September 9th. That makes Mario Addison‘s potential benching (in case of further stagnation in his production) less attractive than Butler’s. This, as well as the running defense struggling much more than the pass-rush, calls for a DT selection to start off the 2021 Bills draft.
As for Christian Barmore, many experts project the Crimson Tide defenseman to be amongst the highest-drafted interior D-Lineman in the whole 2021 NFL Draft. The Philadelphia native only played two seasons for the reigning CFP champions. However, his numbers in that span fully justify his high valuation.
In two years, Barmore recorded 15.5 tackles for loss, 63 total tackles, and 10 sacks across 22 games. Moreover, much of that came in his latest effort. Over the course of the 2020 NCAA campaign, Barmore ranked sixth in the SEC in TOL and had a satisfying year regarding QB pressure with eight sacks.
On the NFL level with the Bills, his sack numbers won’t matter as much as his capabilities against the run. However, he will be a welcome addition to a subpar pass-rush. Furthermore, if any of the higher-ranked edge-rushers, Azeez Ojulari, Kwity Paye, Jaelan Phillips, and Jayson Oweh, are available, they will be worth consideration. However, all four went before the Bills were on the clock with the 30th pick.
Nonetheless, even if any of them are on the table, the worse state of the team’s run-stopping group might make a DT much more valuable in the quest to establish better balance across the Bills’ components.
Buffalo Bills 2021 NFL Mock Draft: Day Two
2.61 | Ifeatu Melifonwu | CB | Syracuse
Buffalo’s passing defense was amongst the league’s most dominant yet again in 2020, ranking fifth in conceded passer rating. Going into the new league year, the group’s two main contributors – Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace – are in very different positions.
While White, one of the best outside cornerbacks in the NFL for the past two seasons, is tied to the club for at least the next two seasons, the same doesn’t apply to Wallace. The Alabama alum only has one year left on his contract.
Melifonwu needed some time to show his potential with Syracuse. He only managed to appear in 13 games during his freshman and sophomore campaigns combined. However, Ifeatu Melifonwu posted career-highs in games played (10) and total tackles (54). At the same time, he had six defended passes, registering at least six against his name for the third consecutive year.
The Draft Network notes that he could find success in the nickel or at safety while his long-term potential is on the outside. Sound exactly like what the Bills are looking for with Wallace still with the team or even if he re-signs or a few years after the conclusion of the 2021 season.
3.93 | Seth Williams | WR | Auburn
The air raid was one of the Bills’ strongest units and the cornerstone of their offense. Josh Allen had a breakthrough year behind the driving forces of Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. The group placed third in the league in both passer rating and total yards produced.
However, between the departure of John Brown to LV, the unimpressive showing by tight end Dawson Knox, and the overall state of the receiving corps, the much-needed depth should be recognized as a priority.
What catches the eye is that all of the unit’s primary pass-catchers are utilized in the short game. Both Diggs and Beasley averaged south of 12.5 yards per reception. In the meantime, new signing Emmanuel Sanders had about 11.5 yards per catch with the Saints in 2020. The team’s main deep threat, Gabriel Davis, caught just 56 percent of his targets.
That could be a good reason to add an efficient long-distance rookie wide receiver. Seth Williams, with his 16.2 yards per reception, was 13th in receptions amongst NCAA DI WR with more than 16 YPR.
Draft track records have proved that a busier workload on the collegiate level leads to efficiency in the NFL (e.g. Justin Jefferson). Seth Williams could follow that pattern and significantly help the Bills’ downfield passing game.
Buffalo Bills 2021 NFL Mock Draft: Day Three
5.161 | Kylin Hill | RB | Mississippi State
Last year, the Buffalo Bills averaged 4.2 yards per run, the 10th-fewest in the National Football League. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss both posted figures in that range – 4.4 and 4.3, respectively.
Whereas Moss was in his first pro year, Singletary had a noticeable downturn compared to the 4.7 he turned in the previous season. If their values hold steady, the Bills will have problems on the ground yet again. For players in a split running workload, those figures aren’t a force to be reckoned with.
A potential solution would be to involve another running back, hopefully, a more productive one, lessening the workload of the other two participants in the faction while maintaining consistency. This is where the 2021 NFL Draft comes into play.
Kylin Hill didn’t have the greatest 2020 campaign, attempting just 13 rushes. He averages 5.6 yards per run across more than 400 attempts in four seasons with the Bulldogs. However, he managed to put on even better numbers in the two years he had the most significant workload. In 2018 and 2019, Hill posted a 6.3 and a 5.6 on 117 and 242 rushes, respectively.
Kylin Hill could be very productive on the ground in the NFL if he lives up to his reputation. Furthermore, splitting the stable even more or even giving Hill a more significant share of the pie would address the Bills’ running woes.
5.174 | Rashad Weaver | DE/EDGE | Pittsburgh
This is where the Bills’ pass-rushing inconveniences are answered in this NFL Mock Draft. It might not seem like the most effective round to fix that issue. However, the truth is that it is nowhere near as big of a problem as the DT and the running game, for instance.
Rashad Weaver has recorded a sack on 17 occasions across the last three years, including career-high 7.5 sacks in 2020. Furthermore, he was fourth within the ACC in both sacks and tackles for loss. He has been much more productive than any of the other DE/EDGE prospects around that spot in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Weaver would be a perfect depth addition behind Addison and Jerry Hughes, with future potential for more playing time.
6.213 | Robert Jones | G | Middle Tennessee
The Middle Tennessee product has had success throughout his career at both tackle and guard. Reportedly, NFL front offices see him fitting on the interior better than on the outside.
The tackle posts are not only settled for Buffalo but also concern-free for the time being. However, the biggest issue as regards the O-Line comes from the right guard position, where Cody Ford could be a liability. After his selection in the second round in 2019, his PFF grades fared in the 50.0-55.0 range during those following campaigns.
Robert Jones‘s high ceiling is great news in case Ford carries on his struggles to the 2021 NFL season.
7.236 | Buddy Johnson | MLB | Texas A&M
Although Tremaine Edmunds has been problematic against the pass, he and his colleagues in the MLB spots – A.J. Klein, Taron Johnson, and Matt Milano – have not disappointed. Edmunds, for example, was second on the team with 119 combined tackles, which included 77 solo tackles. Johnson and Klein were right behind him. Yet, some depth would come in handy.
Buddy Johnson was one of the best linebackers in the Southeastern Conference last year. The Texas A&M player 44 solo tackles – 9th conference-wide – as well as 85 total tackles. Also, he had 77 tackles the previous season in 13 games, his third year in a row with at least ten appearances.
His consistency will translate well to the professional level and the Bills’ depth chart likewise.
Buffalo Bills 2021 NFL Mock Draft Recap
The Bills enter the 2021 NFL Draft with one of the most filled, complete, and need-free roster in all of NFL football. Their biggest issues – the defense against the run, the depth at WR, the urgency to improve the pass-rush, and putting the stagnation that has been revolving around the running game to sleep – were all addressed during that edition of the Bills NFL Mock Draft.
Another note is that these selections really count on Dawson Knox putting on a breakout year. Buffalo’s 2019 third-round choice was less than impressive over the first two seasons of his professional career. It won’t be a surprise if the team searches for support at the post if they don’t grab such an asset from the draft.
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