Doug Whaley did it again. The Buffalo Bills had another solid draft class, filling key needs with players that can have an immediate impact right away. Buffalo used their connections at Clemson to snag an excellent rush defender, moved up in the second round to snag a middle linebacker from Alabama, and made some noise when they drafted a quarterback in round four with one of the strongest arms since JaMarcus Russell.
In the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Bills selected Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson with the 19th overall selection. The first 18 picks could not have gone any better for the Bills as their first option fell to them. Some mock drafts projected Lawson to be selected as high as the early teens. One question mark lingering around the 6’4” 260lb end was his right shoulder, which has been injured since his freshman season. The Bills medical staff cleared him, and Whaley and company jumped at the opportunity. As a junior, Lawson recorded 24.5 tackles for a loss in 15 games, including 12.5 sacks and a forced fumble. With the departure of Mario Williams to Miami, Lawson will fill an immediate void.
For their second round selection, the Bills traded up 8 spot to 41 to select inside limebacker Reggie Ragland from Alabama. Buffalo was so set on taking Ragland, that they started calling every team in the second round, looking for a trade partner. Like Lawson, there was a medical issue that may have hurt Ragland’s stock. The NFL Network reported that Ragland had an enlarged aorta, in which Whaley said the Bills medically cleared him and that a hear specialist told him he was “fine”.
The Bills went defense again in round three selecting defensive tackle Adolphus Washington from Ohio State. This was another excellent pick as it filled another need. Washington’s versatility will help him succeed in Rex Ryan’s multiple front defense. Washington does come to Buffalo with a past as he faced charges in January and was suspended by Ohio State for the Fiesta Bowl, after he was arrested for solicitation in December outside a Columbus, Ohio motel. Washington pleaded guilty to the charge, which were later dropped in February.
With the 139 overall pick, the Bills selected Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones in the fourth round. Jones exploded onto the scene when he took over for JT Barrett and led the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2015. After a disappointing 2015-16 season, Jones made the decision to leave school enter the NFL draft. With comparisons to draft bust JaMarcus Russell, Jones had the strongest arm in the class. This is the fifth quarterback the Bills have selected in the draft since the great Jim Kelly retired. Though the team is encouraged with the play of Tyrod Taylor, his current contract situation leaves a factor of uncertainty. It was time for the Bills to draft a quarterback, and they did.
In round 5, the Bills selected running back Jonathan Williams from Arkansas. Now at this point in the draft, players selected are less certain to make the 53 man roster. Williams is not a lock to make the roster, but if he does, he will add depth behind LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, and Mike Gillislee. Williams missed all of last season with torn ligaments in his foot, but would have been a 3rd or 4th round selection.
With two selections in round 6, the Bills drafted speedster wide receiver Kolby Listenbee from Texas Christian. As the number 3 wide out on the roster, Listenbee caught 30 passes for 597 yards and 5 touchdowns. With the loss of Chris Hogan to the New England Patriots, there is a void that needs to be filled. Listenbee will be competing against Marquise Goodwin, Leonard Hankerson, Greg Salas, Jarrett Boykin, Greg Little, and Dezmin Lewis for a roster spot. It will be interesting to see who will win in a race, Listenbee or the Olympian Goodwin. Pretty sure we called this pick during the week.
With the 218 selection, the Bills selected cornerback Kevon Seymour from Southern California (USC). Seymour ran a 4.39 40 yard dash at the combine which was tied for eighth best among all 2016 combine participants. His best shot to make the 53 main roster will be as a fourth or fifth cornerback who will have to find a roll on special teams.
After the draft, the Bills signed 15 undrafted free agents. Three of those players have a western New York connection. The Bills signed former University at Buffalo and former Will South quarterback Joe Licata. Licata finished his four year career with 9485 passing yards along with 76 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. The fourth and final Gronkowski brother, Glenn, was signed by the Bills out of Kansas State. The former Will North Spartan caught 15 passes over three seasons and scored five touchdowns. The final WNY connection is Robert Kugler who played at Orchard Park through his final junior season, before moving to Pennsylvania for his season year and then continuing his college playing career at Purdue.