1. Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson (Trade with CLE)
2. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT Alabama
3. Preston Brown, ILB Louisville
4. Ross Cockrell, CB Duke
5. Cyril Richardson, G Baylor
6. Randall Johnson, OLB South Florida
7. Seantrel Henderson, OT Miami(FL)
The Buffalo Bills had a clear approach to the 2014 NFL Draft. They wanted to give E.J. Manuel a big time weapon as well as continue and hopefully finish building a big, powerful running game that could take pressure off of their quarterback and allow them to dictate the pace of the game as well as having a reliable offense in inclement weather. Defensively, they added size and strength up front while getting a tall, competitive, smart defensive back.
I liked the plan Buffalo had in what they wanted to do in the draft. I have significant questions about how they actually executed within the draft. I have never been that high on Sammy Watkins, but my bias aside, the amount of pressure on him to basically beat every reasonable expectation for a rookie wide receiver is incredible.
If Watkins can get the Bills 1,000 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns, he had a great year as a rookie by NFL standards. The problem is the Bills gave up a 1st and 4th round pick in 2015 to move up that many spots. For me, they would have been better served to stay put and take Odell Beckham if they wanted a weapon, but their best play might have been to take Taylor Lewan there to finish the line and gone for a receiver later.
The other problem with a player like Watkins is that he has to rely on E.J. Manuel to make him effective. Injuries derailed his rookie year, but he was not that impressive when he was healthy. Partly due to the unfortunate career ending injury to Kevin Kolb, the Bills had to play Manuel early. Now, the Bills seem to be chasing that move by acting desperately to get him more help. The good news is that Watkins along with Robert Woods and Mike Williams, pending off field behavior, could be a nice trio of receivers.
Cyrus Kouandjio in the second round depends entirely on what the Bills’ doctors found when they evaluated him. His workouts were bad enough where teams had to basically hope he was injured, but that the knee was able to recover. As a result, there are legitimate questions as to how far Kouandjio can go in his NFL career. If he can get better with his knee, he can improve his range as a tackle and be a great bookend across from the incredibly underrated Cordy Glenn. The good news is in his final year, Kouandjio was a substantially better run blocker in terms of showing a mean streak and being a finisher. The days of Erik Pears manning the right side are over.
Preston Brown makes sense from the standpoint that he has a similar feel as Brandon Spikes, whom the Bills signed as a free agent from the New England Patriots. In terms of his play on the field, I am dubious he is ever going to play that well. He can hit with a ton of pop, but he plays so high and has trouble in short areas as a result. The Bills can now feature a lineup with two thumping linebackers should they choose, but both are really only run players.
My favorite pick for the Bills is probably Ross Cockrell from Duke. In so many ways, Cockrell represented everything that Duke was on the field; smart, tough, and nonstop in effort. His workout numbers were never going to wow anyone, but from coverage to special teams, he seemed to be the type of player coaches absolutely love to have on their roster. Cockrell is a defensive back with a lunch pail attitude and I think Bills fans will love him for it.
Cyril Richardson is someone that got really beaten up because of his rough offseason and trip through the draft process. He was a little too heavy and he did not have a great week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, which caused many to really question his value. He was also coming from a program that has a really rocky reputation with producing offensive linemen in Baylor. Nevertheless, on tape, Richardson was surprisingly light on his feet for his size but tended to be a grabber and struggled with hand use as well as generating power from his hips. Richardson fits what the Bills want to do and could prove a nice value if he gets into better shape.
Seantrel Henderson in the 7th round is exactly what the 7th round is designed to do. Henderson looks like Tarzan but plays like Jane, if Jane was completely unreliable and more interested in smoking weed than playing football. Henderson is still living off of his press clippings from high school, but if he decides to care, he can not only be a great value, but he could be a starter on the offensive line. If he fails, they invested nothing to get him.
A year from now, the Bills could be a tremendous power running team that can just line up with Glenn, Eric Wood, and Kouandjio, able to tell opponents to try and stop their running game and allow Manuel to get a lot of opportunities to make plays down the field due to play action. More likely is that while the Bills may have gotten some pieces out of this class, they are not going to produce at a high enough level fast enough and the Bills are going to play like they are a year away; except they have to do it without the benefit of what could be a mid-first round and fourth round pick and if they have a major injury or Manuel does not progress as they hope, the Bills could be handing the Cleveland Browns a top 10 pick in next year’s draft. I think the Bills could have achieved everything they wanted without paying at such a premium to do it. In the end, the Bills made a really risky play in this draft and their schedule for it to pan out does not appear realistic.