It was a big day at the NFL Scouting Combine as far as the Buffalo Bills are concerned, because the draft prospects that make up the defensive front seven came through the media room at Lucas Oil Stadium.
There’s little doubt that Bills head coach Rex Ryan wants to get his defense back on track, and he’s going to need some additional pieces to do so. The player the Bills entrust with the team’s most valuable resource this offseason — the 19th overall pick of the first round — may very well have talked with the media today.
Some thoughts from the players that the Bills could be interested in:
1) Nkemdiche’s press conference was puzzling to say the least
- Every single year, there’s at least one of these press conferences that leaves you a bit baffled, and 2016 was no different. Ole Miss defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who many mock drafters have linked to the Bills over the course of the past month, spoke with the media for one of the first times since being charged with possession of marijuana, broke a window at an Atlanta hotel, and fell out of it in December. While he took the blame and admitted that it isn’t something he should be doing, there were some head scratching moments as well. Lawson admitted that he was drunk, but was adamant that the marijuana was not his, and that he only got charged for possession because the room was under his name. Teams probably already know that, but, Nkemdiche also dropped the nugget that potential top overall pick and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil was there with him that day. He publicly outed a teammate, which may not go over well with teams. Plus, Nkemdiche admitted to taking plays off, and getting “lazy” on certain plays — a problem he deemed to be correctable because now he knows “what’s at stake.” While he is a perfect schematic fit as a five-technique defensive end for Rex Ryan’s 3-4 base defense, his production lacked to a large degree at Ole Miss. Any team thinking about using a first round pick on him will really need to dig into character concerns, if today’s media event raised any further ones.
2) Lawson fits the Rex Ryan profile to a T
- Everyone knows about Rex Ryan’s affinity for Clemson University, and for the players that hail from that school. Well, the Bills could be in position to draft one of those Clemson Tigers at a major position of need. The pass rusher that fits Rex’s scheme best? Shaq Lawson. He’s got enough athleticism to play some outside linebacker, and certainly shows a bevy of pass rush moves to get to the quarterback. Furthermore, Lawson appears to be a Rex Ryan type of guy because he seems like an optimistic, happy-go-lucky, goofy sort of person that couldn’t take the smile off his face when speaking to the media today. If he’s there at 19, and considering the fit, the Bills would be hard-pressed to find someone more suited to add to their defense right away.
3) Leonard Floyd does everything right on Day 3
- With teams looking for a versatile linebacker in the draft, Georgia’s Leonard Floyd showed quite well for himself throughout the college season by playing both outside and inside linebacker for the Bulldogs’ 3-4 defensive scheme. Floyd showed the ability to cover and rush the passer, while still participating as an inside linebacker at times to stuff the run. The long-limbed athlete was a bit thin, but he put some of those concerns away on Friday. Floyd checked in at just a shade below 245 pounds — 13 pounds heavier than his listed playing weight at Georgia. The lack of strength was one of his biggest concerns, but the speedy linebacker now has to prove that the new weight won’t slow him down from the player the scouts loved in the first place. With four pass rushers off the board, I had Floyd going to the Bills in my initial mock draft because of how well he fits Rex Ryan’s defensive scheme as an inside linebacker and third down edge rusher.
4) Jaylon Smith says “it’s a long-term decision” for a team
- The upcoming Bills season is one that many believe that the team must win in order for there to be no changes to the front office or coaching staff. If that is indeed the case, a question asked by Bills fans quite often is about Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who tore his ACL and LCL in January and has since had a successful operation to repair both. If the season is a must win, perhaps the Bills could be hesitant to select Smith if there’s a chance he can’t help them in 2016, even though he plays a position of need. Smith didn’t say when he’s shooting to be back, but sold himself in a different way. The Notre Dame linebacker called himself a “long-term decision,” and said the team that would be picking him would be getting a great linebacker for a long time to come, even if the return isn’t immediate. It’s the same story as former Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who the Los Angeles Rams ended up selecting early on in the 2015 NFL Draft.
5) The hybrid Cravens building some buzz
- Even lighter than Leonard Floyd, USC linebacker Su’a Cravens was listed as weighing 225 this past season, but he has now put on some additional strength. Cravens checked into the NFL Combine at 236 pounds, which will help his case that he can play linebacker in a more traditional sense. Although, there is no consensus around the league as to where Cravens fit best. He said half the teams he’s talked to want him at safety, and the other half at linebacker. For the Bills, he would likely serve as a hybrid player at both spots. Smartly, Cravens alluded to Arizona’s Deone Bucannon, who at 210-pounds, is one of the smallest starting linebackers in the NFL. Cravens really flashes with his abilities when you watch his games, and could be available right in the realm of when the Bills are picking in the second round.