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Joe B: 10 Senior Bowl standouts that Buffalo Bills fans should get to know

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jan 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-26 17:55:55-05

The Senior Bowl practice week is all said and done, with all the players doing as much as they can — under the microscope of almost every scout and GM in the league — to impress future employers for their last football activity until the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Buffalo Bills were in attendance all week, including GM Brandon Beane, head coach Sean McDermott, assistant GM Joe Schoen — and even all three coordinators — were in attendance along with a number of their scouting and personnel staff.

By now, you all know the major names from the Senior Bowl… Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and Wyoming QB Josh Allen, so this list won’t include those guys. No, we’ll look beyond them and familiarize you with 10 names that had a great week that either, you haven’t heard of yet, or have only heard very little of.

And to top it off, it’s with the Bills in mind as to who would fit their offense, and with the positions, they would need to address come April. Without further ado, 10 names Bills fans should get to know, along with highlights from the week of all the names in the video above the article:

QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
- I have to admit, upon watching Lauletta’s games in the week leading up to the Senior Bowl, I was not impressed. I thought he was a third-day draft pick and one that really lacked the arm strength that some of the top players do. After watching him for three days, Lauletta is making me go back and watch even more of him. His leadership and command was the most noticeable part of his practice week, along with an excellent accuracy — specifically in the red zone. I also thought his arm strength was a lot more impressive than what I initially saw when watching him. Plus, he’s got a very engaging personality which would make him a solid ‘face of the franchise’ candidate if he has the game to go along with it, and, he has the size requirement (just under 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds). If the Bills were to miss out on the first-tier of quarterbacks in the first round, Lauletta is certainly entering the conversation for late Day Two or early Day Three.

WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State
- Given all the Bills needs, and the fact that they used to substantial draft resources in last 12 months on the wide receiver position (a 2nd-round pick for Zay Jones, trading a third-round pick for Kelvin Benjamin), I don’t know how high of a priority adding another one to the roster is. However, the Bills also have three early picks on Day Three, which is a good spot to take a swing at a receiver. And right in that range would be someone like Iowa State’s Allen Lazard, who had a really strong week of practice in Mobile. He’s got excellent size at a true 6-foot-4 and 227-pounds, he’s incredibly strong — and given the Panthers drafting history and philosophy, they tend to favor bigger receivers on the boundary — even if they have a lack of foot speed. Take a look at the Panthers’ two most recent high draft picks for an outside receiver: Kelvin Benjamin (who is now on the Bills roster) and Devin Funchess. It’s the same sort of deal. If Lazard hits, he could help Zay Jones move into his more natural position at slot receiver. Lazard really proved to be a weapon in the red zone throughout the week, and showed a distinct ability to win contested catches and high point the ball. Keep an eye out for him on Day Three for the Bills.

OT Tyrell Crosby, Oregon
- Now with another offensive coordinator, and a likely push to get back to what they did in 2015 in the running game and more of a power-based scheme, that changes what they might be looking for in the draft. With Cordy Glenn’s status up in the air with the team in regards to both trade possibilities, and even his own injury concerns, that makes finding a right tackle a huge need. The team drafted Dion Dawkins last year, and he likely becomes locked in as the team’s starting left tackle — but a right tackle to replace veteran Jordan Mills is still necessary. If Glenn can’t, that puts someone like Oregon’s Tyrell Crosby very much on the radar. From a size perspective, everything is there at nearly 6-foot-5 and 319-pounds, and his 34 and 3/8-inch arms mean he isn’t playing from behind to start with. His strength is his best asset, and if he gets ahold of a defender he can bury them — especially if off-balance. Crosby showed really well in one-on-one drills all week and looks like a really good fit at right tackle in the Bills scheme. There is a chance he’s on the board when the Bills are on the clock in the second round.

DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford
- The Bills desperately need some reinforcements at the defensive tackle, because outside of Kyle Williams, that group massively underperformed in 2017, which led to a lot of frustrating moments in not being able to stop the running game of their opponents. And with Williams’ status up in the air, that leaves only Adolphus Washington, Rickey Hatley, and Marquavius Lewis as the players currently signed for 2018. Yeah, not ideal. So, meet the player that has a lot of people bringing up the name Kyle Williams: Harrison Phillips. Besides the obvious that they have basically the same body type, his play is extremely reminiscent of Williams — a quickness off the line of scrimmage, the versatility to bull rush and rip, or to either spin out of a block and into the backfield, he proved both are a part of his arsenal during the week of practice. Phillips isn’t surprising anyone in the NFL like Williams, a former fifth-round pick, did back when he was drafted. I expect Phillips if the Bills are unable to move up for a quarterback, will be right in the conversation in the first round at either pick 21 or 22. He would step in and be an immediate starter for the Bills. Oh, yeah, and he is a former wrestler. Just send in the card already, Sean.

DT Poona Ford, Texas
- Even if the Bills swing big at defensive tackle in the first two rounds, there is still plenty of room to add another player at defensive tackle on Day Three to add to the position, and Texas’ Poona Ford was outstanding all week in one-on-one battles. You look at him, and your first reaction is to write him off because of his lack of size at 5-foot-11 and 306 pounds. Then you look at his arm length and realize that at nearly 33-inches, are about as long as guys that are three-to-four inches taller than him. And then, you watch him play, and how he uses that one genetic advantage in a positive manner. He was an outright nuisance in the backfield this week with his leverage, strength, quickness, and even a bevy of moves… and to top it all off, how could you not love the name? Put him firmly on the Day Three radar for the Bills.

DT Justin Jones, NC State
- The same goes for Justin Jones, who even though is the less-heralded NC State defensive tackle prospect in Mobile, I think he showed a great deal in a lot of different areas. He was impactful, aggressive, and had a few moves to beat the offensive linemen in his way. His teammate B.J. Hill also had a strong week, but I liked Jones more. At 6-foot-2, 311-pounds and nearly 34-inch arms, he showed he’s worthy of a further look by NFL teams in the draft. I don’t know if it will land him in the conversation for the first couple of days, but along with Ford, should be in the conversation for the Bills’ draft picks on Day Three.

EDGE/LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
- With a distinct need for both more production out of their pass rush and for a younger strongside linebacker that has a similar skill-set to Lorenzo Alexander, that could pave the way for the Bills to strike for alliteration master and Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Through the week, the coaches used Okoronkwo as a hybrid linebacker and edge rusher, which is probably his best fit in the NFL. While I don’t think he’s a locked in 3-4 outside linebacker, his home in a 4-3 defense would likely be as a strongside linebacker with his 6-foot-1, 243-pound, and 34 and 1/2-inch arm frame. He shows solid athleticism at the linebacker position, and we’ve seen from his history at Oklahoma that he’s a capable pass rusher. The fact that he’s a ‘tweener — in which the Bills and Panthers haven’t shied away from before -- could put him in play to get drafted with one of those two second-round picks, and someone who can train with Lorenzo Alexander all year to eventually take over the position, much in the way that Matt Milano did this past season.

EDGE/LB Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida
- One of the most remarkable stories in the 2018 NFL Draft, Griffin, the identical twin brother of Seattle CB Shaquill Griffin, had to have his left hand amputated at four years old after being born with amniotic band syndrome. And even without that left hand, Griffin is as impressive a player and individual as you’ll be able to find. Through the week, he was flying all over the field, showing versatility in being lined up at linebacker, as an edge rusher — even at safety at times. They were running the gamut with Griffin to show all the different things his 6-foot, 222-pound frame could do. The Bills are big on adding the right people to their locker room, and Griffin — who has overcome a great deal with an incredible attitude to get him to this very moment, could be a solid depth player at linebacker to add into the mix with good special teams ability, and maybe even some potential on the defensive side of the ball. He was difficult to contain this week in Mobile.

LB Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
- Long, lean, and athletic — that’s exactly what Darius Leonard is, a player that got his wiry frame up to 229-pounds for the Senior Bowl this week. He shows the ability to diagnose plays quickly and is super quick in coverage and in a change of direction. The trouble for him will be to find the right team for his skill-set. And in Buffalo, they just so happen to have an athletic linebacker friendly scheme that they operate. It does raise some questions if Leonard can play strongside linebacker in the Bills’ scheme, but the Bills are very quick to point out that the two outside linebacker positions are interchangeable, so I don’t believe it will restrict them from adding another player that has experience as the weakside linebacker. The athleticism and the length (6-foot-2, 34 and 1/8-inch arms) will get teams hooked — especially if he gets up to 235 or 240-pounds by the time the NFL Combine rolls around next month.

CB Christian Campbell, Penn State
- Over the final two days of practice, Campbell certainly made the most of his opportunities by picking off a pass, and by showing off his ability to erase the wide receiver and quarterback’s attempts to cash in during red-zone drills. He was great in one-on-one’s all week, and he certainly fits the profile of a cornerback in Sean McDermott’s scheme. He’s long, measuring in at 6-feet tall, he hit the all-important 32-inch arm length mark for zone cornerbacks (his arms were 32 and 1/2-inches). If he can add an additional five-to-eight pounds to his current weight of 192, he could find himself being drafted earlier than expected. His strong week will make teams go back for a longer look, and he is also right in the conversation with one of the Bills’ three early Day Three selections.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia