(WKBW) — The week of practice at the 2019 Senior Bowl is now complete, which means teams in attendance will head back to their evaluations on these players after seeing them in person for three days. It's also fair to note how prevalent the Senior Bowl has been for the Buffalo Bills in building their rookie classes the last two years.
Over the last two offseasons, the Bills brought in 10 players that accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, at least, in 2017 and 2018. First-round picks Josh Allen and Tre'Davious White (had to pull out from the practice week due to injury), second-round picks Dion Dawkins and Zay Jones, third-round pick Harrison Phillips, fourth-round pick Taron Johnson, fifth-round picks Siran Neal, Wyatt Teller, and Nathan Peterman, and undrafted rookie Levi Wallace all were apart of the event.
Now, that could merely be by coincidence, but this is one of the first events that the general manager and head coach meets these prospects, and some can have a lasting impact. Will it be the same case in 2019 for the Bills?
In case it is, it's probably a good time to get to know some of the names that both had successful practice weeks, and that would fit both the Bills' needs and roster:
WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
- One of the glaring weaknesses from the 2018 Bills roster was within the wide receiver room, and it wasn't until late in the season that the top duo of Robert Foster and Zay Jones started to provide some optimism. However, even if they remain the primary boundary receivers, the Bills still need someone with quick enough feet and the physicality to dominate in the slot. At his core, that's just what you'll find in Deebo Samuel who did just about as much for his public draft stock as anyone in Mobile. He sets defenders up, he uses their body positioning against them, and he has a physical element to his game to break through anyone that tries to press him at the line of scrimmage. At 5-foot-11 and 216-pounds, Samuel looks the part of a modern day slot receiver in offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's offense, that can also give you the flexibility to bounce outside as well. Also working in his favor, he has long arms (32-and-a-half inches) to help make him a bit bigger when going up for the ball, and he had the largest hand size of any receiver at the Senior Bowl at 10-and-an-eighth inches which helps to secure difficult catches. Samuel's performance could have put him into the first round, but if he didn't the Bills should give plenty of thought to adding him if he's around for them on Day Two of the 2019 NFL Draft.
T Andre Dillard, Washington State
- When you're trying to find potential fits at offensive tackle for the Bills, look for the prototypical measurements and athleticism. Size, length, good feet -- if a player has those three things, put them firmly on the board. With Andre Dillard, you get to see all three on display every single snap. He has the size teams want at 6-foot-4 and 310-pounds. The length is there, too, with 34-inch arms and nearly a 6-foot-7 wingspan which helps with getting a hand on quicker edge rushers that try to bend their way around the player. Dillard has the athleticism to go along with all of it, boasting a smooth and seemingly effortless kickslide for someone as big as he is. He always seemed in control and working in a more NFL friendly offense this week certainly helped him and his draft stock. While ninth overall might be a bit too early for Dillard, if the Bills elected to move back and get more picks, the young offensive tackle could be a plug-and-play left tackle that allows Dion Dawkins to move to what could be a more comfortable position along the offensive line.
T Dalton Risner, Kansas State
- While Dillard rightfully received all the buzz, the competitiveness of Dalton Risner shined through along with his physical assets. During the final practice of the week, Risner was doing his part of being the alpha, and the vocal leader to help set the tempo for his teammates along the offensive line. He also provided the ability that matched his intensity, routinely winning in his matchups, and even working well in combination blocks when defenders tried to use a stunt to confuse them and free themselves into the backfield. His size (6-foot-4, 308-pounds, 34 and 2/8-inch arm length) provides just what a team like the Bills would look for in a potential pick. Though Risner is a bit of an older prospect and more of a fit at right tackle than he is on the left at this point, he is still someone that should be squarely in the mix on Day Two of the draft for the Bills if they didn't address the position in free agency.
G Chris Lindstrom, Boston College
- Seeing a trend, here? The offensive line is without question the position group that the Bills have to spend multiple resources on in the offseason. Now, the Bills sound like a team that feels good enough about the young Wyatt Teller starting again for them in 2019, which would mean they still have a use for another guard. With how much teams are paying for interior linemen in free agency and with how teams often wait in the draft to select them, it seems like a position that GM Brandon Beane might prefer to address in the draft -- and outside of the first round. If that's the case, using a Day Two selection on someone like Chris Lindstrom would give the Bills an immediate starter at right guard on a rookie contract to help solidify the attack in front of Josh Allen. Lindstrom and Risner worked well with one another during the practices, and in one-on-one opportunities, the guard showed an ability to win at the start of a rep, and even after a defender gave him a good first move. Lindstrom can anchor down to keep the pocket clean, which is a trait the Bills were lacking in the first half of the season from both of the guard positions. The 6-foot-3, 303-pound Lindstrom would be a tremendous fit on the Bills roster.
C Garrett Bradbury, NC State
- Alright, alright, last offensive lineman. I swear. Even if the Bills do take a big swing on a free agent center -- which is something I'd expect from them given how highly they value the position, there's always the chance they can't make it work. If unable, Garrett Bradbury is one of those names that popped out at the Senior Bowl that could be under consideration for the Bills in the second or third round of the draft. A unique prospect in the sense that NC State recruited him as a 6-foot-2, 240-pound tight end out of high school and now finds himself as a 6-foot-2, 304-pound center with the potential to be an NFL starter at his new position. You could tell in one-on-one's that he has good footwork and stays under control, also showing the ability to finish his block by putting his man on the ground. And with only a little time on the job at the position relative to some other prospects, the growth potential is quite stark.
DE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
- Like Dillard, ninth overall might be a touch too early to draft someone like Montez Sweat. Should the Bills make a trade and move down the board a bit, Sweat and his potential fit into the Bills defense as a prototypical edge rusher is a hard connection to ignore. The Bills like their defensive ends long to not only keep the offensive linemen out of their pads on pass rushing opportunities but to also hold the point of attack and slow down the ball carrier with an outstretched arm against the run. Even amongst a lot of players on the field that were big, Sweat stood out. Standing at an actual height of 6-foot-6, weighing 252-pounds, carrying 35 and 5/8-inch arms with a 7-foot wingspan, that is just what the Bills crave at the position. He was dominant early on in the week, and with another strong showing in Indianapolis, he very well could put himself in the mix -- even as early in the order as ninth overall. And consider what GM Brandon Beane said about keeping an eye on the future with their expiring contracts (explained more in full here), a pass rusher like Sweat to bring along could be quite tempting.
DE/SLB Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion
- While it was a bit of a rough start for Ximines to begin the Senior Bowl week, I liked how he finished the week -- and it seems like there are some traits to work with for teams. The Senior Bowl listed him as a defensive end, but given his size and movement ability, I could see head coach Sean McDermott projecting him as a project strongside linebacker that can moonlight as a pass rusher -- much like Lorenzo Alexander does for the roster now. Ximines is 6-foot-3, 241-pounds, and has long, 33 and 3/8-inch arms. If he's around in the fourth or fifth round, the Bills have a definite need to find a long-term replacement for Alexander and taking a swing on an athletic, potentially versatile player like Ximines.
Honorable Mention: WR Terry McLaurin (Ohio State), TE Dax Raymond (Utah State), T Max Scharping (Northern Illinois), T Kaleb McGary (Washington), C Erik McCoy (Texas A&M), DE Jaylon Ferguson (Louisiana Tech), DT Byron Cowart (Maryland)