CAPACCIO: For second year in a row, versatility defines Bills' draft class

April 29, 2018 - 8:27 pm

For the second year in a row, “versatility” is one of the first words that comes to mind when describing the Buffalo Bills’ draft class. Although general manager Brandon Beane said the team didn’t specifically target players that had experience playing multiple positions, head coach Sean McDermott said it definitely helps when building a team.

“I think, overall, each situation is a little bit different,” McDermott told reporters Saturday night at the conclusion of the seven-round draft. “The more you can do, the better off you are and obviously, for us at least, we put a big emphasis on special teams. So you see a situation like Ray-Ray [McCloud], the ability to play both line of scrimmage a little bit as well as along the special teams situation for us and add value there.Versatility with Siran (Neal), as well. He’s played some linebacker, he’s played some corner, he’s played some safety. Just to name a couple right there to your point.”

Neal, one of the team’s fifth-round choices out of Jacksonville State, is like a chess piece on defense. He can play all over the field. At 6’ 0” and 206-pounds, he has the the size to play near the line of scrimmage, take on blockers, and tackle ball carriers. But he also has the speed to match-up with pass catchers. 

McCloud, drafted in the sixth round out of Clemson, is a do-it-all offensive and special teams threat, but he's even had college experience playing on the defensive side of the ball as a cornerback. McCloud was an honorable mention All-ACC performer as an all-purpose player, mainly because of his receiving and punt return abilities. He’s a huge threat with the ball in his hands. In fact, as a running back in high school in Tampa, McCloud ran for 1,933 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior, and 5,765 yards and 58 touchdowns for his career.

The team’s third round pick, defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, was a three-time Nebraska state champion in wrestling, and finished fifth in the state in discus.  

Although Weber State fourth-round pick Taron Johnson will most likely play the nickel corner position for the Bills, he has experience both inside and outside as a college player. As a high school player in California, Johnson was named the All-Purpose Player of the Year for his league, leading his team in receiving yards and finishing thirteenth in the state in receiving.

Then there’s Virginia Tech guard Wyatt Teller, who even though he’s the heaviest player drafted by the Bills, may exemplify versatility more than anyone in an overall versatile class. The fifth round pick was the state of Virginia’s Defensive Player of the Year for his school’s AA classification, recording over 120 total tackles, including 11 sacks, and four forced fumbles. After arriving at Tech, Teller started as a defensive end, but moved to offensive tackle in the preseason, then moved to offensive guard the following spring.

Of course Wyatt’s teammate at Virginia Tech, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, was the Bills’ second first-round pick, joining quarterback Josh Allen. The 6’ 5” and 250-pound Edmunds can play on the ball, off the ball, and all three linebacker spots. He, most likely, projects to be on the weakside in McDermott’s defense, but the head coach and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will have plenty of options based on opponent and tendencies.

Although it was Beane's first draft as an NFL general manager, it was McDermott's second as a head coach. And last year's class exhibited a lot of the same versatility as this year's.

“It just fell that way,” Beane said about the versatility of the draft class. “We really, I mean, truly, we’re looking for good football players that fit what we do. Our DNA is really what we were targeting. It just, sometimes it falls where they’re more one-hole players but you like versatility when it happens.”

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