CAPACCIO: What to expect from each of the Bills' 2018 draft picks

May 03, 2018 - 9:32 pm

The Buffalo Bills will hold their 2018 rookie minicamp next week. While undrafted free agents, tryout players, and even some players who were on the practice squad last year will be a part of it, most eyes will be on the team’s eight draft picks.

Here are what I believe to be reasonable expectations for each of those players this coming season:

Round 1:

7.) Josh Allen - QB - Wyoming

General manager Brandon Beane told WGR last week that Allen will go into this offseason as the team’s No. 3 quarterback, behind A.J. McCarron and Nathan Peterman, simply based on how much further along the other two will be from a playbook and experience standpoint. But from there, he’ll have every chance to compete for the starting job. While some believe the team will be best served by sitting him no matter what this year, and others think the best approach is to let him play as soon as possible, Beane and head coach Sean McDermott aren’t going to paint themselves into a corner by deciding that it has to be one way or the other. They’ll play who they feel gives the team the best chance to win. And by the end of camp, that could very well be Allen. I don’t expect him to be the opening day starter in Baltimore, but I certainly wouldn’t discount it and think somehow, someway, at some point, he starts in 2018.

16.) Tremaine Edmunds - LB - Virginia Tech

I can’t see Edmunds not lining up as the opening day starter at middle linebacker. His selection at pick No. 16 was the ultimate “need meets value” pick. He was considered a top-15 and even top-10 overall draft talent by most, and the Bills have a gaping hole at middle linebacker after the departure of Preston Brown via free agency. Brown played almost every snap for the Bills over his four years in Buffalo. Edmunds should have that type of immediate contribution. He can play all three downs as both a run-stopper and coverage backer. In fact, I would’t be surprised if he’s on the field so much that he racks up the kind of numbers that will put him in consideration for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Round 3:

96.) Harrison Phillips - DT - Stanford

Phillips should also be an immediate and consistent contributor to the Bills’ defense. But whereas Edmunds should be on the field virtually every play, Phillips will be much more of a rotational player. That’s what McDermott likes to do with his defensive line. Last year, only one defensive tackle, Kyle Williams, played more than 50-percent of the team’s defensive snaps, with just over 68-percent. The next closest were Adolphus Washington’s 46-percent and Cedric Thornton’s 35-percent. Especially with the addition of free agent Star Lotulelei, who after signing a five-year, $50 million deal will no doubt be near the top of that snap count list, it’s hard to envision Phillips playing any more than 35-45-percent of the snaps. But he should be the third or fourth defensive tackle on the field fairly early on in the season, if not from day one, and grow from there.

Round 4:

121.) Taron Johnson - CB - Weber State

Looking over the roster, there’s a real chance Johnson competes for the starting nickel cornerback job in training camp. Phillip Gaines, a free agent acquisition from the Chiefs, and Breon Borders are the other two viable contenders. Gaines will almost definitely start out as the top guy covering the slot, but he’s not a lock for the job long-term. Plenty of Chiefs fans have documented his struggles while in Kansas City. Borders, on the Raiders and Bills’ practice squads last year, has yet to play in an NFL game. Johnson is considered a very good zone defender, which the Bills play a lot of. He’s also a physical player with good tackling skills. So, even if he doesn’t see much time on defense, I’d expect him to be a major special teams contributor.

Round 5:

154.) Siran Neal - DB - Jacksonville State

The answer to how much Neal plays really comes down to what position the coaching staff sees him fitting best. He’s a hybrid safety/cornerback who can even play some linebacker. Looking at his strengths and weaknesses and how the Bills roster is constructed, I see him starting out at safety behind Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. In fact, he’s a bit of a thicker version of Hyde in many respects. Like Johnson, Neal can be an immediate special teams contributor. That’s probably how he will spend most of his rookie season, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him on the field in “dime” situations, as the sixth defensive back, against teams with bigger receivers or who like to throw to their tight ends on passing situations.

166.) Wyatt Teller - OG - Virginia Tech

There are a lot of question marks surrounding how the interior of the offensive line will shake out. Assuming Richie Incognito stays retired, there may be two open starting guard spots. Even if he were to change his mind, the right side is still in flux. We still aren’t sure how Vlad Ducasse or John Miller fit into new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s plans, and Ryan Groy could ultimately play center or still be used as the swing man. So there will be plenty of opportunity for Teller to come in and fight for a spot. But, generally, fifth round picks just don’t walk in and start on the offensive line right away. There’s going to be an adjustment period for him. So I don’t expect Teller to be a starter right away. But because he has position flexibility (something this coaching staff values highly) and has also played tackle, Teller could be player they decide to dress on Sundays when they feel they need the extra body up front.

Round 6:

187.) Ray-Ray McCloud - WR - Clemson

The wideout group on the roster is thin right now, and McCloud is an excellent punt returner on a team that has a need for one. So where he wouldn’t normally have as much of a chance to make the 53-man roster, this case might be different. But he’ll almost have to do it because of his return ability. If McCloud doesn’t show that he can handle that pretty quickly, he’s probably looking at the practice squad and year of development. But if he can, he might be this year’s version of Brandon Tate - active most games as a returner and filling in at wide receiver if the team suffers multiple injuries in a game.

Round 7:

255.) Austin Proehl - WR - North Carolina

Proehl has practice squad written all over him. The son of former NFL wideout Ricky Proehl is a long shot to make the team, but the kind of player McDermott and Beane like having around. He’ll understand how to prepare and work every day and give himself a chance to play in the league at some point. But it would be pretty surprising if that was any time in 2018.


 Follow me on Twitter @SalSports
Comments ()