By David Lippman and Dalton Wasserman
The Buffalo Bills had an interesting dynamic to work with in this year’s draft. Their 22nd overall pick in the first round was not high enough to land one of the draft’s top three receivers. Instead, Buffalo traded their first-round pick, along with several others, to acquire Minnesota Vikings WR Stefon Diggs. Only twenty-six years old, Diggs is a star who should be able to make his presence known in the Bills’ offense immediately.
Buffalo’s lack of a first rounder did not deter general manager Brandon Beane from grabbing some quality players. They found some good value in the early rounds while selecting a few projects at valuable positions later. Here is our rundown of their Draft selections.
Round 2, Pick #54, DE AJ Epenesa, Iowa
Epenesa is an excellent value pick. He is the type of player that head coach Sean McDermott loves. Iowa consistently churns out gritty linemen and Epenesa is no different. He has excellent play strength and a history of statistical production. Detractors will point to a pedestrian combine and lack of pure athleticism.
Defensive end became a position of need for the Bills with the free agent departure of Shaq Lawson. Because of this, Epenesa was a popular pick for Buffalo at #22 before the Bills traded this pick in the Stefon Diggs deal. His value as a high-floor grinder who will be an excellent run defender with ten sack potential was too good to pass up.
Round 3, Pick #86, RB Zack Moss, Utah
With all due respect to Frank Gore, the Bills needed a complement in the backfield for Devin Singletary. Moss is a compact cut-and-slash runner who is tough to tackle.
Like Singletary, Moss lacks the top-end speed to score long touchdowns. However, he figures to be near the top of Yards-per-carry leaderboards with a resilient and punishing style. Along with this, his “thunder” size provides the perfect compliment to the “lightning” style provided by Singletary. As a senior this past season, Moss was awarded Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors due to his 1,800 net yards, 17 touchdowns and 0 fumbles. This could be a steal.
Round 4, Pick #128, WR Gabriel Davis, UCF
Davis profiles as a project with adequate size and speed, but a lack of polish in his game. He was mainly used as a vertical threat in Central Florida’s system. He played the role well, but his lack of versatility may hinder him in the early going.
Buffalo has time to ease him into their offense though, considering their depth at receiver. He could eventually be a good pairing with Josh Allen’s arm strength. If he develops properly, Davis could provide a much needed element to the Bills offense with his 6’3 frame and jump ball skills.
Round 5, Pick #167, QB Jake Fromm, Georgia
Fromm is easily Buffalo’s most high-profile pick. His story is well-known. Fromm’s championship pedigree among this year’s prospects is surpassed only by top picks Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. His football intelligence is as good as it gets coming out of college.
Fromm’s physical limitations are the reason he falls this far. He is just over six feet tall and two hundred pounds. His arm strength does not quite fit the NFL prototype. He basically has the exact opposite draft profile of Josh Allen. Fromm also had a very rough stretch in the middle of the 2019 season.
Fromm is smart, resilient, and knowledgeable of pro-style football, having played in it at Georgia. He is, at minimum, a good backup to have on the roster.
This pick may have been more of a preventative measure rather than to fill an immediately pressing team need. It is well known that division rival New England is in need of a quarterback after the departure of Tom Brady. The Bills may have liked Fromm enough to avoid wanting him in a Patriots jersey.
Round 6, Pick #188, K Tyler Bass, Georgia Southern
From the scouting reports we have seen, Bass is a reliable, if unspectacular, kicking prospect in a similar mold to current Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka. Finding a useful sixth round pick is a success and a long-term kicker qualifies. Hauschka was in the bottom half of the league in field goal percentage, PAT percentage, and touchback percentage on kickoffs. Bass figures to be an upgrade.
Round 6, Pick #207, WR Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State
Hodgins has outside receiver size and slot receiver skills. Without explosive speed, he often has to fight to separate and get his hands on the ball. By all accounts, he has some of the best hands in the class.
Hodgins is another solid receiver to develop low on the depth chart or on the practice squad. His doubters point to his lack of speed and play strength. Similar things were once said about another recent Bills acquisition. A solid flier late in the sixth round.
Round 7, Pick #239, CB Dane Jackson, Pittsburgh
Jackson is a tough, physical corner who likes to play press and tackle. He does not have any standout physical traits, but he will fight every play. You can never have too many cornerbacks on your roster.
Jackson most likely profiles as a physical slot corner in the mold of someone like Jets CB Brian Poole. If he becomes a rotational guy or a special teams contributor, this pick is a success.
The Bills did an excellent job of addressing needs during the 2020 draft. While the 2019 receiving corps was fast, it was easy to notice that the group lacked size and home run ability. The home run ability was addressed using the teams first round pick, as they were able to trade it for superstar wideout Stefon Diggs. The height was addressed during the draft, as the drafted receivers come in at 6’3 and 6’4 respectively. Along with this, the team was able to add AJ Epenesa, a popular first rounder in mock drafts, in the second round, and add depth and power to an already strong defensive line. Third round pick Zack Moss is expected to play a role immediately as a compliment to starter Devin Singletary. Adding a young kicker to potentially replace veteran Steven Hauschka serves as another feather in Brandon Beane’s cap. Quarterback Jake Fromm and seventh round cornerback Dane Johnson are logical depth picks as well. The addition of star receiver Stefon Diggs combined with six quality picks make this draft class a success.
Final Grade: A