CAPACCIO: What to expect from each of the Bills' 2019 draft picks

How I see each player's role on this year's team

Sal Capaccio
May 09, 2019 - 2:03 pm

The Buffalo Bills will hold their 2019 rookie minicamp this weekend, beginning Friday. It will be the first time each of the team’s eight draft picks, as well as all of their undrafted free agents and other first-year players will have a chance to be on the field. 

We’re still over two months away from training camp, but here are the roles and expectations I see for each of the draft picks this coming season:


Round 1 (9th overall)

  • Ed Oliver - DT - Houston

Oliver was the ultimate “need-meets-value” pick for the Bills. Kyle Williams retired just a few months ago, the team had a big hole right in the middle of their defensive line, and at the 3-technique spot, specifically. Although Oliver played mostly over the center as a nose guard at Houston, his better fit in the NFL will be that 3-technique (outside shoulder of the guard) and he will be able to step immediately into the void left by Williams, giving Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier a penetrating interior defensive lineman next to Star Lotulelei. I expect Oliver to either start from Day 1, or at the very least play major role in the defensive line rotation that McDermott uses. Last year, Williams was the only defensive lineman to play over 50% of the snaps (65%). Even Lotulelei only played 47% through all 16 games. It’s probably too much to expect Oliver to play more than half the snaps as a rookie, whether he starts or not, but he’ll certainly play a big role.


Round 2 (38th overall)

  • Cody Ford - OL - Oklahoma

This is a really hard projection because of the many different combinations the Bills can decide to use on the offensive line, and because Ford can play either tackle or guard. Bills general manager Brandon Beane not only drafted him in the second round, he moved up to do it. He really wanted Ford and had a high grade on him. After the draft, Beane said Ford will start out at right tackle, compete for a spot there, then see what happens. The question right now is, "who is he competing with?" Is it free agent acquisition Ty Nsekhe? Or does Nsekhe move to the left side and compete with Dion Dawkins? If that happens, does Dawkins factor in on the right? What about LaAdrian Waddle? He can play both left and right tackle, and if Ford doesn’t win the right tackle spot, does he immediately compete for a guard position? I think somehow, some way, Ford starts Week 1 at the New York Jets, and if not, is the sixth offensive lineman and finds his way into the starting-five at some point during the season.


Round 3 (74th overall)

  • Devin Singletary - RB - Florida Atlantic

When Singletary was selected with a Day 2 pick, many fans and media immediately jumped to the conclusion that LeSean McCoy would be traded or cut before training camp, something some have felt for a while, anyway. I haven’t and still don’t. I’d be surprised if McCoy isn’t on the roster when camp opens. He’ll be the penciled-in starter that first day, too. However, that’s when things could start to change. Singletary and likely future Hall of Famer Frank Gore will not only compete for the No. 2 role behind McCoy, but be right there nipping at his heels if Shady shows that his drop-off last season was due to more than just the offensive line and quarterback struggles. Although he doesn’t have the same home run ability McCoy has (or had?), Singletary is very similar in the way he runs - very shifty with incredible vision. He’s a natural replacement at some point. I just don’t see that point coming just yet. The third round pick will make the roster, of course, but it will be wait-and-see each week as far as if he’s active or not, and may depend on any special teams value he can bring to the table, weekly game plan against each opponent, and any injuries to the guys in front of him. Once he does get his chance however, I think Singletary has the kind of talent that could make it hard for the coaching staff to keep him off the field.


Round 3 (96th overall)

  • Dawson Knox - TE - Mississippi

Knox has a chance to be a really good tight end in the NFL. He displays all the traits; 6’ 4”, 254-pounds, athletic, good hands, and the ability to block. What more could you want? Well, experience and production. Knox had only 65 catches for 605 yards in two years as a regular at Ole Miss. He didn’t even score a touchdown, but he played on a team that didn’t throw to the tight end all that much to begin with. On top of that, the team was loaded at wide receiver with guys like D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and DeMarkus Lodge. Knox wasn’t expected or asked to contribute very much as a pass catcher. Before free agency, the Bills’ tight end room was super thin, with Jason Croom as the only one on the entire roster. After free agency and the draft, they suddenly have five players, adding all-around tight end Tyler Kroft, converted offensive lineman Jake Fisher, and fellow draft pick Tommy Sweeney from Boston College. One truth is, Knox may very well be the most talented of the entire group. The other truth is he’s still learning the position and needs a lot more development. He’ll probably fit into a special teams role this year with an occasional chance to show his skills as a tight end, both blocking and catching. From there, what he does with those chances will determine how many more he gets.


Round 5 (147th overall)

  • Vosean Joseph - LB - Florida

The Bills’ three starting linebacker spots are set; Matt Milano on the weakside, Lorenzo Alexander on the strong side, with Tremaine Edmunds in the middle. After that, there are questions about depth - and opportunity - for players like Joseph. Julian Stanford and Corey Thompson both got chances to play last year due to injuries to Edmunds and Milano, respectively, and both contributed on special teams. Deon Lacey, who was Alexander’s primary backup, actually led the entire roster in percentage of special teams snaps, and the team signed veteran Maurie Alexander to compete for a linebacker spot and special teams role. These are the players Joseph will be competing with at training camp. It’s hard to see a fifth round pick getting cut, so even if Joseph doesn’t beat any of them out right away, the coaching staff will probably find a spot for him on the roster, keep him inactive on game days, and develop him until he’s ready to play. Best-case scenario is that Joseph wins a primary backup linebacker spot and is ready to go when his name is called if the man in front of him goes down.

Round 6 (181st overall)

  • Jaquan Johnson - S - Miami (FL)

Even though he was taken in the sixth round, I see Johnson having a bigger role than all of the draft picks except for Oliver and Ford. That’s because his football intelligence, toughness, and leadership qualities make him ready-made to step onto an NFL field as a special teamer right away, and even as a safety who won’t make big mistakes. Of course, the Bills already have a terrific safety tandem in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, and between the two of them they hardly came off the field last year. That shouldn’t change. Johnson isn’t going to just rotate in with them. However, his unique blend of tackling and coverage skills, along with his football IQ, could land him on the field as a nickel safety, allowing Frazier and McDermott the flexibility to match him up according to game plan and personnel. 


Round 7 (225th overall)

  • Darryl Johnson - DE - North Carolina A&T

I’d give Johnson the least odds of actually making the final 53-man roster of any of the Bills’ eight draft picks. That’s not a knock on him or his game, but it’s hard to see where he can win a job in camp. He’s also making the biggest jump of any of these players, coming from the MEAC, which is in the FCS. Right now, he’s buried behind Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, Shaq Lawson, Eddie Yarbrough, Eli Harold, and Mike Love, and the team may still be in the market for finding even another end. However, Murphy and Love are currently the only defensive ends under contract beyond 2018. Johnson will be a project, but one that may work with a year on the practice squad, learning the ins-and-outs of the NFL game and developing as a pass rusher, then getting his shot next summer.


Round 7 (228th overall)

  • Tommy Sweeney - TE - Boston College

As with Knox, Sweeney will at least have a chance to make a dent in the tight end competition due to the lack of a true every down starter and what the roster currently looks like. I think the team wants someone to really step up and take hold of that role, but even if that doesn’t happen, there will probably be opportunity for all of them to show what they can do once training camp open at St. John Fisher. Sweeney isn’t the fastest or most athletic of the bunch, but he has great hands and will be super reliable in short-yardage as a pass catcher. He can also block. He doesn’t have the ceiling as a player Knox has, but he does have a lot more production and experience at the position, catching 99 passes in four years at Boston College. He may show up to camp with an early advantage on Knox, and that will be his way in the door as someone who can win a job. Ultimately, he’s probably either destined to be a practice squad candidate or make the very end of the roster, used as a short-yardage tight end, if active on game day.

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