Make no mistake about it, this is going to be Rex Ryan's defense. He isn't going to mess around anymore with a mix of his scheme and the successful scheme run by Jim Schwartz before he got here. He learned his lesson and now he is building the defense the way he wants to. He got rid of Mario Williams and then rebuilt the front seven with three impact players in the first two days of the draft. Not only did they fill big needs but they did it without reaching. Doug Whaley may have been the man in front of the cameras but it is obvious that the head coach was calling the shots to get back to his history of rock solid defensive play.
Whaley said that the top two players on the board when they hit the clock at #19 were Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland and as it turns out they were able to get both of them. The fielded calls for the 19th pick, reportedly Dallas was looking to move up for Paxton Lynch, but with Lawson there they would have to be blown away to make a deal and they weren't. Ragland was free falling and the Bills targeted him looking for a trade partner throughout the 2nd round before making a deal with Chicago to move up the 8 spots to get their man. Going by the trade value chart a 4th round pick in this draft should have been enough but they had to give up next year's 4th as well. It was a heavy price but one worth paying to get two of the top front seven defenders on their board.
They didn't rest on their laurels and saw Jarran Reed still on the board and tried to trade back up to get him as well. The price was too high but they still wanted a defensive linemen to give them a triple threat to finish the retooling of a defensive line and linebacker corps that desperately needed it. They may have reached a bit here for Adolphus Washington but he, along with Lawson and Ragland, form a versatile threesome that they could move around to disguise coverages which Ryan loves to do. Ragland is a middle linebacker who might not cover as well but he can come off the field on third downs now that they have Lawson. Ragland can also move outside at times while Lawson will set the edge on early downs he can put his hand on the ground on obvious passing situations. Washington can line up at the nose or outside, his versatility will allow them to move Marcel Dareus around but more often this season. This will give Ryan the defense he envisioned when he was hired to take over the Bills.
While Washington was a good need pick I wouldn't have been upset if they took his college teammate Braxton Miller instead. He would have given them their Percy Harvin type of player. I do give Whaley and company credit for not reaching for a quarterback since they didn't have won graded that high. Many projected they would get Cardale Jones in the third round but props to them for being patient and getting him in the fourth round. When you take a quarterback it's always a crapshoot, when you take him in day three it's even more of a longshot that he will have a major impact for the team. So when you are taking a shot at a QB you might as well go with the one that has the most upside and that certainly is Jones. He is as raw as they come but with proper coaching they may be able to develop him into a solid NFL quarterback and he has the talent to be a starter in this league if the coaching and development goes well. That can't be said for the other quarterbacks who were still available at that time.
For the final three picks the Bills looked for guys with unique skills and upside to fill in holes in the depth chart while hoping they can help with special teams. The Bills took a running back named Williams for the 2nd straight year in round five. Jonathan Williams was solid in two years of split duty at Arkansas before missing all of last year with torn ligaments in his foot. The team doctors feel he is 100% recovered and ready to play, he could be a diamond in the rough. The Bills went for world class speed to add competition to the wide receiver spot with the pick of Kolby Listenbee who can stretch the field nicely but is raw. They closed the draft with their second sixth round pick in Kevon Seymour, someone we had mocked to the Bills in that round.
The one qualm with the late round picks is none of them really have much special teams experience and they will need to excel at them to make the team. The Bills really seemed to hit a homerun in this draft with the quality of the prospects they drafted at positions of need. Coach Ryan will no longer have any excuses if his defense under performs. He got the horses in the stable he wanted and now he must mold them into a group that will terrorize offenses around the league.