At No. 22, the Bills may have plenty of options at needy positions

April 23, 2018 - 11:51 pm

So much talk has been focused around the Buffalo Bills moving up from the No. 12 pick in this week’s NFL Draft that not enough discussion has been devoted to pick No. 22, which they also own. Granted, many people, myself included, have widely assumed that pick would be included as part of any trade up, especially for a quarterback, leaving them with only one first round pick, anyway.

But let’s say the Bills do draft a quarterback with their first pick, but however it happens (trade or not), they keep that second first round pick, No. 22. Now with his potential franchise quarterback in place and still owning a first round pick, the possibilities really open up for general manager Brandon Beane.

Trying to take into account the group of players that will most likely be gone by the time they're on the clock again, here’s a list of four players who could potentially be available and a fit for the Bills:

  • Leighton Vander Esch - Linebacker - Boise State

Vander Esch could be right out of central casting when it comes to what Beane and head coach Sean McDermott like in football players both on and off the field. He played multiple sports at high levels in high school, can play all three downs, is good in coverage, and plays tough. He was also a team captain for the Broncos. With the departure of Preston Brown via free agency, he’d most likely be penciled in to start right away at middle linebacker with his former Boise State teammate Tanner Vallejo backing him up, and he could immediately help the Bills defense against both the run and the pass. However, Vander Esch only has one year of starting experience and still needs to fill out his 6’ 4”, 256-pound frame more in order to get stronger and be able to get off blocks better. He’ll probably go through some struggles early on in his career if he’s asked to start right away, but most believe his ceiling is extremely high.

  • Rashaan Evans - Linebacker - Alabama

Evans is an elite athlete with speed, explosiveness, and the ability to go sideline-to-sideline as good as any prospect in this class. At 6’ 3” and 232-pounds, he most likely won’t play middle linebacker in a 4-3 system at the NFL level, which is what the Bills need, but he may be too good of an overall player to pass up if he’s on the board at No. 22. He should be a natural weakside (WILL) backer in that scheme, so if the Bills took him, they’d have to either slide Matt Milano over to MIKE or SAM. He’ll be able to rush the passer and allow defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to get creative. Evans played behind a very good defensive line at Alabama that ate up offensive linemen and allowed him to make plays all over the field. That won’t be the case at the next level and he’s going to have to be better at seeing things a little bit quicker.  


  • Mike McGlinchey - Offensive Tackle - Notre Dame

Some teams may see McGlinchey as their future franchise left tackle. But that may be expecting too much from him, or take longer than they hope. Although he has and can play both, he’s considered better on the right side and that should be where he fits best in the NFL. That means he would fit right in with the Bills since they already have Dion Dawkins on the left and are still looking for a consistent starter on the right. McGlinchey is a former tight end, so he has very good athleticism and feet for a tackle, but there’s some concern that he will have trouble against NFL power pass rushers unless he gets stronger in his lower half.

  • Da’Ron Payne - Defensive Tackle - Alabama

Remember that terrific Alabama defensive line I referenced above? Payne was a huge part of that, both figuratively and literally. He’s 6’ 2”, 311-pounds and extremely powerful. He’s an anchor in the middle of a defensive line, hard to move, and a very good run stopper. He can play nose tackle in a 3-4 or defensive tackle in a 4-3, which is where he’d be in the Bills defense. Of course the Bills just signed Star Lotulelei and Kyle Williams is back for another year, but with the way Sean McDermott rotates players on the defensive front, Payne would certainly be a contributor right away. He also comes with a reputation for the type of work ethic, effort, and leadership McDermott and Beane love bringing into their team.

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