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NFL Draft 2017 Buffalo Bills: Top needs, suggested picks, current outlook

By
Frank Cooney, NFLDraftScout.com
The Buffalo Bills' signing of former Packer Micah Hyde will bolster the defense. File photo UPI/Jeffrey Phelps
The Buffalo Bills' signing of former Packer Micah Hyde will bolster the defense. File photo UPI/Jeffrey Phelps | License Photo

As they prepare for the April 27 start of the 2017 NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills are still hamstrung by their salary cap, but the door kept revolving at One Bills Drive with players coming and going during free agency.

As they target the No. 10 overall pick in the draft, the Bills still have two screaming needs - a legitimate sidekick at wide receiver for Sammy Watkins, and a cornerback.

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Head coach Sean McDermott, however, sent up some mixed signals at the league meetings at both positions. He said he believes the No. 2 receiver is already on the roster and that it would be a "fun" competition to watch in the off-season workouts and training camp. And as for cornerback, he sang the praises of Kevon Seymour, a 2016 sixth-round pick who impressed him in his film study of the team.

Meanwhile, the most important transaction was retaining quarterback Tyrod Taylor with a restructured contract that makes him a bargain in 2017. Not only is he taking a pay cut, but he is on a one-year prove-it deal because the Bills can escape the contract on the cheap after 2017.

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Otherwise, of the free agents the Bills signed, the biggest commitment is to safety Micah Hyde, who comes over from the Green Bay Packers on a five-year, $30 million contract. He moves into a young Buffalo secondary as the team released its two starters.

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Here is a closer look at where the Bills are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft.

THE BREAKDOWN

2016 finish: 3rd AFC East (7-9)

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STATISTICS

TOTAL OFFENSE: 354.1 (16th)

RUSHING: 164.4 (1st)

PASSING: 189.8 (30th)

TOTAL DEFENSE: 357.0 (19th)

RUSHING: 133.1 (26th)

PASSING: 223.9 (6th)

TEAM NEEDS

1. Wide receiver: After losing Robert Woods (Rams; $34M/5 yrs) and Marquise Goodwin (49ers; $6M/2 yrs), the Bills signed four middling free agents. Head coach Sean McDermott believes there is a starter among them, but that's a tough sell. Sammy Watkins needs help and the Bills should try to upgrade at the position.

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2. Cornerback: At least the Bills added a few new warm bodies at receiver, but cornerback still lacks depth in talent and numbers, adding only cornerback Leonard Johnson (Carolina). McDermott likes 2016 sixth-rounder Kevon Seymour, but he has to prove he is a starter and there is nobody to play nickel.

3. Quarterback: Tyrod Taylor is back, but if he fails to show tangible progress for a third year, the Bills can get out of his contract extension. Currently, the only backup on the roster is Cardale Jones, a 2016 fourth-rounder, so the Bills need another quarterback from somewhere.

KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 3)

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

LB Lorenzo Alexander: Unrestricted free agent; $5.95M/2 yrs, $1.1M SB/$4.1M guaranteed, $1M injury only at time of signing.

OL Ryan Groy: RFA tendered at $1.797M with no compensation); matched Rams offer of $5M/2 yrs, $3.5M guaranteed).

LB Ramon Humber: Potential UFA; $900,000/1 yr.

T Jordan Mills: UFA; $3.8M/2 yrs, $400K SB.

P Colton Schmidt: Potential RFA; terms unknown.

WR/KR Brandon Tate: UFA; $1.01M/1 yr, $80K SB.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

RB Joe Banyard: Not tendered as ERFA by Jaguars; terms unknown.

WR Philly Brown: Not tendered as RFA By Panthers; terms unknown.

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WR Jeremy Butler: Not tendered as ERFA by Chargers; $625K/1 yr.

DE Scott Crichton (waivers Vikings).

DE Ryan Davis: UFA Cowboys; $2.2M/2 yrs, $100K SB.

FB Patrick DiMarco: UFA Falcons; $8.4M/4 yrs, $2M SB/$4.8M guaranteed, $1.5M injury only at time of signing.

G Vlad Ducasse: UFA Ravens; $3.5M/3 yrs, $250K SB.

K Steven Hauschka: UFA Seahawks; $8.85M/3 yrs, $3M SB/$4M guaranteed.

WR Andre Holmes: UFA Raiders; $5.15M/3 yrs, $1.65M SB/$2.45M guaranteed.

S Micah Hyde: UFA Packers; $30.5M/5 yrs, $8M SB/$14M guaranteed, $3.7M injury only at time of signing.

CB Leonard Johnson: UFA Panthers; $855K/1 yr, $80 SB.

S Jordan Poyer: UFA Browns; $13M/4 yrs, $3.5M SB/$6M guaranteed, $1M injury only at time of signing.

FB Mike Tolbert: FA Panthers; $1.1M/1 yr.

PLAYERS LOST

LB Zach Brown: UFA Redskins; terms unknown.

K Dan Carpenter (released).

TE Gerald Christian (released).

WR Marcus Easley (released).

CB Stephon Gilmore: UFA Patriots; $65M/5 yrs, $18M SB/$40M guaranteed, $9M injury only at time of signing.

WR Marquise Goodwin: UFA 49ers; $6M/2 yrs, $2.5M SB/$4.45M guaranteed.

S Corey Graham (released).

WR Percy Harvin: UFA (retired).

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WR Justin Hunter: UFA Steelers; $855K/1 yr, $30K SB.

QB EJ Manuel: UFA Raiders; $800K/1 yr.

LB Lerentee McCray: UFA Jaguars; $2M/1 yr, $750,000 guaranteed.

CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (released).

LS Garrison Sanborn (released).

S Phillip Thomas (released).

S Aaron Williams (released/post-June 1 designation).

WR Robert Woods: UFA Rams; $34M/5 yrs, $15M guaranteed, $5M injury only at time of signing.

MOCK DRAFT

NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 10 overall).

Rob Rang (March 27 mock draft):

<Mike Williams, WR, Clemson.: With significant losses to both position groups in recent weeks, this selection is likely to be spent on either a wide receiver or a cornerback. Given the commitment made to re-signed quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the depth at cornerback this year, general manager Doug Whaley may like the idea of pairing the 6-foot-4, 218-pound Williams with his former Clemson teammate Watkins to give Taylor a pair of playmakers on the outside.

Dane Brugler (March 20 mock draft):

Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan. The Philly Brown signing helps depth, but Sammy Watkins needs a sidekick and Davis offers the size, athleticism and receiving traits to make an immediate impact.

Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?

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Based on the team's current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see NFLDraftScout.com's full mocks and ratings.

Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. TSX team insiders contributed to this article.

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