As we step away on vacation, we'll provide a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:
Position: Defensive end
Draft need: Moderate
State of the position: This position has changed under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Hughes and Lawson figure to split playing time across from Williams in Schwartz's base 4-3 alignment, with Hughes expected to see significant playing time in sub packages. Lawson is a bit of a question mark, a tweener who doesn't have a well-defined role in the defense. He's too tall and lanky to be a stout run defender on early downs, while he lacks the pass-rushing skills of Hughes or Williams to be a force on passing downs. Lawson could see time as a linebacker but lacks the athleticism to play there full-time. General manager Doug Whaley has already indicated that Keith Rivers and Kiko Alonso are penciled in as outside linebackers.
Given Lawson's uncertainty and Hughes entering the final year of his contract -- and possibly set to cash in with another strong season -- it would make sense for the Bills to target defensive end in the draft. There's an outside chance that they could roll the dice and try to move up for Jadaveon Clowney or Khalil Mack, but the much more likely scenario is that they keep an eye out for a defensive end in the mid rounds. The ideal player would be around 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds with some potential as a pass rusher.
Sweet spot: Mid rounds.
Possible targets: Scott Crichton (Oregon State), Trent Murphy (Stanford), Chris Smith (Arkansas), James Gayle (Virginia Tech)