Mike Rodak breaks down the 2016 Buffalo Bills draft class.
My take: The Bills hit on this one. They addressed a need and got great value in a player who wasn't expected to fall as far as No. 19. General manager Doug Whaley said Lawson will be an immediate starter opposite Jerry Hughes in what Whaley previously said this offseason will be more of a true 3-4 defense. Lawson is considered an excellent run defender who has room for growth as a pass-rusher. The Bills could use help in both categories after receiving lackluster play last season from Mario Williams, who is now with the Miami Dolphins.
First 18 picks shook out perfectly for Buffalo: Some mock drafts projected Lawson to be selected as high as the early teens. Many mocks had him off the board by No. 11, which was held by the Chicago Bears until they traded up Thursday night to No. 9 for Leonard Floyd. That trade and the subsequent nine picks, including some surprises -- such as Corey Coleman to Cleveland at No. 15 and Keanu Neal to Atlanta at No. 17 -- helped pave the way for Lawson to land in Buffalo. The Bills had surprising options for front-seven players at No. 19, and they left two top-ranked linebackers (UCLA's Myles Jack and Ohio State's Darron Lee) on the board to pick Lawson.
Lawson's shoulder a potential issue: After the Bills' selection, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that Lawson will need shoulder surgery that will sideline him for four to six months, although Lawson will "probably" put off the surgery until after the coming season. Lawson revealed later it was his right shoulder, and despite having the injury since his freshman year, it hasn't been an issue for him; he denied that he will need surgery. Whaley said, "The medical staff cleared him, said he could play. Now if something happens, it's gonna happen. But it's nothing that we're really worried about, or we wouldn't take him. We have complete faith in our medical staff and they signed off on him, so we're happy to have him."
The Clemson connection: It's been hard to miss coach Rex Ryan's love for Clemson. His son, Seth, is a walk-on for the school's football team. Rob Ryan, Rex's twin brother and now the Bills' assistant head coach/defense, will watch his son, Matthew, join Clemson this fall as a preferred walk-on. Rex Ryan has worn a Clemson helmet at a Bills news conference and adopted Dabo Swinney's motto of "all-in" for the Bills this offseason. Rex probably has as much orange in his closet as he does Bills blue and red. Lawson said Thursday night that Buffalo "feels like home" to him.
My take: The Bills paid a steep price to move up eight spots in the second round, giving up their No. 49 pick, their No. 117 pick (fourth round) and a 2017 fourth-rounder to select Ragland at No. 41. It was worth it. Ragland was widely considered a mid-to-late first-round pick, so selecting him in the early-to-mid second round is good value. Between Ragland and Lawson, the Bills have added two immediate starters to their front seven and addressed glaring needs on their defense after the departures of Mario Williams and Nigel Bradham.
Bills worked the phones Friday: Whaley said the Bills wanted Ragland so badly that they started calling every team in the second round, starting with the Browns at No. 32, looking for a trade partner to move up and select Ragland. They found an eventual match with the Chicago Bears at No. 41. Part of the reason Ragland might have slipped into the second round was an enlarged aorta, NFL Network reported this week, although Whaley said the Bills have medically cleared Ragland, and Ragland said on a conference call that a heart specialist told him that he is "fine."
Round 3, pick No. 80: Adolphus Washington,DT, Ohio State | Highlights
My take: This is another good pick as value aligns with need. Washington was a projected late Day 2 or early Day 3 pick who can provide depth at both 5-technique defensive end, 3-technique defensive tackle and 0-technique nose tackle in Ryan's multiple-front defense. After making the selection, Whaley said the Bills' defense has "improved tremendously," at least "on paper."
Washington faced charges in January: Washington was suspended by Ohio State for its Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame in January after being arrested in December for solicitation outside a Columbus, Ohio, motel. Washington pleaded guilty to the charge, completed a "John school" program, and had the charges dropped in February. Whaley on Friday night said Washington made "an unfortunate mistake" but added that he owned up to his mistake. Likewise, Washington, speaking with Buffalo reporters on a conference call Friday night, said he made a “mistake.”
Round 4, pick No. 139: Cardale Jones,QB, Ohio State | Highlights
My take: This was hardly an unexpected pick for the Bills, who needed to add another quarterback before the upcoming season. With starter Tyrod Taylor entering the final season of his contract and an extension far from imminent, and the team unlikely to pick up EJ Manuel's fifth-year option for 2017, the Bills were widely expected to add a young prospect at the position. It's hard to argue with Jones being the best quarterback on the board at No. 139 after Mississippi State's Dak Prescott was selected by the Dallas Cowboys at No. 135. This is a smart pick for the Bills, who have had a strong draft to this point.
Fifth quarterback drafted since Jim Kelly retired: Jones becomes the fifth quarterback that the Bills have selected since Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season, joining J.P. Losman (2004, first round), Trent Edwards (2007, third round), Levi Brown (2010, seventh round) and Manuel (2013, first round). None of those players have come anywhere close to becoming the Bills' next franchise quarterback, and 16 years after their last playoff appearance, the Bills are still, in some ways, looking for a replacement for Kelly. The team is encouraged about Taylor's progress but his contract situation leaves an element of uncertainty. Jones is a raw talent but his upside helps the Bills hedge their bets with Taylor. It was time for the Bills to draft another quarterback, and they did.
Round 5, pick No. 156: Jonathan Williams,RB, Arkansas | Highlights
My take: We're at the point in the draft where players selected are less certain to make the 53-man roster. Williams isn't a lock to make the Bills' opening-day roster, but if he does, he will add depth behind LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee. It has been a while since Jonathan Williams played in a live game; he missed all of last season with torn ligaments in his foot. Bills player personnel director Jim Monos said Saturday that he believes Williams would have been a third- or fourth-round pick if not for his injury.
Round 6, pick No. 192: Kolby Listenbee ,WR, TCU| Highlights
My take: At No. 192 overall, Listenbee isn't a lock to make the Bills' roster, but he has a chance to carve out a role at a position where there is little certainty. The loss of Chris Hogan as a restricted free agent to New England opened up the depth chart at the position, with Marquise Goodwin, Leonard Hankerson, Greg Salas, Jarrett Boykin, Greg Little and Dezmin Lewis already set to battle for a roster spot during training camp. Listenbee said on a conference call shortly after being drafted that he can be the fastest player in the NFL; Goodwin, an Olympic athlete, might have something to say about that.
Round 6, pick No. 218: Kevon Seymour,CB, Southern Cal| Highlights
My take: Seymour ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the combine, which was tied with Bills sixth-round pick Kolby Listenbee for eighth best among all 2016 combine participants. Seymour will be added to a mix at cornerback alongside veterans Mario Butler, Sterling Moore, Corey White and Javier Arenas. His best shot to make the 53-man roster will be as a fourth or fifth cornerback who carves out a role on special teams.