Who might Bills target in the NFL Draft? Mock offseason, Part 2


The Buffalo Bills’ flurry of roster cuts made it clear they want to get younger and cheaper as they look to bring in the next wave of players with Josh Allen as the franchise quarterback. General manager Brandon Beane always has believed firmly in the NFL Draft, which is the emphasis of Part 2 of our annual mock offseason.

With free agency and re-signing done during Part 1, the focus turns to the draft. The Bills could do only a little in free agency because of their cap space, but what can they add in the draft to keep their winning window open for years to come?

And don’t forget about post-draft free agency, which might be an underrated piece of the Bills’ offseason. We included it in this exercise as well.

As a reminder, the roster below was constructed after free agency and heading into this mock draft. You can find all the steps, including restructures, mock contracts, potential cap hits and a running log of cap space, in Part 1, which got us to this point of the exercise.

Pre-draft mock offseason depth chart

Screen Shot 2024 03 07 at 4.13.38 PM 1
*Yellow is a re-signing, blue is an external free agent.

2024 NFL Draft

Bills’ 2024 mock offseason picks, pre-draft (11): Nos. 28, 60, 127, 133, 143, 159, 162, 188, 199, 203, 248

Note: Draft simulation completed using Pro Football Focus, controlling only the Bills for the exercise.

Bills 2024 mock offseason: Picks 1-18

Pick Team Player

1

QB Caleb Williams

2

QB Drake Maye

3

WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

4

WR Malik Nabers

5

TE Brock Bowers

6

CB Quinyon Mitchell

7

WR Rome Odunze

8

QB Jayden Daniels

9

DL Johnny Newton

10

T Joe Alt

11

DL Byron Murphy II

12

CB Cooper DeJean

13

CB Nate Wiggins

14

T Taliese Fuaga

15

T Troy Fautanu

16

CB Terrion Arnold

17

EDGE Jared Verse

18

EDGE Dallas Turner

Trade!

The Bills trade Nos. 28, 60, 127 and 203 to the Los Angeles Rams for Nos. 19, 83 and 195.

You didn’t think in an offseason with little cap space to work with, and having 11 picks total, meant Beane would sit and wait for his turn, did you? Even with the amount of roster shedding the Bills did this week, there likely is not enough room for 11 rookies on the 53-man roster. So we have Beane doing what Beane often does on draft day: trading up for a player he’s excited about. Whether we agree is a different discussion. But the tendency is clear, and he might look at the first round as his best chance to crack open that Super Bowl window.

Buffalo has three picks in the fifth round, which can help it get up earlier in the order in the fourth round and replace the late fourth-round pick it’s moving in this projected deal. Basically, the Bills drop 23 spots with their second pick and lose only a fourth-round pick to move up in the first and sixth rounds, getting a player who could turn into a core building block with their top pick — especially when there seems to be a drop-off from the player they’re moving up for to the next one at the same position.

On to the pick!

The pick at No. 19: WR Brian Thomas Jr., LSU

The draft was about to get into an alley of teams that could go for a wide receiver, which stands out as a potential necessity of a Day 1 or 2 pick for this roster build. The likelihood that Thomas would be on the board at the Bills’ original selection is not high, especially after his NFL Scouting Combine performance. Thomas combines all the skills the Bills want most out of their new starting X-receiver. He has an outstanding size and speed combination. He’s strong on the ball and plays to his size. He can take the top off a split-safety defense. He wins underneath. He shows excellent effort as a blocker. He can play inside to unlock some more scheme versatility. And best yet, still only 21, he has the potential to become a team’s top receiver.

Thomas is the type of player who will excite Beane enough for a move up like this one. And don’t forget what’s likely sitting in the back of the GM’s brain. The Bills sat around a few picks too long, thinking they could wait and make a small move up for cornerback Trent McDuffie in 2022, only to see their archrival, the Kansas City Chiefs, come out of nowhere to trade up for him. The Chiefs are in the wide receiver market this year, too, in case Beane needs any other motivation. I could even see the Bills trading up higher than No. 19. For this mock, though, it’s Thomas at No. 19 without a second thought.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler on Thomas: A former basketball recruit, Thomas has unique body movements for his size (before and after the catch), with focus and coordination to make plays above the rim. He consistently gets on top of coverage with quick acceleration, although crisper cuts and improved leverage will help him create better separation out of breaks. Thomas took his game to another level in 2023, posting an FBS-best 17 touchdown grabs, the most by a Power 5 receiver since DeVonta Smith (23) in 2020.

2024 Bills mock offseason: Picks 19-59

Pick Team Player

19

WR Brian Thomas Jr.

20

C Jackson Powers-Johnson

21

T Olumuyiwa Fashanu

22

T Amarius Mims

23

EDGE Laiatu Latu

24

S Tyler Nubin

25

T Graham Barton

26

T JC Latham

27

WR Ladd McConkey

28

LB Payton Wilson

29

WR Adonai Mitchell

30

T Tyler Guyton

31

CB Kool-Aid McKinstry

32

WR Troy Franklin

33

T Jordan Morgan

34

QB Bo Nix

35

C Zach Frazier

36

CB Mike Sainristil

37

EDGE Chris Braswell

38

CB T.J. Tampa

39

EDGE Adisa Isaac

40

EDGE Darius Robinson

41

DL Braden Fiske

42

QB J.J. McCarthy

43

EDGE Chop Robinson

44

QB Michael Penix Jr.

45

CB Ennis Rakestraw Jr.

46

TE Ja’Tavion Sanders

47

WR Ricky Pearsall

48

S Javon Bullard

49

CB Kamari Lassiter

50

T Kingsley Suamataia

51

WR Jermaine Burton

52

S Jaden Hicks

53

DL Kris Jenkins

54

WR Roman Wilson

55

WR Ja’Lynn Polk

56

WR Xavier Worthy

57

WR Keon Coleman

58

EDGE Jonah Elliss

59

LB Edgerrin Cooper

The pick at No. 83: EDGE Austin Booker, Kansas

For those waiting for the first big defensive end piece of the mock offseason, here it is. The Bills take a big swing with the selection of Booker, an inexperienced but high-ceiling pass rusher. Booker has the height, length, speed and play strength the Bills covet at the position, plus room to add to his frame and get closer to the 250-260-pound mark they like. He would also be a right defensive end in the Bills defense, which complements Greg Rousseau’s skill set well. Booker was productive in his one year at Kansas, and despite a lack of college snaps, he shows as high of an upside as you’ll get at this point in the draft.

The Bills also aren’t afraid to take a big swing on a defensive end with a low snap count. According to Pro Football Focus, Rousseau had only 545 defensive snaps in college and has been the most successful pick the Bills have made at the position under Beane. At this point on Day 2, there won’t be a perfect prospect. The Bills have tried the safe route at defensive end before on Day 2, and the selections of A.J. Epenesa and Boogie Basham didn’t quite live up to what they had hoped for. This time, it’s all about potential and high upside. They’ll have at least two players — Rousseau and Von Miller — to work ahead of Booker for 2024 as he learns and gets bigger, and Booker can learn from Miller for an entire season with the goal of starting in 2025.

Brugler on Booker: With only 505 defensive snaps in his college career (95 percent of those coming in 2023), Booker is still a work in progress and needs to develop his play strength and rush plan. But he is tall, long and twitched up with enough promising flashes. For a patient team willing to invest in his potential, Booker will be an interesting developmental prospect.

We’ll go straight to the selections for rounds 4 through 7. Picks remaining: Nos. 133, 143, 159, 162, 188, 195, 199 and 248.

Trade!

The Bills trade Nos. 133, 159 and 248 to the New York Giants for No. 106.

The pick at No. 106: S Cole Bishop, Utah

The Ryan Bates trade armed the Bills with three fifth-round picks, which allows them to move up into the early fourth round. So in this trade, the Bills move up 25 spots, ditch only a fifth- and late seventh-round pick and still hold eight total selections in their pocket. The move up was to get what could become their strong safety of the future in Bishop. With his ability to tackle and win near the line of scrimmage against the run, he seems well suited to potentially take over the Jordan Poyer role while also holding his own in coverage. Taylor Rapp was a bit of a disappointment last season and essentially has only a one-year commitment from the team, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility for Bishop to unseat Rapp at some point in 2024.

Brugler on Bishop: Utah’s defensive scheme demands versatility from its safeties, and Bishop was up for the challenge with his ability to play all over the field. No matter where he starts at the snap, he is always rallying to the football and covers a ton of ground. Some safeties play fast and others play controlled — Bishop does both.

The pick at No. 143: DT Tyler Davis, Clemson

The Bills need a one-technique defensive tackle to develop and serve as the primary backup to DaQuan Jones, and Davis fits those parameters. The Bills don’t need a massive human being at one-technique, just one who plays big and can occupy blockers. Even though he’s slightly undersized at 301 pounds, Davis can make up for it with his strength.

The pick at No. 162: CB M.J. Devonshire, Pittsburgh

With Tre’Davious White and Siran Neal out of the picture, the Bills have room for a sixth cornerback on the 53-man roster. Devonshire would enter the equation, and the Bills would need to figure out where he’s best, whether it’s on the boundary or at nickel corner. But with an arm length of nearly 33 inches, it will certainly put him in consideration on the outside to begin things. The Bills have the roster room for either, especially one who could do both.

The pick at No. 188: WR Anthony Gould, Oregon State

With a good wide receiver class, it makes a lot of sense to double dip and try to find a fourth- or fifth-receiver type on a rookie deal. Gould is small (5 feet 8, 174 pounds), but his speed and run after catch are a big part of the draw. He could provide some punt-returning function as he learns the offense. At worst, he’s a developmental player to keep on the 53-man roster as a weekly healthy scratch. At best, he could fill the Isaiah McKenzie, Deonte Harty role as the fourth or fifth receiver.

The pick at No. 195: C Hunter Nourzad, Penn State

The Bills have room for a developmental offensive lineman, specifically at center and offensive tackle, but a young center is something they have yet to draft under Beane. Nourzad wouldn’t be depended on to be anything other than a healthy scratch every week in year one, with the hopes that he, like several other late-round centers, could massively outplay his draft slot.

The pick at No. 199: LB Ty’Ron Hopper, Missouri

The Bills need a linebacker to fill out their roster with some special teams juice, and that’s what Hopper can help provide, even in his first season. It’s all about selecting players late who could make the team outright, and a fifth linebacker has a strong case.

Post-draft cap adjustment

Some of the trades shifted part of the team’s Top-51 contracts and took a small amount of cap space from where they were before the draft. Quintin Morris would be re-added to the Top 51, taking the place of No. 129, which was traded away during the mock draft.

Cap space before the draft: -$298,000
Cap space after the draft: -$547,000

Tre’Davious White cap adjustment

As of June 1, the Bills will have access to all of their funds gained from White’s post-June 1 designation. That will add the full $10.21 million in savings to their 2024 cap sheet, which could pave the way for a second wave of free agency.

Adjusted cap space after June 1: $9.66 million

Post-June 1 free-agent moves

Sign DE Jadeveon Clowney

Terms: One year, $8 million

The Bills struck gold last offseason when they brought in Leonard Floyd during spring workouts and he wound up being one of their best pass rushers in 2023. The Bills will hope to do the same with Clowney, who would walk in and become the starting right defensive end opposite Rousseau, pushing Miller into a rotational role and helping Booker, the second-round rookie, have a condensed role as the fourth pass rusher on the depth chart. Clowney has a history of waiting until later in the offseason to sign with a team. He did so with the Tennessee Titans in 2020, signing in September, and then with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021, waiting until mid-August. At 31 years old, he would be an instant and short-term boost to a defensive end group that needs one more piece.

Cap space after the move: $2.65 million
(TE Quintin Morris removed from Top 51)

Sign RB Nyheim Hines

Terms: One year, $1.33 million ($200,000 signing bonus, $1.19 million cap hit due to veteran salary benefit)

The Bills said Hines was in their plans this season, and this is just the return of a potential backup runner to James Cook and a special teams piece. The deal would be mostly guaranteed to ensure his place on the roster.

Cap space after the move: $2.49 million
(DE Kingsley Jonathan removed from Top 51)

Sign OT Yosh Nijman

Terms: One year, $1.5 million

The Bills have an open spot for a ninth offensive lineman. Providing some insurance for the inexperienced Ryan Van Demark in the event of injury makes sense, and Nijman has plenty of experience in a zone-blocking scheme. Nijman would be a tackle only.

Cap space after the move: $1.94 million
(DT Eli Ankou removed from Top 51)

Sign G Sua Opeta

An athletic career backup, Opeta would be a guard only for the Bills and provide some protection for top interior reserve Alec Anderson, should he not make the progress the Bills are hoping to see. Opeta has played on the right and left side as a guard during his NFL career. The Bills could easily keep 10 offensive linemen this year, including Nijman, Opeta and the draft pick Nourzad.

Cap space after the move: $1.88 million
(WR Andy Isabella removed from Top 51)

Post-June 1 contract extension

LT Dion Dawkins

Dawkins had one of his best seasons in 2023, and with only a year left on his deal, the team faces a decision about his future. With how much he has meant to the organization and how well he played last season, it would be wise to lock in a short-term extension to keep him under contract throughout his prime. This new deal would be a restructure to his 2024 cap hit ($16.61 million) to lower that number to give them just enough room for the final 53-man roster with some breathing room ($14.28 million), and it would also lock in a two-year extension for $36 million with $18 million guaranteed. The new contract has a clear out in 2026 to save over $17 million on the cap, meaning this is merely a two-year pact in the event Dawkins’ production falls off during his age-31 season in 2025. Best-case scenario, Dawkins continues at his current level and the Bills have their franchise left tackle locked in for the next three years.

Dion Dawkins mock offseason contract

Year Base Salary Signing Bonus Previous Proration Roster Bonus Per Game Bonus Workout Bonus Cap Hit Dead Cap Cap Savings if cut

2024

$1,300,000

$3,000,000

$8,976,500

$500,000

$250,000

$250,000

$14,276,500

$38,039,500

-$23,763,000

2025

$8,000,000

$3,000,000

$5,381,500

$1,000,000

$500,000

$250,000

$18,131,500

$25,763,000

-$7,631,500

2026

$15,500,000

$3,000,000

$5,381,500

$1,000,000

$500,000

$250,000

$25,631,500

$8,381,500

$17,250,000

TOTALS

$24,800,000

$9,000,000

$19,739,500

$2,500,000

$1,250,000

$750,000

$58,039,500

Cap space after the move: $4.22 million

Bills final mock offseason depth chart

Screen Shot 2024 03 08 at 3.16.36 PM 1
*Yellow is a re-signing, blue is an external free agent and green is a rookie.

(Top photos of Austin Booker and Brian Thomas Jr.: Michael Wade and Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images)





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