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NFL Draft Review: Bills go all-in with Watkins in AFC East

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The Sports Network
5/14/2014 12:58:31 PM
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Buffalo Bills

1 (4) - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson; 2 (44) - Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama; 3 (79) - Preston Brown, ILB, Louisville; 4 (109) Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke; 5 (153) - Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor; 7 (221) - Randell Johnson, OLB, Florida Atlantic; 7 (237) - Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami

Top Picks Analysis: Buffalo was very active in an attempt to help speed up the development of second-year quarterback EJ Manuel.

Bills GM Doug Whaley proved to be bold, trading up five spots to get one of the four real blue-chip players in the draft, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins at No. 4 overall. The problem is they gave up a ton to do it, surrendering next year's first-round pick to Cleveland in order to jump up five spots.

"You have a young quarterback in EJ Manuel; a talented kid. Now they want to surround him with a weapon, and they went and the premier wide receiver in this draft," NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock said.

Whaley also attempted to sure up things in front of Manuel by landing Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio in the second round before addressing defense in the third by landing Louisville inside linebacker Preston Brown, who should serve as the backup in the middle to the newly-signed Brandon Spikes.

Best Value Pick: Kouandjio is a comparable talent to D.J. Fluker, who went No. 11 overall in the 2013 draft. Concerns over the big man's knee sent him tumbling a bit so getting a talent like Kouandjio at a need position with the 44th pick is the definition of great value.

"Kouandjio slipped to the second round mostly because of a knee injury and the rumors surrounding it. He is a big, powerful tackle; think Phil Loadholt from Minnesota," Mayock said. "He's so long that not many can get by him in pass protection."

Questionable Calls: With or without Watkins most believe Buffalo won't be contending for a playoff spot in 2014 so giving up next year's first-round choice could prove to be very painful next year.

Summary: Whaley also traded veteran receiver Stevie Johnson to the San Francisco 49ers for an undisclosed 2015 draft choice and acquired Philadelphia running back Bryce Brown for a future conditional mid-round draft pick.

Moving Johnson was expected once Watkins was in the fold but acquiring Brown, a pure talent with fumbling issues, for a meaningful pick when you already have CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson on the depth chart was a head-scratcher.

Anytime you get a player like Watkins there is plenty of good in the draft but there were just too many questionable moves surrounding the acquisition to call it a home run.

FINAL GRADE: B-

Undrafted rookie free agent signings: DT Damien Jacobs, Florida; DB Deon Broomfield, Iowa State; CB Darius Robinson, Clemson; LB Darrin Kitchens, Florida; S Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt; OL Jimmy Gaines, Miami; DB Derek Brim, Buffalo

Miami Dolphins

1 (19) - Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee; 2 (63) - Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU; 3 (6) Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State; 4 (125) - Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty; 5 (155) - Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia; 5 (171) - Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana; 6 (190) - Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina; 7 (234) - Terrence Fede, DE, Marist

Top Pick Analysis: Miami general manager Dennis Hickey developed tunnel vision in his first draft, reaching for Tennessee offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James with the 19th overall pick.

James was given a second- to third-round grade by most and there were probably 30 to 40 players left on the board who project as better players than James on the professional level.

Hickey settled down in the second round and was able to get talented LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry, a strong route runner with tremendous hands.

In the third Miami went back to the offensive line with North Dakota State project Billy Turner, a raw player with a solid upside.

Best Value Pick: Fifth-round linebacker Jordan Tripp of Montana can really run and should be an elite special-teamer at the bare minimum.

Questionable Calls: Clearly offensive tackle was a need position for the Dolphins but prioritizing need over talent at No. 19 overall is a very poor decision. The names picked directly behind James were Brandin Cooks, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and Johnny Manziel. In a game of who doesn't belong? James sticks out like a sore thumb.

Summary: Hickey's self-described analytics approach produced some very strange results. Either he is the smartest guy in the room or he's in over his head.

FINAL GRADE: C-

Undrafted rookie free agent signings: QB Brock Jensen, North Dakota State; CB Steven Clarke, Vanderbilt; DT Curtis Porter, Miami; DT Anthony Johnson, LSU; WR Rantavious Wooten, Georgia; OT David Hurd, Arkansas; S Demetrius Wright, USC; TE/FB Gator Hoskins, Marshall; DL Shayron Green, Miami; OL Evan Finkenberg, Arizona State; DE Trevor Mims, USF; CB Deion Belue, Alabama; DT Garrison Smith, Georgia; WR Ryan Lankford, Illinois; P Stephen Clark, Auburn; LB Tariq Edwards, Virginia Tech; OT Gasten Gabriel, Southeastern Louisiana; OLB Derrell Johnson, East Carolina; C Tyler Larsen, Utah State; G Devointe Wallace, New Mexico State; RB Damien Williams, Oklahoma; LB Andrew Wilson, Missouri; K Anthony Fera, Texas; OLB Marcus Thompson, Rutgers

New England Patriots

1 (29) - Dominique Easley, DT, Florida; 2 (62) - Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois; 4 (105) Bryan Stork, OC, Florida State; 4 (130) - James White, RB, Wisconsin; 4 (140) - Cameron Fleming, OT, Stanford; 6 (179) - Jon Halapio, OG, Florida; 6 (198) - Zach Moore, DE, Concordia; 6 (206) - Jemea Thomas, CB, Georgia Tech; 7 (244) Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan

Top Picks Analysis: The Patriots gambled and selected Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley with the 29th overall pick.

Easley is a top-10 talent with a history of significant knee problems playing a position which demands he carries a lot of weight on his 6-foot-2 frame. Easley tore both of his ACLs during his time in Gainesville, Fla., most recently damaging the ACL and meniscus in his right knee last September, cutting short was shaping up as a monster season for the Staten Island, N.Y., native.

Easley has always shown the kind of quick, active hands that are a staple of three-technique stars in the NFL and despite being "undersized" at 288 pounds has always been able to hold his own against the run thanks to impressive core and lower-body strength.

"He was a top 30 pick until he tore his ACL in September," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "He's quick and explosive. A lot of people felt like he was going to drop because of the ACL. This is a typical Bill Belichick pick. The rest of the league discounted his talent, but he'll be in training camp. The Patriots needed defensive linemen and this kid is gifted."

In the second round New England may have invested in the heir to Tom Brady's throne in Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady still has plenty of shelf life left but he is 36 and current backup Ryan Mallett will likely be moving on sooner rather than later.

"This kid's got a quick release, good arm and is very athletic," Mayock said of Garoppolo. "Tom Brady, at his age, and Ryan Mallett's uncertain status forces this pick. This is an insurance policy for an unknown future."

Best Value Pick: Offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, the team's fourth-round pick from Stanford, fits very well into what the Patriots do offensively and could develop into a future starter on the right side of the offensive line.

Questionable Calls: Remember it isn't about one knee injury with Easley, we are at two and counting. If the Pats wanted help on the defensive line they could have looked at another player with an extremely high ceiling and no real injury history, RaShede Hageman.

Summary: Call this the risk/reward draft for New England. They could hit it big with Easley and Garoppolo or end up with nothing.

Final Grade: B-

Undrafted rookie free agent signings: TE Tyler Beck, Bowling Green; RB Roy Finch, Oklahoma; DL Micajah Reynolds, Michigan State; LB James Morris, Iowa; DB Travis Hawkins, Delaware; TE Justin Jones, East Carolina; DL Deylan Buntyn, N.C. State; OLB Cameron Gordon, Michigan; LS Tyler Ott, Harvard; TE Asa Watson, N.C. State; DT Seali'i Espensa, UCLA; WR Ja-Mes Logan, Ole Miss; RB Stephen Houston, Indiana; LB Deontae Skinner, Mississippi State; CB Malcolm Butler, West Alabama; S Jeremy Deering, Rutgers; LB Cameron Gordon, Michigan

New York Jets

1 (18) - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville; 2 (49) - Jace Amaro, TE, Texas A&M; 3 (80) - Dexter McDougle, CB, Maryland; 4 (104) - Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma; 4 (115) - Shaq Evans, WR, UCLA; 4 (137) - Dakota Dozier, OT, Furman; 5 (154) - Jeremiah George, ILB, Iowa State; 6 (195) - Brandon Dixon, CB, Northwest Missouri State; 6 (209) - Quincy Enunwa, WR, Nebraska; 6 (210) - IK Enemkpali, DE, Louisiana Tech; 6 (213) - Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson; 7 (233) - Trevor Riley, OLB, Utah

Top Picks Analysis: Cornerback seemed like the bigger need for the Jets but John Idzik and Rex Ryan couldn't pass up Louisville safety Calvin Pryor with the 18th overall pick.

An old school, seek-and-destroy safety, Pryor is a little bit better in coverage than he gets credit for and a lot of scouts have described him as a bigger Bob Sanders.

If the second round New York added to its improved playmaking unit on offense by selecting Texas A&M tight end Jace Amaro, who is more of a glorified slot receiver in the mold of Aaron Hernandez than a traditional "Y."

"I like this pick a lot for the Jets as they try to fortify their offensive firepower," NFL Network draft analyst Charles Davis said. "(Amaro) is a physical route runner. He gets into seams very well. Once he catches the ball, he becomes an excellent ball carrier."

Rex finally got his corner in the third round when Idzik tabbed Maryland's Dexter McDougle, who isn't very big but runs pretty well.

Best Value Pick: Shaq Evans, a fourth-round wide receiver out of UCLA, has impressive size and solid hands. He could develop into a solid possession receiver who can work the middle of the field and prove to be a chain-mover.

Questionable Calls: McDougle has a shoulder problem and was rated as a late- round pick by most. His ceiling as a player is likely a sub-package slot option.

Summary: The top two picks were very good and things tapered off a bit from there.

FINAL GRADE: B

Undrafted rookie free agent signings: DT Kerry Hyder Jr, Texas Tech; OT Tevon Conrad, Saginaw Valley State; LB Nick Dimarco, William Penn; LB Steele Divitto, Boston College; OT Brent Qvale, Nebraska; DE Zach Thompson, Wake Forest; K Michael Palardy, Tennessee; FB Chad Young, San Diego State; WR Jermaine Jones, St. Augustine; DL Anthony Grady, Missouri State; WR Terrence Miller, Arizona; WR DeMario Bennett, Coastal Carolina

Sammy Watkins (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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