Demos: Buffalo Bills 1st-round targets

Khari Demos

Guess what day it is? Draft day!

Our favorite offseason football fest is back to kickoff the road to the 2021 NFL season. The Buffalo Bills are in a spot we haven't seen in decades, as they enter night one with the No. 30 overall pick.

Let's take a moment to be appreciative. With Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Tre'Davious White and company, Buffalo has a ready-made playoff roster that looks like it could get back to the AFC Championship game and beyond. Truly, the Bills can take a prospect that fits one of the draft's biggest cliches — "the best player available."

Personally, I believe Buffalo should prioritize defense. After back-to-back seasons as a top-three ranked defense, the unit dropped to 14th in 2020. Sean McDermott is a defensive minded coach as well, with three of his four first-round selections as a head coach being players on D.

Plus adding in the ascent of Allen to MVP runner-up, and the offense's explosion under Brian Daboll, the offense looks set for the most part.

So here are the players I believe general manager Brandon Beane may be leaning towards. I will admit, he is a bit of a wild card in terms of predicting, due to him trading picks in each draft that's been at the helm. So with these upcoming prospects, keep in mind that trade ups could be in play.

Azeez Ojulari, EDGE — Georgia

This long-armed hybrid can play outside linebacker and defensive end. Ojulari had impressive numbers to go along with a strong pro day, leading the SEC with 8.5 sacks and racking up 12.5 tackles for loss in 2020.

The former Bulldog posted an elite 90.0 PFF grade last season as well.

There's two reasons why I like Ojulari as a Bills fit. First, I think he's a talented enough player that he could come in and contribute in the same SAM linebacker role that A.J. Klein has in their defense. But also, he could be Jerry Hughes' long-term replacement.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 249 pounds at his pro day, Ojulari measures comparatively to Hughes. In a year where it seems like no EDGE player is considered the top dog, why not bring in an explosive guy with upside, who can also learn from soon-to-be 33 and 34 years old, respectively, in Hughes and Mario Addison?

Caleb Farley, CB — Virginia Tech

High risk, high reward right? The steal of the draft, in my opinion, will be the team willing to take a chance on the former Hokie. Drawing comparisons to Jalen Ramsey, Farley is a big and freakishly athletic corner back at 6-foot-2 and 197 pounds. According to scouts, he's been clocked as low as a 4.24 time in the 40-yard dash.

A physical man-to-man CB, the former high school quarterback was a 2019 first-team All-ACC selection, as he led the conference with 16 passes defended despite playing through injury. But that's where things shake up.

Although being considered by some to be the top corner in the draft, Farley is dealing with medical questions after a second back surgery since 2019. He was also a 2020 opt-out, due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Mix that in with the oddest offseason in history and what do you get? A prospect who could be falling. Reports are saying he could even drop out of the first round.

But with his talent, Buffalo's need for a man-to-man corner, as well as having the presence of White as its top CB, Farley would be a welcome addition as a No. 2 corner over Levi Wallace.

Travis Etienne, RB — Clemson

I know, another draft cliche — "you can't draft a running back in the first round." But this isn't just any back. The ACC's all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns, and total TDs, the do-it-all RB reminds me of a young Marshall Faulk.

A true home-run hitter, Etienne posted 17 games in his college career with a rush or reception that gained 40 or more yards. At 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds, the former Tiger ran a 4.40 at his pro day to go along with a 10-foot-8 broad jump and 33.5-inch vertical.

The Bills have taken Devin Singletary and Zack Moss in the past two drafts, but neither bring the speed Etienne possesses. Matt Breida could add that speed dynamic after signing with Buffalo this offseason, but he's been slowed down — literally and figuratively — missing seven games with injuries the past two years after a strong 2018 campaign.

I think Etienne brings in an element as a true playmaker whose shown to be a strong receiver as well, averaging 42.5 receptions and 510 receiving yards over the last two seasons. I'm not huge on taking RBs in the first round either, but considering where the Bills are picking, and the lack of blue-chip talent outside of the top 20, Etienne seems like a sure thing.

Jaelen Phillips, EDGE — Miami (Fla.)

Let's make this clear, Greg Rousseau is not the top Hurricane pass rusher coming out this year. Another player who has medical concerns, Phillips suffered injuries in 2017 and 2018 at UCLA, before sitting out of football in 2019 and resurfacing at the U in 2020.

Not only did he produce with 45 tackles, eight sacks and an interception last fall, the 6-foot-5, 256-pound defensive end dazzled at his pro day. The Redlands, California native ran a 4.56 40-time, recorded a 36-inch vert and a 10-foot-5 broad jump.

I think even more so than Ojulari, Phillips would be an immediate starter at the right DE slot over Addison. The problem is, will he fall late enough for the Bills to take? I think this brings into play one of the scenarios of a Beane trade up.

In my humble opinion, Phillips is the most complete EDGE player in this draft. So if Buffalo pulls something off to snag him, this could be another candidate for steal of the draft.

Sleeper: Creed Humphrey, OL — Oklahoma

The three-time All-American was a dominant center for the Sooners, but he's made it clear he can also play guard in the league. At 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds, Humphrey is the modern-day NFL offensive lineman personified.

Putting up top-five OL numbers in the vert (33 inches), bench press (29), broad jump (9-feet, 4-inches), 3-cone drill (7.54 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.46) at his pro day, this only added to Humphrey's tape after not allowing a sack over the last three seasons of his four-year career as an OU starter.

I think the former Sooner could be a plug-and-play guard if things don't pan out with Cody Ford at the RG slot. But he could also be an insurance policy for center Mitch Morse, whose battles with concussions have put his football career in jeopardy over the last few seasons.

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