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Bills Today: Bills bolster defense in PFF mock draft

Posted Jan 22, 2018

Here's the Bills news of note for Jan. 22nd.

1 - Bills bolster defense in PFF’s mock draft
A plethora of experts have the Bills taking two defenders with their first-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Pro Football Focus is no exception, as they have Buffalo taking a linebacker and edge defender at 21st and 22nd overall.

PFF projects the Bills first pick in 2018 is LB, Roquan Smith, out of the University of Georgia. If Smith slips this far down, it seems like a steal for a team who’s starving for a middle LB. Many draft gurus, including Mel Kiper Jr. and Matt Miller, have Smith being a top-10 pick.

In his junior year at Georgia, he tallied 137 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, six and a half sacks, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble.

Here’s PFF’s take on the top LB prospect in this year’s draft.

The first linebacker off the board, Smith flies to the football against both the run and in coverage. He also has a knack for finishing plays, as he’s been one of the surest tacklers in the country over the last two-plus years (only 16 missed tackles on 251 career attempts). He’s a perfect fit for Buffalo’s zone-heavy defensive scheme.

Right after Smith, at 22nd overall, PFF has Buffalo picking edge defender Marcus Davenport. This would be another steal for the Bills, as he’s been viewed as a top-10 talent. Also, his speed off the edge would greatly benefit a team who ranked 29th in the NFL in sacks.

In four seasons at the University of Texas at San Antonio, he had 185 tackles, over 37 tackles for a loss, over 21 sacks, eight passes defended, six forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

Here’s what PFF likes about the 6-7 defender.

The Bills go defense once again, adding Davenport, who projects as a classic base defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. He uses his massive 6-foot-7 frame well and finished fourth overall among edge defenders with an 89.8 grade. He can move blockers in the run game and picked up nine sacks, six QB hits and 34 hurries on only 257 rushes last season.

It’s hard to say if the Bills will take two defenders in the first-round, but if Davenport and Smith are available at 21 and 22, it’d be hard denying them.

2 - This was Lorenzo’s most enjoyable season ever
Linebacker, Lorenzo Alexander, has played in four playoff games during his 11-year NFL career. However, none of those trips ended a 17-year postseason drought.

“This was probably the most fun in a year that I’ve had,” said Alexander on the John Murphy Show. “You know, getting to the playoffs.”

In his first playoff game since 2014, he tallied 10 tackles, two tackles for a loss, and one sack. Those are all single-game highs in the postseason for Alexander.

“This was probably the best playoff game, personally, that I’ve ever played from an individual perspective,” he said.

In his first three playoff games, prior to coming to Buffalo, Alexander only recorded a total of three tackles. He explained what he’s learned since those games.

“I think before I was younger. I think you have to learn to win in the playoffs, because it’s another step,” said Alexander. “I thought I got lost in that noise earlier in my career and at other times. That was really my message leading up to it, is don’t allow that noise to affect you in the way you play.”

Alexander practiced what he preached, as he put up his best playoff performance of his career. His 10 tackles and one sack was a team-high in Buffalo’s Wild Card game on Jan. 7. 

“I’m glad I learned from my mistakes and hopefully I get another opportunity to build on what I did this time,” said Alexander. “Hopefully we’re able to come back next year and have a repeat performance for getting in the dance and do much better and go much further.”

3 - Who are the NFL’s top free agents in 2018?
Elite players like Drew Brees and Le’Veon Bell are unrestricted free agents in 2018. Those two, among others, could be playing in another city next season.

Let’s take a look at the top UFAs.

At quarterback, there are three players who will be receiving a lot of attention this offseason. Those QBs are: Brees, Kirk Cousins, and Sam Bradford. Though Brees is almost certain to stay in New Orleans, it’s uncertain where Bradford and Cousins will end up.

Among the skilled positions, that list is highlighted by one running back, one tight end, and one wide receiver. Bell is the top RB, as he just played through his one-year, $12 million contract. If they wish, the Steelers have until Feb. 20, to franchise tag Bell, but he’s said he may retire if that happens. At TE, Jimmy Graham is the best available. He had the second-most receiving touchdowns this season with 10. And at WR, Terrelle Pryor is an interesting UFA. He erupted in 2016, earning a one-year, $6 million contract from the Redskins in 2017, but this past season was a disappointment for Pryor.

On the offensive line, the most notable names are: Luke Joeckel, Nate Solder, and Greg Robinson. Joeckel (G) is only 26-years-old, Solder (LT) is 29-years-old, and Robinson is the youngest of that trio at 25.

On the defensive side of the ball, specifically the defensive line, there’s a bunch of talent. On the interior of the line, Adrian Clayborn, Bennie Logan, and Dontari Poe are the most notable names. Also, Ezekiel Ansah and William Hayes are intriguing UFAs playing defensive end.

At linebacker, Nigel Bradham, Kevin Minter, and Tahir Whitehead are all available. Those three are all south of 30-years-old.

There’s some talent in the secondary, especially at cornerback. Prince Amukamara, Malcolm Butler, and Trumaine Johnson are some of the notable CBs. Though, there’s some solid depth at CB among the UFAs.

On March 12, clubs are permitted to enter contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become UFAs upon the expiration of their 2017 player contracts. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new team until 4:00 p.m. on March 14.

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