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Need for DB help may be perfect timing for Bills

Posted Mar 5, 2017

In an offseason where Buffalo will likely need reinforcements at both cornerback and safety, their timing could not be better with the depth of talent at those two positions in the 2017 draft class.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott assured that Stephon Gilmore will reach the free agent market next week. Knowing the team’s top corner along with a depth corner in Corey White are likely to become free agents, Buffalo has a positional need on the boundary. With four free agents at the safety position and Aaron Williams’ playing future a question mark, safety will need to be addressed as well. Fortunately for the Bills the 2017 class offers a bumper crop of talent at both positions.

“The corner and safety class is the best I’ve ever seen,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.

“This is one of the few years where I can say that throughout the draft I can probably find you a defensive back later in the draft,” said NFL Network draft analyst Charles Davis. “It used to be after the first three rounds I was like, ‘I’m out. I can’t find anyone for you.’”

The general consensus is the cornerback and safety depth stretches all the way into day three where NFL clubs will be able to get prospects capable of contributing at both cornerback and safety.

“I had some coaches tell me the other night that they’re going to get a guy in the fifth round who would typically go in the second or third round,” Mayock said.

Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore is considered the best cover corner in the class, but there are a host other prospects that will come off the board in the first two days of the draft.

“As far as the corner situation is concerned, this is a great corner class,” Mayock said. “If you don't get one in the first round, you can come back in the second or third round and really help yourself.

“Twelve corners go in the first three rounds over the last five years. That’s the average. I’m getting into 17 or 18 names where I have first to third round grades on when I typically only have 12.

“It's so deep at corner. Where's Gareon Conley going to go from Ohio State? There is a kid named Ahkello Witherspoon, 6-3, out of Colorado. People are talking about him in the fourth round. He's a good football player. Damontae Kazee if they want a nickel. Cam Sutton. I can get through four rounds of quality corners, and I've never been able to say that before.”

The situation is much the same at safety where the talent stretches 15 deep and into day three of the draft. At the top is LSU’s Jamal Adams and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker, two players who each have a chance to go in the top 10 picks.

“I think Hooker is a little bit better centerfielder with a little bit more range and a little bit better man skills,” said Mayock in comparing him to Adams. “I think Adams is a little bit better thumper and a more consistent tackler, but he can still play in the back. Hooker is a little bit more fluid and athletic, but he doesn’t tackle as well as Adams.”

Beyond those top two prospects are a bunch of intriguing athletic options that offer versatility, so important in a league where safeties are being given more and more coverage responsibilities.

“Jabrill Peppers from Michigan is the next one after those top two, and he's more of an in-the-box safety slash nickel linebacker,” said Mayock. “He's just always around football, as is Budda Baker from Washington. Very similar. I think a guy that’s interesting to New England is Obi Melifonwu from Connecticut. He's 6-4, 219, and he's probably going to run sub-4.5, and if he runs in that range, I think teams are going to look at him as a corner and safety. And a really good football player that nobody talks about is Lorenzo Jerome of Saint Francis. I think he can play both safety positions, and he's really, really a good football player. Desmond King, who is a corner from Iowa that I think is going to be a nickel or safety. I like Kevin King from Washington who is a corner that can play some free safety.”

Buffalo has only six picks, and it’s possible they select defensive backs with a third of those selections whether they address corner or safety in free agency or not. Fortunately for them they could not have asked for a better collection of defensive back talent.