1. ESPN’s Mel Kiper predicts Bills go defense with No. 9 pick
ESPN football analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary going to the Bills with the ninth pick. Kiper previously chose Ole Miss wideout D.K. Metcalf in his mock draft 2.0 but chose Gary originally in his first mock draft. In his first mock draft before the combine, Kiper thought that Gary could be Kyle Williams’ replacement.
“In terms of Gary, yes you can put him in as a three technique,” Kiper said. “You hope he’s cut loose in the NFL and can be a guy who gets more sacks. He’s got a rare skill set. He was the number one player coming out of high school for a reason. He’s 277 pounds. He’s 6-4 ½ and has really long arms. He ran 4.58 and has really good upper body strength. He’s a gifted athlete. He’s got everything you want to be the number one pick in the draft besides the sack production.”
Gary had a strong combine leading the way in most workouts, including a 4.58 40-yard dash but he was already known to be a physical freak. Kiper believes that picking Gary at nine is a bet for his ceiling potential and coaches will try to consistently get the best out of him.
“Rashan Gary is an enigma,” Kiper said. “You expect more than 10 sacks in a career for someone with that kind of talent. You’d expect 20 plus and you didn’t get it. So will a different scheme that turns him loose allow him to be more productive? That’s where you’re rolling the dice. If you’re picking at nine you’re getting a guy with awesome talent. There are a lot of people who think he could drop further than that. Rashan Gary is no longer a top five pick, so it looks like he’d be there for the Bills at nine.”
Buffalo added receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley in free agency but you shouldn’t rule out a tight end with the ninth pick, says Kiper. Kiper has Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson going to the Broncos with the 10th pick.
2. Where E.J. Gaines ranked in 2017 with the Bills
E.J. Gaines is back with Buffalo after a year away, playing in six games for the Browns last season. Gaines, a former sixth-round pick has found success in the NFL when healthy starting 38 of 43 games in his four seasons in the league. Now Gaines is back to make an already productive secondary into something opposing offenses may fear.
Gaines graded as the 13th best cornerback in the NFL when he was on the Bills in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus. Gaines recorded a coverage grade of 79.0, 21 defensive stops, a 74.8 passer rating against and only one touchdown allowed. All stats ranked inside of the top-30 cornerbacks in the league among cornerbacks with at least 145 snaps in coverage.
Gaines should flow better into the defense with a full offseason to prepare and learn the playbook and his teammates. Gaines was traded to Buffalo in August of 2017 before becoming the starting corner. Gaines should compete for a starting position opposite of Tre’Davious White.
3. Brian Daboll reflects on one of WNY’s best
Western New York native Rob Gronkowski retired at 29 earlier this week, putting an end to the career of the former Williamsville North player. Gronk played tight end and defensive end for the school for the Spartans while being named to the All-Western New York first-team his junior year. Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll spent three years with Gronkowski at the Patriots’ tight ends coach but Daboll is also a WNY native, playing football for Saint Francis in Athol Springs.
"He was a really good guy to coach," Daboll told The Buffalo News. “I've got a ton of respect for him, with how he handled himself in terms of his preparation habits, in the classroom with me and then going out and trying to compete at a high level every week. He was a very, very smart football player, had great intelligence for the game. He understood leverage, angles, pass concepts.
Daboll says he learned a lot from the tight end and considered himself to be fortunate to be around him. Daboll says that Gronkowski is the best tight end he’s ever coached.