Who will Buffalo take in the 2021 NFL Draft?
By: Caleb Holfoth (@cmhfilm)
The Buffalo Bills have already been very active in the offseason resigning Linebacker Matt Milano and Offensive Tackle Daryl Williams to extensions. This comes after Buffalo cut Quinton Jefferson and John Brown while Mario Addison and Vernon Butler took pay cuts. This is a fantastic start for Buffalo as they were able to retain their two most talented players who were becoming free agents on very team-friendly deals. General Manager Brandon Beane has had a fantastic beginning to the offseason as Buffalo continues to prepare for free agency and the draft. Beane has been able to address both right tackle and linebacker before free agency and the draft which does not leave many holes on Buffalo’s roster.
Heading into the draft the three biggest needs for Buffalo are Offensive Guard, Cornerback, and Running Back. Some smaller needs for Buffalo are Defensive End, Tight End, and Wide Receiver. Buffalo will likely address some of these needs through the draft. For this Mock Draft, I used PFF’s Mock Draft Simulator for the most realistic outcome. In this draft, there will be no trades. Here is a complete 7-round Mock Draft for the Buffalo Bills.
1st Round (30th Pick)
Travis Etienne (Running Back, Clemson)
Travis Etienne would not be the pick if it were not for Buffalo already resigning both Matt Milano and Daryl Williams. Many people across the NFL are not particularly fans of drafting running backs in the first round because of the shorter career they have compared to other positions. What makes Etienne stand out is the fact that he is more than just a running back. Very similar to Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints Etienne is a playmaker who can do it by carrying or catching the ball.
Standing 5-10, weighing 215 pounds, and running a 4.4 forty-yard dash Travis Etienne is a perfect combination of size and speed. Over his four years at Clemson Etienne had over 6,000 yards from scrimmage averaging a gaudy 7.8 yards per touch. Etienne is the perfect do-it-all running back that Buffalo needs to elevate the offense to the next level.
2nd Round (61st Pick)
Ifeatu Melifonwu (Cornerback, Syracuse)
One position on the defense where Buffalo has no current set-in-stone starter is the cornerback position across the field from All-Pro Tre’Davious White. The whole secondary is pro-bowl caliber, yet the lack of a second corner is what is missing from that group. The combination of Levi Wallace and Josh Norman manned the position last season and had very up and down seasons. Buffalo picks Ifeatu Melifonwu here because of his size and potential. The 6-3 210-pound corner is massive and would give Buffalo a big corner to match up with some of the NFL’s biggest receivers. Melifonwu projects best in a zone coverage scheme which is what Buffalo loves to do.
Not only does he fit well in Buffalo’s main zone scheme, but he also is an above-average run defender who is not afraid to attack ball carriers which is a trait that Sean McDermott loves in cornerbacks. Melifonwu could be a project compared to some other corners however he has massive potential and could be partnered with Tre’Davious White for a very long time if he lives up to his potential.
3rd Round (93rd Pick)
Quinn Meinherz (Offensive Center/Guard, Wisconsin Whitewater)
Quinn Meinherz made a name for himself at the Senior Bowl just a couple of months ago. Combine that with an athletic clinic he put on at his pro day and the Division III prospect is leaping up draft boards.
Meinherz can play any of the three interior positions on the offensive line. That currently is where Buffalo is the weakest across the line. Although he is coming from Division III Meinherz looks the part and seems to be an NFL-ready player. The last Division III guard that warranted this much hype was Ali Marpet who is now one of the best in the entire National Football League. Meinherz has the persona and playing ability to not only play in Buffalo and be a fan favorite but to also be a very successful player in the NFL. Brandon Beane may be concerned about drafted a guy from Division III this early on but Beane also is not afraid to take risks if it means that Buffalo can potentially improve.
4th Round (No Picks)
Buffalo will likely end up making trades and having a pick in the 4th round. However, since this is a no-trade draft Buffalo does not take a player in the 4th due to trading the pick to Minnesota in the Stefon Diggs trade.
5th Round (161st and 174th Picks)
Dazz Newsome (Wide Receiver, North Carolina)
The Buffalo Bills offense lacks one main trait. That is speed. Dazz Newsome is one of the fastest players in the draft. Not only that, but it has been reported that the Buffalo Bills met with him already and GM Brandon Beane is a big fan of Newsome.
Newsome is an ideal fit for Buffalo. A top returner in college he could fill the vacant return positions that were held by now free agent Andre Roberts. Newsome also projects to be a slot receiver at the professional level. Most Bills fans would say that Buffalo already has Cole Beasley, so they don’t need Newsome. Not only is Beasley about to play the last year of his contract this coming year but Buffalo runs the most 4 Wide Receiver sets in the NFL and currently could use an additional slot player to not only backup Cole Beasley but also be on the field alongside him. Newsome is ideal because he can play the role that Buffalo used two players (Andre Roberts and Isaiah McKenzie) played all last season.
Tony Poljan (Tight End, Virginia)
Tony Poljan a perfect Tight End for Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. Brandon Beane emphasized the tight end position in his end-of-the-year press conference. While Beane likely will add a tight end through free agency Poljan will be a quality add regardless. Poljan is a massive red zone target and would give Josh Allen a huge red zone target that he has always lacked.
Poljan does not wow with elite athleticism however he has a high football IQ and is already a good blocker. With a high and wide frame, Poljan was able to handle defensive lineman at the college level consistently. Beane and McDermott have always had shorter tight ends and receivers so maybe it is time to give Josh Allen a tall red zone target who is willing to make contested catches.
6th Round (211th Pick)
Cole Van Lanen (Tackle, Wisconsin)
Shockingly, so many draft boards have Van Lanen so low. Buffalo can take advantage here as one of the most consistent linemen from the Big Ten could still be available at the 211th pick.
Van Lanen was also named to the First Team All-Big Ten for the shortened 2020 season. Van Lanen is a well-rounded prospect. He is not elite in one area, but he has little to no weaknesses. In addition to Van Lanen’s skills, he comes from the University of Wisconsin which is notorious for producing quality offensive linemen. At worst, Van Lanen is a backup who lasts in the league for a long time and is well worth the 6th round pick.
7th Round (234th Pick)
JaCoby Stevens (Safety, LSU)
Another player in this draft that Buffalo has met with, the Bills can pick up a big safety in JaCoby Stevens in the 7th Round. Stevens used to be projected as a first-round pick before he failed to live up to his massive expectations as a top recruit. However, Stevens still had a top impact with LSU and has lined up all over the field for the Tigers defense. In addition to that, the trait that Beane and McDermott love most with Stevens is that he played significant Special Teams snaps in college. Stevens was lack elite movement and speed, but he is a great safety in the box and can play that safety/linebacker hybrid role at the next level. This pick is mostly buying on Steven’s ability to live up to at least some of the massive hype he had coming out of high school. Stevens will be able to contribute right away on special teams if he can make the Bills 53-man roster directly out of training camp.