Thad’s Three Things: Grading another banner Bills draft

Buffalo Bills

We won’t really know how well Brandon Beane did during last weekend’s draft for at least three years.

However, no one wants to wait even three minutes. “Gimme some grades!!”

I gotcha, but we’ll do this “Three Things” style.

Three Things Up

AJ is A-OK

Second round pick AJ Epenesa was supposed to go first round, so getting him at #54 was a great pick. But will he be a great player? Doesn’t seem that way. He’s a solid pass rusher and run stopper, but profiles as “high floor, low ceiling”. In other words, he’s unlikely to be a bust but probably won’t make many Pro Bowls either.

The Bills don’t need him to make a Pro Bowl. They need him to be a 3rd/4th defensive end and kinda/sorta man the spot left vacant when Shaq Lawson departed. Epenesa not only is suited for the job, it’s one he very likely can handle right away.

That works out well, because “right away” is when the Bills plan on contending for a Super Bowl. Championships aren’t won by 53 Pro Bowlers. They’re won with plenty of role players and Epenesa is a very good fit for a pretty important role.

Rolling Stones (And Most Defenders) Gather No Moss

I was late to the Zack Moss party, but I’m happy to keep buying the beer. Like Epenesa, Moss perfectly fills a specific need–the bruising, between the tackles runner to pair with a more elusive Devin Singletary. Also like Epenesa, it’s a task Moss should be able to execute week one.

That’s not the extent of Moss’ potential. He plays faster than his 40 time (4.65) and he’s a sneaky good receiver. There aren’t many linebackers or defensive backs that will relish going one on one with Moss in the open field.

The Bills needed a one trick pony, but might have landed a full time thoroughbred at pick 86. It’ll be my favorite selection of this draft.

Give Me All The Quarterbacks

I’m on Team Keep Drafting Quarterbacks and I have no problem with the Bills grabbing Jake Fromm. By the time pick 167 rolled around, Fromm stood out on the draft board like a Kardashian at Sunday School. Beane, in total Best Player Available Mode most of this draft, could not pass Fromm up.

There’s a myriad of reasons having extra good quarterbacks can help: make the backup QB situation better, something to flip into a future high draft pick and protection in case the franchise starter turns out to not be a franchise starter. That’s why good teams keep picking them.

Taking a swing in round five on a quarterback who’s been to a national championship game is always a fine play. Even if…

Three Things Down

Nate Peterman 2.0

The scouting report on Fromm is a guy with a small arm and smaller hands (even Joe Burrow’s scandalously small hands are bigger). He’s a smart guy and reads a defense well, but he’s not great when protection breaks down and can’t push the to the sideline or down the field.

Sound familiar at all?

Look, Fromm is not going to curiously win the starting job for week one and then get pulled at halftime after completing two passes. He’s the backup at best. It just would have been nice if Bills fans could learn about their new QB without a full dose of PTSD.

A Kick In The Specials

Beane set his roster up to take some shots and go in a few different directions for this draft. That includes grabbing a kicker. I just think he got the wrong one.

Tyler Bass was the number one kicker on Mel Kiper’s board heading into the draft. He’s got the cannon leg that every drafted kicker has, but he is yet to show it in games. Bass’ career long is 50 yards and he only hit from that distance twice in college (plus a third time at the Senior Bowl).

In his career, Bass made 54 of 68 kicks for a success rate just below 80%. That would have ranked him 19th in the NFL last year and it’s barely ahead of Stephen Hauschka’s last two seasons. Two seasons that were the worst for field goals in his lengthy career. Coincidentally, the worst season of Bass’ college career was last year (20 of 28 on field goals).

Three picks after Bass, the Jets grabbed punter Braden Mann. He won the Ray Guy award as the nation’s best punter in 2018 and was a second team All-American last year. He is supposed to have top five punter potential and his worst problem is kicking the ball too far.

Instead of solving an issue at punter, the Bills left themselves with the following four specialists: Corey Bojorquez (still young and inconsistent), Kaare Vedvik (a disaster everywhere he’s been, albeit as a kicker. He’s a punter in Buffalo), Hauschka (perhaps on the downside of his career) and Bass (a big leg that’s no more accurate than the leg the Bills already have).

Beane made it clear Saturday night that Bass is not a lock to win the job. He’s just the young kicker every team brings to camp for competition/injury protection. Even with two punters on the roster, it would seem to have been more sensible to add a third.

Boring Beane

There were no draft day trades involving the Bills for the first time since 2011. It was also the first time ever for Beane. It was like a Jimi Hendrix concert without a guitar.

I wondered if the Bills even have space for seven rookies on their roster and would, therefore, consolidate picks in a trade up. Alas, it takes two to tango. Beane said Saturday he had a couple deals on the table (in both directions), but nothing worked out.

Is this a big deal? No, but zero trades are zero fun.

The Grade

Beane had a tough task in this draft. His division rivals in New York and Miami both had so many holes to fill that their drafts were trying to hit water throwing a stone from a rowboat in the middle of the Atlantic. They almost couldn’t miss.

The Bills, instead, had very specific needs and Beane threaded the needle like a champ. Backup pass rusher who can stop the run and play his role? Check. Bruising, yet productive running back? Check. Receivers with size? Check.

Beane did all that without a first round pick. His two Friday selections both appear to be, at least, slam dunk contributors. The kicker thing might only bother me, but this is my grade, so it’s gonna hurt a bit. Regardless, Beane proved again he’s pretty good at this drafting thing.

He has done his job constructing a championship capable roster. Now, it’s on Sean McDermott and the players to do theirs. Grade: A-

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