Bills steal Lawson, Ragland in NFL draft

Tony Callens, Associate Sports Editor

Whaley weaves his magic

The 2016 NFL Draft has come and gone and Bills fans should be jumping for joy. Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley has proven to be a wheeler and a dealer. With seven picks, Whaley addressed needs in six different positions.

Round 1 pick #19 – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Whaley hit the jackpot with this pick. A player who was projected to go in the first 10 picks, Lawson becomes a day-one starter, filling in where Mario Williams left a void. Lawson is a perfect fit for Rex Ryan’s multiple-front 3-4 system. Ryan is very familiar with Clemson players (his son is on the team). The two had met multiple times and have already established a relationship. He is a disruptive force as a pass rusher and run stopper. He can also cover tight ends and running backs when need be. He isn’t the imposing physical specimen that Williams was, but he does a variety of things very well.

Round 2 pick #41 – Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama

The Bills traded up from pick 49 with the Chicago Bears, giving up this year’s fourth round pick and next year’s fourth round pick. It was worth it. A large majority of mock drafts had Ragland slated to go to the Bills in the first round at pick 19. The value is off the charts. Ragland will instantly make a difference for the Bills defense. Last year, Preston Brown had to play out of position at the MIKE linebacker or the strong-side linebacker where he struggled at times. Now, Ragland can play the MIKE and Brown can go back to the WILL (weak-side linebacker), where he is better suited.

Ragland is a big, thumping hitter in the run game. Despite what scouts believe, the Bills believe Ragland can be a three-down player and has underrated coverage skills. He will lead the defense for a decade.

Round 3 pick #80 – Adolphus Washington, DT/DE, Ohio State

Kyle Williams is 33 years old and nearing the twilight of his career. Washington will be his incumbent and cycle through, adding depth on the defensive front. Washington can play anywhere on the line for the Bills. Despite some character concerns (he was kicked off the team at Ohio State) the talent is too great to ignore.

Round 4 pick #139 – Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State

It’s a quarterback! Rumors were rampant that the Bills would draft a quarterback in this year’s draft and those rumors have been confirmed. With the last pick in the fourth round, Whaley and the Bills are taking a chance on Cardale Jones who led Ohio State to a national championship in 2014, but also struggled as a full-time starter in 2015. At 6-foot-4 250 lbs, Jones has all the physical tools to be a difference-making quarterback in the NFL, but the issue is his development as a passer and a leader of an offense. With EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor set to become unrestricted free agents next offseason, Jones can develop as a backup for now and has the potential to become the starter later on. At this point in the draft, this pick is low-risk, high-reward. If he develops into a starter, then it’s a steal. If he washes out, then they only cost is a fourth-round compensatory pick. Full marks for this pick.

Round 5 pick #156 – Johnathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

Another low-risk, high-reward pick, Williams would have gone in the second or third round if it weren’t for a foot injury that made him miss all of the 2015 season. He will add depth behind LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, competing for the third spot with Mike Gillislee. With injury concerns at the running back position, it is possible Williams will see action at some point especially with the frequency the Bills offense runs the ball. He can play special teams as well, which is a plus for players taken around this point in the draft.

Round 6 pick #192 – Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU

Quite possibly the fastest player in this year’s class, this pick adds a burner to the Bills receiving corps. Listenbee can stretch the field for the offense and will become a deep threat with a bigger body than Goodwin. He will compete with Dezmin Lewis, Greg Little, Greg Salas, Jarrett Boykin and Leonard Hankerson for a spot on the roster.

Round 6 pick #218 – Kevon Seymour, CB, USC

Seymour will compete for a spot on the roster and add depth at the cornerback position. He may find his way as a special teams player. A pick for depth at a position of strength for the Bills.

High marks for a one of the best draft classes from the Buffalo Bills in years. For each draftee, it’s time to go to work. The 2016 NFL season is almost here.

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