Final Bills mock draft: running back, defensive backs and a Day 3 trade

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We made it! Welcome to draft day, everyone. The intrigue surrounding the Bills’ top pick has only intensified early this week. Let’s get right to it.

Here is my final Bills seven-round mock draft, complete with a full first-round projection.

• Trades calculated using the Rich Hill Trade Chart.

Mock draft, picks 1-24

PickTeamPlayerPositionSchoolTrade Details

1

Travon Walker

EDGE

Georgia

2

Aidan Hutchinson

EDGE

Michigan

3

Ickey Ekwonu

OT

NC State

4

Ahmad Gardner

CB

Cincinnati

5

Charles Cross

OT

Mississippi State

6

Derek Stingley

CB

LSU

CAR trades No. 6 (446) to HOU for Nos. 13, 68, 107 (442)

7

Jermaine Johnson

EDGE

Florida State

8

Drake London

WR

USC

9

Kayvon Thibodeaux

EDGE

Oregon

SEA trades Nos. 9, 109, 153 (431) to PHI for Nos. 15, 51, 237 (429)

10

Evan Neal

OT

Alabama

11

Jameson Williams

WR

Alabama

WAS trades No. 11 (358) to KC for Nos. 29, 50, 103 (353)

12

Garrett Wilson

WR

Ohio State

MIN trades No. 12 (347) to ARI for Nos. 23, 55 (346)

13

Trevor Penning

OT

Northern Iowa

14

Jordan Davis

DT

Georgia

15

Devin Lloyd

LB

Utah

16

Chris Olave

WR

Ohio State

17

Zion Johnson

IOL

Boston College

18

Kyle Hamilton

S

Notre Dame

19

Tyler Smith

OT

Tulsa

20

Malik Willis

QB

Liberty

21

Trent McDuffie

CB

Washington

22

Treylon Burks

WR

Arkansas

23

Kaiir Elam

CB

Florida

24

Jahan Dotson

WR

Penn State

The pick at No. 25: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

Close second: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

In my only other Bills seven-round mock draft, over a month ago, I had the Bills taking Breece Hall, and I’m sticking with it because of Bills logic — not general draft logic. They have yet to add to their fastball in a significant way this offseason, and giving them a player like Hall adds an entirely different dimension to the offense. He’s a home run threat, he’s a pass-catching threat, he has upside in pass protection, he has excellent patience and vision for the zone scheme they’re likely to run more in 2022 and he can make people miss in the open field. The Bills often go for something they don’t have in the first round, and they have no one even close to what Hall could become, and there is no one else like Hall in this draft who fits everything they’re looking for at the position.

It’s not about running the ball more; this is still a pass-first operation. It’s about becoming an even more dynamic offense that doesn’t have to rely so heavily on quarterback Josh Allen with designed runs. It’s minimizing the risk of their MVP-level quarterback missing games. Coach Sean McDermott has stressed having the threat to run at all times to help the passing game. Devin Singletary has been fine, but he lacks game-breaking ability and he’s in the final year of his contract. Hall checks way too many boxes to ignore. He would become an electric option on RPOs, and the screen game would actually have life. Just as important, his presence would dissuade the opposition from running the big-pass-play-preventing two-high defense that’s in vogue now.

And for those who hate the idea of taking a running back in the first round, I don’t think the Bills are as worried about it as everyone else. General manager Brandon Beane acknowledged that the team had running backs, plural, with first-round grades over the last four years. Last year, after he was selected 25th by the Jaguars, Travis Etienne said he believed he was headed to Buffalo at No. 30. Beane said they would take the player if he added a dynamic skill set the Bills didn’t have on their roster. Hall is that guy.

Mock draft, picks 25-32

PickTeamPlayerPositionSchoolTrade Details

25

Breece Hall

RB

Iowa State

26

Kenny Pickett

QB

Pittsburgh

27

Lewis Cine

S

Georgia

28

Logan Hall

DL

Houston

29

Dax Hill

S

Michigan

30

Arnold Ebiketie

EDGE

Penn State

31

Desmond Ridder

QB

Cincinnati

CIN trades Nos. 31, 136 (208) to SEA for Nos. 40, 72 (216)

32

Quay Walker

LB

Georgia

Round 2, Pick 57: Nick Cross, S, Maryland

Cross can play the deep middle and in the box as the strong safety, a perfect blend of what the Bills covet from their safeties. As a free safety on his best reps, he exhibits excellent patience when he needs to play the deep middle, then at strong safety, he brings the physicality to get downhill in a hurry. Cross could be a steal on Day 2 if he pairs some of his risk-taking with developing instincts and recognition skills over time. Cross likely will not factor into the starting lineup in 2022 barring an injury, but one year of learning from Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer will more than prepare him for a vital role.

Maryland’s Nick Cross could be a great fit at safety for the Bills. (Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

Round 3, Pick 89: Joshua Williams, CB, Fayetteville State

Williams is a perfect fit for the Bills because of his arm length (32.875 inches), run defense and long-range potential as a converted high school wide receiver. Williams’ story will also appeal to the Bills because they love defensive backs who have something to prove. He didn’t receive a single offer out of high school, much like former starter Levi Wallace, then had to go to a prep school. He received offers after one year there but only from Division II programs and then had to work his way up to become a legitimate draft prospect. With his size, untapped potential, drive and what The Athletic’s draft expert Dane Brugler calls a “coachable attitude,” Williams is a perfect prospect for McDermott to turn into a long-term starter.

Round 4, Pick 130: Joshua Ezeudu, IOL, North Carolina

Ezeudu is super athletic and is everything the Bills have been targeting on the offensive line. They also desperately need some youth and developmental depth on the interior offensive line. Ezeudu has started at guard and tackle but projects best to guard with starting potential in the NFL. He reportedly made a pre-draft visit with the Bills.

Round 5, Pick 168: James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech

With no tight ends signed beyond 2022, the Bills could use a developmental tight end to work in the background and become the primary backup in 2023. Brugler said, “Mitchell is a basketball athlete on grass with the scheme versatility to attack defenses in different ways.” Mitchell suffered a torn ACL in 2021 and didn’t do any pre-draft workouts, but the Bills have the 2022 depth to get by without him.

TRADE! Round 5, Pick 173: Jordan Stout, P, Penn State

Trade terms: Bills send Nos. 203 and 231 to Giants for No. 173

A trade up for a punter? A trade up for a punter. The Bills miss out on San Diego State’s Matt Araiza, but they instead land Stout with the move up. Stout is what the Bills hoped Matt Haack could be last year, possessing hang time, precision to pin teams deep and consistency in his kicks. Knowing how to punt in the low temperatures of the Northeast is also a plus.

Round 6, Pick 185: Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State

A former big-time high school recruit who never quite lived up to the hype, Smith is an intriguing late-round add. At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds with an arm length of nearly 35 inches, Beane would be investing in a big linebacker prospect who could project to either linebacker spot in their scheme. Even with the size, Smith ran a 4.52 40-yard dash and had excellent explosive measurements with a 97th percentile broad jump, a 91st percentile 10-yard split and a 90th percentile vertical.

Bills 2022 mock draft class

PickPlayer

25

Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

57

Nick Cross, S, Maryland

89

Joshua Williams, CB, Fayetteville State

130

Joshua Ezeudu, IOL, North Carolina

168

James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech

173

Jordan Stout, P, Penn State

185

Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State

(Top photo of Breece Hall: John E. Moore III / Getty Images)

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