Are Lawson, Listenbee, Jones, And Gronkowski The Future Faces Of The Buffalo Bills?

Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills made a series of rather interesting selections at the 2016 NFL Draft this weekend, as well as a post-draft free agent signing that will surely make things pretty interesting when Bills Mafia takes on the rival New England Patriots twice next season. Here is a breakdown of the picks and what each player can bring to this franchise.

Round One (No. 19 overall): Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

A Rex Ryan-run defense will always have a major focus on the pass rush, and that is exactly what the Bills went with here by drafting Shaq Lawson in the first round. While at Clemson, Lawson’s strength was defending the run but also showed signs of being a stellar pass rusher at the next level. During his final season at Clemson this past year, Lawson suffered a knee injury and was forced out of Clemson’s National Semifinal game against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Lawson returned two weeks later for the National Championship game against Alabama but was nowhere near the player he was prior to the injury. According to Lawson and his agent, the knee injury (sprained MCL) will not have any affect on his play at the professional level. However, it has also been reported that at some point Lawson will need to have shoulder surgery on an injury that has plagued him since his freshman season at Clemson. The surgery will require 4-6 months of rehab, but Lawson isn’t expected to undergo the procedure until after the 2016 season. The Bills definitely got a steal by drafting Shaw Lawson at No. 19 overall, as he was expected to go as early as No. 11 overall in most mock drafts. His knee and shoulder issues are obviously a concern but if he can stay healthy he could be the core of Buffalo’s front seven for years to come.   

Round Two (No. 41 overall): Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama

The Bills certainly gave up a pretty hefty amount (No. 49 overall and No. 117 overall picks) in order to move up and select Reggie Ragland at No. 41. Simply put, however, Ragland was 100% worth it. The Bills got a complete player in Ragland due to his size (6′ 2,” 252 Ibs), his ability to rush the pass (2.5 sacks in 2015), contain the run (102 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 6.5 tackles for loss), and his ability to cover receivers/tight ends (7 pass break-ups). The Bills needed to address the losses of Mario Williams and Nigel Bradham on their front seven and have done an exceptional job so far by landing Ragland and Lawson in this year’s draft. Both will be immediate starters for the Bills and both could turn out to be the two major anchors of Rex Ryan’s defense in the coming years.

Round Three (No. 80 overall): Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State

Before being suspended for Ohio State’s final game of the 2015 season against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl (arrested for solicitation), Adolphus Washington was an absolute force in the trenches for Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes (4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception, 49 totals tackles, 7 tackles for loss). The Bills got some great value in this pick due to Washington’s versatility. The only issue with this guy is the fear of his lifestyle off the field. Washington pled guilty to the solicitation charges and eventually had them dropped, but still owned up to the incident calling it “a mistake.” It seems that more than just a handful of 2016 draft prospects have some sort of black mark on their resume (Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche, Shawn Oakman just to name a few), but Washington has seemingly done all the right things ever since his arrest back in January. Hopefully, Washington has learned from this mistake and will not allow his actions off the field to thwart him from becoming a key piece to Buffalo’s defense in the future.  

Round Four (No. 139 overall): Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State

Drafting quarterbacks has never been a strong suit of the Buffalo Bills (EJ Manuel, Trent Edwards, J.P. Losman). The Bills seemingly have found a solid man for the job in 2015 free agent signing, Tyrod Taylor, but still decided to add depth to the position due to Taylor entering the final year of his contract by taking former Ohio State QB, Cardale Jones. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Bills decided to add a little depth under center with both Taylor entering the final year of his deal and the Bills having to decide whether or not to pick up EJ Manuel’s fifth-year option following the 2016 season. Jones has shown signs of promise throughout his college career, more specifically during his freshman season at OSU in 2014 when he led the Buckeyes to a National Championship as the team’s third-stringer. However, Jones has also shown signs of inconsistency during his collegiate career and his hamstring injury at the combine certainly did not help his draft stock. Nevertheless, the Buffalo Bills made a pretty solid decision by electing to add depth to the quarterback position with Cardale Jones, as he holds versatility with both his arm and ability to scramble out of the pocket. Do not expect Jones to be the long-term starter for the Bills starting in 2016, but he should get his shot in the coming years when/if things do not work out with Tyrod Taylor. 

Round Five (No. 156 overall): Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

Last season, we never really got to see the full potential of the Buffalo Bills rushing attack due to injuries suffered by LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams. After sitting out the entire 2015 season due to ligament damage in his foot, Jonathan Williams fell to the fifth round and was scooped up by Buffalo. Due to Williams’ injury history and the Bills lack of a need for a running back, his status for making the 53-man roster come September is unclear. It never hurts to add a little depth at the running back position but this is hardly a pick that will make or break this team going forward. 

Round Six (No. 192 overall): Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU

Normally, a sixth-round pick is never a lock to make the 53-man roster, but due to the loss of 2015 starting slot receiver Chris Hogan to free agency, Kolby Listenbee may actually have a realistic shot at becoming a starting wideout for the Buffalo Bills. The best part of Listenbee’s game is his speed, having run a 4.35 official 40-yard-dash at the combine. Listenbee has already come out publicly and called himself “the fastest player in the NFL.” While it may be a bit too soon to make a statement such as that, Listenbee was a track star while under his football scholarship at TCU and was a four-time All-American. Listenbee had his moments at TCU, but due to the insane amount of receivers that were utilized in the Horned Frog offense, he never had a breakout season like that of Washington Redskins’ first-round pick Josh Doctson, who led TCU in all major receiving categories in 2015. Only time will tell if Kolby Listenbee is actually the fastest receiver in the NFL, and he has a lot of work ahead of him just to make the team, but Buffalo’s lack of a speedy slot receiver certainly opens a great window of opportunity for the young man out of TCU. 

Round Six (No. 218 overall): Kevon Seymour, CB, USC

Speed is not an issue with Kevon Seymour, who ran a 4.39 40-yard-dash at the combine. However, the Bills are not exactly in need of a cornerback at the moment with Mario Butler, Sterling Moore, Corey White, and Javier Arenas rounding out their defensive back core. A guy with Seymour’s speed certainly adds some value to your roster, so it will be interesting to see if the Bills try to hold onto him during training camp and develop him into a player that can be utilized on special teams or return punts. 

Free Agent Signing: Glenn Gronkowski, FB, Kansas State

You just knew that Rex Ryan had to have, at least, one trick up his sleeve when it came time to drafting players and signing free agents. That trick has proven to be the free agent signing of former Kansas State fullback and tight end, Glenn Gronkowski, brother of New England Patriots tight end, Rob Gronkowski. As many know, the brothers-Gronkowski hail from the Buffalo area and Glenn could not have been happier to sign with his hometown team after going undrafted.

Gronkowski still has a long way to go in order to make the 53-man roster, but his size (6′ 2,” 239) and versatility as both a pass catcher and a blocker could make him a valuable asset to this team, especially for Rex Ryan, who loves to do things that attempt to get under the skin of opponents. Adding little-Gronk to his roster might be the foreshadowing of something similar that we saw from Rex with the IK Enemkpali signing a season ago. 

Information from and ESPN was used in this report. 

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