The Buffalo Bills entered the 2022 postseason with legitimate aspirations to capture Super Bowl LVII. Their playoff run ended with an uninspiring 27-10 defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round. Bills general manager Brandon Beane is now tasked with improving the roster via free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft.
Most improvements must be made through the draft. Beane enters the offseason approximately $18.7 million above the salary cap, per Spotrac. Beane should utilize his 2023 draft capital wisely.
With that being said and with plenty of moves still to come ahead of April’s draft, here’s what a seven-round draft for the Bills might look like if it happened now.
(Note: I completed this mock draft using the Beta version of our Mock Draft Machine 2.0, which you can access by becoming a TDN Premium member!)
Round 1 (No. 28 overall): Cody Mauch IOL, North Dakota State
Bills starting quarterback Josh Allen was routinely under duress throughout Buffalo’s playoff loss to the Bengals. A standout offensive line was the main difference between the 2022 Bills and Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. That’s the standard for Buffalo, and I expect Beane to pour assets into fixing his offensive line as a result.
Cody Mauch is a tight-end-turned-offensive-tackle prospect that’s expected to move to guard at the next level. The Bills require a long-term answer at left guard after Rodger Saffold failed to meet expectations. Mauch is extremely athletic and competitive, traits that he put on display at this year’s dominant Senior Bowl showing. Mauch has worked his way into the first-round conversation. Buffalo is a perfect fit.
Round 2 (No. 60 overall): Jordan Battle S, Alabama
Buffalo and veteran safety Jordan Poyer have likely reached the end of their partnership. The soon-to-be 32-year-old Poyer will soon reach free agency. The Bills aren’t in a position to sign aging safeties to lucrative multi-year contract extensions.
Alabama’s Jordan Battle could immediately step into Poyer’s shoes. Battle is a versatile defensive back prospect that could play multiple roles for head coach Sean McDermott, who recently lost defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to a one-year sabbatical. Battle pairs terrific size and length with a physical, aggressive nature. Battle and Micah Hyde would quickly form a fearsome one-two punch at safety.
Round 3 (No. 92 overall): Cedric Tillman WR, Tennessee
Gabriel Davis failed to grow into Buffalo’s No. 2 receiver role opposite Stefon Diggs. Expectations were sky-high for Davis following his legendary performance in Buffalo’s 2021 instant-classic AFC Championship Game defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs, but a starring opportunity ultimately proved a little big for Davis to handle.
The Bills will almost certainly use an early draft pick on a wide receiver as a result. Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2021 that’s currently being overshadowed by his collegiate teammate Jalin Hyatt. Tillman is a big-bodied dominant boundary receiver that would immediately push Davis for starting snaps.
Round 4 (No. 131 overall): Owen Pappoe LB, Auburn
Bills starting linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is set to reach free agency. Spotrac projects Edmunds to sign a four-year contract worth approximately $44 million ($11 million annually). The Bills would likely love to have Edmunds back, but that figure may be tough to swallow given Buffalo’s financial positioning.
Auburn’s Owen Pappoe was an extremely productive leader and performer. Pappoe recorded 256 tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss, and 8.0 sacks in four seasons at Auburn. Pappoe has been battle-tested in the SEC and could help the Bills replace Edmunds by committee.
Round 5 (No. 140 overall): Nick Saldiveri OT, Old Dominion
Nick Saldiveri could immediately compete for the starting right tackle job alongside Spencer Brown. Brown struggled in 2022 and shouldn’t be handed the starting job without competition. Saldiveri handled himself well at this year’s Senior Bowl.
Alternatively, Saldiveri could transition to guard at the next level. Saldiveri could potentially push Ryan Bates at right guard. The Bills possess multiple holes across their offensive line. Whether at guard or tackle, Saldiveri would represent an excellent value selection for Beane.
Round 6 (No. 206 overall): Nick Herbig EDGE, Wisconsin
Buffalo’s pass rush struggled following Von Miller’s season-ending injury. Miller should return to form in 2023 however, and Gregory Rousseau continues to get better. I don’t think the Bills will use a premium draft selection on another EDGE defender, but Beane should have interest in drafting a developmental talent in the later rounds.
Herbig lacks the necessary size to play EDGE full-time at the next level, but he’s an energizer bunny that’s always looking to attack. Herbig has been an effective pass rusher despite his size deficiencies. Playing alongside Buffalo’s talented defensive front could help place the undersized Herbig in advantageous positions.
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