Should Beane take UB’s John­son or Hodge?

The Buffalo News - - NFL - By Jay Skurski What is the like­li­hood the Bills take a flier in the draft on ei­ther of th­ese Uni­ver­sity at Buf­falo play­ers – wide re­ceiver An­thony John­son or line­backer Khalil Hodge? If the Bills stay at No. 9 in the draft with Ed Oliver gone and have th

April is one of the best sports months of the year. The start of base­ball, the Mas­ters, the start of the NBA and NHL play­offs (re­mem­ber those, Sabres fans?) and, of course, the NFL draft. Nat­u­rally at this time of year, that topic dom­i­nates this week’s mailbag. Let’s get right to it ...

I’Don’tTrustThePro­cess asks:

Jay: The UB play­ers can’t be ruled out. John­son is likely a third- or fourth-round draft pick. Will he still be on the board when the Bills pick at No. 112 over­all in the fourth round? If so, he would make plenty of sense – par­tic­u­larly if the team does not draft a wide re­ceiver on the first two days.

Draft pro­jec­tions for Hodge are all over the map. Some have him as a pos­si­ble third-round pick, while oth­ers see him go­ing as late as the sixth or sev­enth round. Line­backer is an area in which the Bills could use some depth. Their in­ter­est in Hodge might de­pend on how they view his chances of be­com­ing a spe­cial-teams con­trib­u­tor, be­cause any line­backer cho­sen on the third day of the draft is likely to fill that role at the start of his pro­fes­sional ca­reer.

Gen­eral Man­ager Bran­don Beane talked about the UB prospects at the NFL scout­ing com­bine, say­ing that al­though it’s great for the UB pro­gram – and would un­doubt­edly be a cool story if they stayed in Buf­falo – the Bills have to rank them ac­cord­ingly. If the value matches up, though, both play­ers could make sense for the Bills.

As for the sec­ond ques­tion, in that sce­nario I would take an offensive tackle such as Florida’s Jawaan Tay­lor. Yes, the Bills have signed six offensive line­men in free agency. But I’m far from sold on Dion Dawkins be­ing the long-term answer at left tackle, and ex­pected right tackle Ty Nsekhe is 33 years old. I’m all about adding as much tal­ent as pos­si­ble around Josh Allen. That could in­clude a tight end, but if you’re tak­ing one of them ninth over­all, doesn’t he need to be Rob Gronkowski? In my mind, there’s only one Gronk.

As for corner­back, no thanks. Among Levi Wal­lace, E.J. Gaines and Kevin John­son, the Bills should have a strong com­pe­ti­tion for the start­ing job op­po­site Tre’Davi­ous White.

TNFP69 asks:

Jay: First, let’s ex­plain the im­por­tance of the June 1 date. When a player is cut be­fore June 1, any re­main­ing guar­an­teed money on his con­tract has to be ac­counted for that year. For ex­am­ple, when the Bills re­leased Charles Clay ear­lier this off­sea­son, they saved $4.5 mil­lion in salary cap space – the amount of his base salary, which is earned dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. How­ever, the team’s cap does carry a $4.5 mil­lion “dead money” charge for Clay this year. That ac­counts for the re­main­ing guar­an­teed money.

When a player is cut af­ter June 1, the “dead money” on his con­tract is then split over two sea­sons. So re­leas­ing a player af­ter June 1 is a way for teams to kick the can down the road when it comes to sav­ing cap space.

June 1 is not as sig­nif­i­cant of a date as it used to be, be­cause NFL rules al­low teams to re­lease play­ers be­fore that date with a “June 1” des­ig­na­tion. That ben­e­fits the player – be­cause he can hit the open mar­ket sooner in hopes of find­ing a new team – as Clay did with the Ari­zona Car­di­nals. When a player is des­ig­nated a June 1 cut, teams must carry his en­tire salary-cap fig­ure on their books un­til that date. At that time, the “dead money” is split be­tween what was sched­uled for that sea­son, with the re­main­der go­ing on the fol­low­ing year’s cap. This ap­plies to play­ers re­leased with more than one year left on their deal.

The short answer to the ques­tion is that Beane is al­ways go­ing to be look­ing at ways to im­prove the ros­ter. He fre­quently talks about how that’s a never-end­ing process. I wouldn’t fo­cus so much on June 1, though, and would sug­gest closer at­ten­tion to what teams do af­ter the draft. De­pend­ing on the play­ers they land, there could be some at­trac­tive play­ers who be­come free agents.

Mark Martin asks:

Jay: Cer­tainly there are play­ers worth mov­ing up for. For ex­am­ple, if Quin­nen Wil­liams of Alabama some­how slips out of the top five picks, should Beane in­ves­ti­gate what it would cost to move up a few spots? Ab­so­lutely. Do­ing so would give the Bills a per­fect re­place­ment for Kyle Wil­liams.

The ques­tion, though, is what’s the cost? If it in­volves giv­ing up my sec­ond-round draft pick, No. 40 over­all, I’m not in­ter­ested. To Mark’s point, there are still sev­eral ar­eas the Bills need to ad­dress. They’re not one player away from be­com­ing a Su­per Bowl con­tender. For that rea­son, I’d even be hes­i­tant to give up my third-round pick, but I’d do it in the right sce­nario. Af­ter that, trade away. I don’t be­lieve 10 rook­ies will make the Bills’ ros­ter, so if they want to pack­age some of their six picks on the third day of the draft to move up, go for it. As al­ways, it’s the qual­ity of those se­lected that mat­ters in the draft, not the quan­tity.

If I were run­ning the Bills’ draft, my pref­er­ence would be to move down a few slots, not up. If I can gain an ex­tra sec­ond- or third-round pick – maybe from a quar­ter­back-needy team – that be­comes a way of fill­ing another hole with a top-100 pick.

Rick McGuire asks:

Jay: We’ve seen quite a few AAF play­ers sign­ing with NFL teams fol­low­ing the league’s demise. Among them are corner­back Keith Richards (Kansas City), re­ceiver Rashad Ross (Carolina), quar­ter­back Gar­rett Gil­bert (Cleve­land), safety Der­ron Smith (Min­nesota) and corner­back Duke Thomas (Min­nesota). Pro Foot­ball Talk re­ported Fri­day af­ter­noon that 12 for­mer AAF play­ers have signed NFL deals.

That shows there are play­ers who are at least wor­thy of a shot in an NFL train­ing camp. It’s tough to say who ex­actly the Bills might be in­ter­ested in be­cause the player pool is so large, but Jay­rone El­liott, for ex­am­ple, would make sense. El­liott led the AAF with 7.5 sacks. A for­mer draft pick of the Green Bay Pack­ers, he might be am op­tion to con­sider for a team that needs to beef up its pass rush, such as the Bills do.

As for Richard­son, I’d take a pass. The Bills have their top two run­ning backs in LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore. They need to add a young player to the mix be­hind them, prefer­ably with a mid-round draft pick.

Jim­myallthe­way asks:

Jay: If by “drama” you mean be ac­tive in the trade mar­ket, then yes, I do think he will. As men­tioned above, a com­pelling case can be made for the Bills to trade up or trade back in the first round. The ninth over­all pick could be tar­geted by a quar­ter­back­needy team want­ing to get ahead of Den­ver at No. 10, be­cause the Broncos might also be look­ing for a QB. We all know by now that Beane isn’t afraid to make trades.

Mike Can­field asks:

Jay: As hard as it might be to be­lieve, prob­a­bly not. At this point, any sign­ing would likely be geared to­ward spe­cial teams, given what a dis­as­ter that unit was last sea­son. So much for the idea that free agents aren’t in­ter­ested in com­ing to Buf­falo.

Bren­dan Sweet asks:

Jay: Teams are await­ing more med­i­cal test­ing on An­sah’s sur­gi­cally re­paired shoul­der. That’s ex­pected to take place in the mid­dle of this month. The Bills have not given any in­di­ca­tion they have lost in­ter­est in An­sah af­ter host­ing him on a free-agent visit. If An­sah checks out med­i­cally, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see if he signs with a new team be­fore the draft, given that teams can change their plans af­ter the se­lec­tion process.

As for the Mas­ters, I hate to take the chalk, but my pick is Dustin John­son. At his best, DJ is the top player in the world. Sign me up for a Rory-DJ show­down on Sun­day. McIl­roy is play­ing great golf, and will be chas­ing the ca­reer grand slam at Au­gusta. If you’re look­ing for a sleeper pick, I like Si Woo Kim. He led af­ter the first round of this week’s Valero Texas Open and has a big win on his re­sume at the 2017 Play­ers. Man, I can’t wait for next week. As for this week, thanks for all the ques­tions!

Harry Scull Jr./Buf­falo News

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