As the only major professional sports team not to make the playoffs in the 21st century, the Buffalo Bills need a lot of prospects to get their team back on track. It all starts with a good draft, and they picked up two very promising players this year in Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland.
DE Shaq Lawson was taken with the Bills first pick in the draft, having played college football at Clemson. He was expected to step in and take the place of Mario Williams, who gained notoriety for his lack of effort the season before. However, Lawson needed shoulder surgery and was out for the first half of his rookie season. He ended up getting a sack in each of his first two games that he did play, and some of the explosion he has has been on display. It will be interesting to see where the Bills put him as their original intent was to put him as a blitzing linebacker.
With Lorenzo Alexander quickly racking up 10 sacks, you can’t leave that sort of production off the field. At Clemson, Shaq Lawson was known for his uncanny ability to make tackles behind the line of scrimmage, especially on run plays. He is the polar opposite of teammate Jerry Hughes. Hughes gets a ton of pressure on the QB, buti snt very good against the run, while Lawson is much more consistent stuffing the run than he is rushing the passer. With only a few games under his belt, it should be interesting to see how the Bills utilize Lawson as a top-tier prospect.
With their second draft choice, the Bills selected LB Reggie Ragland out of Alabama. Similar to Lawson, the intent with Ragland was to play him where as of now a great player already plays. Free agent pickup Zach Brown has been one of the best linebackers in the league this season and third-year linebacker Preston Brown has greatly improved.
Reggie Ragland was receiving nothing but overwhelming praise from Bills head coach Rex Ryan, but he ended up tearing his ACL before the first preseason game and was placed on injured reserve. At Alabama, Reggie Ragland was known for his ability to make plays all over the field. He was a field general, and a type of player that is good at everything, but not elite in one spot. It is likely that, as a middle linebacker, the Bills would have tried to make one or two of the traits that he has elite caliber. It will be interesting to see how he does coming back from surgery and how he is inserted into the lineup if the Brown brothers (no relation) continue to play this well. If one of them falters, Reggie Ragland can be put into the lineup as a young talent with a ton of upside.
Other players to keep an eye on include RG John Miller, CB Ronald Darby, and DT Adolphus Washington. All three of these players have a lot of upside and can fulfill their potential easily with the right coaching and being inserted into the best scheme.