Buffalo Bills: 4 Non-QB First Round Draft Prospects

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 02: Mike McGlinchey
SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 02: Mike McGlinchey /
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Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills /

Leighton Vander Esch

No position took more of a hit than linebacker for the Bills this offseason. The loss came in the form of Preston Brown , anchored the Bills’ defense as its leading tackler. A

s it stands now, Julian Stanford is the starting middle linebacker. While the newly signed Stanford is a nice depth piece, he’s nothing more than that; the LB has only 10 career starts over his five-year career according to pro-football-reference.com.

While the team brought in veteran free agents Karlos Dansby, Will Compton and Kevin Minter, the Bills have yet to ink anyone to a contract. Whether or not they sign a free agent, Buffalo acknowledges there’s a pressing need to be filled in the middle.

Coach Sean McDermott said at the annual league meetings: “We have not filled that [position] and I don’t expect that to happen today, but we know that’s a void that we’ve got to work on.”

Luckily, the Bills have some nice options in this year’s draft to address the hole on defense. Roquan Smith, Rashaan Evans and Malik Jefferson are all elite prospects projected to go in the early rounds, with some of the (many) mock drafts tabbing Buffalo as their new home.

However, if I’m Beane, I’m selecting Leighton Vander Esch. The linebacker, out of Boise State, is the third-ranked inside linebacker behind the aforementioned Smith and Evans at walterfootball.com.

However, one weakness both Smith and Evans have is their size. At 256 lbs, Vander Esch has the size and versatility to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.

The Bills have instituted the 4-3 mainly in their defensive scheme. Both Smith and Evans would be more suitable in a 3-4, while Jefferson is more of a run and chase defender, so he is suited for the outside.

In addition to Vander Esch’s size, Walterfootball.com’s scouting report lists awareness, quick, rangy and intelligent as some of his many strengths. Most importantly, he rates very highly as a run defender; the Bills ranked a paltry 29th in run defense last year.

Despite his limited experience (Vander Esch only started for one year at Boise State), the linebacker could be just what the Bills need to fill the void Brown left for years to come.