With the Buffalo Bills' first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, there are plenty of options to consider. At No. 27, mock drafts are all over the place, giving the Bills running backs, wide receivers, linebackers, cornerbacks, and (offensive and defensive) linemen. Looking at the Bills' draft needs for next season, here are three sneaky options for that 27th overall pick.
3. Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
As the DeAndre Hopkins trade rumors continue to swirl around the Bills, one thing is certain. The Bills draft needs to include another dynamic pass-catcher. Stefon Diggs is one of the best in the business, but Gabriel Davis was a disappointment in 2022, and rookie Khalil Shakir was OK but nothing special.
Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane could make a trade to address this issue, but he could also take a swing in the draft for, arguably, the highest ceiling (and lowest floor) pass-catchers coming out of college.
TCU wideout Quentin Johnston is 6-foot-3, 208 pounds, and has more athleticism than most WRs in this NFL draft class. He has an excellent final season for the Horned Frogs, too. Johnston caught 60 balls for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns last season.
However, he struggled at times with consistency in college and had more drops than you’d like.
If that sounds a lot like Davis, you’re not wrong. That said, while there doesn’t seem to be another Justin Jefferson or Ja’Marr Chase in this draft, Johnston is the potential Bills first-round pick who has the traits most like those superstars.
Johnston has boom-or-bust potential, and Beane is desperate for a “boom” after not drafting a Pro Bowl player since 2018. That’s why this receiver is a sneaky possibility for the Bills in Round 1.
2. Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State
If Buffalo doesn’t do anything else along the offensive line this offseason, the unit should be among the upper half of the league. The line returns starters Dion Dawkins, Mitch Morse, Ryan Bates, and Spencer Brown, and Beane added guard Connor McGovern in free agency.
There is always room for improvement, which is why the Bills' first-round pick could be an offensive lineman. If that’s the case, the team should consider North Dakota State lineman Cody Mauch.
Mauch is a North Dakota native who played defensive end and tight end on his nine-man football team in high school before moving to the line in college. This is a similar story to Iowa native and Bills starting right tackle Spencer Brown.
At 6-foot-5, 309 pounds, Mauch started at left and right tackle in college and profiles more as a guard in the NFL. He is athletic and versatile enough that he may even be able to play center at the next level as well.
In addition to the versatility, Mauch is a tough guy with long red hair and without his two front teeth (which he lost in a basketball game in junior high). He has a mean streak on the field that all NFL O-line coaches would love to have in their room.
The Bison lineman could come onto the Bills roster and challenge every player on the depth chart for their starting position and likely take one from somebody. At worst, adding Mauch with the Bills' first-round pick will up all the team’s linemen’s games. At best, you have a center, guard, or tackle in front of Josh Allen for the next decade-plus.
1. Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
Among the biggest Bills draft needs are at linebacker and pass rush. The team lost starting linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in free agency. And without Von Miller in the playoff last season, the rush was anemic in the team’s season-ending loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Brandon Beane will likely address the LB spot on Day 1 or 2 and add some EDGE help on Day 3. However, what if he could get all that in one player with the Bills' first-round pick?
The best sneaky Bills first-round pick is Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound former Razorback will remind a lot of Bills fans of Edmunds with his unusual size and athleticism for an NFL middle linebacker.
And, in fact, that’s because Sanders didn’t become an LB until last season when he transferred from Alabama to Arkansas. In his first two seasons in college, Sanders was an edge-rusher for the Crimson Tide who had a sack and 2.5 tackles for a loss in limited time as a sophomore.
At Arkansas, though, Sanders moved back in the defense to LB where he put up 103 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles on his way to a first-team All-American nod.
With head coach Doug McDermott taking over the defense this season, taking a versatile weapon like Sanders in the 2023 NFL Draft would be the sneaky-good move the Bills could make to help get them over the hump next season.