What to expect from each Bills' draft pick in 2017

A look at how the six players may contribute this season

Sal Capaccio
May 11, 2017 - 9:33 pm

Photo: James Guillory - USA TODAY Sports

The Bills will hold a three-day rookie minicamp Friday through Sunday. While undrafted free agents, tryout players, and even some players who were on the practice squad last year will be a part of it, most eyes will be on the team’s six draft picks.

Here are what I believe to be reasonable expectations for each of those players this coming season:

Round 1 - Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU

White will compete for a starting job right away. But it’s not going to be handed to him. Ronald Darby should be the No.1 CB headed into the season with Kevon Seymour and White the clear front-runners for the spot opposite him. But it may not matter who ultimately winds up there, because new head coach Sean McDermott is most likely going to be playing a lot of nickel this year meaning three cornerbacks will be on the field on a high percentage of downs. So the only question would then be who plays inside and who plays outside between White and Seymour? Both can do it and both probably will in camp to find the best mix.  

Round 2 - Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina

Much like White at CB, Jones will have every opportunity to compete for a staring job. And like the secondary, the offense will use plenty of three WR sets, which means Jones will play a lot, even if he doesn’t actually start on the field on the first play every game. McDermott will make everyone earn what they get. He’s not going to just hand starting jobs to rookies, no matter how highly thought of, over productive veterans. If Sammy Watkins is healthy (which we all know is a big question mark), Andre Holmes will most likely go to training camp as the No. 2 wideout. That leaves Jones as the third WR with a chance to play his way up the depth chart. But the advantage he has is he can play in the slot or outside, increasing his chances to see the field no matter what. Jones will see enough targets that 50 catches for between 600-700 yards is not out of the question as a baseline. If Watkins doesn’t stay healthy and his role increases, those numbers could be even higher.

Round 2 - Dion Dawkins, OT, Temple

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Dawkins will have a great opportunity to start, but he will still have to earn it. And I’d even go as far to say he’ll have stiffer competition than many others think. First, some see him as competition for John Miller at guard. I don’t. I believe the team will start him out at tackle and keep him there. Additionally, if Miller went down, they re-signed Ryan Groy as a sixth lineman. So the guard spots are locked up. Jordan Mills is the returning starter at right tackle after the team re-signed him this offseason. He started every game at the position last year. Cyrus Kouandjio played entirely on the left side last year, but can also play the right. Seantrel Henderson is suspended the first five games of the season, but the team also signed versatile lineman Vlad Ducasse and have Groy. Both are expected to play guard, but have experience at tackle. So the competition will be there for Dawkins. Mills was much better at the end of 2015 then he was throughout 2016, so who starts opening day may come down to if Mills can regain that 2015 form or is still as inconsistent as he was in 2016. If it’s the former, Dawkins may be the extra tackle behind Mills and Cordy Glenn, but get playing time if either miss any time. If it’s the latter, the door is wide open for him to claim the job immediately and for the foreseeable future.

Round 5 - Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh

I’ll start by saying there’s no way Peterman doesn’t make the final 53-man roster unless he absolutely looks like he’s never played the position before in camp. But that won’t happen since he’s generally regarded as the most NFL-ready QB of the 2017 draft class. But “most NFL-ready” does not mean “ready to start,” as some fans have misinterpreted.  It just means he’s most ready to understand an NFL playbook and be able to run an NFL offense without as much of a learning curve as others. That, plus the fact he is Sean McDermott’s hand-picked first-ever QB selected in a draft, adds up to Peterman sticking around. But then what? Well, he’s not going to unseat Tyrod Taylor for the starting job.  But he very well could beat out both TJ Yates and Cardale Jones for the No. 2 role. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. And even if it doesn’t right away, Peterman could go into the season as the No. 3 QB but work his way up the depth chart a spot by the end of it.

Round 5 - Matt Milano, LB, Boston College
Round 7 - Tanner Vallejo, LB, Boise State

I intentionally put both these guys together. And not just because both just signed their rookie contracts Thursday. It’s because whatever I’d write about one I’d write the exact same about the other. Both will be roster bubble players for most of training camp, but have a better chance to make it since they were drafted players. Teams don’t like to cut guys so quickly after using draft resources on them. But neither should be expected to get much playing time on defense this season, short of injuries to others. They’ll be depth-assurance in McDermott’s 4-3 scheme and maybe even get a few plays in as nickel LBs since are both are athletic. But they will both primarily be special teams contributors. In fact, I’d pencil them in right now for almost every special teams unit as core players on them, along with veterans like Colt Anderson and Lorenzo Alexander.

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