What’s next for Keon Coleman and the Bills’ Day 2 draft picks?

What’s next for Keon Coleman and the Bills’ Day 2 draft picks?

By Oghale Apr27,2024

After choosing to sit on the sidelines throughout Day 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills didn’t wait any longer than they had to on Day 2.

Possessing the top pick of the second round at No. 33, the Bills left themselves open to taking calls to see if there was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

That offer never came, and the Bills followed through with their plan since the first round ended — to select Florida State wide receiver Keon Coleman as their new X-receiver — a position they did not have a starter for before the draft began.

Coleman, Utah safety Cole Bishop and Duke defensive tackle DeWayne Carter are the core pieces of the Bills’ draft class this year.

What did we learn about the Bills from those picks, what could be on the way on Day 3, and who might they target? Here is a complete look into what happened on Day 2 for the Bills and what’s ahead on Day 3.

Understanding the why and what’s next of the Coleman pick

When the Bills moved down to No. 33, they had an idea that Keon Coleman would be their biggest investment in the wide receiver position since trading for Stefon Diggs in 2020. There was a vacancy at X-receiver, with Gabe Davis leaving via free agency and signing only Mack Hollins — a career journeyman and special teams player — as a possible fill-in. In Coleman, the Bills are doing their best to make their receiver room a lot more versatile than it was in previous seasons. Coleman is a better athlete than the 4.61-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine indicates, as his movements and twitch help him gain separation on his routes. He’s just not going to be the long speed guy, but they knew that from the outset of drafting him.

Coleman still made all the sense in the world for what the Bills want out of the X-receiver position. Between his large catch radius, potential for yards after the catch, great hands and being one of the best blocking receivers in this class, the Bills knew they could operate the offense with the plug-and-play Coleman they way they see fit. He’s a great culture fit, and embodies the “smart, selfless and versatile” mantra they talked about last week. But it’s also about potential with him. They know what they’re getting as a baseline, and that’s to be a solid starting option who could produce as a rookie. But if he hits, the nuances of his route running improve ever so slightly, and the red zone capabilities shine through with a quarterback like Josh Allen, Coleman has all the opportunity to become a No. 1 reciever in Buffalo. It’s a lot to ask of him to do so right now without delay as a 21-year-old rookie, but if he shows well enough, it could be convincing enough to make the Bills feel like they’re good at the position in future offseasons.

Though the more likely outcome is that Coleman’s ceiling is topping out as the second-best receiver in an offense, but not the featured top wide receiver teams have to actively gameplan against. The Coleman pick is slightly reminiscent to what the Cinicinatti Bengals saw in Tee Higgins when they drafted him in the second round. Higgins showed a lot of promising signs as a rookie, but when they had the chance to draft a player like Ja’Marr Chase the following year, they jumped at it. And now the Bengals have one of the best receiver duos in the NFL — at least for now. So, while the hope is that Coleman becomes the Chase, his overall skill set might wind up being the investment before the investment. With the wide reciever extension market being what it is, it’s wise for the Bills to invest in the draft on almost a yearly basis, and it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if wide receiver is in the running for them in the first round once again next year — which wouldn’t be a slight on Coleman at all.

Bishop vision, and are they done at safety?

Beane came into the evening knowing that, unless someone totally wowed them with a trade offer, Coleman would be on their roster. But when it came to Bishop at No. 60, Beane felt that familiar itch to move up the board. The Bills GM admitted to some nervous moments in the picks ahead of him, seeing a drop-off from Bishop to everyone else on his board. Beane attempted, and failed, to secure a pick earlier than No. 60 and just had to sit and hope. It wound up working out as the Bills got their guy, and someone who could be a long-term presence in their starting lineup.

Bishop is the biggest investment the current Bills regime has made in the draft at the safety position. They’ve never needed to before this year due to having both Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde since Sean McDermott arrived in 2017, but those familiar faces are now only a memory into the first iteration of the Bills under Beane and McDermott. Not only is Bishop a massive investment, but this is also the most explosive athlete the Bills have had at the position since the Poyer and Hyde took over in 2017. And Bishop isn’t just an athlete. He brings the things the Bills usually covet at the position with instincts and playmaking, both in coverage and as a blitzer. If Bishop hits, it’s fair to say his ceiling within the system can be pretty high.

But what is the team’s vision for him, both short-term and long-term? The Bills will take it slow with Bishop and be quite careful not to overload him at a difficult position to play. It’s not a simple case of plugging him into the lineup and letting him learn on the fly. Now, that very well could happen because he earns the job. But I would expect to see a similar spring and summer arc to what the Bills did with guard O’Cyrus Torrence last year. Torrence was in a full-on competition with Ryan Bates, and wound up winning the job outright after an uneven start at training camp. Bishop likely will be in a battle with one or both of Mike Edwards and Cam Lewis for the starting safety spot next to Taylor Rapp in 2024. Though, even if Bishop doesn’t win the job outright, I would be surprised if the Bills don’t try to find some kind of role for him on defense and slowly push him toward the full-time role. The only way that doesn’t happen is if Bishop looks overwhelmed.

From a long-term perspective, Bishop should be the full-time starter in 2025 at the very latest. If all goes well this year, he’d have a good bank of starting experience in 2024, which could pave the way for the Bills to find his long-term running mate in the draft at some point in 2025 or 2026, depending on how productive Rapp is in the starting role. You can tell the Bills are excited about what Bishop can become in their system. Now it’s just a matter of them doing what they have been very good at over the years — developing and getting the most out of young defensive backs.



Bills draft Cole Bishop: How he fits, pick grade and scouting intel

Uneven DT depth made the DeWayne Carter pick necessary

Since the Bills overhauled their entire defensive line a few years ago, they’ve mostly gone with a similar approach to building out their defensive tackle depth chart. It all revolved around Ed Oliver as the critical piece through the draft, and a bunch of short-term additions from other teams that showed some promise but were still relative bargains. The result was having overall untrustworthy depth, to the point the Bills had to hammer Oliver and the recently returned starter DaQuan Jones with snaps at the end of the season and in the playoffs. Whether it was Tim Settle, Jordan Phillips, Poona Ford or whoever else, it just wasn’t working past the starting pair.

An investment within the draft, and someone to develop in their system while knowing they’d have them for at least four seasons was necessary. Enter Carter, who they hope will be a long-term answer as Oliver’s primary backup at three-technique, while also giving them a chance to play next to Oliver on pass-rushing downs. With Jones signing what looks like a guaranteed two-year deal, there wasn’t an overwhelming emphasis to find a one-technique to develop in this draft. Austin Johnson also helps that for 2024. So, for now, they’ve got Oliver, Jones and Carter for at least the next two seasons, and on paper, that’s a potential upgrade to what they had behind the starters over the last two years.

The Buffalo Bills selected Duke defensive tackle DeWayne Carter with the 95th overall pick on Friday night. (Jaylynn Nash / USA Today)

What positions could the Bills look at on Day 3?

Beane has a longstanding explanation that he does more need-based drafting on Day 3 than Day 1 or Day 2 (even though he often fills needs in those first three rounds). The reason for his approach on Day 3 is that it’s more difficult for those players to make the 53-man roster as rookies, so he wants to have a potential roster spot winnable for every player he winds up drafting. With that in mind, here are the positions with a possible roster spot most readily available.

Running back — The Bills have James Cook and Ty Johnson but no defined third running back, and the team usually keeps at least three on the 53-man roster.

Wide receiver — Even with Coleman, the Bills only have four roster spots spoken for with Khalil Shakir, Curtis Samuel and Hollins. Justin Shorter could be five, but the Bills usually keep six receivers. The double dip is highly possible.

Offensive line — Whether it’s a guard/tackle or a center/guard, the Bills could use a young, versatile offensive lineman to develop on a cost-controlled deal. My lean here would be for an interior offensive lineman, only because they have Ryan Van Demark (who they like) and La’el Collins on the roster in 2024 at offensive tackle.

Edge rusher — The Bills have three roster spots spoken for here with Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa, and Von Miller. Kingsley Jonathan will have a shot to make the team, too. But the Bills have kept six defensive ends before. Five or six this year is a possibility.

Linebacker — The team has often kept six linebackers, with the final two usually sticking around for special reasons only. They only have five right now in Matt Milano, Terrel Bernard, Dorian Williams, Baylon Spector and Nicholas Morrow.

Boundary cornerback — The Bills have a vacancy for their fourth cornerback behind Rasul Douglas, Christian Benford, and Kaiir Elam.



Best available players for Buffalo Bills in NFL Draft

Day 3 Bills quick picks

Pick No. 110 (trade-up) — WR Troy Franklin, Oregon

Knowing Beane’s tendency to move up and the way he talked about the beginning of Day 3 on late Friday evening, there’s no way I could have them stand by and not attempt to move up. Beane said they wanted to see how the first handful of selections played out on Day 3, but I believe this is a terrific opportunity to add something they still don’t have in the receiver room — the ability to win deep down the field. Franklin dropped a lot farther than expected. Some of that likely concerns his size (6-foot-2, 176 pounds) and whether he can win consistently in the NFL. But as a WR4 on a team who can develop into his natural Z-receiver role and puts a strain on the defense over the top, there’s a lot to like there. I contemplated an interior offensive lineman here like Tanor Bortolini, but the Bills do not have the game speed and ability for yards after the catch in their receiver room right now that Franklin would provide.

Trade terms: Bills trade Nos. 128 and 160 to Chargers for No. 110

Pick No. 141 — RB Audric Estime, Notre Dame

The running backs stuck around longer than expected, and there are still players available ahead of Estime who lead me to believe he could be around in the early fifth round. If he’s there at this point, the Bills should pounce. He’s the physical, between-the-tackles runner they don’t have, and he can also contribute on special teams if necessary.

Pick No. 144 — IOL Beaux Limmer, Arkansas

I’m sticking with a few of my picks from my final Bills seven-round mock draft, and this is the first of them. The Bills have looked to add athletic offensive linemen, which is just what Limmer brings. He has experience playing both guard and center and could develop into a starter down the line. If Limmer hits, he could easily replace David Andrews or Connor McGovern in the starting lineup at either guard or center — though the Bills likely prefer center.

Pick No. 163 — CB M.J. Devonshire, Pittsburgh

Devonshire is also a repeat appearance from my final Bills mock because the Bills have shown interest in him and how he fits into their system. Despite a smaller frame (5-foot-10, 186 pounds), Devonshire has an arm length of nearly 33 inches, which the Bills look for in zone-scheme cornerbacks.

Pick No. 204 — EDGE Braiden McGregor, Michigan

McGregor has a notable presence on special teams, which the Bills need out of a Day 3 pass rusher. He also has the size and arm length they generally look for at the position. McGregor has some potential as a rotational edge rusher, too, so it’s not just a special teams grab. He’d at least have a chance to make the team outright.

Pick No. 221 — S/LB Tyler Owens, Texas Tech

In this pick, I have the Bills in search of their new Siran Neal — a player with outrageous athleticism and explosiveness who is rough around the edges as a defender and doesn’t quite have a home. The Athletic draft expert Dane Brugler wrote that the 6-foot-2, 216-pound Owens “boasts first-round physical traits and explosive speed” and has an extensive special teams background.

(Top photo of Keon Coleman: James Gilbert / Getty Images)

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