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2018 NFL mock draft: The Bills should pick the next great middle linebacker

After landing Josh Allen in the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft, Buffalo goes defense.

NCAA Football: Boise State at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft, the Buffalo Bills were able to score a starting quarterback with Josh Allen at No. 12. Whether or not you like Allen, it was a good play.

Now here with the 22nd pick, Matt Warren of Buffalo Rumblings has some options. There are a few linebackers available that make sense, and several different offensive linemen could be taken.

22. Buffalo Bills: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Warren: Buffalo wasn’t happy with middle linebacker Preston Brown last year and let him leave in free agency on a low one-year deal. Brown played nearly 100 percent of the snaps at middle linebacker over the last three seasons. With this pick, the Bills add a player that can do the same. He’ll likely slot in as their middle linebacker but can play all three spots in Sean McDermott’s 4-3. Vander Esch is an athletic every-down linebacker who can fill the role Luke Kuechly played for McDermott in Carolina. The Bills are planning on bringing in Vander Esch for a pre-draft visit, so clearly there is interest there.

Analysis: This choice comes down to preference. Do you prefer the more athletic Vander Esch, or the thumping Rashaan Evans of Alabama? The case for Evans is that he has the more consistent career, while Vander Esch was more of a one-year wonder last season. Evans is also better at getting off blocks and uses better angles to get to the ball carrier. At this point, Vander Esch relies on his athleticism to read and react to a play. He’s good, and closer to being a Kuechly type of player than Evans. But he’ll have to be coached up in a hurry to make an impact.

Dan Kadar’s top five players remaining

  • 20. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
  • 21. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
  • 22. Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
  • 23. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
  • 24. Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

The final pick of the day is coming up at 1 p.m. ET with Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit making his first choice for the New England Patriots.


What grade do you give the pick of Leighton Vander Esch by the Buffalo Bills?

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