by Paul “The Closer” Wanecski
With the NFL draft on the horizon, the buzz around Buffalo has been that Doug Whaley may have some tricks up his sleeve to slide back into the first round, as the Bills had traded what would have been this year’s selection to the Cleveland Browns to acquire WR Sammy Watkins in 2014. The Bills are holding the 50th pick overall, which would be the furthest into the 2nd round they have drafted since 2009 when they used the 51stselection on guard Andy Levitre. Where will the Bills be looking with this pick, or, will they be aggressive again and look to move this selection up the draft board?
Since 2009, the Bills have selected 11 offensive linemen and 11 defensive backs, which would be the most by position in that given time frame. That would be an average of almost 4 players of either position per draft year. This year will be no different, as the Bills will look to get younger in the secondary yet again and build a core of more special teams players. If a player like Leodis McKelvin falters, he could find himself on the trade block or released to make way for a younger player. The unfortunate part of the Bills draft history is that they have consistently addressed these positions nearly every year via the draft yet only recently did the organization turn out a late round success story in the 7th round selection of Seantrel Henderson, who went on to start at right tackle last season.
NO FIRST ROUND SELECTION:
The Bills currently hold the following selections:
6th- 187, 193
The last time the Bills were without a first round pick was 2005, when the team responded with using the 55th overall selection on WR Roscoe Parrish. Could we be looking at another WR taken in this year’s draft? Not at the 50th pick, no, but it would be a surprise if the team didn’t add another wide out, most likely one of taller frame. The acquisition of Percy Harvin made it apparent that they would not be looking at this position early when draft day comes.
Of course, since the sparks were flying when the offseason officially got underway, most fans are anticipating an equal amount of excitement entering the draft with hopes the Bills will find a way to trade into the first round. If the team did make a move, it would be in the bottom of the first round, selections 22-32, simply because they do not have the firepower to move up that higher. Teams holding those selections will typically take either a 2nd or 3rd round pick, along with a later round selection to drop out of the first. The Bills could employ this tactic but the question would be for what position? By the 22nd selection in the draft, it is estimated that the top 5 offensive linemen will be long gone along with the top 3 cornerbacks. The wealth of WRs that will be drafted in the first round will definitely play to the Bills advantage as the skill positions will slide deeper into the draft.
SO WHO WILL THEY DRAFT?
The most pressing need would be safety if you’re not a believer in Corey Graham, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks or Bacarri Rambo but the top projected safety (Alabama's Landon Collins) will be off the board. They would not need to move up to snag Samford SS Jaquiski Tartt. He is a smash-mouth safety who has a reputation of punishing defenders but may not be available come the 3rd round.
The Bills may back fill the CB position in the 2nd round anticipating that Graham, Duke or Rambo will win the starting safety spot. Look out of players like Byron Jones (Connecticut), Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), or the risky Marcus Peters (formerly of Washington) if they slip out of the first round. The Bills may also stock up the linebacker position, specifically inside linebacker. It is thought that as many as 5 OLBs will be drafted in the 1st round with really on one inside linebacker, Eric Kendricks (UCLA) sniffing round one. Inside linebackers have a tendency to slip in the draft, so 50 could be another spot to bring depth to that position. If Kendrick happens to make it to 50, he won’t make it to 51. Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State) is the most imposing figure in the middle, along with Stephone Anthony (Clemson); either have the frame to play in the NFL. Doug Whaley has never been shy about finding linebacker talent. With Nigel Bradham being able to play inside or outside linebacker, the Bills will be able to attack this position and get one of the top 3 players available.
While it is extremely unlikely the Bills trade up into the 1st round, after this offseason coupled with last year’s draft, it would be foolish to say that they aren’t thinking about it. While the offensive line is still a need for the Bills, the talent pool with be too thin to pass up addressing other needs.