The NFL Draft finally commences tomorrow, April 23rd. In these unprecedented and storied times, tomorrow’s draft will make history as the first to ever be conducted online, using video conferencing apps to facilitate draft picks and trades throughout the entire draft. What is also quite different about these times and unprecedented in the 21st century so far is the state of the Buffalo Bills, who are finally legitimate contenders. For the first time since the mid to late 1990s, the Bills are entering a new era, what many football analysts deem a “super bowl window”. This is a period where a team is a potential super bowl contender. According to Fanduel Sportsbook, the Bills have similar odds to win next year as the Steelers, Packers, Seahawks, Rams, and Vikings, who all hover around the +2100 to +2700 range. The company the Bills share here should make Bills fans excited. This is why the 2020 draft is so crucial. The Bills can make the jump from a good team to an elite team with a strong draft.
Roster turnover is inevitable. Good players get paid and leave, and other players get injured. The Bills have a strong roster now, but they must have a stellar draft if they want to take their team to the next level. I believe the Bills' opportunity to reach a Super Bowl is now. Beane must step up to the task.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 14: Stefon Diggs #14 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints on January 14, 2018 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
The acquisition of Stefon Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round pick by the Bills included giving up their first-round pick this year, along with a 2020 fifth, a sixth, and a 2021 fourth. While many criticized the trade because of the hefty price compensation, I believe the deal was absolutely worth it. Diggs is better than whoever would’ve been drafted with the Bills’ first-round pick. Brandon Beane and the Bills front office once again displayed competence and forethought in the long-term, concepts that have been dearly missed for two decades. Beane stated that bringing in the veteran receiver not only adds offensive firepower, but also ensures that the Bills receive a known asset. Social distancing makes evaluating talent and interviewing players extremely difficult. The reality is that there won’t be many players in this year’s draft who will be able to contribute in year one like Diggs can due to shortened offseason programs. The smart move was to trade for a stable asset who can provide immediately. Bravo Brandon Beane, bravo.
With a strong draft, the Bills can continue to build and add depth to capitalize on their fortuitous position in the AFC East. The good news for Bills fans is Brandon Beane and company are here to stay for the long run, and a slip up here or there won’t put their jobs in jeopardy. Expect the Bills front office to continue to make moves that balance both the short term needs of the team as well as the long term strength of the organization. Bean’s job security should allow him to have a strong draft.
The Bills don’t have any glaring holes on their roster, which gives the team the freedom to make a luxury pick if they so choose. The Bills could select a wide receiver in the second round, but a deep wide receiver class could lead the Bills to wait and take a wideout capable of producing in rounds 3-5. Adding young talent around Josh Allen to go alongside a top-tier veteran receiving core in John Brown, Cole Beasley, and Stefon Diggs will only benefit the offense.
Possibilities include Laviska Shenault out of Colorado and KJ Hamler out of Penn State. Both are solid receivers in their own right who could each fill the Mckenzie role of last year as a WR4 in creative plays like options, end-arounds, and jet sweeps. RB-wise, J.K. Dobbins out of Ohio State and Clyde Edwards-Helaire out of LSU may be available and should be considered in round two to complement Devin Singletary. However, I believe the Bills will, and should, select an edge rusher or cornerback in round two. The Bills lead the betting market in landing RB Leonard Fournette currently, and with the coupling of Mcdermott’s defensive mindset and the already acquired Diggs, a defensive player is more likely early in the second round. Some names the Bills are looking to target include Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson, cornerback Trevon Diggs from Alabama, and defensive end Julian Okwara out of Notre Dame.
BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 25: Laviska Shenault Jr. #2 of the Colorado Buffaloes carries the ball for a 73-yard touchdown catch against the USC Trojans in the third quarter of a game at Folsom Field on October 25, 2019 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
The Bills have few needs if any, but the primary position to target is an edge rusher, as Jerry Hughes is 31 and Mario Addison is 32. A valuable edge rusher yields great returns in the NFL, and is a critical part in most teams’ postseason success and is exactly what the 49ers did last year. This draft is also weak on edge rushers, and failing to select one in the second-round may mean another year until the Bills can find a productive pass rusher. Besides Tre White, the Bills’ cornerback depth chart is filled with questions, even after the signing of Josh Norman. The Bills should select an edge rusher or cornerback in round two. If the draft goes as most analysts are predicting, plenty of wide receivers and running backs should still be on the board for rounds 3, 4, and 5. If a run on wideouts and running backs takes place, the Bills should address their strategy accordingly, drafting a wide receiver or best player available early on, or even trade up for whoever intrigues them.
AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 07: Clyde Edwards-Helaire #22 of the LSU Tigers rushes for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 7, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Every offseason, draft, and game feels like the most important one in decades for a fan base starving for a Super Bowl. Finally, a winning culture has manifested on the field. This draft has tremendous implications for years to come. The foundation of the Bills playoff roster is in the midst of being perfected. Every Bills fan should be excited with the possibility that an already formidable roster can grow into a top-notch squad with a strong draft. A quote from Marv Levy, the Bills’ winningest coach of all time is fitting for this new era of success: “Where else would you rather be than right here, right now.”