Draft day is here!
Bills hold 9th overall pick in tonight’s NFL Draft
The Buffalo Bills, at least for as long as I have been alive, have almost always been picking early in the NFL Draft. Tonight is no exception, as the Bills hold the No. 9 overall pick in the NFL Draft. As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes the stage in Nashville to announce the Bills selection, fans all across Western New York will be hoping for an exciting pick to breathe life into what was one of the worst offenses in football a year ago.
I’m not so sure that’s the direction the Bills are heading tonight.
After a free agency spending spree that saw the Bills address many of the team’s biggest needs, tonight is less about filling a need and more about finding the best talent out there. The Bills organization, especially general manager Brandon Beane, have said as much throughout the long process leading up to tonight’s draft.
While the names aren’t as exciting as many other teams’ top options, the signings of John Brown and Cole Beasley — along with the emergence of former undrafted rookie Robert Foster — lessen the need to add a receiver with the team’s first pick. The signing of tight end Tyler Kroft does the same, although it would have been a surprise to me if the Bills reached as high as No. 9 overall to take a tight end. Very rarely does a tight end go that early, while there is more value at drafting a tight end in the next two rounds. Keep in mind that Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and George Kittle — regarded as the league’s top tier at the position — were all taken after the first round.
From what I see from the prospects in this year’s draft, the value is not there at wide receiver or tight end at No. 9 overall. If the Bills wanted to take one of those two positions in the first round, the best option would be to trade back. If Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins falls further than expected or a team falls in love with either Duke quarterback Daniel Jones or Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, the Bills would be able to trade back and find better value with either of the Iowa tight ends, T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant, in the middle of the first round. A mid-to-late first round pick would also be a solid value for some of the best available wide receivers, such as Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown Mississippi’s D.K. Metcalf.
Where the value is in this draft is in the trenches. The offensive and defensive line prospects in this year’s draft are some of the best the NFL has seen in years. Outside of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Kyler Murray of Oklahoma, the top 10 picks in the draft may all be offensive linemen, defensive linemen or linebackers. With the Bills sitting at No. 9, one of the big talents of the draft has a very good chance to fall into Buffalo’s lap.
Defensive tackles Ed Oliver, Quinnen Williams and Christian Wilkins are all highly regarded as interior pass rushers, while Josh Allen (of Kentucky), Rashan Gary and Montez Sweat are some of the top pass rushers from the outside — excluding Nick Bosa, who is the most likely of all defensive players to be off the board by the time Buffalo picks at No. 9. The danger with going on the interior of the defensive line is that the system the Bills run focuses on rotating the defensive tackle position quite often. If the Bills draft someone like Oliver or Quinnen Williams, something would have to give. You don’t draft a guy in the top 10 to have him be a rotational piece, you draft him with the hope that he turns into the next Aaron Donald — someone that Oliver has been compared to by many draft experts.
Among the top offensive lineman in the class, right tackle Jawaan Taylor from Florida, left tackle Andre Dillard of Washington State and left tackle Jonah Williams of Alabama all present good value at the No. 9 pick. While Buffalo added plenty of bodies to the mix on the offensive line in free agency, the only sure thing was center Mitch Morse. Drafting someone like Taylor, Dillard or Jonah Williams would be an upgrade over anyone the Bills currently have at the position. If the Bills have proven anything over the two decades of my time as a Bills fan, its that the offensive line needs as much help as it can get.
As the NFL Draft begins tonight, Bills fans can feel comfortable in the fact that the front office has noticed its flaws and done its best to address the team’s biggest needs before tonight arrives. Now what it comes down to is who will be the best player left, and will the Bills pull the trigger on the biggest prize left on the board?