The NFL Draft is just eight days away, and it’s a big one for new coach Sean McDermott and the Buffalo Bills. The Bills, who hold the tenth overall pick, are seen as somewhat of a wildcard in this draft, as they have needs at several positions, positions that are stocked with talent throughout the class. Bills fans don’t need much reminding of how poorly the Bills have drafted throughout the 17 year playoff drought, and they’re hoping new coach Sean McDermott can help turn the Bills luck around.
Here are my do’s and don’ts for the Buffalo Bills in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Try to trade back – As I’ve written previously, the Bills have a ton of holes to fill, and only six picks available to work with. This has been called one of the deepest draft classes in recent years, especially at DB and WR, the Bills’ two biggest needs. While getting a big fish like Mike Williams or Corey Davis would be great, if another team calls looking to move into the Bills slot, it would be wise for them to listen. If the Bills could move back a few spots, and pick up another second or third round pick in the process, it would allow them to still pick a top tier player, and help them fill another hole, later in the draft.
Let the Patriots have Mike Gillislee – I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking of the Chris Hogan situation, and how the Bills can’t afford to make that mistake again. When Chris Hogan went off in the AFC Championship game, catching nine passes for 180 yards, Bills fans brought out their pitchforks, disgusted that the Bills didn’t do more to keep him. The Patriots have offered Gillislee, a RFA, a deal, and the Bills can either match, or will receive a fifth round pick as compensation. While Hogan didn’t bring the Bills anything of value, Gillislee can, and the Bills should take it. Gillislee would be making around $4 million in the first year, too much for a backup RB with the Bills current cap situation. Gillislee was a former fifth round pick himself, and the Bills ended up signing him for nothing. He’s good, but he isn’t irreplaceable, and if the Bills can fill his spot with a cheaper alternative, they should do so.
Strongly consider TE OJ Howard if he’s available – The Bills need to upgrade their receiving core in a big way, and there may not be a better offensive weapon in this draft than Alabama TE OJ Howard. Howard (6-6, 251) is an incredible athlete, running a 4.51 forty at the combine, and perfectly fits the mold of the new age TE. He’s a great pass catcher, and his size would create a ton of mismatches all over the field. He’s not a great blocker, but with some coaching, he could prove to be incredibly useful in the Bills power run offense, especially given his frame and athleticism. People may worry about what to do with Charles Clay, or Tyrod Taylor’s failure to utilize the TE position, but with talent like Howard’s, it’s worth the questionable fit.
Draft a QB in the first round – The Bills have been linked to all of the top quarterbacks in the draft, and it has some people wondering if they could really take one tenth overall, even after bringing back Tyrod Taylor on a re-structured deal. While Taylor isn’t likely the Bills quarterback of the future, he’s their quarterback of the present, with room to improve. It’s not that I’m against potentially replacing Taylor, it’s that this QB class is shaky at best. Mitchell Trubisky is the top guy, but he only started one full season at North Carolina. Deshaun Watson has an impressive résumé, but his high turnover rate and inconsistency makes him a questionable choice. Pat Mahomes is an exciting physical talent, but his decision making leaves a lot to be desired. The Bills need a franchise QB, but in a draft with no true standout prospects, it might be best if the Bills waited another year to pick a QB, rather than risk a high pick on a questionable talent.
Trade up under any circumstance – Doug Whaley has never been shy about moving draft picks to acquire the talent he wants, but the Bills aren’t in any situation to do that this year. Last year, Whaley traded up in the second round for LB Reggie Ragland, and in 2014, he traded up to take WR Sammy Watkins, both moves that have been heavily criticized. In a deep class like this, the Bills can’t afford to be tempted. Sure, if one of the top DB’s starts to fall, or maybe one of the top QB’s slips to the top of the second round, Whaley could be tempted, but with such a bare cupboard, the Bills are forced to stay put.
Draft too far outside of need – The NFL Draft is truly unpredictable when it comes to players rising up boards, or falling down them. Every year we see a top five projected talent plummet down the boards, and at the same time see a guy shockingly skyrocket to the top. Especially given the unpredictability of the quarterbacks, the top ten could be as crazy as ever this year, and some top talent could fall right into Buffalo’s lap. However, depending on the position, the Bills may be wise to pass on them if they do. Maybe Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, or Stanford’s Solomon Thomas, the top two interior defensive lineman in the draft, fall to Buffalo’s tenth pick. Or maybe the draft’s top RB, Leonard Fournette, slides to ten. Even though the talent, and value, would be great, the Bills need to combine need and talent, something that should be fairly easy in this class. Value is important, but need has to play just as big of a role, and the Bills can’t afford to take the bait if it’s there.