Hope for next season
The Bills look to a favorable draft
Big-bodied WR Tee Higgins of the Clemson Tigers is the subject of some speculation as a Bills pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
The Buffalo Bills are well positioned to have a sustained run of playoff-caliber football for the first time since I learned to drive—and I’m now in my mid-thirties. But, as always, there are no guarantees.
If you want to see a worst-case scenario, look at the Chicago Bears. Two seasons ago, second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky led the team to a 12-4 record and a playoff berth. They thought they were flying high going into the 2019 season when it all fell apart. The defense took a step back, and Trubisky stagnated instead of continuing to get better. The team finished 8-8, and they’re now questioning if they need to start over at QB.
The Bills face this offseason with a tremendous amount of money available under the salary cap, and most key players will return. There are holes that need to be addressed, and the team is far from perfect, but they are in a good situation.
Unfortunately, free agents often don’t want to come to Buffalo, thanks to the triple threat of historic losses, bad weather, and a small city that doesn’t offer the same perks to young millionaires that many other NFL outposts do. Add the fact that the Bills will need a lot of money to sign players like Tremaine Edmunds, Josh Allen, and Tre’Davious White when their rookie deals expire over the next few years, and this means that the Bills won’t be as splashy or exciting in free agency as many fans hope.
But, we still have this month’s draft. In their short tenure, Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have nailed selecting talent that will help the team. Since McDermott came aboard three seasons ago, the Bills have drafted White, Dion Dawkins, Matt Milano, Allen, Edmunds, Harrison Phillips, Taron Johnson, Cody Ford, Ed Oliver, Devin Singletary, and Dawson Knox. That’s almost the entire nucleus of this team, all taken through the draft and all major contributors to the way the Bills go about their business.
The Bills have one pick in each of the first four rounds of this year’s draft. If the past is any indication, expect them to pick an impact player at each spot. This season, they have specific needs that could get them in the conversation for winning a division title or playoff game.
This has to be the number one request of all Bills fans.
John Brown and Cole Beasley were excellent additions to the team last season, and they aided Josh Allen’s development immensely. However, a good team probably needs three reliable wide receivers, and both Brown and Beasley will be thirty when the 2020 season starts. The good news here is that this draft is considered to have one of the best crops of wideouts to ever enter the league. That means that the Bills don’t necessarily have to go after one with their first-round pick at twenty-two. They can wait until the second round and still grab someone who will make an impact.
Guys like Clemson’s Tee Higgins, Bryan Edwards from South Carolina, or Michael Pittman Jr. from USC are all big-bodied, red-zone-threat receivers who the Bills could target with one of their first two picks.
With Shaq Lawson’s status up in the air and the retirement of Lorenzo Alexander, edge rusher should also be a priority for the Bills. Jerry Hughes is probably the current top dog on the roster, but he is getting a little long in the tooth at age thirty-one.
There are a few tiers of edge rushers available in this year’s draft. If Yetur Gross-Matos or K’Lavon Chaisson are available when they pick first, don’t be surprised if McDermott can’t help himself from picking defense. If they wait until the second round, they might be able to draft someone like Terrell Lewis, Josh Uche, or Jabari Zuniga, all seniors who might bring an extra bit of experience and knowledge along with their talent.
Though this might not be addressed early in the draft, it is still a position of need. The team entered the offseason with just four guys under contract. Taron Johnson is probably the current number two, and he’s really more of a nickel cornerback. They need to add a player here.
This sounds crazy: with the emergence of Singletary, why would the Bills waste draft capital at the position? Will Singletary is the primary back for the team, yes, but the days of one running back doing it all are gone. The Bills should get someone in free agency who can complement him. We need someone who can bring the lumber on his runs. Singletary is a lot of things, but a heavy hitter he is not. The Bills need someone who can get tough yardage inside the tackles at the goal line and in short yardage.
Don’t be surprised if the Bills upgrade the line late in the draft. Brandon Beane did an excellent job with the reclamation project last year, but there is always a need for new blood in the trenches. The Bills have five selections in the fifth and sixth rounds. If they don’t use any of those picks as part of trades to move around in the earlier rounds, expect at least one of those picks to be an offensive lineman.