In addition to those players, Torrell Troup (2nd round, 2010), Kelvin Sheppard (3rd round, 2011), and Cordy Glenn (2nd round, 2012) were all official predraft visitors as well- meaning only 1 of the top 6 players drafted during Nix's tenure- Aaron Williams- was off the radar for Bills fans looking for clues as to whom Nix was targeting.
Like him or not, Buddy Nix tends to be relatively straightforward and transparent. His pattern as GM of the Bills is to use the predraft visit process as a way to get one last in depth look at players he is targeting at the top of the draft, while filling out the 30 visit limit with players he is interested in for the end of the draft or as potential UDFAs- Arthur Moats, Levi Brown, Namaan Roosevelt and Tank Carder were all on predraft visits with the Bills.
Using this trend for the 22 players who have been identified as predraft visitors in 2013, what does that mean?
Six of the 22 players have draft grades that put them at the end of the draft, if they get drafted at all- QB Jeff Tuel, WR Russell Shepard, TE Ryan Griffin, and safeties Jonathan Meeks, Cooper Taylor and Malcolm Bronson. Look for any of them with the Bills final 6th round pick, or if undrafted, potential UDFA targets.
Before we get to the remaining 16, it's interesting to see who has not been part of the predraft visit process:
1. Any offensive lineman of any kind. The hot trend in the draft guru department since Levitre left for the Titans is to mock an offensive lineman for the Bills, but none of them- Warmack, Cooper, or Lane Johnson has made their way to Orchard Park. Cross this one off the list for the 1st and 2nd round.
2. Dee Milliner or Xavier Rhodes. Milliner has been a favorite pick of posters on this site as a safe pick, but he will likely be gone before #8 and Nix would seem unlikely to pick consecutive cornerbacks at #1.
3. Any of the highly regarded WR or TE. Patterson? nope. Woods? no. Austin? Allen? Hopkins? not in sight. Neither has there been any sniff so far of a pre-draft visit for the top TEs, Eifert or Ertz. The prediction here is that Buddy does not believe any of the WR or TE are #8 worthy and will instead look for a WR in round 2 or 3 (more on this in a minute).
4. Any defensive lineman. Most mock drafts have not projected a player here for the Bills anyway, but not of the top d-lineman have come in for a visit- Floyd, Ansah, Lotulelei, Werner, Moore, Richardson. Cross them off the list.
So unless Nix makes a massive break from his past routine, who will the Bills take in round 1?
Only 6 players worthy of the #8 pick have made a predraft visit- pass rushing linebackers Jarvis Jones, Barkevious Mingo, and Dion Jordan, quarterbacks Geno Smith and Matt Barkley, and safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Personal opinion only, based on Nix's preference for BPA and value at the top of the draft, I don't believe he will take Matt Barkley, who has a late 1R or early 2R grade from most scouting reports.
Reading the tea leaves and looking at Nix's past tendencies, I believe the Bills will wait to see which of the three pass rushers is there at #8- Jones, Jordan or Mingo- and will likely go there unless Geno Smith falls to #8, which would be a moment in truth time for the Bills organization. Do the Bills agree with analysts like Kiper and Mayock who believe Smith is overgraded because he is the top QB in the draft? Do the Bills prefer a Nassib or Manuel who they believe they can potentially get in the 2nd round?
Vaccaro is an interesting dark horse, as rarely have I seen him mocked to the Bills. It is possible he is literally the "safety" pick, a fall back "break the glass in case of emergency" player if all four of the previously discussed players somehow come off the board before the Bills selection.
As mentioned before, two of Nix's three 2R draft picks were also predraft visitors. So who may he be targeting for that round?
QB. In case he passes on Smith, or doesn't have the chance to draft Smith, any of the players who have marched into Orchard Park are possibilities here- Manuel, Wilson or Glennon. Landry Jones has also visited the Bills, but seems like a reach at #41. Interestingly, Nassib has not visited, which may mean they have enough insider information here that they don't need the visit.
WR. Both Justin Hunter and Ryan Swope have visited.
LB. Kevin Minter and Jamie Collins have visited. If the Bills go LB in the 1st round as predicted, this would seem unlikely.
Honey Badger. It would seem unlikely that the Bills would draft Mathieu in round two, but he has visited and merits a place on the list.
If we were going to all throw our money into a betting pool and bet which way Nix goes in the first two rounds, I'm putting all my chips on pass rushing LB in the 1st, QB in the 2nd, WR in the 3rd. There are still 8 potential unannounced predraft visits, so this list could change at any moment.
But as an old college professor used to tell me, "the best predictor of future actions is studying past behavior", a rule I'm going to follow with Nix until he proves otherwise.