The Buffalo Bills held their annual pre-draft luncheon today, with general manager Doug Whaley, director of player personnel Jim Monos, and director of college scouting Kelvin Fisher in attendance. As in previous years, the team gave some cryptic answers to many questions, but revealed a few useful pieces of knowledge regarding their draft philosophy.
Notes on quarterbacks
As we've known all offseason, Whaley repeated that "there's a very, very good possibility" the team will be drafting a quarterback. Nothing new there.
What do the Bills want in a quarterback? According to Whaley, it's accuracy, decision making, the ability to make those around him better, and the ability to command a huddle. Answering another question, Whaley mentioned that "everybody wants that ideal, 6'5" guy with 10-inch hands and a bazooka arm, but that's hard to find." He mentioned that, when ticking off the list of traits the Bills value on a quarterback, arm strength does rise above the others. Does that suggest the team might be targeting the athletic prototype in Cardale Jones? They'd have to sell themselves on him first, according to Whaley:
Whaley on Cardale Jones - his resume is short. He's a greater leap of faith than a lot of other guys. #Bills— Chris Brown (@ChrisBrownBills) April 20, 2016
Asked about Paxton Lynch, Fisher didn't have much to say, calling him a "very, very good player." And if Terry Pegula had a player in mind (such as the quarterback from Penn State) for the team to target? Whaley says he's never been pressured to add a player before, but "it's [Terry's] team," and the Pegulas make the final call on personnel decisions.
Some direction on linebackers
The Bills only have three linebackers on the active roster after Tuesday's release of Tony Steward. Given that the team needs at least two to start on the field, you can expect that the team will add at least one. When asked about the type of linebacker that the Bills envision adding, Whaley went into a little bit of detail, talking about how a smaller, faster linebacker carries extra value in today's NFL.
#Bills GM Doug Whaley: The game is going to a more spread out, less downhill type. Bigger body guys aren't as highly coveted in our division— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) April 20, 2016
Buffalo brought in Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee for a pre-draft visit, and Lee (who ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash) could be the type of track athlete that appeals to the Bills. Another name that visited the team is linebacker-safety Su'a Cravens, and it sounds like the Bills are optimistic about his versatility on the field.
#Bills GM Doug Whaley on Su'a Cravens: Could potentially play four downs. You like him for his versatility.— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) April 20, 2016
That doesn't mean the Bills are necessarily out on the 250-pound Reggie Ragland, either. Whaley said that Ragland might "be able to play on all three downs." One more linebacker of interest? Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith, a potential top pick who is rehabbing from a knee injury with nerve damage. Whaley said the team would "put a lot of thought into Jaylon Smith," noting that they were waiting for updated medical information. Smith could potentially have to miss the entire 2016 season, but the long-term prognosis for his type of injury is usually positive, and he has the upside of a player like Luke Kuechly when healthy.
Notes on pre-draft visits
As has been their practice since 2015, Buffalo didn't disclose a full list of pre-draft visitors. They did comment on a few specific names, such as defensive back Kelvin Fisher Jr. ("Good player," according to his dad) and Jarran Reed (the team met with him at the Senior Bowl, but he had to cancel a scheduled pre-draft visit because of the birth of his child).
The team elected not to use all 30 of their pre-draft visits this year, and Whaley estimated they used 25 or 26 of them. Our unofficial pre-draft tracker has 20 names, and that's what we'll have to run with unless other reports emerge in the next week.
Whaley was his usual double-speaking self on the subject of trading today. Just a few hours after suggesting on WGR 550's The Howard Simon Show that he would be open to any type of trade, he doled out a couple of corrections from previously reported news:
#Bills GM Doug Whaley: It is not true that we've called to Browns about the #2 pick— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) April 20, 2016
"My phone has not rung on Tyrod" - Whaley— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) April 20, 2016
Sure enough, the Eagles announced a trade for the No. 2 pick less than two hours after the press conference. That door is closed. As for the Tyrod Taylor trade rumor? The cynic inside us could argue that, even if Whaley's sentence was true, it doesn't preclude him from calling another team about Taylor (or receiving a text message). Still, every indication out of Whaley today was that the team wants to unite behind Taylor as the starter for the 2016 season.
Whaley did discuss trading up or down in general, saying that given the team's needs for depth on the roster, he was more inclined to trade down. But you know how he is: "Never say never."