As of today, we know of 23 out of the "25 or 26" names the Buffalo Bills brought in for pre-draft visits. It's an incomplete list, but it gives us a starting point that we can correlate with the team's preferences. In one of my favorite exercises of the year, we'll take a guess at Buffalo's draft board (or at least narrow it down to a list of 60 or 70 options) by using their list of pre-draft visitors as inspiration. Let's go over our rules of thumb:
- The Bills bring in their first-round pick for a pre-draft visit. They've done this every year since at least 2010, with the exception of 2015, when they had no first-round pick.
- The Bills will often bring in a pre-draft visitor to find out more information about a teammate they'd like to draft. Example: in 2013, they had Dion Jordan visit, and part of his interview may have helped them decide to draft teammate Kiko Alonso.
- The group of player positions that the Bills brought in is a strong indicator of their eventual draft selections.
Note: In all of the tables that follow, the "V/T/P" column is meant to delineate if the player was a pre-draft visitor ("V"), the teammate of a pre-draft visitor ("T"), and/or a prospect at the same position as a pre-draft visitor ("P").
Buffalo's first-round options
|Vernon Butler||DT||Louisiana Tech||1||V|
|Darron Lee||LB||Ohio State||1||V|
|Eli Apple||CB||Ohio State||1||V|
|Taylor Decker||OT||Ohio State||1||V|
|Emmanuel Ogbah||DE||Oklahoma State||1||V|
|Jack Conklin||OT||Michigan State||1||V|
|Karl Joseph||S||West Virginia||1-2||V|
This table is nice and straightforward. Unless we discover new information about a visitor to the team, this is the list we can expect the Bills to choose from on the night of the draft, unless they throw a curveball and draft a non-visitor (or one we're not aware of) for the first time in several years. All of these names visited Buffalo, and are projected to be first-round locks. I expect one of these names to be Buffalo's pick.
Other visitors of interest
|Dak Prescott||QB||Mississippi State||2-4||V|
|Cardale Jones||QB||Ohio State||2-4||V|
|Adolphus Washington||DT||Ohio State||2-3||V|
|Vonn Bell||S||Ohio State||2-3||V|
|Kelvin Fisher Jr.||S||UTEP||4-7||V|
|Connor Cook||QB||Michigan State||1-2||V|
This table has the remaining known visitors. All of them have very strong chances of being eventual Bills draft selections. Usually, I expect one to three names from this list to be a Bill.
|Chris Jones||DT||Mississippi State||1-2||T, P|
|Will Redmond||CB||Mississippi State||3-6||T,P|
|Taveze Calhoun||CB||Mississippi State||3-6||T,P|
|Beniquez Brown||LB||Mississippi State||4-7||T,P|
|Michael Thomas||WR||Ohio State||1-2||T|
|Nick Vannett||TE||Ohio State||2-4||T|
|Braxton Miller||WR||Ohio State||2-3||T|
|Joshua Perry||LB||Ohio State||2-4||T,P|
|Kevin Peterson||CB||Oklahoma State||3-6||T,P|
|Jimmy Bean||ER||Oklahoma State||3-7||T,P|
|Jeff Driskel||QB||LA Tech||4-7||T,P|
|Shilique Calhoun||ER||Michigan State||1-2||T,P|
|Joel Heath||DT||Michigan State||3-6||T,P|
|Lawrence Thomas||DT||Michigan State||3-6||T,P|
In this table, I've collected 26 notable players who had a teammate visit. In some of these cases, it's easy to see why interviewing a teammate would be helpful. Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd both played outside linebacker for Georgia. If the Bills brought Floyd in, it would be easy to ask him about Jenkins. Likewise, despite the sheer volume of Ohio State players that visited the Bills, there are still a number of names who could interest the team. You usually see one to three names from this list as Bills.
Other notable options
|Roberto Aguayo||K||Florida State||2-6|
|Jacoby Brissett||QB||N.C. State||3-7||P|
|Austin Johnson||DT||Penn State||2-4||P|
|Christian Hackenberg||QB||Penn State||2-3||P|
|Anthony Zettel||DT||Penn State||3-7||P|
|Victor Ochi||ER||Stony Brook||3-7||P|
|Kyler Fackrell||ER||Utah State||2-3||P|
I always like to gather a decent group of position players who didn't have any visit connections to the Bills, because there is obviously a chance that they draft one or two extra guys outside of that structure. Take 2014's draft: after selecting four visitors and a teammate, their seventh-round picks were both positions they had worked out (linebacker Randell Johnson and tackle Seantrel Henderson). Many of these names were also covered in our complementary article which examined non-visitors who interacted with the Bills this offseason. This is the hardest group to hit on. Anywhere from zero to two names should come off of it.
Buffalo has eight picks in this draft. Build a draft with five or more of these players. Can you make one you'd be happy with?