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What do the Buffalo Bills’ pre-draft visits indicate about their 2018 NFL Draft intentions?

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We don’t have a track record for Brandon Beane to connect the pre-draft visit dots to draft night, but that doesn’t stop us from guessing anyway

This time of year is affectionately known as “Lying Season” in the NFL. Rumors and falsehoods abound as teams attempt to gain an advantage prior to the 2018 NFL Draft. Could a feigned interest in one player help another fall into your team’s grasp? Can faked apathy put a general manager in a better position to barter? With so many potential ruses, is there any bellwether of truth? Perhaps.

NFL teams have preposterous sums of money and resources at their disposal. Despite these advantages, the resource of “time” for a billionaire is just as finite as it is for the pauper. With so many prospects to evaluate within a relatively narrow span of time, it’s often felt that looking at which players an NFL team chooses to interact with tells the closest story to the truth. With the draft just days away, what can we glean about the intentions of the Buffalo Bills come draft night based on their pre-draft interactions?

Number of players by position

All told, the Buffalo Bills have met directly with 55 prospects, per reports. Here’s a chart showing how many of each position group they’ve reached out to.

Right at the top we see why so many mock drafts have the Bills taking corners. With eight players known to have met with the Bills, it does indeed look like they’re in the market for a corner. Vontae Davis is a bit of a question mark, and there’s likely a desire for a stronger slot starter.

All told, the Bills have looked at ten players that likely could be slotted into a linebacker position (with a few that might play defensive end instead). It’s not shocking to see interest in linebackers, a group that’s often seen as needing improvement. There may be a slight trend toward an inside linebacker. It shouldn’t be ruled out that they’re looking at those edge rushers as defensive ends either.

The Bills’ front office has received criticism this offseason for not adequately addressing several key positions on offense. The chart above suggests that the draft is their plan of correction. With four running backs, four tight ends, six tackles and seven wide receivers meeting with Bills’ brass, it seems likely they’re looking to this side of the team come draft night. It’d be shocking if the Bills don’t take at least one receiver. A tackle seems highly likely as well.

Look at the chart above. The Bills are taking a quarterback. There might be some argument on where precisely. They’ve met with ten guys that are expected to be drafted all over. It’s obvious they’ve taken a lot of time on this position, spending more time on this position than anywhere else.

Visits by position group

The above chart shows the number of unique players per position group. Note that teams can meet with players across several settings, which the Bills took advantage of in some cases. The following chart examines how many meetings the Bills have had broken down by position group.

It’s interesting that the number doesn’t change for corners. They met with each of the eight players just once each, mostly during private visits. Linebackers and edge rushers follow a similar trend. The team is in the market for these positions but didn’t feel the need for second interviews.

For most of the offensive skill position players and tackles, the Bills met with each player only once as well. Like the corner and linebackers/rushers, the interest is clear but one visit was deemed sufficient. Rashaad Penny was a notable exception. The running back from San Diego State met with the Bills at the combine and visited Orchard Park for a private visit.

While the Bills only met with one guard, Frank Ragnow (Arkansas), they met with him on three separate occasions. This included the NFL Combine and a private workout in addition to a private visit.

The first chart shows that QB was a priority, and this second one only reinforces this. With 15 meetings spread across ten players, no other position group comes close to the amount of time spent meeting with QBs. The Josh Allen smoke has legitimate roots as he has met with the Bills twice (Senior Bowl and private visit). Mason Rudolph met with the Bills during the Senior Bowl as well and also visited for a private visit. Per reports, Josh Rosen also met with the Bills twice (workout and private visit). If there is any predictive validity connecting time spent with a prospect to interest, Baker Mayfield could be the coveted prize of the QB class for the Bills. After meeting with Mayfield at the Senior Bowl, they did so again at the Combine and brought him in for a private visit.

The expectation

With that in mind, the Bills seem to want to come out of the draft with the following:

  • Quarterback
  • Receiver
  • Linebacker
  • Offensive tackle
  • Defensive end
  • Fill out offensive skill positions
  • Quarterback. They’re drafting a quarterback