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Will Buffalo Bills return to valuing seniors over underclassmen in 2020 NFL Draft?

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They deviated a lot in 2019

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have shown a tendency to draft seniors since the Rex Ryan era ended. In part it started that way because in 2017 McDermott was working with Doug Whaley’s scouting staff. That left the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL as the only opportunity for McDermott to get a feel for these prospects that wasn’t coming from someone who wouldn’t be with the organization in the very near future. As a result, the Bills famously drafted nothing but seniors in 2017.

In 2018, the Beane-led front office selected five seniors: Harrison Phillips, Taron Johnson, Siran Neal, Wyatt Teller, and Austin Proehl. However, the two earliest picks by the Bills in 2018 were both juniors, Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds, as well as sixth-round wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud III.

Last year the Bills took a vastly different direction. The only player Beane draft in 2019 who was a senior was Miami safety Jaquan Johnson. All of the remaining six picks (Ed Oliver, Cody Ford, Devin Singletary, Dawson Knox, Vosean Joseph, and Darryl Johnson) were underclassmen who declared for the draft with eligibility left at their schools.

Now heading into the 2020 draft, fans and analysts are all reading the tea leaves to see what can be learned from McBeane’s previous tendencies to forecast this year’s draft. The obvious conclusion is that once Beane had established his staff and procedures for the scouting department, predominantly relying on the Senior Bowl became less of a priority. This came as a bit of a surprise considering Beane’s own words when interviewed at the senior bowl in 2019.

“I do think you find guys that have been through their senior year and weren’t always touted as the five-star recruit (or) the blue chip player,” Beane said. “A guy that’s more mature than sometimes underclassmen may be. I do think there’s something to that. Sean and I are very thorough on (players) being smart, mature, culture, all those things. And I think you find that some guys find out who they are later in their career than maybe they were when they first got to whatever school they were at.”

It’s common sense that the older a player is the more likely they are further down their road of personal maturity, and rarely is more maturity a bad thing in professional sports. Even still, these comments were made only a few short months before Beane directed the Bills to selecting only one senior out of their seven picks. How their board fell and was looking prior to the draft itself as players were removed and not available to the Bills will likely never be known; perhaps on the Bills internal board it was obvious that being an upperclassmen was graded higher than the alternative. One would think that if that was the case though, there would have been some other evidence of that in the Bills’ picks SOMEWHERE in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Where does this leave us going into the 2020 NFL draft? Do the Bills under their current regime significantly value drafting seniors over underclassmen? That’s a hard case to make after Buffalo’s 2019 draft class. Is it a nice thing to have a guy who is further along in his maturity or spent more time working on his craft? Of course. Is a player not being a senior going to deter Brandon Beane from being comfortable picking that player at any point in the draft? The evidence suggests absolutely not.


You can follow me on Twitter @NickBat and look for episodes of “The Nick & Nolan Show” podcast on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network.