The Buffalo Bills have been very active over the last two offseasons to craft a roster with few gaping holes. General manager Brandon Beane has said repeatedly that he doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed on draft day so he can pick talent and let the rest fall out.
Even after all of the moves, the Bills still have areas of need both now and into the future. As they continue building their roster into a Super Bowl contender around their rookie quarterback (and his rookie salary), the team has a short two-year window for their first phase before his contract becomes cumbersome. During this time where signing free agents for a win-now process has become the norm, they need to be drafting a developing players that can contribute in spots now and be ready to take over in larger roles a year or two or three down the line. You’re going to see that theme pop up in this ranking.
Let me be immediately clear: putting this first on the list doesn’t mean it should be the first player they take. There is great value in the third round and later at the running back position. They have Devin Singletary there to be an effective 1, 1A, or 2 at the running back position but T.J. Yeldon doesn’t inspire confidence as the second back and Taiwan Jones and Christian Wade certainly aren’t the answers. Buffalo would be wise to draft a mid- to late-round running back and will still likely add a free agent at the position after the draft.
The Bills’ pass rush wasn’t very good in 2019 and with Shaq Lawson gone and Mario Addison in, the need doesn’t change. Buffalo’s pass rushers are old. Addison will be 33 this year while Jerry Hughes is set to turn 32. Trent Murphy turns 30 before the end of the season. They have a combined two career sacks from the other three defensive ends on the roster. It’s a short-term need and a long-term need and fits the concept of contribute now and play a big role later. Murphy is set to be a free agent a year from now.
Buffalo is probably set at CB in 2020. Tre’Davious White is an All-Pro and Josh Norman is a former All-Pro while Levi Wallace has been consistent and E.J. Gaines is a former starter in Buffalo. True. None of them are currently under contract in 2021, so there is a long-term need at the position. Norman was bad in Washington while Gaines is an injury risk, so fully counting on either of them is a fool’s errand. The Bills need another solid option at cornerback in 2020 and a potential starter in 2021. It’s a draft priority.
The Bills have such a solid secondary, but two of their top needs are there? Yep. Buffalo has prioritized the nickel position recently, drafting Taron Johnson as the slot cornerback and hiring a defensive assistant to coach only the nickel backs. They played in nickel more than 50% of the time in 2019, so this position is a starter. Yes, the CBs we’ve listed so far could fill in there but coach Sean McDermott has been trying to find a Big Nickel player to step in that can pivot between playing the run and the pass on a play-to-play basis. He hasn’t found one yet, but if there was a player available in the draft that fit, don’t be surprised to see a safety to Buffalo.
Interior offensive line
If they believe Cody Ford is an offensive tackle — and they’ve given every indication they do — they have a potential to upgrade on the interior. Quinton Spain just re-signed, but he wasn’t anything special last year as his contract indicates. Jon Feliciano has one year left on his deal and underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason. Backing them up are a pair of journeymen. The Bills could add a mid-round guard to the mix that could be a solid depth option in 2020 and replace someone a year from now. It would be especially helpful if the new player could play center.
Dion Dawkins is entering the last year of his deal. Cody Ford was underwhelming in his rookie season at right tackle. Ty Nsekhe is old and in the final year of his deal. At the very least, they will need a third offensive tackle a year from now if they can re-sign Dawkins and Ford develops into a bona fide starter.
I don’t have wide receiver as high on my list as others do, simply because there are only so many passes to go around for Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Dawson Knox, Devin Singletary and the rest of the offensive playmakers. That being said, it’s a very deep class at the position and nabbing a player that is artificially falling is a good thing for a year or two from now.
The Bills could use an upgrade at punter and a long-term answer at kicker and with lots of picks in the 6th and 7th rounds, it’s a position that could actually make the roster from the back of the draft.
Interior defensive line
Further down the list is a rotational piece to add to the defensive line. A penetrating 3-tech to rotate with Ed Oliver or a 1-tech to replace Star Lotulelei could both be in the cards in the draft this year.
A third QB on the roster as a developmental backup for Josh Allen would be intriguing. Matt Barkley turns 30 and will be in the final year of his contract this fall.
The Bills have really solid depth at the position plus a great mixture of youth and experience. It’s down the list for me, but I’m not ruling it out down the line.
The Bills have a great young LB corps and all of them are 26 or younger. If they’ve made up their minds not to re-sign Matt Milano, this jumps up considerably on the list, but I want to re-sign Milano.