Prior to the 2020 NFL Draft, many pundits viewed the Buffalo Bills as a team on the rise. After the Bills had what appears to be a strong draft weekend, many of those pundits are doubling down on that assessment.
In the majority of this week’s way-too-early NFL power rankings, the Bills stand as the third-best team in the AFC, behind only the defending Super Bowl champs (the Kansas City Chiefs) and last year’s No. 2 seed in the conference (the Baltimore Ravens). Where they aren’t third in the conference, they’re fourth, as some pundits have the other AFC Conference Championship game participant, the Tennessee Titans, ahead of Buffalo at this juncture.
The lowest the Bills are ranked at this point is No. 11, which is where Bleacher Report has the team after the draft. The Bills are fourth among AFC teams in this poll, with Kansas City (1) and Baltimore (2) joined by a surprise number three—the Indianapolis Colts (10) just one spot ahead of the Bills. Gary Davenport writes, “We don’t want to alarm you, but something unsettling is happening to the football landscape in 2020. It’s frightening, even. The Buffalo Bills are the consensus favorites to win the AFC East. It’s been a while since we could write that with a straight face. But here we are.” Moving past the tongue-in-cheek mockery (mostly because it hits a little too close to truth than is comfortable), Davenport notes that the Bills should be ready to make some noise in the playoffs this year. He puts them squarely in the top of the AFC’s second tier.
Sports Illustrated is one of two publications that have Buffalo ranked No. 9. Even in that SI poll, there is some obvious disparity about where Buffalo should rank, as one voter has them all the way down at No. 14, but another voted them as the No. 3 team overall. In this poll, Kansas City and Baltimore are first and second, respectively, and Tennessee comes in right ahead of Buffalo, tied for seventh with the Green Bay Packers. The staff of The MMQB wrote that “We know they have the defense, but it’ll be critical for Stefon Diggs to help Josh Allen take a big step forward like the Bills’ front office thinks he can.”
The other publication to rank Buffalo ninth overall was Fansided, placing the Bills one spot ahead of the New England Patriots as the fourth-best team in the AFC. Kansas City (1), Baltimore (4), and Tennessee (7) are all ahead of Buffalo. Russell S. Baxter wrote that the Bills might be the “big dogs” in the AFC East for the first time since 1995, which is the last year the Bills won the division. He takes a minute to note that, at that point, the division housed five teams—one of which was the Indianapolis Colts—something that I had a quarantine-induced flashback about during the Draft last weekend. Baxter also complimented general manager Brandon Beane’s additions to Buffalo’s defense, mentioning a slew of former Carolina Panthers (Josh Norman, Vernon Butler, and Mario Addison) by name.
Mark Schofield at Touchdown Wire ranks Buffalo No. 6 overall, giving the Bills an “A” for their draft in the process. He notes that A.J. Epenesa is a great rotational player for the Bills at worst, though he does question the second-round pick’s fit in Buffalo’s scheme thank to his less-than-ideal testing from the Scouting Combine. Schofield calls Zack Moss a “perfect complement” to Devin Singletary, and he also likes the additions of wide receivers Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodgins. The most interesting part of his breakdown on the draft is with regard to quarterback Jake Fromm, whom Schofield believes could have a great deal of success in the timing/West Coast portion of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s playbook. While he doesn’t say it outright, he seems to view Fromm as more than a backup if Allen is to fail, going as far as to call it “a storyline worth watching.” While I disagree, stranger things have certainly happened.
Dan Hanzus at NFL.com also has Buffalo ranked No. 6, but he is far more forceful in his praise of the team. He begins by complimenting Buffalo’s draft, noting that Epenesa, Moss, and Fromm are his favorite picks of the bunch. He continues by saying that “It’s impossible to look at Buffalo’s roster and not see it as the strongest in the AFC East — by a substantial margin.”
Vinnie Iyer at Sporting News is the first of two pundits to rank Buffalo at No. 5 overall. He rightly refers to this offseason’s improvements around Allen as the “second phase” of improvements, as the Bills added John Brown, Cole Beasley, Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, and Devin Singletary last year, as well as a slew of offensive linemen to better protect their franchise quarterback. With Stefon Diggs and Zack Moss in the picture now, the Bills’ offense looks to be significantly improved. He adds that “Buffalo should rule the AFC East with the Patriots finally moving on from Brady and also be a bigger factor in the playoffs.”
Finally, Frank Schwab at Yahoo! has the Bills No. 5, as well. Touching on a familiar theme, he notes that the Bills showed “the right mix of aggression” in looking to capitalize on an AFC East that won’t feature Tom Brady as a starting quarterback for the first time since 2008. He says that the Bills can take “a nice jump” if their big move, Diggs, pans out how they expect.