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2021 NFL Draft: Analyzing current regime’s Buffalo Bills draft injury history

Does Brandon Beane have any tells when drafting with injury concerns?

NFL: Buffalo Bills-Josh Allen Press Conference Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Speculation continues to run rampant regarding who the Bills will pick at 30 on Thursday, with the team potentially going in any number of directions. There are several players who could fall to the Bills that I detailed in a previous article due to injury, but it’s no guarantee that they will look there. We can only guess as to what general manager Brandon Beane and the front office will do this year. However, looking back at past draft results may clue in the type of risk they are willing to take. Below are the draft-by-draft results during Brandon Beane’s tenure detailing their known college injuries.


2018 NFL Draft

Pick No. 7 Wyoming QB Josh Allen

  • 2015: Right collarbone fracture, missed ten games
  • 2017: Right A/C joint sprain, missed two games

Pick No. 16 Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds

  • 2014: Collarbone fracture (High School)
  • No publicly reported collegiate injuries

Pick No. 96 Stanford DT Harrison Phillips

  • 2015: Left ACL tear, missed 13 games
  • 2016: Right knee injury, missed one game

Pick No. 121 Weber State CB Taron Johnson

  • 2017: Hamstring strain, missed two games

Pick No. 154 Jacksonville State CB Siran Neal

  • No publicly reported collegiate injuries

Pick No. 166 Virginia Tech G Wyatt Teller

  • No publicly reported collegiate injuries

Pick No. 187 Clemson WR Ray-Ray McCloud III

  • 2015: MCL sprain, missed three games
  • 2016: Ankle injury, missed one game

Pick No. 255 North Carolina WR Austin Proehl

  • 2017: Left collarbone fracture, missed six games

2019 Draft

Pick No. 11 Houston DT Ed Oliver

  • 2017: Left knee injury, missed one game
  • 2018: Right knee bone contusion, missed four games

Pick No. 38 Oklahoma OT Cody Ford

  • 2016: Broken left fibula, missed three games
  • 2017: Undisclosed injury, missed two games

Pick No. 74 Florida Atlantic RB Devin Singletary

  • No publicly reported collegiate injuries

Pick No. 96 Ole Miss TE Dawson Knox

  • 2015: Dislocated ankle (high school)
  • 2017: Foot injury, missed two games, Offseason: left stress fracture requiring surgery; torn meniscus, side not specified, required surgery

Pick No. 147 Florida LB Vosean Joseph

  • No publicly reported collegiate injuries
  • Hamstring strain during pre-draft training

Pick No. 181 Miami S Jaquan Johnson

  • 2018: Right hamstring strain, missed two games

Pick No. 225 North Carolina A&T DE Darryl Johnson

  • No publicly reported collegiate injuries

Pick No. 228 Boston College TE Tommy Sweeney

  • No publicly reported collegiate injuries

2020 NFL Draft

Pick No. 54 Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa

  • Broken leg, missed half of the season (high school)
  • No publicly reported collegiate injuries

Pick No. 86 Utah RB Zack Moss

  • 2016: Turf toe, missed two games
  • 2018: Right knee meniscal tear, missed five games
  • 2019: Hand injury, missed zero games, AC Joint sprain, missed two games.

Pick No. 128 UCF WR Gabriel Davis

  • No publicly reported collegiate injuries

Pick No. 167 Georgia QB Jake Fromm

  • 2018: During the offseason, fish hook caught in calf; left-hand fracture. Regular season: right leg contusion, missed zero games
  • 2019: Left ankle sprain, missed zero games

Pick No. 188 Georgia Southern K Tyler Bass

  • No publicly reported collegiate injuries

Pick No. 207 Oregon State WR Isaiah Hodgins

  • 2018: Hamstring strain, missed one game
  • 2019: Right knee injury, missed zero games

Pick No. 239 Pittsburgh CB Dane Jackson

  • 2014: Left meniscus tear, missed five games (high school)
  • No publicly reported collegiate injuries

Draft injury analysis

The above information does show several tells of this front-office regime. They do like to address big positions of need early in the draft, which isn’t surprising but it was also noted they minimize injury risks. Time missed in college can be an indicator of time missed in the NFL, but most of the players taken by the Bills in the first two rounds of their respective drafts dealt with minor injuries such as a sprain or contusion. The only significant injury was found to be fractures. While a broken bone was likely a consideration in drafting the player, it did not appear to be a long-term concern.

It’s important to note that in the third round, this appears to have been the delineation point in taking injury risks noted with Harrison Phillips, Dawson Knox, and Zack Moss. That appears to be where the talent outweighs the injury risks. All of the players, in addition to Cody Ford, have gone on to suffer multiple or significant injuries missing time, which has hampered their growth, but none of them have been failures quite yet. Taron Johnson missed significant time in his first two seasons but has since proven to be a capable slot cornerback.

Any picks in the fourth round or later appear to take talent and traits while minimizing injury concerns. Most of these picks are either depth or developmental pieces who have either shown flashes or have not been able to contribute significantly yet.

So what does this exercise show us? Brandon Beane appears to avoid any ligament tears, serious season-ending injuries, or players missing a lot of time with the exception of a fracture in the first two rounds. He takes players with injury risks based on talent in the third round, and appears to find the best traits on Day 3 with minimal injury histories.

This approach may have even preceded Brandon Beane as the 2017 draft class shows similar traits. Tre’Davious White, Zay Jones, Dion Dawkins, Matt Milano, Nathan Peterman, and Tanner Vallejo all came in with minimal injury risks when I looked into their injury histories. Once again, the most significant injuries of the group were a foot fracture for Dawkins and a right wrist ligament injury that required surgery for Vallejo. This possibly suggests that head coach Sean McDermott also valued health coming out of college over talent.

Considering these draft picks are assets, more time and energy is put into making sure they will be available to play. Beane takes significantly more risk with UDFA’s and free agents when it comes to injury risks. If you don’t believe me, check out the injury profiles on former Bills Trey Adams, EJ Gaines, and current Bills Taiwan Jones, Matt Breida, and Daryl Williams. Free agency has been a proven way for them to get veteran players who either need to jumpstart their career or get a potentially talented player at a discounted rate.

Of the 23 players selected over the past three years, the Bills have retained 19 them. Wyatt Teller was traded and the remaining three (Ray-Ray McCloud, Austin Proehl, and Vosean Joseph) were cut.

Again referencing the draft targets who could fall to the Bills due to injury, none of them seem like great options based on the information above. The best option of Moore, Farley, Phillips, and Dickerson appears to be Rondale Moore with his hamstring strains. Everyone else has significant injuries, which would appear to make the Bills hesitant to draft them high unless they dropped to the third round or even later. This approach also supports the statements from Tuesday’s press conference in that Beane is looking for a long-term starter in the first round.

Bookmark this article for the NFL draft and see whether the Bills continue this trend or whether they take a risk. History suggests they stay the course, but when they are this close to their goal of a championship, taking a risk on an elite player could be the answer to get over the top.