Following a very successful season where the team went 13-3, the Buffalo Bills find themselves in the very rare position of drafting late in the first round. So late in fact, that the team may not have a prospect with a first-round grade fall to them at the 30th overall pick.
General manger Brandon Beane hasn’t been one to shy away from trade-up scenarios and is rather known for his penchant for targeting certain players, regardless of the cost. If one such player were to fall a bit during the first round, he isn’t one to shy away from taking a chance and making a move. Below are five players who might tempt Beane into contemplating a slight move up the draft board.
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame)
It’s a well-worn trope at this point that Buffalo has been on the lookout for the so-called “Big Nickel” defender on defense. Nothing illustrated the need for an athletic defender with size who can cover dynamic tight ends and play the run more than the AFC Championship game, with the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce catching going over 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Although he’s nominally a linebacker, Owusu-Koramoah’s athleticism and versatility as an all-around defender is rare, and a skillset most certainly worth trading up for.
CB Greg Newsome II (Northwestern)
While this is certainly a deep draft at the cornerback position, most of the top guys—Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn, Caleb Farley—are more comfortable in press, man-coverage situations. Newsome is one of the few who’s well-versed in various types of coverage schemes, including those that require more spacing between the corner and the wide receiver—and demand qualities like patience and eye discipline. That versatility and experience is valuable to a defensive scheme like Buffalo’s, which employs a wide variety of coverages and just so happens to have a starter spot available.
OT/OG Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC)
There’s no shortage of tackles worthy of being taken with a first-round pick, but that’s less-so the case with guards and centers this year. The elite players along the interior of the offensive line are Vera-Tucker, and perhaps Landon Dickerson. The former redshirt junior has a lot of qualities Buffalo covets at the position, including an ability to play multiple spots, toughness and imposing size. It’s not unheard-of for guards and centers to fall in the draft because of their lack of perceived value. If Vera-Tucker were to fall to the teams picking in the 20s a slight trade up isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
EDGE Jaelan Phillips (Miami)
The most polished, experienced pass rusher at the top of the draft, if Jaelan Phillips didn’t carry any injury red flags he would be a lock as a top-ten pick. Instead, due to two concussions along with minor ankle and wrist injuries, Philips is now considered to be a later first-rounder. Assuming they believe and trust that Phillips’s medical issues are behind him, Buffalo’s clear need for more juice and youth at defensive end could push them to take a chance on the pass rusher.
WR Kadarius Toney (Florida)
The Bills are a team built on offense, and their strength on that side of the ball is in their wide receiver room. However, it’s a room currently dominated by veterans like Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley and Isaiah McKenzie. If the team wants to maintain their advantage, considering they’ll soon be sporting a $40 million quarterback, they need to get younger and cheaper at the wideout position. What makes Toney appealing is that while he’s not in the same league as talents like Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle, his athleticism and size means he can play anywhere on the field and even has special teams value with his dangerous punt return skills.