Leading up to the NFL draft, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane conducted his one and only pre-draft press conference last week. Paying close attention, the media and fanbase were hopeful to glean any sort of taste they could regarding what the team could be up to with pick 30 and the rest of their picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
One of the most notable pieces of info Beane gave had to do with the enigma that is the “Big Nickel” or “Buffalo Nickel” in the Bills’ defense, of which we have heard addressed numerous times over head coach Sean McDermott’s tenure. Beane was asked specifically about the potential of the position in his presser and if Buffalo may be on the lookout for such a linebacker/safety hybrid.
“A lot was put into that last year more than was the reality of us looking for this unicorn of a big nickel out there. If you have the player on there, the coaches will use it. But it’s not something we’ve gotta have for this defense,” Beane said.
For those who were looking for Kyle Dugger or Jeremy Chinn in the 2020 draft, that hype seems to have been slightly misguided from reality. With a solid group of linebackers currently in place, there is a chance that, once again, there is no perfect candidate to play the “big nickel” in 2021.
Beane further went into the philosophy on the “big nickel” role for the organization.
“We don’t have a column that says ‘big nickel.’ Most of [that role] comes out of linebackers or safeties,” Beane said. “It’s just a part of the defense. It’s not something that we’re going ‘hey, let’s go through our sixth big nickel like we would our outside linebackers or our safeties.’”
While safety depth could be a need this offseason with the departure of veteran Dean Marlowe in free agency, it doesn’t sound like big nickel will ever be looked at as a particular need for this team. For those hoping that players such as Hamsah Nasirildeen or James Wiggins could be options for the Bills, hold your head high in your fight.
Beane finished up the big nickel question with this quote.
“There are some guys at each position that you could say ‘hey, this guy has the size, the speed, and we believe the smarts to handle position “A” as a linebacker or safety and also handle the volume of the big nickel.”
While it doesn’t sound like a glowing statement regarding the prospects of the role on the defense, fans should not completely count it out if safety depth were to be addressed on day three of the draft.
Beane was also asked earlier in the press conference of what the blueprint may be for defeating the Kansas City Chiefs who handled the Bills with ease twice during the 2020 season, including the AFC Championship Game.
“On the defensive side, build as many weapons as you can whether that’s in the secondary, speed linebackers, [and] obviously the front,” Beane said.
Beane seems interested in the opportunity to add speed on all three levels of the defense. Whether he believes the team currently has enough of that is another question that should be answered come draft time. Regardless, for many Bills fans, there was some closure on what to expect from the big nickel role. Perhaps, keep your expectations low as we head into draft weekend. But nothing seems off the table for a team that could use a healthy injection of speed on the defensive side of the ball.