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What are Buffalo Bills’ 2022 NFL Draft needs?

The 2021 college football season kicked off in earnest this past weekend, and without a Buffalo Bills game to watch, our thoughts turned toward which college football prospects could help the team in 2022 and beyond. With that shift, here’s my power-ranked list of 2022 NFL Draft needs for the Buffalo Bills.

1-tech defensive tackle

The Bills have a looming cliff at one-tech due to circumstance. Originally, Star Lotulelei’s restructured deal meant he was likely to be released following the 2020 season and Harrison Phillips would be a potential free agent at the end of the 2021 season. Due to Lotulelei’s COVID-9 opt out of the 2020 season, both 1-techs on Buffalo’s roster are now likely to be free agents at the end of this season. The team really missed Lotulelei last year, but with a $9+ million cap hit, he’s not likely to be back. Phillips hasn’t lived up to his third-round draft status. Vernon Butler, their one-third hybrid defensive tackle is also a free agent following the current season. In short, the Bills could solve that problem early in the 2022 NFL Draft and continue pouring resources into a disruptive defensive line. A young stud 1-tech to pair with their three young pass rushers and a hopefully blossoming 3-tech DT in Ed Oliver could set the Bills up for years to come.

Interior o-line

This is a bit of a projection, but I think it’s pretty clear the Bills want to upgrade here. Neither Ike Boettger nor Cody Ford could lock down the right guard job this year and are still competing following the preseason and training camp according to head coach Sean McDermott. Jon Feliciano took it upon himself to lose a bunch of weight this offseason without consulting the team. If 2021 third-round pick Spencer Brown is far enough along in eight months, they could move right tackle Daryl Williams in to right guard, but he has a $9 million cap hit. Drafting a guard in the first or second round could give them an immediate starter or they could go the Eric Wood route and draft a center replacement for Mitch Morse to start at guard for a year and learn the ropes. Morse has played well, but also carries an $11 million cap hit in 2022. Their jack-of-all-trades, Ryan Bates, is going to be a Restricted Free Agent, too, though hopefully he can be back on a minimum deal.

Cornerback 2

Those first two positions are in a different tier, in my opinion, where the Bills value the position and will need an upgrade or replacement. CB2 is a little strange because the Bills have clearly shown they don’t want to upgrade this position, content with an All-Pro CB1 and a strong safety tandem. Another butt-kicking or two by the Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receiver corps could change that, but for right now the only reason CB2 is this high on the list is because Levi Wallace is once again going to be a free agent, leaving Dane Jackson as the only outside CB on the roster beyond 2021.

Slot cornerback

The Bills trusted fourth-round draft pick Taron Johnson to be the team’s slot cornerback for three seasons but he’s been injured and is limited athletically (despite two highlight-reel plays in 2020). He’s entering the final year of his rookie deal. Even if you think practice-squad 2021 NFL Draft pick Rachad Wildgoose can make the leap in year two, the Bills will need some competition and/or a backup. Siran Neal is going to be a free agent, too. Maybe they’ll bank on a step forward from Cam Lewis?

Tight end

Another position that’s hard to predict because the Bills don’t seem to value it, they are giving Dawson Knox every chance in the world to lock down the TE spot and have very little after him. Former seventh-rounder Tommy Sweeney and FB/TE Reggie Gilliam are all that are on the roster right now. Tight end is a notoriously slow-developing position, so if Knox turns on the light in year three, this might be way further down the list.

Backup quarterback

It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Bills go as high as the third round for their replacement for Mitchell Trubisky. They would get a cost-controlled backup QB for three seasons behind their veteran signal-caller. Especially if you see Allen continue to take some bigger hits in 2021, this is a sneaky need for the Bills beyond the current season.

This seems like a relevant list to put together, too.

2022 free agents on the current 53-man roster

  • QB Mitchell Trubisky
  • RB Taiwan Jones
  • RB Matt Breida
  • WR Emmanuel Sanders
  • WR Isaiah McKenzie
  • WR Jake Kumerow
  • OG Ike Boettger
  • OL Ryan Bates
  • DE Jerry Hughes
  • DE Mario Addison
  • DT Vernong Butler
  • DE Efe Obada
  • DT Harrison Phillips
  • DT Justin Zimmer
  • CB Taron Johnson
  • CB Levi Wallace
  • CB Siran Neal
  • LS Reid Ferguson