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2023 NFL Mock Draft: A trade-back candidate who fortifies Buffalo’s trenches

Adding to the offensive line via trade down

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 04 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The back end of the NFL Draft is always a crap shoot as far as what will be available. One train of thought for those selecting in the back end of the first round is to trade up multiple spots to secure a player the team has a first-round grade on. The Buffalo Bills took this strategy last year to move up and select cornerback Kaiir Elam. General manager Brandon Beane went on record at the time to say that Elam was the last first-round grade on the Bills’ draft board.

Another way of thinking is to let the chips fall as they may, and find a dance partner to trade back with if the value isn’t quite there. For this mock, let’s analyze a scenario in which the chips don’t fall in a way that favors the Bills — let’s say a run of wide receivers takes place, and the shallow 2023 offensive line crop has been picked over. That presents a tricky situation for Buffalo. Maybe safety would be an option — a situation where the team gets a large pick of the litter at a position. But that sweet spot is looking to be on Day 2.

Right tackle has emerged as a need for the Bills heading into the 2023 offseason. Heading into his third year, Spencer Brown has all of the upside and tools to be a plus starter in the NFL. However, putting those tools together has been a major headache for him from a technical standpoint. Strength to hold up in pass protection remains an issue with Spencer, as well. Sure, injuries have stymied his development. But it seems unwise to go into another season expecting to rely on a player who has shown very few signs of improvement through two seasons in the NFL. Maybe the Bills will feel differently about his development — back surgery eliminated nearly all of his offseason development a year ago.

Let’s say the Bills do agree with me on the right tackle spot. There are multiple early Round 2 options that could present themselves should a trade back occur. But one option stands above the rest with two months to go until draft day.

We used the 2023 NFL mock draft simulator from Pro Football Focus to complete a realistic first-round mock draft. The Bills are selecting No. 27 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. But this specific draft should be made under the assumption that the team drops down 5-10 slots — possibly making their first selection into the second round.

After trading back out of the first round, the Buffalo Bills select...

Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee

Wright is a former five-star recruit who took a while to gain his footing as a college player. Flipping to the right side of the offensive line seemed to have solved a lot of his problems — the light bulb came on in a big way this 2022 season. Wright has carried his momentum into the Senior Bowl, where he put up impressive measurements (6’5”, 342 pounds, 34 1/8” arms). With that size, Wright plays with an enforcing style.

Wright has become known for how well he played against likely Top-5 pick Will Anderson in their matchup in 2022. He doesn’t blow you away with athleticism and insane traits the same way as Spencer Brown. But what he does provide is nastiness in the run game, and requisite athleticism to compete at the position. This is a bit of a different philosophy from Brown, a pure bet on traits, versus what Wright presents. But nothing is wrong with having a solid right tackle in the league for 10 years. Brown’s floor is too low to trust at this point.

In the video above, Wright put on a grip strength clinic as Anderson made an unwise mistake of trying to go through Wright on a few too many reps. Wright has a tremendous anchor in pass protection, which was a huge reason why he was able to keep Anderson at bay in that matchup.

If the Bills are looking for stability at right tackle whilst sacrificing a potential superstar, Wright makes a ton of sense in a trade-down spot into the early second round.