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SB Nation Reacts: Bills Mafia divided on Buffalo’s first-round NFL Draft options

NFL Combine - Portraits Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images

We’re less than six hours away from the start of Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft. While the months-long wait is mercifully almost over, the Buffalo Bills and their fans may likely have to wait several more hours before learning who the team selects with its top pick.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bills Mafia is a much-divided group in deciding what position general manager Brandon Beane and the Bills should target.

There’s likely little debate that linebacker remains the team’s biggest area of need, following the departure of Tremaine Edmunds to the Chicago Bears in free agency. Behind linebacker Matt Milano is veteran A.J. Klein, Terrel Bernard, Tyrel Dodson, and Baylon Spector. Tyler Matakevich is also listed at linebacker, but his role is almost exclusively on special teams. Edge rusher Von Miller is a linebacker in name only with Buffalo’s scheme — he’s edge rusher numero uno. It remains to be seen if his role and the team’s defensive alignments will change at all under the direction of head coach Sean McDermott this season.

Bills fans remain convinced that wide receiver is a huge consideration for Beane in this draft, and rightly so. No position had more player interactions, or visits of some type (official top-30, private workouts, zoom, or otherwise) than at wide receiver. Stefon Diggs is the team’s bona fide WR1 — a true alpha dog in the receiver room. He’s also one of the unit’s oldest players at this point. Behind him is Gabe Davis, who struggled in an expanded role as a true WR2 in 2022. Davis should be able to improve on his prior season, especially if he’s able to incorporate a more diverse route tree into his book of tricks. Further down the depth chart, it’s less certain how players like Khalil Shakir, and newly signed free agents Deonte Harty and Trent Sherfield will contribute in 2023.

Defensive tackle is a clear third to those voters in this poll, though it’s possible fans aren’t able to see beyond the needs at linebacker and wide receiver to fully digest the situation brewing at defensive tackle next spring. Not a single player in the DT room is under contract beyond the 2023 season. Ed Oliver could be gone, as well aging players DaQuan Johnson, Jordan Phillips, and Tim Settle. It’s also possible Brandon Beane chooses to again offer one-year deals to those who returned this season on such a contract.

Perhaps most interesting is the perception that offensive tackle is furthest down this list for Beane to target. Spencer Brown is the incumbent, but his play in 2022 was anything but reassuring towards the health and safety of quarterback Josh Allen. There’s hope that Brown was simply still recovering from prior injury and will improve this season to minimally provide adequate protection for Allen.

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