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Bills NFL Draft trends: Doug Whaley likes power conferences, pre-draft visitors

Another year, another Bills draft in which they draft heavily from both power conferences and their pre-draft visitor list

The chart you see below lists all 20 players that the Buffalo Bills have selected in the NFL Draft over the last three seasons. We go back three drafts because that's how many that Doug Whaley has directly overseen as the Bills' general manager. (Buddy Nix was still the GM in 2013; he stepped down shortly after that year's draft.)

Yr-Rd-Ovr Player Pos. College Conference
2014-1-4 Sammy Watkins WR Clemson ACC
2016-1-19 Shaq Lawson DE Clemson ACC
2016-2-41 Reggie Ragland LB Alabama SEC
2014-2-44 Cyrus Kouandjio OT Alabama SEC
2015-2-50 Ronald Darby CB Florida State ACC
2014-3-73 Preston Brown LB Louisville ACC
2016-3-80 Adolphus Washington DT Ohio State B1G
2015-3-81 John Miller OG Louisville ACC
2014-4-109 Ross Cockrell CB Duke ACC
2016-4-139 Cardale Jones QB Ohio State B1G
2014-5-153 Cyril Richardson OG Baylor Big 12
2015-5-155 Karlos Williams RB Florida State ACC
2016-5-156 Jonathan Williams RB Arkansas SEC
2015-6-188 Tony Steward LB Clemson ACC
2016-6-192 Kolby Listenbee WR TCU Big 12
2015-6-194 Nick O'Leary TE Florida State ACC
2016-6-218 Kevon Seymour CB USC Pac-12
2014-7-221 Randell Johnson LB Florida Atlantic Conference USA
2015-7-234 Dezmin Lewis WR Central Arkansas Southland
2014-7-237 Seantrel Henderson OT Miami (FL) ACC

Why are we bringing this up? To point out that two established draft trends under Whaley continued this year: the Bills draft a high volume of players from power conferences, and they also have a tendency to lean heavily on their list of pre-draft visitors when making picks.

Power conferences

Heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, nine of Whaley's 13 Bills draft picks had played in the ACC. That tendency relaxed a bit, even after using a first-round pick on Clemson pass rusher Shaq Lawson, but an equally prominent theme emerged: the Bills have drafted almost exclusively from power conferences (ACC, B1G, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) under Whaley.

Specifically, 18 of the Bills' 20 draft choices under Whaley have played in one of those five conferences. The only two that didn't were seventh-round draft choices Randell Johnson and Dezmin Lewis. If you're being picky, you could also argue that Preston Brown didn't, as his Louisville career ended in a year in which the school was stuck in an obscure conference before their move to the ACC (from the Big East) became official.

The Bills have now also drafted from all five power conferences under Whaley; he'd hit the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 prior to this year, but logged his first B1G and Pac-12 picks two weekends ago. Pretty much everybody is starting to cotton on to this trend.

Pre-draft visitors

Another trend that continued this year was the team's tendency to select heavily from their list of pre-draft visitors, which we fleshed out in greater detail in this post from back in March.

While first-round pick Lawson was not a pre-draft visitor, breaking a streak there, there's an asterisk to apply, as well; given the connection between Rex Ryan and the Clemson program, the Bills likely skipped out on bringing Clemson kids in for visits, as there was already a comfort level established.

Even with the streak of first-round picks being used on pre-draft visitors shot, the Bills still drafted four players (that we know of) from this year's list: second-round pick Ragland, third-round pick Washington, fourth-round pick Jones, and sixth-round pick Listenbee. Even without having a full, confirmed list of players the Bills have brought in on pre-draft visits over the last three years, we know that 10 of the 20 names you see above toured One Bills Drive weeks before Buffalo selected them. Their names are in bold.

Long story short: when draft season comes around again next spring, if the current front office is still in place, we can expect these two trends to play a huge rule in shaping our pre-draft conversations.