Every year there is much debate between the two most fundamental draft philosophies and which teams are in a position to utilize each. Should a team already stacked with defensive line talent add a top pass rusher if he is the best player available? Or do they instead take the running back with more holes in his game, but plays the position of bigger need to the team?
Bills GM Doug Whaley sees the ability to draft the best player still on their board as a luxury, and something that might not have been possible in prior years.
“We can go with any position [with our first round pick],” Whaley said. “So that makes our job a lot easier. We can stack the board without having a pressing need. When you have a pressing need, guys tend to get pushed up the board. When you push guys up the board that is when you have a greater chance of making mistakes. When you have it set the way we do this year, we have a less chance of making a mistake and we’re excited about that.”
The Bills front office believes that they have set up the roster such that there are no pressing needs going into this draft. In the last four years, the Bills have done tremendously well with identifying talent in the early rounds of the draft.
When looking at some of the more successful teams in the league, one of the trends that is consistent with each is their ability to consistently draft quality starters year after year, and keep them. Some luck is involved in the inexact science of evaluating 22 year olds based on incomplete information, sure. But the best teams have found ways to cut down on the necessity to rely on luck when drafting. In the last four years, the Bills have done just that.
“I talked to Coach (Marrone), Russ and Jim (Monos) and we said for a sixth-round pick, with our roster now a sixth-round pick is going to have a hard time making our team. Most likely he’d be a practice squad guy at best,” Whaley said.
As little as two or three years ago, a sixth-round pick was more or less a lock to make the team as a rookie.
The result of the consistent success in the draft combined with prudent free-agency moves is a roster that has the talent to be playing football in January of next season. But the job of building the roster to where the front office wants it to be is not complete yet.
Most people believe that the Bills will be looking to add players at wide receiver, tight end, and offensive tackle in the upcoming NFL draft. Luckily for Buffalo, two of those positions are as rich with talent this year as anyone has seen in years.
“I think [offensive tackle and wide receiver] have high end talent and depth to be honest with you,” Director of Player Personnel Jim Monos said. “Those are good positions in this year’s draft. Every draft is different; this one is good with those positions.”
With starting-quality players anticipated to be available at those positions in the third or even fourth round, the Bills have the ability to solely focus on drafting the best overall football player with their first round pick, regardless of position.
It could be the final step in constructing a roster that brings Buffalo to the postseason for the first time since the 1999 season.