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Does Williams signing change draft approach?

Posted Mar 19, 2012

Bills GM Buddy Nix has maintained all along that the approach in the draft is to take the best player on the board, and not necessarily gravitate toward positional need. Having addressed the top offseason need in free agency with the signing of Mario Williams has anything changed?

“Our number one goal was to sign Mario,” Nix said. “That was our number one need and our number one goal. We felt like it was something we had to have.”

The Bills effectively crossed the number one need off their offseason to-do list by signing the premier pass rusher on the free agent market. Knowing the draft class offers middle round depth, but not much top flight talent in the way of pass rushers, the move was a shrewd one.

The receiver position was one that was pursued early in free agency as well, but when they were outbid for Robert Meachem the Bills appear to be done spending major money in the market.

“We’ve got good receivers,” said Nix. “Once we signed Stevie Johnson we felt like we could go play and that was important to us. Now had we not been able to sign him obviously a receiver would’ve been high on the list, but right now we’re not targeting another receiver.”

Nix says the team still has cap space at their disposal, but at this point they’re focused on the draft. And with their most pressing need filled they can truly stick to their player grades with each and every one of their picks. 

“We could bring in some guys that could plug in some holes, but I think the big thing it does for us is it frees us up in the draft,” he said. “We weren’t going to reach anyway, but we’re not going to be tempted to reach. We’re not going to reach for a pass rusher that may not be a 10th pick guy that we don’t have graded that high. We relieved that some. Now that’s not to say we won’t take a pass rusher at that point. We will if he’s the best player on the board.”

At the same time positional needs still exist for the Bills, most notably left tackle. Demetrius Bell was not re-signed. Buffalo has second-year tackle Chris Hairston as a candidate for the suddenly vacant blind side spot, but Nix and head coach Chan Gailey admit he’s yet to reach his full potential. It could prompt the club to select a premier pass protector early in the draft.

“If you’ve got a pressing need at a position you try to fill it in free agency,” said Nix. “If you can’t then that has to be a concentration in the draft.”

Buffalo still has time to re-sign Bell. Nix told Buffalobills.com that the team has made Bell an offer, but has not received a response.

At receiver, another perceived position of need, veteran Derek Hagan could be re-signed after showing some flashes in limited playing time late last year.

Linebacker and cornerback depth could also be mentioned as positions to be addressed with Buffalo’s nine draft choices. But as far as Buffalo’s scouting department is concerned the Williams’ signing simply allows them to hold to their draft principles all the more.

“This just plugs up a piece of the puzzle and he’ll get us over the hump,” said Nix of Williams. “He’s at a position of need that we were able to fill, but the same philosophy will hold through in the draft.”