8 things to watch for the Bills in 2022 NFL draft

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Inside the Buffalo Bills Draft Room at One Bills Drive for Round One of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, 2019. Photo by Bill Wippert

1 – As tough a first round to call as any

In a draft that has very little consensus, the one thing that most NFL general managers and draft analysts can agree on is that Thursday night's first round might be as unpredictable as any draft in recent memory.

"I don't know that I can remember a year with more uncertainty," said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah. "The year with Baker Mayfield going one, what was that '18? That one was unpredictable. We kind of went into that process and it was Josh Allen potentially, it was Sam Darnold, and then Baker (Mayfield) came out of left field and ended up being the first pick. There was some unpredictability there. I would say this is along those lines, but even more so than the top."

"It's probably the most uncertain year it's been in a number of years," said Bills GM Brandon Beane in an appearance on One Bills Live. "I think there's some consensus on a certain number of players that no matter what will be off the board for us. We might not know the right team he's going to, but we know he'll be off the board for us. So, we try to take the number of guys that are left and then work what's in the pool for us from there."

2 – QB impact

What Buffalo will be looking at when they're on the clock at 25 will partially hinge on the number of quarterbacks that come off in front of them in round one. With Josh Allen on the roster, Buffalo isn't in the market for a QB, so every signal caller that's taken in front of them pushes other positional talent and value down to them.

"Obviously, we're rooting for as many quarterbacks to go as possible (in front of us)," said Beane. "We're also rooting for some outlier picks that we just don't see as true first round talents who just jump up there. That's how someone like Greg Rousseau fell to us at 30 last year."

3 - Skill position player for Bills at 25?

Like any year the 2022 class has top-flight players who will come off the board at the top of the draft, but the general consensus is the group lacks true elites, particularly at the skill positions like quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Quarterbacks are always pushed up the board especially in a year when supply is down as it is this year. But with defensive ends and offensive tackles largely expected to make up the majority of the top 10 selections, could it push skill position talent down to Buffalo at 25?

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah isn't completely convinced as he has receivers Garrett Wilson and Drake London among his top 10 players and pick 25, even after the top 10, is still 15 selections away.

"That's where to me this year is different than any other draft. I do believe we see a skill player go in the top 10," Jeremiah said. "To me there are too many teams that have young quarterbacks and have needs for playmakers. The Jets are one that stands out to me. I would be surprised if the Jets with picks 4 and 10, if they had the pick of the litter at No. 10 with all the wide outs still left, I would have a hard time believing that they don't walk away with that guy if that's the case."

But even if one receiver, a corner and a quarterback come off the board in the top 10, it still means a combination of seven edge rushers and offensive tackles have likely made up the majority of the first 10 picks. That would figure to be a good development for the Bills.

4 – Cornerback value in round one

Many are wondering if the Bills will be able to address a perceived positional need at cornerback when they're on the clock at 25. Many draft analysts expect Cincinnati's Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner and LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. to both be off the board in the top half of round one.

But what about prospects like Washington's Trent McDuffie, Clemson's Andrew Booth and Florida Kaiir Elam? Will the Bills get to consider any one of them as a good value at 25?

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes the Bills will have options.

"With where they're picking Andrew Booth, (Washington's) Kyler Gordon and Elam would probably be the three that I would have there," said Jeremiah.

"I think there are some good players. I really do," said Beane. "I think you'll see corners drafted in a number of rounds. I don't think it's like, 'Man, if you don't get one now, you're out of luck.' I do think there'll be some guys."

Sirius XM NFL Radio analyst and former NFL GM Mark Dominik in an appearance on the 'Bills by the Numbers' podcast isn't as confident they'll be a lot to choose from near the bottom of round one.

"I think there's a bit of concern," said Dominik of what could be left on the board at 25. "With corners the value is round one. Potentially on the board for the Bills at 25 at corner I think could be Booth who could be a good fit for what the Bills do defensively. He makes a lot of sense to me schematically."

5 – Is running back at 25 a real possibility?

Buffalo has one of the deepest rosters in the league. It affords them the opportunity to pivot to a position of high value if the value at a need position doesn't line up with their pick when they're on the clock. If that proves to be the case, selecting a running back isn't out of the question.

"I do think it's in play," said Dominik. "It has to be based on the team needs and where this roster currently sits. It makes sense that running back would be in play. It's going to be close. I think there could be a corner that drops right where Buffalo sits, or you could sit there and see if the top running back in the draft comes to you at 25. Those both seem very likely to me, so I think it's a toss-up between those two positions."

"Breece Hall, the running back from Iowa State to me by far would be the best running back on their roster if he were to go there," said Jeremiah. "I think you've got an offense that's going to go out and get a bunch of leads with how explosive they are, I think getting somebody that can finish the game, I think Breece Hall gives you that ability."

6 – Premium on point scorers

While player grades will carry the full weight of an NFL general manager's decision making, if it's a close call between a defensive player and an offensive playmaker, the playmaker is going to win out now more than ever.

"When you look around this league right now and you see Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert and Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen and these guys are on their game, I don't care how great your defense is, you'd better be able to score 28 points or you're not beating them," said Jeremiah. "You've got to go out there and score points to match them."

Bills GM Brandon Beane is fortunately in a position where he has a cyborg at quarterback, but he could see teams being more willing to lean toward point producers.

"The game is always evolving, and the rules tend to favor offense," said Beane. "I do think that will be looked at and teams might ultimately say there are receivers in this class that can help us pretty fast once they gain the knowledge of the playbook."

So, it appears realistic to think more receivers could be coming off the board sooner rather than later on Thursday and Friday night for a couple of reasons.

"I think seeing the cost of these wide outs and what it's going to take to procure one of them on the open market, and that number gets north of $20 million, teams will be looking for cost control at that position in the draft versus having to go the veteran route and having to pay that huge, huge number to get a premium guy," Jeremiah said. "And if not pay him, then you've got to trade a bunch of assets to go get him. To me I think that's why this year we see wideouts get pushed up a little bit more maybe than in years past. I think we'll see six of them go in the first round."

7 – The best place to trade up

During the Beane-McDermott era, the Bills have traded up on day two of the draft three times. Once in 2017 for Dion Dawkins and twice in 2019 for Cody Ford and Dawson Knox. Many draft analysts believe day two is again a good place to add draft capital and part with a day three pick or two to improve your roster.

"The more players you can get in that top 60-70 players, the better you are," said Dominik. "So, I'm in favor of packaging a fifth or a sixth and moving up four spots in the third round or the second round. I'm a big fan of moving third day picks and trying to get into that top 75. And maybe you take your three, four and you move up to the top of the third and you walk out with an extra guy you really like. To me that's a successful draft."

8 - Is the pool of talent really deeper?

At the end of the 2021 NFL draft, it was noted that the 2022 class would offer a much deeper pool of talent. This was because a lot of college seniors were granted an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID pandemic largely wiping out entire football seasons at the FCS level and costing FBS schools games as well.

But does the expanded pool offer legitimate player value as late as rounds four and five at some positions? Buffalo's GM believes it does.

"I think there are guys. I think this draft is deep," Beane said. "There will be a cutoff point of sure-fire guys to make rosters. I do think the mid-rounds will have some depth in them. We'll see how far that carries, but I do think it lacks those top end guys at the top of the draft. But the depth makes up for it with the numbers due to COVID."

Scroll to see photos of the Buffalo Bills working out in the weight room at One Bills Drive during phase one of offseason workouts.

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