The combined efforts of former GM Buddy Nix and current GM Doug Whaley over the last four years has helped to build Buffalo's roster into one of the most talented in the NFL. It hasn't fully paid off in the win column just yet, but it has put Whaley in an enviable position despite the fact that he doesn't have a first-round pick for the 2015 NFL draft.
The vast majority of NFL personnel executives subscribe to the draft approach of taking the best player on the board. Some general managers however, are swayed from that philosophy at times by positional need or a specific prospect they covet. But the phrase, 'best player on the board', is one that is often uttered this time of year. The difference for Whaley is he can fully adhere to that philosophy.
"The way our roster is constructed it makes our job a lot easier because when you have holes to fill, not only are you hoping for guys, but you're pushing guys up (the board) because they look a lot better and you over grade guys," Whaley told Buffalobills.com. "That's why we set up the situation that we had last year and even this year where we can go in and grade people just based on their talent."
In fact part of what the personnel department has been able to put together attracted Rex Ryan to the Bills head coaching post when it became vacant.
"I think what we accomplished was not only have we added some really good players who are starters, but the depth players we've acquired as well," Whaley said. "That's what intrigued Rex (Ryan) when we proposed he join our organization as head coach. We all know that injuries are part of the game. If you have that depth on your roster where someone goes down and the next player goes in and the level of expectation doesn't drop that's when you have a chance."
Whaley admits that projecting accurately what will be there for the Bills to choose from when they're on the clock at 50 is more challenging this year. Nevertheless second, and third round picks for that matter, are players that the organization expects to see in the starting lineup sooner rather than later even with a deep roster.
"I went out and basically looked at the players with a second and third round grade and basically see them as starters," said Bills Director of College Scouting Kelvin Fisher. "I don't look at second and third round as backup players. My whole philosophy is I'm trying to reload our team, not rebuild. If they end up being starters you know you did a great job with it. That has to be your philosophy with it. You don't want to have a philosophy of your second and third round guys being backups."
Last year Whaley in his first draft was aggressive executing five trades in three days that landed Buffalo Sammy Watkins, Bryce Brown and an extra fifth-round pick this year that they used to help acquire QB Matt Cassel this offseason.
Whaley doesn't have to do that kind of wheeling and dealing this time around. He can let the draft come to him, not that he's opposed to some deal making if an opportunity arises. Buffalo's personnel decision maker did admit though that moving up the draft board is far less likely this year.
"We leave our options open," said Whaley. "We'd be more prone to listen to offers to move back from 50 and pick up some more picks. Most likely with our ammunition or lack thereof that we have this year I don't foresee us moving up, but never say never."
Again Buffalo's current roster of talent affords Whaley the flexibility to move back and add picks ideally for next year.
The Bills GM admits they do have some areas on their team where they'd like to add some depth. Offensive tackle, linebacker and tight end are the most pressing positions from a numbers standpoint, but the Bills don't want to let it alter their decision making when they're on the clock.
"We won't force the issue," said Whaley. "We still feel that there are ways to acquire players if we don't get them in the draft. We still have some free agents who are still on the street. It's not going to all happen in the draft. Just expect that if there's a player that's out there that we feel can help us we're going to try and get him.