Draft prospects to watch: NFL analysts offer these opinions on players who can help the Bills

Wisconsin's Zack Baun lines up as the North squad runs drills during practice for the Senior Bowl Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Wisconsin's Zack Baun lines up as the North squad runs drills during practice for the Senior Bowl Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

MOBILE, Ala. – It's a different kind of offseason for the Bills this time around. Now stamped as a true playoff contender, blessed with a good deal of cap space and nine draft choices, there is plenty of opportunity for Buffalo's front office to push the team forward with additional talent.

The Bills brass will go through the paces of trying to re-sign some of their own free agents and find good value on the open market and in the draft. But where should the team's focus lie?

Former NFL front office man Pat Kirwan and former NFL quarterback Jim Miller, who co-host 'Movin' the Chains' on Sirius XM NFL Radio, believe the team's focus should chiefly be in the receiving corps and on the offensive and defensive lines.

Kirwan and Miller are aware that Bills fans want to add a physical presence to their receiving corps. Miller knows what it means to have a big target in the passing game.

"For me just being a quarterback, I want to see a big red zone presence," said Miller. "Not that their receivers weren't productive, but they're smaller type receivers. For me, I like receivers that kind of fulfill every role. You've got your slot guy. You've got your big red zone guy. You've got your speed guy and they have most of those, but I'd like to see a red zone threat.

"This is a big wide receiver class that they can tap into and you look at the guys last year from (DK) Metcalf, who went in the second round. Deebo Samuel went second round. There were some big receivers that played and played well that offered that size."

Kirwan thinks the mismatches that some of the elite tight ends in the league exploited this season will prompt NFL clubs to hunt for one for their own roster. Buffalo seems relatively set at tight end, especially after signing two in free agency last year and drafting a pair, but Kirwan isn't convinced.

"The Super Bowl is going to make every GM think about their tight end situation," he said. "You've got the two best tight ends in the league who made it to the Super Bowl in Kelce and Kittle. They change games. And even if you like your tight end, I think you've got to keep looking until you get one that's special like those two. The way this game is now you can get the matchup you want, if you have that kind of guy at that position. And in college they weren't even superstars."

"The Bills drafted Knox last year, but why not take another swing? Sweeney was a later round pick, but you look at all the teams that have two good ones. They're successful. The Ravens are playing three tight ends. And Knox and Sweeney were productive, but if you can get a difference maker you do it."

Both Kirwan and Miller like the way Beane and McDermott rebuilt the offensive line largely through free agency and the drafting of Cody Ford last offseason. But with Quinton Spain a free agent and Jon Feliciano entering the last year of his contract, Kirwan thinks reinforcements are needed up front.

"I was just talking to Brandon (Beane)," said Kirwan. "As much as you bought an offensive line, literally four out of the five starters, the way he said it I think they're going to tap into the draft and pick two or three young ones, because they're not only important to have, they'll help Josh Allen."

With Jerry Hughes set to enter his 11th season at age 32, Trent Murphy entering the final year of his contract and Shaq Lawson an impending free agent, Kirwan believes Buffalo will be looking for a pass rusher.

"You know they're going to try to have to find one, or with their cap space buy one," said Kirwan of the Bills. "I always say buy one and draft one. It's no good with just one guy. It's too easy to block it. I mean, if you get one on both sides, now you're in business. I would not, however, take a guy in free agency that's over 26."

Kirwan believes they can supplement the pass rush further with a linebacker who possesses a similar skill set to that of Lorenzo Alexander.

"I watched the linebackers here at the Senior Bowl and the kid from Wisconsin, Zack Baun, he can play (strong side) or (weak side). I think he can blitz. The Michigan kid, (Joshua) Uche. They can both come off the edge like Alexander did.

"So they stay out on the field and they now convert to an undersized speed rusher. And since you're not going to take one in the first or second round, the way the world is molded today that's a way to add another pass rusher and you can get one of those guys in the third or fourth round that can play."

Each year, the Senior Bowl, held in Mobile, Alabama, gives NFL hopefuls another chance to showcase their skills. With the 2020 Senior Bowl taking place on Saturday, Jan. 25, take a look back at current Bills players during their time at the Senior Bowl.

What positions the Bills address this offseason will obviously be decisions made by Beane and McDermott after working diligently with their coaching and personnel staffs. Knowing the success they've had in their short tenure together in constructing the roster, both Kirwan and Miller believe another solid offseason of additions could put Buffalo in contention for the division.

"Two one-score games last year," said Miller. "Those were tight games man. I think you're knocking on the door. They're right there."

"You can go toe-to-toe with them now," said Kirwan of Buffalo's chances with New England. "The evil empire could go down."

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