Things are starting to slowly ramp back up in the NFL. A majority of the Bills' players returned for Phase 1 of Offseason Training Activities (OTAs) and the 2022 NFL Draft is just one week away.
For general manager Brandon Beane and the rest of the Bills' front office staff, that means it's time to start figuring out what players on their board will still be available when they pick at No. 25. On Wednesday, Beane and Sean McDermott spoke to the media for the first time since the NFL combine. Beane explained they really won't have a clear picture of what players will be there until about 10 spots before the Bills' selection but that there is a lot of work they can do to prepare for it.
"We'll do mocks next week, and we're going to try our best to put ourselves in as many scenarios as we can," Beane said. "I'm hopeful that when I'm sitting on the clock Thursday night that it won't be the exact scenario, but it'll be something similar that we've discussed, which makes it really easy."
Making a selection at the bottom of round one usually indicates that the team did well the prior season. But with 10 minutes between each pick, the first night of the draft can be very long. Beane uses the free agency period to make sure that he can be as patient as possible in the draft and not be forced to make any impulsive decisions.
"I'm probably my own worst enemy with patience," Beane shared. "So, I think that's why you see sometimes, when I say aggressive, aggressiveness in free agency, not dollar value, but my aggressiveness to fill as many holes as I can. Signing Von was different, but we were definitely gonna try and add to the front and fill a lot of needs so that I don't have to feel the pressure, 'I cannot leave the first round or the second round without player x or position x."
"So that's really where it lies. But knowing your board, having a feel too of how the draft is going to fall, I think this year is gonna be a little harder. In past years we've kind of known where some of these quarterbacks were going and where some other guys might fall. It seems like a crapshoot right now to where the quarterbacks will fall which will ultimately decide what position players get pushed down to 25."
Sean McDermott is one of the more hands-on head coaches when it comes to the draft. He was influential in selecting Tre'Davious White with his first selection back in 2017. He works very closely with Beane during the draft process. He watches players' game tape and sits in on the visits the players have with the team. But when it comes to draft day, the Bills' head coach fully trusts Beane to make the best call for the team.
"I think every head coach is different," McDermott said. "Every staff is different. That way I'm very involved. Obviously, Brandon's the point person. Our staff is very involved probably as much as most coaching staffs in that process leading up to the draft. That said, that's Brandon's primary role and his staff's (primary role). So, we have to trust his staff that the information that they've gathered during the fall when we're coaching is accurate, which we do.
"At the end of the day, Brandon makes the call there, which I'm extremely comfortable with. And I think we have a good dialogue leading up to and including on draft day. And I trust, like I've said before, him and I trust the work that he puts in, and I think we have a good dynamic there."
Scroll through to view photos of the top prospects that draft analysts have projected the Bills to take with the 25th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Even though most of the attention is on the first round, a GM makes their living on days two and three of the draft. For them, it's all about getting the most value for those picks – something Beane has succeeded at during his tenure with the Bills. The Bills have gotten talented players like Taron Johnson (2018) and Gabriel Davis (2020) in the fourth round, Matt Milano (2017) and Siran Neal (2018) in the fifth round, Tyler Bass (2020) in the sixth round, and Dane Jackson (2020) in the seventh.
Hitting on those late-round picks is crucial for teams like the Bills who have given big extensions to Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and signed Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. Finding talent late in the draft is a big factor in the team's continued success and Beane knows it's on him to deliver the value picks on day three.
"… I feel like this is a deeper draft, in the back end of the draft because of Covid and all that," Beane said. "So, I think it's my job and our staff's job to analyze each draft and find out what positions have depth and then where is the depth in the rounds. Like, where are you getting the best value? …"
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, college athletes got an extra year of eligibility if they so choose to try and raise their draft stock. That's why Beane believes this year's draft will be so deep. For the past two seasons, the pandemic also affected the draft process and how the front office could meet with and evaluate players.
With Covid protocols dropped this year, it's made it a lot easier on Beane and his staff to get to know the players on a personal level. You can only tell so much by seeing them through a computer screen.
"This process through the spring was great," Beane told the media on Wednesday. "30 visits, we had our last player in this week. Just that part alone, adding the ability to bring 30 players in, meet a lot of our staff, just get a feel for 'em for a day, take 'em out to dinner, whatever the case may be.
"And then again, we sent a lot of our scouts and some coaches out on some pro days and privates. We haven't been able to do that much. Last year the pro days came back, but you really couldn't do the privates. And I feel like we know this crop of players definitely better than two years ago and still better than last year."
Scroll to see photos of the Buffalo Bills first workout back at One Bills Drive.
Having in-person meetings with the prospects is an advantage for every team around the league because more informed decisions can be made. For the Bills, one other advantage they have is continuity. This will be Beane and his staff's fifth draft together. From a head coach's perspective having that stability with the front office is extremely valuable, especially around the draft.
"The continuity has been great," McDermott said. "He knows what I expect. I know what he expects from my staff because the two sides really try and come together this time of year more than any time of the calendar year. And it's the dialogue, it's the trust, it's being able to debate and sometimes walk away with a disagreement still intact and the trust still intact.
"We're all in this for one reason and that's to win and win it all. So, with that in mind, with that one purpose in mind, we can all come together and work and hopefully put a good product out there in terms of what we get next week here."