Buffalo General Manager Buddy Nix in undertaking the project of rebuilding the Bills back into a contender often joked in year one of the process that it'd be nice if the league would give them two picks in each round, fully aware of the many holes they had to fill in fortifying the roster. Nix still believes there are areas on the roster that need to be addressed and with more than just one prospect. He and his personnel staff have nine picks with which to work later this month, and the only way to add to that total is by trading down.
Over the past decade the Bills have traded down in round one just once, when they moved back from 14th overall in 2001 to pick 21 and selected cornerback Nate Clements. In doing so they acquired an additional second-round pick, which they used to take running back Travis Henry.
Since then they've made trades to either get back into the first round or land an additional first-round pick four times. In 2003 and 2009 they traded players to acquire a first-round pick (Peerless Price, Jason Peters). In 2004 and 2006 they exchanged draft choices to get back into the first round to make an extra selection in round one. In the other six drafts of the past decade they stood pat with where they were in round one, if they had a pick (no 1st in 2005), and made their selection.
Nix has stated more than once that he's not a huge fan of moving up and down the board like some other NFL clubs are want to do, but he knows that on draft weekend you have to be flexible and ready to adjust. That's why he'll never shut the door completely on trading down.
"We are open to trade down," Nix said in a Tele-forum with Bills season ticket holders last week. "I'm not sure that that's always the answer. If there's a guy you really want at your pick, you better take him. If you think you can trade down and still get the guy you want, a lot of times you're disappointed. And just because you want to trade down and get extra picks it takes two to do that, and a lot of times there are not a lot of teams willing to move up."
Making a deal to get up to Buffalo's pick at third overall would take close to a king's ransom, and even with the prospect of a rookie wage scale reducing the financial investment in a player that high, it's anticipated that most teams are more likely to stay where they are instead of taking a giant leap up the board.
Nix along with owner Ralph Wilson, head coach Chan Gailey and Vice President of College Scouting Tom Modrak all sit at the head table in the draft room to make the critical on-the-fly decisions that surface on draft day. They also prepare for such scenarios as best they can leading up to the draft.
This year has been no different as they've mulled over several different ways things could unfold for them come draft day, from moving down the board to what their first-round pick could compel them to consider in round two.
"I think the thing is when you start considering that you might trade down if the opportunity presented itself and the guy you wanted was gone, you have to figure up to 10," said Nix. "I wouldn't want to drop any further down than in the top 10. You have to figure nine or 10 prospects that you'd be wanting to have. If you go offense the first pick, who is the defensive guy that will be there? If you go defense with the first pick then you need at least two or three choices in the second round because they might not all be there."
The chance of a player an NFL club covets not being on the board, if in fact they do trade down, is a risk almost no NFL personnel boss is willing to take, and Nix is no different.
"If you have a guy that you're dead set on getting you better take him and not move down thinking you can get him at number seven because you might not and then you don't have the player," he said. "If that's the case with us, if there's a guy there that we think we're dead set on we're going to take him."
Of course there's no way to predict whether said player will be there when they're on the clock in the first place, which is what forces Nix and other league executives to be fluid in their decision making. For Buffalo this year it should be a bit easier to plot their moves sitting in the three hole, but Nix and his staff want to prepare for the unexpected.
"Won't but two be gone," he said in reference to Buffalo's third overall pick. "The thing that keeps it kind of hard to make a definite prognosis is the fact that somebody might trade up. You may know what Carolina will do and you may think you know what Denver might do, but you never know when somebody might jump over you and take one of those spots. That's the unknown, but if we've got three guys there that we like and we know who we'll take in 1, 2, 3 order, we'll take one of them."
And as for the likelihood of trading down?
"I wouldn't ever say we wouldn't do that," said Nix. "I've never been one to do a lot of that. I don't like giving up a player especially if you're sold on one. If the guys that you think merit the pick at three are gone then I think you've got to look at moving back. We need as many picks as we can get."
Throughout the month of April, we are running 2011 NFL Draft prospect stories each week. In addition, Bills fans can vote in the Bills and M&T Bank Draft Day Challenge who they think will be the Bills first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and have the chance to win a Bills Game Day Experience to remember. Five grand prize winners will get sideline passes, M&T Bank Club tickets that include food and beverage, a Bills Alumni meet and greet and a Bills helmet. Click here to vote.