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Top 5 things we learned from Bills GM Brandon Beane's 2023 pre-draft press conference

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As players reported back to One Bills Drive for Phase One of offseason workouts, Bills general manager Brandon Beane met with media to share his thoughts on the current roster, this year's draft class and gave an update on safety Damar Hamlin.

Here are five things to know from Beane's pre-draft press conference.

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1. Where Beane's head is at just under two weeks away from the 2023 NFL Draft

The Bills have the 27th overall pick in the first round of the draft and have six total picks in this year's NFL draft. Beane acknowledged it's tough to guess who will be available that late on Day 1 but believes they are in a position to draft the best player available.

"We're going to take the best player," Beane shared. "We really are. There's going to be a good player there."

Regardless of if it's offensive or defensive player sitting there at No. 27, Beane is ready to take someone who will make the team better.

"I'm usually not going into a draft saying 'Hey, let's hit one side of the ball or the other,'" Beane added. "So we'll just see how the board falls. We're going to set the board, and it'll kind of tell us what we need to do."

With the way this year's draft class has been graded and the fact that grades are all over the place depending on which team and scout you talk to, Beane did address the potential of trading up or out of the first round. Trading into Day 2 or up into night one will depend on what Buffalo's board says when they are on the clock.

"If I was in Vegas right now putting money down, I would say if we were going to do anything, it'd be more likely to go back than go up," Beane said. "But listen, you're talking to a guy who gets antsy at times and goes up and gets guys so Vegas probably would still go against what I just suggested would happen."

Another factor that impacts moving up in the draft versus down is the fact that Bills only hold six picks in this year's draft—a first (No. 27), second (No. 59), third (No. 91), fourth (No. 130), fifth (No. 137 from Cardinals) and a sixth-round pick (No. 205). 

"With only six picks, it's a little different than walking in with 10," Beane said. "So in an ideal world we are not doing (trades up in the draft). But if there is a guy that we've put a lot of work in, and there is a lot of conviction on the personnel staff and the coaching staff, we all have a shared vision, we are sitting here in the third round and this guy's got a really good second-round grade, then maybe we move up. I think it's easier the further we go down because it doesn't cost as much capital. If we got nuts in the first round and tried to make a big leap, that could really clear out a big portion of our picks."

When it comes to what position group the Bills might want to add to via the draft, Beane pointed to defensive tackle.

"The one position that we don't have a lot on the future is D-tackle," Beane shared. "We don't at this point. Ed's (Oliver) going into his last year. DaQuan (Jones) is going in his last year. Jordan (Phillips) was a one-year deal. Tim Settle, last year too. So, if you were poking at something that the Bills would need to keep an eye on, that would probably be where you'd start."

Whether it's defensive tackle or somewhere else, Beane knows he needs to draft quality players who can add to the team because of their salary cap concerns in the years to come.

"As Josh's (Allen) number gets to where those quarterback numbers are, you're really into looking what is the cap looking like now, next year and the following year, for sure," Beane explained. "And so, we definitely need draft picks on our roster to help us, whether it's backup roles, special teams roles, guys to become eventual starters."

2. The linebacker room without Tremaine Edmunds

Former Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds signed a deal with the Chicago Bears during free agency, which leaves a void on defense. Buffalo needs a new quarterback of the defense and Beane thinks there are current players on the roster who deserve an opportunity to fill that starting role.

"I think we got some young guys that have waited their turn and their opportunity," Beane said. "Let's start with Tyrel Dodson who has been here for a while in our system and knows it. I think he filled in admirably when Tremaine missed time. And so, I think he'll have that opportunity.

"The two guys we drafted last year in (Terrel) Bernard and (Baylon) Spector. Spector has been here the whole offseason. Terrel just got back but those guys, young players that have good upside and will have that opportunity. And then we bring back an A.J. Klein as well, who came in and you guys are familiar with A.J. and our history with him. So I think between all those guys, we feel good that we have that covered."

Linebacker, as of late, has been a popular position mocked to the Bills with the 27th pick. In fact, we've tracked 22 mock drafts that believe a linebacker is the best pick for the Bills in the first round.

When evaluating what Buffalo does have in the linebacker room, Beane says it begins with experience.

"We obviously have more run-up with Dodson than we do with the guys who are going to be here in year two," Beane said. "And he's had more playing opportunities to see what that looks like on a short-term basis. It's probably going from like a relief pitcher in baseball, he's really good for two innings, but is he good for six, seven, eight innings, to move him to a starting rotation. I would say that's something that these guys all have to prove.

"It's one thing to come in and fill in as a starter. It's another to go play 16, 17 games. Every week people are game planning against you, seeing what you do well and what you don't do well. And, are finding your weaknesses, whether it's in the pass game, or the run game. They all are going to have to show that they can do that. But we are trying to give them that opportunity."

Dodson played in 16 games and started in three for the Bills last season. Klein is in his third stint with the Bills. He was added back to the roster late last season and played in six games and started in one. Bernard and Spector were mostly special teams contributors during their rookie season.

Check out the best photos of Damar Hamlin, Josh Allen and the rest of the Bills from the team's first offseason workouts in preparation for the 2023 season.

3. Injury updates and player participation at voluntary workouts

Players reported for Phase One of offseason workouts on Monday, which consists of two weeks of voluntary workouts. Sean McDermott said about 90% of the team was in attendance. According to Beane, wide receiver Stefon Diggs has not yet reported.

"He was not here yesterday," Beane shared. "I'm not sure about today, have not seen him or heard that he's here."

One of the veterans who is back in Buffalo and working out is Von Miller. The 13-year vet missed the end of last season with a knee injury but is progressing in the right direction.

"I didn't get to talk to him long but I'm going to follow up with him this week, but he looks good," Beane said. "I have not asked the trainers specifically where he's at like on this day, but we'll get a good idea this week of where he's at. And no timetables at this point, even if I knew specifically before I walked in here exactly where he's at. But I know he's been rehabbing hard.

"Everything's gone as planned. And, we'll see. I don't think there's going to be a timeline till we get to training camp of is he ready at camp or is he starting on PUP and kind of take it from there."

4. Roster evaluation ahead of the draft

Beane subscribes to the idea of taking the best player available in the first round of the NFL Draft. That's their plan on April 27, but that plan doesn't come together overnight. 

The Bills believe their roster is in a place, thanks to free agency, where enough holes are filled to have the luxury of taking the best player when their name is called. They are also heading into this draft without feeling the burning need to draft a specific position due to weak spot on their roster.

"I feel that we've done a pretty good job of filling enough of the holes, whether it's starters or good backups to where we maybe don't have a shear starter, but we got several people to compete, two or three," Beane said. "Is it perfect? No, but I think there's enough guys that we could go line up and play football right now would be my answer, and hopefully we'll add some more competition and depth."

To be ready for the draft at the end of April, the scouting and coaching staff need to assess what they already have on their roster and how those players can make an impact in 2023 and beyond. When it comes to younger players, Beane and the coaching staff make sure to have conversations during the offseason about what they have seen and what they need to see. It's all part of their plan to draft, develop and re-sign their own players.

"What do we need to see from him in year two? And do we think it's there?," Beane said of the conversations he has with staff. "Or do we say, 'Hey, if we still think the player needs to improve on the one area?' Or, why he didn't get as much playing time last year, we've communicated that to the player and said, 'Hey, this is what we want you to work on this offseason, come back and show us this.' So these young guys are still going to have to come back and compete but some of the names you mentioned, we are excited about what they will potentially provide coming up here in year two."

5. Beane says Damar Hamlin is cleared to resume "full activities"

Beane provided an exciting Damar Hamlin update on Tuesday afternoon. Just months after his cardiac event, Beane shared that specialists have cleared Hamlin to participate in "full activities."

"Damar saw his last specialist on Friday," Beane shared. "The long and short of it when he left Cincinnati and came here to Buffalo General, he saw a couple of specialists here in Buffalo and then since then he's seen three additional specialists, most recently on Friday. And, they're all in agreement. It's not two to one or three to one or anything like that. 

"They're all in lockstep of what this was and that he is cleared to resume full activities just like anyone else who was coming back from an injury or whatever. So he's fully cleared. He's here. And he is of the mindset, he's in a great headspace to come back and make his return."

Hamlin also met with the media on Tuesday afternoon and said he experienced Commotio Cordis on January 2nd, the night of the game against the Bengals. He also shared that his heart is still in the game, and he's excited to make a comeback.

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