1 – The first pivot point
The first critical juncture of night one of the NFL Draft will come after Houston makes their first of a pair of first-round picks at second overall. There is growing sentiment that the Texans could pass on taking a quarterback with the second pick and wait until their next pick at 12th overall.
NFL Network draft analyst, Daniel Jeremiah, doesn't have a problem with the Texans' potentially taking a pass rusher with the second overall pick.
"Will Anderson is my second player," Jeremiah said of the Alabama pass rusher. "Bryce Young is my first player. We assume Bryce Young goes number one. Maybe taking best player available. From that standpoint, I couldn't argue. I would just say that there has to be a plan in place to add a quarterback in this draft."
"They've got an opportunity there at 12. Maybe that's what they have in mind. I just have a hard time seeing them entering next season with the Davis Mills, Case Keenum, E.J. Perry combo being it. They have a chance to add to that (QB) room right now, and that's why I would be shocked if they left the first round with those two picks and one of them was not a quarterback."
But if pick two is a pass rusher, it could set off a bidding war for the third overall pick held by Arizona. And as The Athletic's draft analyst Dane Brugler sees it the Cardinals would be wise to move out and accumulate more picks.
"The intrigue is at three with the Cardinals, who would love to get out of there," said The Athletic's draft analyst, Dane Brugler in an appearance on ‘One Bills Live.’ "Do we see a trade up? Could it be as simple as the Colts moving up one spot to make sure they get their guy? Do we see the Raiders make a move or a team outside the top 10 making a big splash? Could it be the Titans at pick 11, Tampa at 19? There figures to be a lot of intrigue with that third pick."
2 – Wider range of grades from evaluators
Every year with 32 teams with differing schemes on offense and defense and different priorities for what they value in a player, there are bound to be varied player grades. This year's draft class, however, has what is said to be a wider range of grades on prospects.
"Once you get past the top 15 picks, pick 20 isn't going to be all that different than the grade you give for who is drafted at pick 55," said Brugler. "I think it's going to be one of those drafts where there are going to be some surprises in the late first round where maybe we thought of the guy as a second or third rounder. Teams have their grades. Their draft boards don't look like any of ours. Most have just 120 or 130 names, so it might work out where a team's next best player at a position they want to target could be there."
"This is going to be a really interesting draft," said NFL Films Senior Producer, Greg Cosell. "I would bet, and I've had this confirmed by some people, that this would be the kind of draft where one team has a player as the 12th best player on the board and another team could have that same player as their 35th best player. I think there is going to be a lot of that varied opinion in this draft. Teams put grades on players, but I would bet that most teams have no more than 17 or 18 players (with first round grades)."
"It's one of those drafts where you've got to really pick your spots, count on your evaluators, your scouts to really line these guys up properly," said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper. "Three years from now if you get an 'A' or 'A-plus' grade or a 'B-plus' grade you should give your scouts a raise because this is a draft where you're going to earn your money. This is a tough draft to evaluate, a lot of mixed opinion, a lot of players are tough to evaluate."
3 - Trade territory?
All that mixed opinion on player grades could spark trade interest toward the bottom half of round one. Last year, there were nine trades made in the first round on night one of the draft. More than half took place after pick 20. Could the bottom of round one, where the Bills reside at pick 27, be a hot bed for dealing again?
"There's so much mixed opinion," said Kiper. "There are not a lot of guys with first round grades. You get down to 15 to 20 guys off the board and you get into the late first and you don't have a first-round grade on a player teams will want out and somebody is always going to be high when a guy that slides down a little bit and they have a higher grade on than the other teams do. They may want to go up and get him. So in a draft like this, which is not a really strong draft I could see a few trades between 18 and 31."
Bills GM Brandon Beane when asked if they would be more likely to trade up or trade down indicated moving back was more likely.
"We would definitely be open to that if, especially if it falls in a way where our first round is wiped out and it starts getting well into your second round and you're like, 'Oh, man, we'd be best to move back,'" said Beane. "But we'll see. Everybody's boards are different, too. You could talk to another team, and they could say, 'Man, we love what's available in the first for our team for what we're doing.' When it starts getting to pick 20, five, six or seven picks out, I think we'll start to know whether we think there's going to be someone there that we should try and stay for, move up for or move back and gain more picks."
4 – Tight end class offers starting caliber through Day 2
Much has been made of this year's tight end class, which most experts consider the best in a decade. As many as five tight ends could come off the board in the top 50 picks, but even beyond that NFL Network draft analyst, Daniel Jeremiah believes tight ends with starting potential can be had late on Friday.
"If you just look at the tight end position, I think you can get a darn good player (on day two)," Jeremiah said. "In the second round, I think you could get a tight end that in some years might have been a first-round pick. Sam LaPorta from Iowa I love. I think he has a good chance of being there. I think there's a very good chance that the top guys are gone. (Dalton) Kincaid is gone. (Michael) Mayer is gone. Darnell Washington is potentially there, but I think he is more than likely gone, even if (Luke) Musgrave is gone from Oregon State. If you are picking between Sam LaPorta, Tucker Kraft from South Dakota State or (Luke) Schoonmaker from Michigan, I think all of those guys are plug-and-play and impactful right away. You can absolutely find somebody there that can come in and really help a ball club. That would be the position if you are looking for immediate impact, that would be the spot I would be looking on day two."
"It's a tight end group that's easy to love in almost every round of this draft," said Brugler. "If you pass on a tight end in the first round, one of the reasons you do so is because of the options you'll have in the second round, third round and even into day three you feel good about the depth there."
5 – What position talent will be pushed down to Bills?
With the attention that's paid to the quarterback position and this year's class in particular, it appears likely that four quarterbacks will come off the board in the top 10. But it's going to take more than a run on one position group to help push viable talent down to Buffalo at pick 27.
Brugler, who has five pass rushers going in the first 12 picks in his mock draft, believes the edge players will push other offensive talent down the board.
"You're going to draft premium positions in the top half of round one and edge rusher certainly qualifies," said Brugler. "This is a draft where with the non-quarterbacks there aren't a lot of blue chippers. Everybody loves Will Anderson and he's going to go high. Tyree Wilson from Texas Tech certainly has his fans. But I had Nolan Smith going to Atlanta at eight, a 4.3 speed guy at 238 pounds. An athlete like that who plays the run really well and has top character makes a lot of sense and I have him going ahead of his teammate Jalen Carter at nine to the Bears. Lukas Van Ness from Iowa is a guy that's ascending. I had him 10 to the Eagles. Myles Murphy from Clemson has a ton of ability, but is still figuring it out, but I had him 12th to the Texans. It's a pass rush group that we'll see these guys go quickly. But it is a deep position too this year."
Knowing as many as four cornerbacks and two defensive tackles in Jalen Carter and Calijah Kancey figure to go in front of Buffalo at 27 brings the total number of players to 15. Texas RB Bijan Robinson is also likely to go in the top 20 selections.
The problem is four offensive tackles, three wide receivers and two tight ends could also go before Buffalo is on the clock bringing the player total to 25 and the Bills are still two picks away. There could be better value on the defensive side of the ball by the time it's Buffalo turn, but you never know how the draft plays out.
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