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Top 7 storylines to watch for in 2024 NFL Draft

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It's the eve of the 2024 NFL Draft and the Buffalo Bills will soon be on the clock. With so much anticipation for the draft cycle, we're taking a look at the top 7 storylines that could define this year's draft for the Bills.

1 — How will the Bills use their 10 draft picks?

Buffalo is one of five teams with 10 or more draft picks this year. If the Bills make a selection with each of those picks, it will mark the largest draft class of the Brandon Beane era. One caveat to note is that 8 of those 10 picks are on Day 3 of the draft. This means the Bills will have to prioritize position groups in rounds 4-7 that have a deeper pool of talent.

The Athletic's NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler, who has scouting reports on over 400 of this year's prospects, says that wide receiver and defensive back are positions that have depth beyond the first two rounds.

"I think receivers will stretch to the fourth round, fifth round. You're going to feel good about some of the receivers still on your board," Brugler said on One Bills Live. "Now that's not saying you should wait until you get to the 120's (to draft a WR)."

Instead, Brugler believes there's a high chance the Bills use either their first or second round pick on a WR then draft another one in the fourth or fifth round.

"If they were to double up in this draft, I think the Bills would feel really good about (WR options)," Brugler shared. He identified Jacob Cowing, Luke McCaffrey, Anthony Gould and Johnny Wilson as potential WR fits on Day 3.

While the Bills may feel good about the state of corner and safety for 2024, Brugler shared that good general managers often have their eyes on future roster construction, too and Beane could opt to bolster their secondary a year ahead.

"What does that corner depth chart look like in 2025 for the Bills?," Brugler asked. "It's not just this year, you're drafting for the next three, four years."

In Brugler’s seven-round mock draft, he has the Bills drafting two receivers and a safety with their first three draft picks, then filling out the rest of the class with offensive and defensive line help.'s Chad Reuter believes Buffalo could lean heavy into the edge rusher/defensive line position early in the draft. His five-round mock draft has the Bills drafting an edge rusher in round one, a receiver in round two and a pair of defensive linemen in the fourth round.

"Beane brought back key defenders DaQuan Jones and A.J. Epenesa up front, but another pass rusher and defensive tackle should be targeted in the draft. Safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are gone, so a rookie is likely to be added to challenge Taylor Rapp and Mike Edwards," Reuter wrote in early April.

2 — Trade up, trade down, or stay put?

In dissecting opinions from draft analysts around the league, there isn't a consensus on whether the Bills should trade up from No. 28, trade back or stay put.

In the wake of the Stefon Diggs trade to Houston — and Gabe Davis' departure in free agency — Buffalo's need to add to its wide receiver room has become amplified as the draft inches closer. That has led many analysts to hypothesize that the Bills are a prime candidate to trade up to get a receiver in round one.

NFL Network's analytics expert Cythia Frelund estimates that teams in the late-teens or early 20's are a realistic trade partner for the Bills because it wouldn't require giving up extensive draft capital.

"You don't have to trade as much in these latter portions," she said on One Bills Live.

Frelund postured that finding an NFC team in that range to trade with if WR Brian Thomas Jr. is still on the board would be a move she would endorse for the Bills.

"You don't have to move up that much, but if Brian Thomas starts to be there, please go get him. He'd be a great fit," she said.

However, ESPN's senior NFL writer Bill Barnwell thinks an alternative option is the best route.

"(Trading up) is not the worst idea by any means, but I think it makes even stronger of a case to trade down in this draft and get more selections in the top 100 of this draft," Barnwell shared on One Bills Live.

In talking with draft scouts and others connected to NFL organizations, Barnwell believes there are "Pro Bowl-caliber receivers" still to be found in round two and potentially round three.

Barnwell identified the Packers recent draft history as a strategy the Bills could model. Green Bay drafted a WR in the second-round in both 2022 and 2023, then also drafted a fourth-round WR in 2022 and a fifth-round WR in 2023. All four players had at least 400 yards receiving and four touchdowns last season.

That doesn't mean trading up should be completely ruled out, especially given Brandon Beane's recent history. The Bills have a penchant for trading up for players that they like — and did so to get TE Dalton Kincaid last year.

"I think this is the big debate as far as what they're going to do," ESPN Draft Analyst Jordan Reid said on One Bills Live. "When the Diggs trade happened, I immediately thought the Bills would try to trade up."

Recent mock drafts from The Buffalo News and The Athletic have suggested Buffalo could move all the way into the top 10 of the draft to get one of the elite prospects in LSU's Malik Nabers or Washington's Rome Odunze.

"It would take a Julio Jones-type of trade to get up (into top 10)," Reid suggested. "I just don't see Brandon Beane doing that because it's such a deep wide receiver class."

For reference, the Falcons traded the No. 27 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, along with their 2012 first-round pick, a second-round pick and two fourth-round picks to the Cleveland Browns in order to go up to No. 6 overall and draft Julio Jones.

If no such leap takes place, that leaves perhaps a more palatable option of either a small trade up the draft board or staying put at No. 28.

"Certainly if there's a guy they love and he's on the board, take him," Barnwell said. "I have no issue with staying put, frankly no issue with trading up a little as well. I just think — given what everyone says the strength of this draft is — I would lean into that (depth)."

3 — How top of the draft could influence the Bills draft board

The overwhelming consensus among NFL draft experts is that the first three picks will be quarterbacks, and at least one more QB is expected to go in the top 10. Monitoring when QBs are taken may shake the flow of the draft board.

"For me, a couple of the turning point and hinge areas that could really be great for the Bills… look for the Chargers (No. 5) to trade down. That would be a good indicator that potentially more quarterbacks are going to go at the top. Same thing with the Cardinals," said NFL Network's Cynthia Frelund.

While all indications are pointing toward QBs Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye and JJ McCarthy being surefire first-round selections, there's also a possibility Michael Penix and Bo Nix sneak into round one.

On The GM Shuffle Podcast, former NFL GM Michael Lombardi believes five quarterbacks will be drafted in the first 32 picks and as many as 20 offensive players could be first-round selections. The latter figure would break an NFL record for round one and make it difficult to project which teams will prioritize defensive players.

Another position group to monitor in the top half of the first round is offensive lineman. Currently, eight offensive lineman rank in the top 27 of NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah’s prospect rankings.

If teams above the Bills start to draft those O-line prospects, positions groups such as receiver, edge rusher, defensive tackle and corner may be more available for Buffalo at No. 28.

4 - What will the AFC East do in this year's draft?

While Buffalo is set, at least for now, to have 10 picks in this year's draft, let's see where the rest of the AFC East is slated to make their picks.

The Patriots have the second most picks at eight, the Jets are next with seven and the Dolphins are last with six. New England has the most picks on Day 1 and Day 2 with one in each of the first three rounds. Miami has the biggest break in picks—one in the second round and not another until round five. New England is the only team that has a selection in every single round. All four AFC East teams have a first-round pick this season.

New England Patriots:

  • Rd 1, No. 2
  • Rd 2, No. 34
  • Rd 3, No. 68
  • Rd 4, No. 103
  • Rd 5, No. 137
  • Rd 6, No. 180 and No. 193 (via JAX)
  • Rd 7, No. 231 (via CHI)

According to draft analyst Chad Reuter, New England's top needs are at QB, OT, CB, WR, DT.

While many mock drafts have New England taking a quarterback at No. 3, there's always a chance they decide to go elsewhere with two QBs in Jacoby Brissett and Bailey Zappe already on the roster.

"New England is clearly the one in the division that is the mystery team, if you will," NFL Network lead draft writer Eric Edholm told One Bills Live. "You have a new head coach, you have a new GM. Eliot Wolf's first time in the captain's chair, Alonzo Highsmith coming into advise. It's hard to know what direction they'll go in the big picture.

"I think everybody thinks they're going to get a quarterback, but do they stay at No. 3 and get one? Do they trade down? Do they stay at three and take a non-QB and try to find their quarterback another route? I think it's most likely that they stay there and get their guy."

The Patriots have power with the third overall pick. And what they decided to do with it, could impact how the first round shakes out.

"I think the Patriots could have a pretty significant impact because of what they can do with their pick," NFL Network data analyst Cynthia Frelund said. "If they were to somehow trade out or trade down, they could be shifting with someone because they don't intend to get a quarterback in the top three, or they could be shifting down and possibly steal a guy that the Bills want at a lower level. It could end up going both ways, but it could definitely be one of the bigger turning points of the draft in general."

New York Jets:

  • Rd 1, No. 10
  • Rd 3, No. 72
  • Rd 4, No. 111 and No. 134 (via BAL)
  • Rd 6, No. 185
  • Rd 7, No. 256, No. 257

According to Reuter, the Jets should be looking for a TE, S, WR, LB and CB in this year's draft.

Sitting at No. 10, the Jets may miss out on the three best wide receivers but will have their pick of the next tier of playmakers. If they decide to continue to bulk up their offensive line, some of the best in the class will still be available at that point.

Edholm thinks the best tight end in the class in Brock Bowers could make sense for them.

"Bowers has been a name connected to them quite a bit," Edholm said of the Jets at No. 10. "The other two positions I can see them looking at, offensive line and wide receiver. What if Rome Odunze is still there? I know they've got Mike Williams and Garrett Wilson, but I wouldn't be shocked if it's another type of pass catcher that goes there."

Miami Dolphins:

  • Rd 1, No. 21
  • Rd 2, No. 55
  • Rd 5, No. 158
  • Rd 6, No. 184 (via CHI) and No. 198
  • Rd 7, No. 241

According to Reuter, Miami's biggest needs are at IOL, DT, OT, EDGE and TE.

Without Christian Wilkins on the defensive line, the Dolphins could use the draft to try to find another edge rusher or could give quarterback Tua Tagovailoa more protection in the pocket by adding to the offensive line. Edholm believes Miami should attack the line of scrimmage with their first-round pick.

"I think the Dolphins are a line of scrimmage team whether it's a d-lineman or an offensive lineman, both make sense to me," Edholm shared. "They suffered losses at both positions, Connor Williams and Christian Wilkins. So, beefing up those line of scrimmage positions and without that many picks, I think that will be their focus."

Another way to think about this is how will the rest of the AFC East's selections affect Buffalo, if at all?

CBS Sports draft analyst Chris Trapasso believes the Jets, Patriots and Dolphins could use more offensive line depth. If we see these teams go heavy offensive line in the draft, does that mean Buffalo tries to add to their defensive line?

"I don't know if we'll see, three, four or five of those picks all be offensive linemen, but I think that's what those teams will ultimately want to do," Trapasso said of the rest of the AFC East. "And I think if you're looking at it from a Bills angle, in the division, maybe it will re-emphasize or reprioritize the Bills adding to the defensive line to continue to have a good pass rush in those six divisional games every year."

5 - Depth in round 1 and how it affects Buffalo

The favorite pick for the Bills in mock drafts at No. 28 has been wide receiver by a longshot. The Bills currently have four wide receivers on their active roster (Khalil Shakir, Curtis Samuel Jr., Mack Hollins and Justin Shorter) and with the Stefon Diggs trade, many analysts believe Buffalo needs another weapon at that spot for Josh Allen.

But, wide receiver isn't the only position that has good depth in the first round. If the Bills decide to go a different route, there are a few positions that are deeper than others on night one. According to the draft gurus, offensive line, defensive line and cornerback depth can also be found in the first round.

"I think one of the big themes this year will be the premium positions going early," The Athletic’s NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler said on One Bills Live. "So, the first round is going to be made up of a lot of quarterbacks, a lot of receivers, a lot of offensive tackles. And then with a few corners mixed in there, a few edge rushers, that's going to make up 90% of the first round."

If you had to pick two positions with the most depth on night one, it would be offensive tackle and wide receiver.

"That's been the big discussion about this year's draft, it's not only offensive tackles but also wide receivers, those are really your two groups that are the strongest in this year's class," ESPN NFL Draft analyst Jordan Reid told One Bills Live.

"The draft classes are just a reflection of what's happening in the college game," Trapasso said. "And every team's throwing the ball 40 to 50 times a game and you have to protect your quarterback, so I think that's why there's a really good wide receiver and offensive tackle class."

Take a look back at Josh Allen, Ed Oliver, Greg Rousseau, Spencer Brown, Kaiir Elam, Terrel Bernard, James Cook, Dalton Kincaid, O'Cyrus Torrence and Dorian Williams' first days as members of the Buffalo Bills.

In 2004, a record seven wide receivers were taken in the first round, and many believe we could get close to or meet that number in this year's draft.

"This group definitely has an opportunity to challenge that feat," Reid said. "I feel good about six going in the first round right now, Marvin Harrison Jr. of Ohio State, Malik Nabers of LSU and Rome Odunze of Washington are really in that first tier. The second tier gets really interesting with Brian Thomas Jr. and Adonai Mitchell. But that sixth guy, there are so many different players that can go there as far as that sixth wide receiver.

"Some teams like Xavier Worthy of Texas, Ladd McConkey of Georgia and then also you can throw in Keon Coleman of Florida State, there's a lot of teams that like him out there as well."

In terms of what positions Buffalo could be targeting in the first round, analysts think a talented wide receiver could really elevate Josh Allen's game. If it's not WR, the experts believe a productive defensive lineman also makes sense.

"I do think the top-end talent, the first-round blue-chip talent at wide receiver is really good," Trapasso said of why it makes sense for Buffalo. "It's historically great in this class. It's up there with any others. Aside from wide receiver, I think to me, if you're playing just the draft navigation game edge rusher would make sense because I don't love the depth beyond the first round."

In the 140 mock drafts we tracked, Buffalo was mocked a wide receiver 109 times or 78% of the time. The favorite receivers heading to the Bills in the first round according to mock drafts were Adonai Mitchell from Texas and Brian Thomas Jr. from LSU.

6 - Day 2 depth and how it relates to the Bills

At this point, the Bills are set to have just one pick on Day 2, which is the 60th overall pick in the second round.

There will be several position groups available at No. 60 but on Day 2 in general, the bulk value lives at wide receiver, defensive back and interior defensive line according to the draft gurus.

"In the second or third round you're drafting a starter," Trapasso said of the wide receivers that will be available. "Maybe even drafting someone who can eventually be a 1,000-yard-wide receiver."

When looking at defense on Day 2, there's a chance many talented players fall to the second round due to the number of offensive players that will likely be drafted in round one.

"I think we are preparing for one of the most offensive heavy first rounds maybe in draft history," Trapasso said. "I think that speaks to just where the NFL game is. And, all this talent stacks up in this class with how many good receivers there are, there could be five or six drafted in the first round. There could be five or six offensive tackles. And, you might have five or six quarterbacks taken. Then, you're already through more than half of the first round."

Due to this, Frelund believes some of the best safeties can be found on Day 2 of the draft. Buffalo currently has three safeties (Taylor Rapp, Mike Edwards, Damar Hamlin), four cornerbacks (Christian Benford, Rasul Douglas, Kaiir Elam, Taron Johnson) and one defensive back (Cam Lewis) on the active roster.

"I also think a lot of these corners are going to get pushed down there (to the second round)," NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund said on One Bills Live. "Cooper DeJean could be there in the second round."

"What we saw from his Iowa film was a lot of versatility and a lot of great results with the versatility. His ball tracking skills are very, very strong. His ability to change directions without losing too much speed as measured by game film is very strong. He was part of a really great defense…and you're going to have to play in ways that are unconventional if you're going to face Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes and certainly Aaron Rodgers twice."

DeJean was mocked to Buffalo in five of the 140 mock drafts we tracked.

When it comes to Buffalo's needs on Day 2, similar to night one, analysts identified wide receiver, defensive line and defensive back as positions that would help the Bills.

In 2021, Beane drafted defensive linemen in back-to-back picks doing it in the first and second round. Frelund believes doing this with wide receiver, at some point in the draft, would make sense for Buffalo this year.

"I liked the strategy a couple of years back when they doubled down with Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham because the truth is you don't know exactly who these people are going to become," Frelund explained. "And now you're doubling your chances for getting it right for at least one and you kind of can't have too many at certain positions."

What about trading up into round three? The draft gurus say it wouldn't shock them because Buffalo currently has eight picks on Day 3 and could package some of those to move into the third round.

"When you're a team like the Bills who is so close to getting to a Super Bowl, winning a Super Bowl, it is about hitting on the picks and getting the right players instead of just saying let's build out the roster with 10 or 11 draft picks," Trapasso said of why giving up picks to get more in Day 2 makes sense.

Frelund likes the idea because of the talent that usually lives in the third round.

"You have to hit on these guys who other people could perceive as average but in your system, they function as above average," Frelund explained. "And the third and fourth round has typically and historically been where those guys come from, if you look at how they net out in the league."

7 - Biggest surprise?

There are several wild things that could happen on night one of the NFL Draft. Could the first four picks be all quarterbacks? Could we break the record for most wide receivers drafted in the first round?

Here's what the analysts think.

"If you look at a team that might be desperate for a quarterback like Denver for instance. I know they don't have the draft capital of a Minnesota or even of the Raiders who are picking one spot behind them for that matter. What if Sean Payton says, I have to get into that top four, I've got to do whatever it takes to outbid these other teams and throw all of next year's picks and everything else because they don't have a ton of assets right now. I think that would be a surprise for me because I don't think they can afford to do it, but they also can't afford to go into next year without a quarterback. So, it's the ultimate conundrum for them in particular." – Eric Edholm, NFL Network lead draft writer

"I think when it's all said and done, I actually think we see more wide receivers drafted in the top 10 than quarterbacks. I think that we see a little bit of a stall with the quarterbacks. I don't know if I think the Chargers will trade back. I think it's very possible to see Marvin Harrison Jr., maybe we see two quarterbacks, then we see a pause and then one more quarterback and then we see what we see something like four wide receivers go. I think we do break the offensive tackle record in the first round and get to eight." – Cynthia Frelund, NFL Network analytics expert

View photos from the Buffalo Bills Embedded trip with Khalil Shakir in Charlotte, North Carolina and Terrel Bernard in Houston, Texas. Watch the full episode here.