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What NFL Draft analysts and experts think is the best strategy for the Bills in the first round

Scenes from the Buffalo Bills Draft Room during Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft at One Bills Drive on April 29, 2021.
  Photo by Bill Wippert
Scenes from the Buffalo Bills Draft Room during Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft at One Bills Drive on April 29, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert

It's finally draft week!

NFL front offices are now in the home stretch and will spend the next few days finalizing their boards in preparation for this weekend. In Buffalo, general manager Brandon Beane has a lot of options when it comes to the 25th pick but he won't know the best option for this team until draft night.

"I'm really just going to follow the board how we set it," Beane said. "We've put a lot of work into it. And if the board tells me, we need to move up, this is a valuable player that can help us, we'll do it. If it doesn't, then we'll stay pat or move back."

Beane doesn't have 32 players with first-round grades, most general managers don't. So, it all depends on what players with those grades are still available around pick 25 for Beane to know if he should move or stay put. The Bills' general manager has moved up in the draft before but this year a lot of factors will go into if he decides to move up.

"I would look at both (moving up or down in the draft) and it depends on who the player is," Beane shared. "What am giving up? What's it going to cost me? What pick is it gonna cost me, is it gonna cost me a third-round pick, and how strongly do I feel about the third round? I'm giving up this player to go up and do this, but it was really worth it?

"I feel like this is an impact player for us, right now. Or maybe I don't, and I want to let the board come to me. But again, you're spot on with how you said it, I think if the numbers are getting thin, I'm going to be looking both ways to see which is the best solution for us."

A lot of the NFL Draft experts and analysts agree with Beane. Reaching for a player in the first round is risky and might not give you the most value for that pick. So, letting the board dictate your decision, is the best way to go about it for the Bills.

"I think at 25 you have to see is there a guy that you can go up to get, number one," ESPN's NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said. "And if you are at 25, can you get out of there and get into this early second round because there's going to be teams looking to move up to get potentially that quarterback at that point for a player that slides through the cracks.

"You just have to see how it sets up with your board. Your board dictates 25. If there's a kid in your top 10 to 15 and he's still there, you're ecstatic and you go take them or you maybe go up a little bit to get them."

The quarterback situation in this year's draft could shake up a lot as we get through the first round. In previous drafts, teams usually move into the top ten to pick their future signal-caller. This year, with the lack of an all-star prospect, there is less certainty where the quarterbacks will fall. NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah thinks the Bills are in a good spot to potentially trade back and gain some picks in the second and third rounds.

"I think for all the potential inaction up at the top of the draft, I think we could see a lot of action towards the bottom, especially as it pertains to the quarterbacks," Jeremiah said. "I think that's where the value is. If you can get back in, get the fifth year, take a flier on one of these guys, I think we could see some action there and see some movement there. I'm sure the Bills have a good opportunity to make a move there if they want."

The depth of this year's draft has been talked about a lot. With college athletes getting another year of eligibility because of the pandemic, the talent pool will be bigger in the mid to later rounds of the draft. Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy thinks because of that, teams in the bottom of the first round will be looking to move out and add more picks on day two.

"I think where they're sitting is truly where you just have to take the best player available," Nagy explained on the Bills by the Numbers Podcast. "I don't think you have to reach for need. I think there's going to be a good player there. The quarterback thing is interesting, last year, it was five QBs in the top 15 and it pushed down some really good players. I don't think we're going to be in that situation this year, maybe a couple of guys might push a couple of guys in the 20s but certainly not like last year.

"So I think, you can stay there and address a lot of different needs, but there's going to be a good player there. I feel like the meat of this draft is probably anywhere between picks 15 and 60. You can really get pretty close to the same player. That's why I think you're gonna see a lot of teams trying to trade back and stockpile second-round picks. It's gonna be a really good second round this year."

If the Bills do stay put and select a player with the 25th pick, the team is in a good spot to be able to choose from many different positions and take the best player available. Beane used free agency to make sure that he didn't have to leave round one with a certain position and that he had some flexibility.

According to the draft analysts, cornerback, running back, wide receiver, and offensive line are all positions they could see the Bills picking in the first round.

"In terms of where they could go, I think corner, continuing to look there -- this is a wide receiver group that's in pretty good shape, but I wouldn't put it past them to add to those riches if they have the right guy there," Jeremiah said. "A name I would keep an eye on, somebody like Jahan Dotson I think would be a fun one to plug in there just to be an embarrassment of riches.

"Breece Hall, the running back from Iowa State to me is by far -- would be the best running back on their roster if he were to go there. I think you've got an offense that's going to go out and get a bunch of leads with how explosive they are, I think getting somebody that can finish the game, I think Breece Hall gives you that ability."

Josh Allen and newly acquired tight end O.J. Howard are the only former first-round picks on the Bills' offense. Adding another offensive weapon in the first round of this year's draft could take Buffalo's already explosive offense to a whole other level.

If the Bills choose to add another wide receiver to the already talented room, these ESPN draft analysts think Arkansas' Treylon Burks and Penn State's Jahan Dotson would be a good fit for the Bills.

"I think you look at Treylon Burks, a big receiver, versatile receiver he had a couple of drops, but he put that to rest early on," Kiper Jr. said. "He eliminated that, he was body-catching a couple of times and then the ball got away. To me, keeping the weight at a level where you are a wideout, not an H-back will be important. I think he's in the late first round."

"Jahan Dotson, he's an undersized slot receiver but he's a burner," ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay said. "He ran a 4.41 or a 4.43 at the combine, and he's just so under control. He has easy speed, and I think probably the best in my opinion based on the tape, he has the best ball skills of any receiver in this class."

On the other hand, cornerback is a position where the Bills might look to add. With Tre'Davious White still recovering from an ACL injury, drafting a corner in the first round is another option for the Bills. In ESPN draft expert Jordan Reid's latest mock draft, he had the Bills taking Clemson corner Andrew Booth Jr. at 25. Reid thinks he's exactly what Buffalo is looking for.

"I think when you're talking about the combination of everything fitting into what is a player that represents a Buffalo Bill, and when I think of the Buffalo Bills, I think of a player that plays with a lot of charisma, attitude, and then also is a physical presence in the secondary," Reid said on One Bills Live. "I think that's exactly what Andrew Booth Jr. brings to the table. And it's not just that he's in a position of need, I think with the attitude that he brings, and then just the confidence that he uses. He has an infectious personality and then just his ability to make plays on the ball. I think he just described everything that Sean McDermott, and then also Brandon Beane look for when adding a player to this roster."

The Bills could also look to address their offensive line in the first round. In free agency, Beane brought back Ike Boettger and Ryan Bates and added Roger Saffold and David Quessenberry. Adding another lineman in the first round would strengthen the Bills' depth at the position for years to come. Nagy thinks the Bills could get a solid offensive lineman even if they stay at 25.

"I think you'd have to look at the interior offensive line," Nagy said. "In any draft, that's where they start to go somewhere in the 20s. Your top centers, your top guards, and you can get the best player at each position probably right there where you're sitting. So, this year, I mean to me, a guy that I love is Zion Johnson from Boston College. Had a great Senior Bowl week down here.

"There are some really good guards in this class too. And Zion could be a guard. If you feel good about your center situation, you want to plug Zion in at guard and leave him in there for a few years. That works too. So, I would say interior offensive line is that's really the sweet spot in the 20s, you can get a really good player there."

Scroll to see photos of the Buffalo Bills first workout back at One Bills Drive.

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