What we're hearing about the Bills from the 2022 NFL combine

mitchell-trubisky-josh-allen-davis-webb
Mitchell Trubisky (10), Josh Allen (17) and Davis Webb (7) Celebrating AFC East Division Championship. Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets at Highmark Stadium, January 9, 2022.

1. Mitchell Trubisky getting more buzz than QB prospects

INDIANAPOLIS - The quarterbacks very often take center stage and garner most of the headlines here at the NFL Combine. This year that is not the case. There doesn't appear to be a top 10 talent among this year's crop, similar to what we witnessed in 2013, when EJ Manuel was the first quarterback off the board at 16.

This year's less than stellar QB class has done nothing but increase the value and demand for Bills free agent QB Mitchell Trubisky. From the people we've spoken with in Indianapolis this week, the buzz on Trubisky is far greater than Pitt's Kenny Pickett or Liberty's Malik Willis.

Even head coach Sean McDermott has heard the buzz calling the chances of Trubisky re-signing with the Bills "unrealistic."

Knowing that Buffalo's quarterbacks room will be completely changed from that of last year with the exception of Allen. Jake Fromm was signed off Buffalo's practice squad by the Giants during the 2021 season. Then after Brian Daboll was named head coach, they signed Bills third string QB Davis Webb.

Trubisky will be the next signal caller out the door. Bills GM Brandon Beane knows he'll have some work to do at the position this offseason.

"That's an important position," Beane said. "We know the quarterback position is the ultimate in all sports. So, it'll be our job to find a suitable replacement assuming, you know, we're not able to get Mitch back. So yeah, we're going to look high and low. We'll look in free agency, we can trade, we could draft, we could do all the above. But we definitely need to find that piece, because we know how Josh plays. And as much as I always want Josh to get down, Josh sometimes sees the play all the way through and it's a 17-game season, so we'll definitely have to find the right answer there."

2. The need for speed

After Buffalo's Divisional playoff loss to the Chiefs, head coach Sean McDermott did acknowledge that even the most fundamentally sound defenses can still be beaten by elite speed and that they have to get out in front of it and match speed with speed.

McDermott and the Bills are not alone with that approach according to several insiders at the NFL Combine.

"It's sort of a philosophical change across the league where there's this move to get quicker, faster, lighter on all levels of the football field, whether it's offensively whether it's defensively there's the game is really predicated now on speed above anything else," said USA Today Touchdown Wire writer Mark Schofield. "How quickly can we get the ball to playmakers in space to let them operate after the catch? As a defense how quickly can you react to those kinds of players to tackle guys in the open field to pick up a guy like Stefon Diggs in the flat to be able to rally and make a tackle? And so, you're seeing that moving towards athleticism on both sides of the ball."

NFL Network's Analytics Contributor, Cynthia Frelund, in an appearance on the 'Bills by the Numbers' podcast pointed out one position where players are getting considerably faster and lighter.

"Linebackers are totally changing. There are coverage linebackers now where guys are expected to play basically like safety roles and sometimes, they even have to play nickel," Frelund said. "What's being asked of them is so diverse, that it's really changing that position quite substantially. It's a function of more pass catching tight ends, more tight ends that are used in multiple schemes, more of these different wide receivers so linebacker has had to really adapt."

And while linebacker might be leading the charge other positions are experiencing similar prerequisites.

"That trend to get lighter, faster, quicker on both sides of the ball will continue," said Schofield.

Scroll through to view photos of the top prospects that draft analysts have projected the Bills to take with the 25th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

3. Receivers aplenty and ready to help now

Once again, the draft class will be offering a plethora of receiver talent. It's to the point over the last several years that a bounty of receiver talent has come to be assumed and the 2022 class is no exception.

"Eleven first round receivers the last two years and almost all of them have hit," said ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay in an appearance on 'One Bills Live.' "And then the second rounders like Michael Pittman was I think like the 33rd or 34th pick a year ago. This first and second round has been outrageous at receiver and the league is getting spoiled again this year with the talent. I think I've got another six first rounders projected to go this year, which would make it 17 first rounders in a three-year span, which is outrageous. Wide receiver is loaded."

L.A. Chargers GM Tom Telesco, who has prepared for NFL drafts for the better part of the last 25 years, admits receivers are not only more plentiful, but the ones at the top of the board are producing right away too.

"It seems like there are more of them," said Telesco. "The way it is with receivers coming into the league you can get receivers in the second, third round, sometimes fourth that come in and play. I remember we had Reggie Wayne when I was in Indianapolis, and it wasn't that long ago, and it took him some time to get going. Receivers now are coming into the league and producing at a high level much earlier."

In McShay's opinion, this year's receiver class could produce quality prospects as late as day three.

"This guy Skyy Moore from Western Michigan. He's a player," said McShay. "He's going to be a third-round pick because there are six receivers in the first round and that backs up everybody else. Christian Watson from North Dakota State is a 6'3', 210-pounder and runs in the 4.3s. I know it's FCS, but he's just like five yards behind everyone. And he had a really good Senior Bowl week. David Bell from Purdue is like a slot jitter bug type. Wan'Dale Robinson from Kentucky, I'm convinced in this receiver class in the third, fourth round, there will be starters."

4. The book on DT prospect Jordan Davis

Bills fans are just one NFL fan base that has become enamored with University of Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis. A behemoth of a man at 6-6, 340 pounds, he's unquestionably the most massive nose tackle in the draft. But the concerns among NFL clubs that McShay has spoken to are about weight management and endurance on the field.

"If you're drafting Jordan Davis, you're going to get 25 to 30 of the best reps you could get, especially versus the run," McShay said. "In the passing game he's not going to get a lot of sack production. Maybe he's a four or five sack guy a year in the league, but he will push the pocket. He will get quarterbacks off the spot, and he will demand double teams at times because there are a lot of centers that just can't hold up. He's just too big. So, you need a little bit of help there. So, I love him when he's fresh. But you can't promise fresh.

"I know people in the program and how hard they worked to keep him under 350. It was a year-long task. And it took people watching him and all those sorts of things. He's just a naturally massive human being. He's a rarity, and when he's fresh he can run and can chase down running backs from behind. And so, you love the physical tools. And I don't want to tear him down. I love the player on the field, but the value of the pick. Is it worth the first-round pick?"

And if the Bills are considering a player like Davis to solidify their defensive interior, they'll have to weigh that value out and determine whether he is a three-down player worthy of a first-round investment.

5. More clubs leaning toward premium positions in round one

As analytics continue to play a role in the draft process more and more teams are leaning toward the perceived premium positions in round one of drafts. Those positions are cornerback, edge rusher, offensive tackle and quarterback.

A big reason why is if you hit on draft choices at those positions you get an enormous amount of cost control on your salary cap with a rookie contract for four years with an option for a fifth.

"Those premium positions cost a lot of money on the open market," said Telesco. "So, if you have a premium player at a premium position on a rookie contract for four years, that's really helpful. Drafting a left tackle financially in a salary cap system is much more efficient than trying to get one in free agency where you're spending over $20 million a year on a tackle. So those are the positions between left tackle and corner and pass rusher. You'd like to get those in a draft if you can. There are other positions that you can handle on the salary cap if you have to go out and free agency and get that. That's the thought process behind them plus the fact that the premium positions are usually hard to find. So usually, you have to take them up high. You're not going to find a lot of franchise left tackles in the fourth round."

There will always be exceptions to the premium positions in round one, but CB, Edge, OT and QB will continue to be popular choices if the value matches in round one.

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