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Why being aggressive on draft day has its rewards


He's only orchestrated two drafts for the Bills in his tenure as general manager. Though it's a small sample size, Brandon Beane has already gotten a label from NFL analysts and even some of his fellow GMs as an aggressive deal-maker when it comes to the draft.

In the two drafts that Beane has run for Buffalo, he has traded up, either leading up to the draft or during the draft, five times, with three coming in 2018 and two more in 2019. Those five trades landed QB Josh Allen (two separate moves up), LB Tremaine Edmunds, OT Cody Ford and TE Dawson Knox.

"When we want to acquire someone, seeing if there's a guy that I think fits a need and the value, that's probably where some people maybe I get too aggressive in the draft," said Beane. "But if there's a guy that I think is a real sure fit – If I overpaid a little bit, so be it. It's better than waiting, sitting on my hands and I'm not really fired up about a guy when my pick comes up. That's just my viewpoint, that may not be 31 other GMs but that's how I see it."

Scroll through to view photos of prospects that some mock draft experts have Buffalo selecting in the second or third round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

There are certainly different ways to approach the NFL draft. Seattle GM John Schneider has traded down and out of the first round in six of the last eight years. The other two years he traded the team's first-round pick away to acquire a player. Of course one of his more notable trades was a move up the board last year to select WR DK Metcalf. 

Indianapolis GM Chris Ballard subscribes to a similar approach of stockpiling picks. He traded out of the third spot in 2018 to move down three spots to sixth overall so the Jets could draft Sam Darnold. The Colts got five players over the next two drafts in that deal, G Quenton Nelson, OL Braden Smith, LB Kemoko Turay, RB Jordan Wilkins and CB Rock Ya-Sin.

L.A. Chargers GM Tom Telesco is more like Beane, choosing to trade up to acquire a player he covets. He did so in 2013 to acquire LB Manti Te'o, in 2014 to land LB Jeremiah Attaochu and in 2015 to get DE Melvin Ingram.   

Is there a tried and true formula?

"I actually believe in Beane's philosophy," said Sirius XM NFL Radio analyst Mark Dominik. "I think it held true for me back when I drafted Lavonte David as GM of the Bucs. I was trying to trade up feverishly to go back and get him, and I didn't change my offer from a two to four. I knew what I was willing to give up to make sure I got a player that I coveted. So even as he kept sliding down the board from where I thought he should go, I didn't want to start to get clever and say well, now it's worth two and a five. So I'll offer a two and a five. I was willing to give up the four even though by the point chart that I was maybe being a little too aggressive. I wanted the player."

David was a first-team All-Pro by his second season.

NFL draft analyst for the 'The Athletic,' Dane Brugler believes doing what you must to land a prized prospect, more often than not, is a wise move.

"Bills fans should love Beane's approach because that should be the attitude of every general manager. Be aggressive go get your guy," Brugler said. "If you think that a player is an ideal fit, not just schematically, not just with your coaching staff, but culture-wise and what he means your locker room, and how he can help you and the rest of the team. It's not just him independently in a vacuum. It's how he could potentially help other people on your roster on the field because his skill set is so unique because his personality is such a great fit for that position room. That impact comes down to the evaluation."

And that is admittedly where some NFL clubs get in trouble. Everyone knows the draft is an inexact science, so giving yourself fewer total draft choices to bank on one prospect in particular does carry risk. But faith in your scouting department and a general manager's own opinion is what must weigh heaviest in such a decision.

"I think if you have that kind of conviction towards a player, I think it's hard to ever feel like you're going to lose in a deal, even though you may be giving up a little more value for the player than what the point chart suggests," said Dominik. "So I'm a big proponent of that approach."

"If you're wrong on the evaluation, then it might blow up in your face, but if you're right on the evaluation, and you're very confident in that, then absolutely by all means you go and get your guy because that's what it's going to take to build a championship team," said Brugler.

The Dallas Cowboys were presented with just such an opportunity in the 1977 NFL draft. Expansion teams Tampa Bay and Seattle had the first two picks in the draft that year, but the Seahawks were besieged with trade offers that year. Dallas ultimately gave up their first-round pick at 14 and three second-round picks they had accumulated for the second pick in the draft, which they used to select Hall of Fame RB Tony Dorsett. 

"We had a pretty good football team," said Sirius XM NFL Radio draft analyst Gil Brandt, who was the Cowboys VP of Player Personnel at the time. "But we aggressively went after Tony Dorsett and we became a Super Bowl team."

The Cowboys had made the playoffs in 10 of their previous 11 seasons but would win the Super Bowl the very next season with Dorsett on their roster. He was the final piece of the puzzle rushing for over 1,000 yards on just over 200 carries his rookie year.

"It's the right people in the right spot and the right opportunities," Brugler said. "The good evaluators, I think they can identify that, and then they are aggressive to go and get it. Sometimes it's quality over quantity. If you have to trade a third-round pick to move up a few spots in the second round to go get the guy you want, you're potentially giving up a starter. Instead of arguably having two starters you're only going to have one on your roster, so you better be right about that guy. The quality over quantity argument is something that certainly makes sense to get the right player in your building."

Just because Beane has made four trades up the board the last two years doesn't mean he's not apt to trade down if it makes sense. The key for NFL GMs is to trust their instincts based on the information gathered over many months and the situation sitting in front of them on draft day.

"Brandon Beane might never be a general manager in the NFL again after he's done in Buffalo, but when he looks back at his career, no matter what happens, he can always say, 'Hey, I went and tried to build it my way,'" Brugler said. "He tried to get the guys that he thought, not just him but collectively as a group, that front office thought would help win football games and would influence the scoreboard and would influence the win-loss record. So at the end of the day, he can hold his head high and say, 'We did our best. We didn't just sit back and let the draft come to us and see how it played out.' They were aggressive. So I think that's the right way to do it and Bills fans should definitely be feeling good about the mentality of their front office and their GM."

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