The pre-draft visit season has reached its conclusion. The league deadline for NFL clubs to host a draft prospect is Sunday April 27. Buffalo made use of 29 of their available 30 pre-draft visits hosting prospects at a host of different positions. Do the players who visited automatically become more likely draft choices for the Bills come the second weekend in May?
Over the last four drafts the Bills have had 117 pre-draft visitors. A total of 10 have been drafted by Buffalo for a mark eight and a half percent. Perhaps what's more impressive is all of Buffalo's last four first-round draft choices from 2010 to 2013 were pre-draft visitors at One Bills Drive.
C.J. Spiller, Marcell Dareus, Stephon Gilmore and EJ Manuel all made pre-draft visits to Buffalo and were drafted soon after. Cordy Glenn was another top 50 pick of the Bills (2012) who was a pre-draft visitor. So does that mean that Buffalo's 2014 first-round pick is among the group of 29 prospects that visited over the course of the past month?
Ten of the Bills' pre-draft visitors have been widely projected as first-round draft choices. As many as seven are thought to at least be in consideration by most NFL clubs to come off the board around Buffalo's pick at nine give or take a few picks before or after. Those players are LSU WR Odell Beckham, North Carolina TE Eric Ebron, Texas A&M WR Mike Evans, Notre Dame OT Zack Martin, Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews, Alabama LB C.J. Mosley and Clemson WR Sammy Watkins.
All but one of those prospects lines up on the offensive side of the ball. It's not by accident.
"Our main focus is making sure EJ progresses," said GM Doug Whaley this past Friday. "It's a quarterback driven league, so we're going to give every avenue and every piece of the puzzle to surround EJ and make him as successful as possible."
If one only looks at the pre-draft visitors projected to come off the board near where the Bills pick, it appears likely that the help to make Manuel successful will be either a dynamic passing game weapon or a premier pass protector.
The Bills have made a point to do additional due diligence on all 29 visitors in the final stage of the draft process. There are undoubtedly a host of different reasons with each prospect, but the bottom line is there is clear interest by the team in these players.
Obviously there are variables out of the Bills control when it comes to which of these prospects will be available to them with the ninth overall pick, if they choose to stay there. Namely the picks made by the eight clubs in front of them. But looking at the top talent on Buffalo's pre-draft visit list and their recent history of their top draft choice being a pre-draft visitor (2010-2013) it's hard to avoid the temptation to try and connect the dots.
Photos of pre-draft visitors to One Bills Drive. (Not pictured: RB Terrance Cobb, Cumberlands (KY) and OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, McGill)
Bills pre-draft visitors 2014
(in order in which they visited)
TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
DB Bashaud Breeland, Clemson
CB Ross Cockrell, Duke
RB Jeremy Hill, LSU
TE Eric Ebron, UNC
DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State
OT Charles Siddoway, Mississippi State
OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
LB Preston Brown, Louisville
WR Odell Beckham, LSU
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
RB Terrance Cobb, Cumberlands (Ky)
CB Phillip Gaines, Rice
CB Walt Aikens, Liberty
RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
RB Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
OL Marcus Martin, USC
WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame
OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, McGill
RB Terrance West, Towson
LB CJ Mosley, Alabama
T Cyrus Kouandijo, Alabama