1. Bills add size and strength to roster
Last offseason the Bills added a good deal of speed and short area quickness to their roster with players like Cole Beasley, John Brown, Dawson Knox and Devin Singletary.
This offseason, outside of the Stefon Diggs trade, Buffalo has made a point of adding size and strength to their roster and that continued with their first two draft choices. A.J. Epenesa is a long and sturdy 6-6 and 275 pounds who dominated off the edge at Iowa with 22 sacks, 31.5 tackles for loss and eight forced fumbles over his last two seasons. When you have an 81-inch wingspan and hands that are bigger than 10 inches from thumb to pinkie and a rock-solid work ethic you have the ability to win with power and manhandle opponents.
Zack Moss is cut from the same cloth. A physical runner who embraces contact, Moss is just as satisfied running over a defender as he is eluding one.
"I think it's something where I like to set a tone from the jump," he said. "I like to be physical and have defenses make a lot of business decisions on making tackles against me. I think a lot of people see a lot of violence in the way that I run and the low center of gravity and base that I run with. I'm just trying to be myself. That's the way I approach the game."
Moss is the ideal downhill complement to Singletary's jitterbug style that leaves defenders grabbing at air. Motor makes you miss and Moss makes you wish you did.
When asked if adding strong, physical grinders to the roster like Epenesa and Moss was a point of emphasis, Buffalo's GM stated it was an option they considered.
"We set the board up and there were some guys that are a little more finesse, but big-time speed players," said Beane. "Epenesa has got great measurables, length and all these things, which I do find important, but it's not the end all be all.
"Zack is a very good complement to Devin. Devin has got that shiftiness and Zack is going to be banging in there. Not that he can't dodge (defenders), but he's going to lower that shoulder a little bit how Frank (Gore) did at an older age for us."
Now Epenesa and Moss do more than just mash. The Bills newest defensive lineman offers the versatility to kick inside on obvious passing downs to push the pocket with Ed Oliver, while Moss can handle pass protection assignments and catch the ball out of the backfield.
But physicality and strength is the calling card for both of Buffalo's first two draft choices.
2. No need to trade up in round two
Many draft analysts felt the best value round in the entire draft was going to be round two and it could not have played out that way any better for the Bills. With more than a handful of players with first round grades still on the board at day two it was likely that some quality talent was going to be on the board for Buffalo despite the fact that they were picking in the bottom third of the round at 54.
As the picks came off the board and Buffalo's pick drew closer, GM Brandon Beane quickly realized that he could sit right where he was and he was going to get a heck of a player.
"We honestly had some guys that were going to be in the mix, as it was falling to us. We liked how the board was setting up," said Beane. "There were guys on both sides of the ball with 10 picks left that were in the mix, including Epenesa so we never tried to trade up in the second round."
It was widely reported that Epenesa was a player that a fair number of teams had a first-round grade on, but after a less than stellar 40-time at the NFL combine, and no pro day to redeem himself in light of COVID-19 restrictions, the defensive linemen from Iowa was surprisingly still on the board at 54.
Beane was only too happy to take the giant defensive end.
"We liked what was on the board, and we had good grades and obviously Epenesa you've seen his production," he said. "I don't know exactly why he fell. I assume it was his 40 time. Some people knocked him a little bit on that but you know I don't care about that stuff. I'm looking for football players, and he's a damn good football player."
3. Sweating out pick 86
The mood was not as free and easy for Beane when it came to their third-round pick.
"Our second pick was much more stressful," said Beane.
With running backs Cam Akers, JK Dobbins and AJ Dillon all off the board in the back half of round two and Ke'Shawn Vaughn going to Tampa Bay in the top half of round three, Buffalo's GM had a genuine concern that Zack Moss was not going to make it to them at pick 86.
"We had Moss in a pretty good spot up there (on our board) and there was a little mini run on backs," Beane said. "I was worried about him."
So Beane and his top personnel lieutenants did begin making calls to teams all the way up in the mid to late 70's range.
"We actually were making some calls," he said. "He's a guy that I felt fit a need that we had a little higher than where we picked. He was sticking out on the board. And if I've got a guy sticking out on the board with a need I'm going to try to go get him. We were talking to teams, three, four maybe seven (picks) ahead of us."
Beane said he was offering a late day three pick to move up to secure Moss, but he couldn't find any takers.
"Teams just kept picking and there was a lot of talk about people wanting to get out of their picks and then we got there and nobody want to get out of it so fortunately patience paid off even though my patience was struggling."
The pick right before Buffalo belonged to Indianapolis and though they did take a player from Utah, it wasn't Zack Moss. It was his teammate, safety Julian Blackmon.