Draft season in the NFL never really ends, but for the casual fan, it officially begins with the conclusion of the Super Bowl.
With all-star games finished, the next major step in the pre-draft process comes at the end of this month, when more than 300 of the top prospects will gather in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. After that, scouts will scatter across the country for pro days, while teams will bring in up to 30 prospects each to their facilities for pre-draft visits.
The Bills hold the No. 21 and No. 22 pick in the first round, with the second of those coming from Kansas City in a trade last year. As you'll see below, though, there is a chance the Bills don't end up making both of those picks.
Here is The Buffalo News' first look at how the first round may unfold in April:
1. Cleveland Browns. Sam Darnold, QB, Southern Cal. There is no consensus on the quarterback pecking order at the moment. UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Wyoming’s Josh Allen also have been projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in various other mocks. Darnold, however, gets the nod for now because he looks to be the “safest” of the quarterback prospects, and it’s crucial the Browns hit on this selection.
2. New York Giants. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. New York is in a perfect spot to land Eli Manning’s eventual successor. Rosen could come in and learn for a year before taking over.
3. Buffalo Bills (projected trade with Indianapolis). Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. There is some question how Mayfield’s outgoing personality would fit with the buttoned-up approach of coach Sean McDermott, but the thinking here is Mayfield will be able to win over teams when he meets with them at the NFL Scouting Combine and makes his team visits. Mayfield has excellent accuracy and the ability to extend plays, rising from a former walk-on to Heisman Trophy winner. To move up, the Bills trade away No. 21 and No. 22 in the first round, No. 53 in the second round and a 2019 second-round pick. It’s a steep price, but that’s the cost of doing business when needing a quarterback. If Andrew Luck really does need another shoulder surgery, the Colts might have to consider a quarterback here. If Luck is healthy, though, they are a logical team to trade down given the huge number of holes on their roster.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston). Saquan Barkley, RB, Penn State. The Browns will probably get some calls here about moving down from teams wanting to go after Allen, but they shouldn’t listen. Cleveland desperately needs more talent, and by staying put they could land their future franchise quarterback and perhaps the draft’s best player. That would be a great start for new GM John Dorsey.
5. Denver Broncos. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. A guard? Fifth overall? This pick makes a little more sense because we’re projecting the Broncos to land Kirk Cousins in free agency, taking them out of the market for a quarterback in the first round. Nelson would provide protection for that investment.
6. New York Jets. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. No doubt the Jets would be sweating while the clock ticked down if the above scenario played out. New York would have to be worried about another team making a deal with the Broncos to get into position to pick Allen, and might even make the deal just to make sure they get their quarterback of the future.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State. A dream scenario for the team that finished with a league-worst 22 sacks in 2017. Chubb is the consensus best pass rusher in the draft.
8. Chicago Bears. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. This is one of those picks that can change in a little more than a month, when free agency starts. The Bears are expected to go after some of the top receivers available, and if they successfully land one or two of them, their top priority for this pick could change. For now, Ridley would be the type of weapon Mitchell Trubisky is lacking.
9. San Francisco 49ers. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama. After stealing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots, the 49ers are set up beautifully for the future. Getting Fitzpatrick here would be another steal, as he’s widely considered one of the best five players in the draft.
10. Oakland Raiders. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. The Raiders cut David Amerson this week and might do the same with Sean Smith to save money against the salary cap. Ward would join former Buckeyes teammate Gareon Conley to form a quality starting duo for Oakland.
11. Miami Dolphins. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. Ranked as the third-best prospect in the draft by NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, Edmunds is a versatile defender who can rush the passer and play in coverage. He has, according to Jeremiah, “outrageous upside.”
12. Cincinnati Bengals. Connor Williams, OT, Texas. Just about every mock draft out there right now has the Bengals taking an offensive lineman in the first round – for good reason. The team ranked 31st in rushing and gave up 40 sacks.
13. Washington. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. Former Bills linebacker Zach Brown is a free agent and if he gets away, Smith would be a good replacement.
14. Green Bay Packers. Derwin James, S, Florida State. Green Bay inexplicably let Micah Hyde walk last year – Bills fans say thank you – so replacing him in the secondary makes sense. Like Hyde, James is capable of playing multiple positions.
15. Arizona Cardinals. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. Jackson has gotten lost in the shuffle a little bit behind Rosen, Darnold, Allen and Mayfield, but is a former Heisman Trophy winner who might see his stock pick up steam at the combine and Louisville’s pro day.
16. Baltimore Ravens. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU: The Ravens need playmakers in a big way, with an offense that finished 27th in total yards per game (305.4) and 29th in passing (189.4).
17. Los Angeles Chargers. Vita Vea, DT, Washington. The Chargers have to get their run defense fixed (they finished 31st in the NFL, allowing 131.1 yards per game) and plugging a 345-pounder in the middle of the line is a good place to start.
18. Seattle Seahawks. Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio. He greatly improved his stock at the Senior Bowl against better competition. He’s got the ideal frame for an NFL pass rusher.
19. Dallas Cowboys. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. Several draft analysts view Hurst as a good fit for Rod Marinelli’s defense. He had 5.5 sacks for the Wolverines last year.
20. Detroit Lions. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College. An ankle injury slowed Landry down in 2017, but still looks like one of the draft’s best edge rushers – a skill that will make him a Day One selection.
21. Indianapolis Colts (from Buffalo). Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama. If the Bills stayed put, Evans would make sense to them, too. He’s built for today’s NFL with his ability to play sideline to sideline.
22. Indianapolis Colts (from Kansas City via Buffalo). Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. The Colts stay on the defensive side of the ball to take Jackson, who led college football with eight interceptions and a whopping 26 passes defensed.
23. L.A. Rams. Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida. The run on cornerbacks starts as the Rams select Hughes, who doubles as a dynamic kick returner.
24. Carolina Panthers. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma. It’s an April tradition – the Panthers needing help along the offensive line. Brown is absolutely massive at 6-foot-8, 360 pounds, and was in charge of protecting Mayfield’s blind side.
25. Tennessee Titans. Arden Key, LB, LSU. He didn’t always dominate for the Tigers, with scouting reports on Key questioning his work ethic and lack of consistency, but his good moments might get one team to buy into him as a first-round pass rusher.
26. Atlanta Falcons. Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford. Dontari Poe will be a free agent next month. If he leaves, Phillips would be an ideal replacement.
27. New Orleans Saints. Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina. A former pro baseball player, Hurst walked on for the Gamecocks. He developed into a solid all-around player at the position who should contribute early as a rookie.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers. Donte Jackson, CB, LSU. There is a chance he could move to safety in the NFL, which would fill one of the Steelers’ biggest needs.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars. Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota St. Mercedes Lewis will be 103 next season – or at lest it feels that way – so Goedert would be a good way for the Jaguars to get younger at the position.
30. Minnesota Vikings. Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon. Crosby put himself in consideration for the first round with a strong Senior Bowl week.
31. New England Patriots. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State. After trading both Jacoby Brissett and Garoppolo in 2017, the Patriots will have to once again start to think about life after Tom Brady, even if he shows no signs of slowing down at 40 years old.
32. Philadelphia Eagles. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. The new Super Bowl champions could use some reinforcements in the secondary after Tom Brady put up 500 yards against them.