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Ryan says draft is opportunity to get better

Don’t think, for a moment, that the Buffalo Bills are just sitting this one out.

Rex Ryan, their new head coach, certainly doesn’t view the NFL Draft that way.

So maybe the Bills don’t have a pick in Thursday’s first round when so much of the spotlight in Chicago will be focused on whether, as expected, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota are the top two selections.

So maybe they won’t be making a choice until Friday night’s second and third rounds, and half of their six picks are late in the three-day process.

So maybe their roster, enhanced by a highly aggressive offseason of trading and free-agent signings, figures to be difficult for even the highest of their selections to make.

If the last 18 years in the NFL coaching ranks – including six as head coach of the New York Jets – has taught Ryan anything, it’s that every avenue to acquire players is an opportunity to improve the team.

“No draft is non-important,” Ryan said. “I think this is an important draft for us, no doubt about that. We have a deep roster already, so for a guy to have immediate impact as a starter, it might be difficult. Am I saying it’s impossible? No. It depends on how the draft falls.

“There might be one or two guys that come in and do have a major impact, so we’ll see how it goes. But I can tell you this: It’s an important draft for us and the numbers might not be a huge draft class or whatever, but each pick is important.

“It’s obviously not as exciting as if you had a pick; I think that is a pretty safe statement to make. But I love the draft. I’m no different than a draft fan or a fan of football in that it’s always a special day and a special time. Whether we’re picking or not, it’s going to affect what happens the next day when we do pick.”

That would be when the 50th overall choice comes up on Friday night.

There are multiple ways the Bills could go, because for all that they have seemingly accomplished through the offseason, there still are needs to fill. The biggest is at quarterback, and the Bills could very well address that by selecting Baylor’s Bryce Petty or UCLA’s Brett Hundley or Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, each of whom could still be available at that point.

Ryan confirmed Wednesday that Bills General Manager Doug Whaley and Director of Player Personnel Jim Monos traveled to Texas Tuesday to visit with Petty, who revealed the visit during a radio interview in Texas. The Bills’ interest in Petty could be genuine or it could be a way of encouraging other teams interested in him to trade their way to that spot, thus allowing the Bills to gain more picks.

Another way the Bills could go at No. 50, or with any of their other choices (No. 81, No. 155, No. 188, No. 194, and No. 234), is offensive line, tight end, edge rusher, cornerback and inside linebacker. And not necessarily in that order.

In all likelihood, however, those players would begin their NFL careers by providing depth and help on special teams – assuming they’re still around at the end of the preseason.

“It’s deep at several positions,” Ryan said of the Bills’ roster. “But there are opportunities at other positions where guys can come in and compete. But to say you’re going to have every draft pick make the team? Boy, I don’t know, and as I mentioned it’s a credit to Doug Whaley and his staff for the type of talent that they’ve collected here because there’s a lot of talent on this team.

“I think we’ll do a great job. I really believe in the scouting department. I think our guys have lined it up, taking input from the coaches as well … so I don’t think we’ll be surprised. I think I know where the board’s lining up for us, but we’ll be ready. Whatever presents itself, I think Doug Whaley and our crew will be ready for whatever shows.”

Meanwhile, the Bills are conducting a three-day voluntary veteran minicamp at the ADPRO Sports Training Center. Ryan declared Tuesday’s first workout as the beginning of the competition for the starting quarterback job. EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel are the main contestants, but Tyrod Taylor also is part of what Ryan describes as “the top three.” Jeff Tuel, as expected, is getting the fewest repetitions in non-contact drills.

“I definitely think it starts right now because you’re taking two weeks of preparation in the classroom putting it on the practice field,” Ryan said. “I will say this: there have been guys very impressive in the classroom. Now, when they get out here, can they take it to the field? That’s the most important thing so, yeah, you start with it there.”

Ryan’s early impressions of Cassel, Manuel and Taylor were mostly positive.

“The thing I noticed about Cassel is the ball comes out in rhythm,” he said. “It’s boom, boom, boom. Hitting it. EJ was impressive to me. I’d still like to see it speeded up just a tad, but he was impressive and Tyrod made some huge plays. He throws the deep ball extremely well and you put him on the move, he’s a dangerous weapon out there.”


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