Yes, the Buffalo Bills are aware that everyone wants a quarterback, that everyone figures they have draft picks to use as chips to move up in Round 1.
With nine selections – including two first-round picks, two second-round and the first the third round – the Bills are among the top 5 in terms of draft capital.
But coming off a 9-7 season and dealing with losses in free agency, the Bills need more than a quarterback. Pro Football Focus recently ranked the Bills as having the worst position groups at quarterback, wide receiver and defensive tackle.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, this is a process as you’ve heard me say before,” coach Sean McDermott said. “We started a year ago, or just over a year ago, and you saw us build a team. We’re back in the market of building the team again, and certainly we want to continue to add talent. I’m not one that’s going to turn down good football players.”
Here is a position-by-position look at the Bills’ non-quarterback needs and some names to know:
With LeSean McCoy turning 30 in July and journeyman depth from Chris Ivory, the Bills could use an infusion of youth. This might be a spot to address in the middle or even late rounds, where solid talent should be available. The Bills and every other team will be searching for their versions of last year's gems at the position found in the third round (Kansas City's Kareem Hunt and New Orleans' Alvin Kamara). The Bills had pre-draft visits with San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny and Arizona State’s Kallen Ballage; both should be selected on Day 2.
The Bills could get a good wideout at No. 53 or No. 56, presuming they keep those picks. That range is the sweet spot for a number of prospects.
Oklahoma State's James Washington is not big, at 5-foot-11, and he's not a blazer, at 4.54 in the 40. But he plays faster than he times and he catches everything. The 6-3 Courtland Sutton would be a good value at 53, too. He's a big man who works the boundary and red zone. The Bills could draft him with the idea they may not keep Kelvin Benjamin beyond 2018.
Memphis' Anthony Miller, who was among the pre-draft visitors, could rise to the 55 overall range, too. He's a slot receiver who gets separation. Texas A&M's Christian Kirk may not last to 53. Interesting third- and fourth-round prospects: Colorado State's Michael Gallup and Penn State's DaeSean Hamilton is among the fourth-round targets. But then the odds of getting good production in 2018 go down as you go down the list.
Tight end isn't high on the list of needs for the Bills. If the Bills were to draft a tight end, they would likely do so in the middle or late rounds.
The Bills' top four tackles are Dion Dawkins, Jordan Mills, newly signed Marshall Newhouse and young Conor McDermott. If Newhouse or McDermott could beat out Mills and upgrade right tackle, that would be nice. If someone they like falls to them, this could be a middle- or late-round position for the Bills.
Interior offensive line
The good news for Buffalo is guard is a strong position in the draft. It's good at the top (which doesn't help the Bills) and good in the middle rounds (which should benefit the Bills). Beane has said the retirements of Eric Wood and Richie Incognito have not altered the Bills’ draft plans. Middle-round prospects include Nevada's Austin Corbett and Auburn's Braden Smith (in the third round), LSU's Will Clapp, Humboldt State OT/OG Alex Cappa and Virginia Tech's Wyatt Teller (in the late third to fifth) and Washington State's Cole Madison (in the fourth or fifth).
The dire need to draft a center was taken off the table when the Bills signed Russell Bodine from Cincinnati. Bodine will have competition from incumbent backup Ryan Groy. The Bills had a private visit with Arkansas' Frank Ragnow. He could be in the mix with Buffalo's No. 96 pick.
The need here diminished greatly after they signed free-agent defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Grooming a replacement for Kyle Williams also would make sense. The Bills' depth at the position is hardly overwhelming with Adolphus Washington, Rickey Hatley and recently signed Tenny Palepoi. Miami defensive tackle RJ McIntosh was among the pre-draft visitors, but there are concerns about his strength.
The Bills' pass rush could use all of the help it can get. The free-agent addition of Trent Murphy should provide an upgrade, but it's only a start. The Bills would figure to have to at least give some thought to selecting a defensive end in the first round.
Boston College’s Harold Landry, projected as a late first-rounder or second-rounder, and Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong Jr., who had 10 sacks as a sophomore in 2016, visited Orchard Park. Depending on how he is used, either could be an outside linebacker.
One look at the linebacker depth chart shows how big of a need the position is entering the draft. The kind of outside linebacker the Bills are looking for is also up for debate. If it’s a player who specializes in pass coverage, BYU’s Fred Warner would make sense in the third or fourth round. If it’s a player who provides more of a pass rush, Southern California’s Uchenna Nwosu is a name to watch in Round 2.
Buffalo has a massive hole at middle linebacker. Georgia’s Roquan Smith, Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch and Alabama’s Rashaan Evans, three of the top prospects at the position, have all visited Orchard Park.
Smith might not be on the board at No. 12 if the Bills keep that pick, while Vander Esch and Evans figure to be options at No. 22 – again, if the team doesn’t trade that pick. Vander Esch models his game after Carolina’s Luke Kuechly – a player Bills coach Sean McDermott has plenty of familiarity with.
If Buffalo waits until the second or third round, Iowa’s Josey Jewell figures to be an option. Some scouts don’t value him that highly, but the Bills showed last year when they drafted Matt Milano in the fifth round that draft rankings other than their own are meaningless.
None of the Bills’ reported pre-draft visits were with safeties, and that’s not a huge surprise. The position is set with Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer as starters and the team added Rafael Bush in free agency, so he figures to be the top reserve. Some Day 3 names to know: Oklahoma State’s Tre Flowers, the nephew of former Bills first-round pick Erik Flowers, and Southern Miss’ Tarvarius Moore, who ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at his pro day.
Buffalo’s list of pre-draft visitors shows that the Bills are keeping a close eye on the position. If the Bills remain where they are, cornerback is a possibility in the first round, especially given that McDermott build his defense from the secondary.
Ohio State’s Denzel Ward, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, LSU’s Donte Jackson and Iowa’s Josh Jackson made pre-draft visits to Buffalo. Donte Jackson is considered a second-round prospect by nfl.com, while the other three project as first-round picks. Ward might not be available to the Bills at No. 12. Josh Jackson and Alexander could be around at No. 22. Central Florida’s Mike Hughes hasn’t made a publicized pre-draft visit, but he would figure to be a consideration at No. 22, as well.
Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver, Auburn’s Carlton Davis, Alabama’s Anthony Averett, North Carolina’s M.J. Stewart and Florida’s Duke Dawson are all second- or third-round prospects. Dawson also made a pre-draft visit to Orchard Park.