MOBILE, Ala. — Buffalo Bills General Manager Brandon Beane is feeling less stress at the Senior Bowl this week compared with last year.
The obvious reason: He doesn’t have to try to find a quarterback.
“I’m smiling. It’s better,” Beane said after Tuesday’s South team practice session at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
“That’s a stressful thing to do and go through,” Beane admitted. “Just the uncertainty. Last year, we were sitting here at 21 and 22, and you’re going, ‘Man there’s some good guys out there, but how do you get up in the top 10 and how far do you have to go?’ ”
“It’s weird,” Beane said. “This year we’re in the top 10 and we don’t need to be. It’s funny how it all works out. It’s nice to be able to focus a little more of our energy on all the positions.”
Last year, of course, the Bills came to the Senior Bowl and got their first up-close look at Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who Beane picked after moving up to the No. 7 spot in the first round.
The quarterback draft class this year is not nearly as highly rated as last year, when four quarterbacks were taken in the top 10.
That allows Beane and his team of scouts to focus elsewhere. The Bills could justify high draft picks just about anywhere, except quarterback and safety.
Beane agrees the offensive line crop, a big area of need for the Bills, looks strong.
“I think on the film there are some guys that are intriguing,” he said. “You’re looking for prototype guys that fit size, length and all that. That’s what this week’s great about.”
“We’ve got our new O-line coach down here with Daboll,” Beane said, referring to Bobby Johnson and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. “Those guys started that last night. And we’re going to get to meet some of the O-linemen. That’ll be the next step, getting to meet some of these guys and learn what ball they’ve been around, what they understand, what has been asked of them at their school in whatever scheme they’re in. Obviously, a lot of these schemes are different than the NFL. But if they can learn, that’s the biggest question you’ve got to answer.”
Beane reiterated the importance of not overreacting to perceived needs in the draft.
“I’m always going to be emphatic about that,” he said. “I know people say 'Well, last year you needed a quarterback and you drafted one.' My answer to that would be we didn’t draft him at 21. We moved up to where we thought we had to get. If we had stayed at 21 and just taken whatever quarterback was left, then that would have been drafting for need. We’re at nine, and we’re going to take the best player, offense or defense.”
While the Bills’ defense is better than the offense, the draft is more stocked with defensive talent than offensive talent at the top end.
Beane said he would have no qualms about drafting for defense early.
“You can almost always upgrade your talent on either side,” Beane said. “You say you didn’t need that position. Well, you’re one injury away from something happening. Or maybe this guy’s got one year left on a contract and you want to draft a good player so you can let that guy walk and not have to pay him $10, $15 million, whatever it is.”
Beane said the deep areas of the draft could impact the team’s free agency plans, and vice versa.
“I do think we look at the depth of the draft,” he said. “Let’s say O-line we think it’s deep in the draft. Then maybe we go we’re going to have a chance in the first few rounds to draft a good O-lineman. So (maybe) we don’t have to be as aggressive in free agency. If we felt we needed a corner and we didn’t think there was any in the draft, you know what, we’ve got to be a little more aggressive.
“So that’s our thought,” Beane said. “Let’s pay attention to where the depth of the draft is, also the depth of free agency, where that is, and try to make the best decisions.”