Brandon Beane used free agency to fortify the strength of the Buffalo Bills.
After bringing in reinforcements for a defense that finished third in the NFL last season, the general manager should turn his attention to the side of the ball that really needs the help.
Beane got started with that by trading his first-round draft pick to the Minnesota Vikings for wide receiver Stefon Diggs – filling arguably the biggest hole on the roster and giving quarterback Josh Allen a true No. 1 target. He can’t stop there, though. Pick a position outside quarterback on offense, and you can build a case the Bills should add to it early in the draft.
Diggs gives the Bills a strong top three receivers with John Brown and Cole Beasley. That shouldn’t rule out another addition at receiver, though. It’s thought to be a historically deep year at the position. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has 33 receivers graded within the first four rounds. While it’s unlikely the Bills would use their first scheduled pick, No. 54 overall in the second round, on a receiver, it’s not a totally outlandish idea. Chances are, a player many thought could have been chosen in the first round will still available at that point.
More likely is adding a receiver in the later rounds. Let’s say the fifth round comes around and there is a player the Bills have with a third-round grade. Is anyone going to object?
Looking elsewhere, Devin Singletary could use a partner at running back. It’s possible when Beane’s turn comes up in the second round, only one running back will have been chosen at that point. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins both rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 2019. Both could be on the board at No. 54. Adding them to a backfield with Singletary would give the Bills a potentially dynamic rushing attack.
How about addressing the offensive line? While the Bills were better up front last year, they were far from great. Yes, all five starters are returning, but that doesn’t mean the line should be set. If Beane believes he can add an upgrade, he should do it. If an offensive tackle such as Houston’s Josh Jones, Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland, Southern California’s Austin Jackson or Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson slips to No. 54, they should be given serious consideration. The Bills don’t know if last year’s second-round pick, Cody Ford, is better suited to play tackle or guard. Veteran Ty Nsekhe, the No. 3 tackle at the moment, is heading into the final year of his contract.
Diggs’ addition notwithstanding, the Bills still need help on offense, which Beane has acknowledged. The team ranked 24th in yards and tied for 23rd in points last season.
“We need to score more points,” he said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “There’s so many reasons why. You’ve got to protect better, you’ve got to run the (ball) better, you’ve got to throw the ball better, we’ve got to catch it better. We’ve got a lot of work to do. It starts with me, making sure I’m bringing in the right personnel.
"I thought Brian Daboll and his staff and Josh took a step in the right direction. Obviously, it wasn’t enough. We’ve got to take a bigger step next year. Those guys would be the first to tell you we’ve got to grow. Again, there’s no more blame on anybody than I look at the man in the mirror on that. We’ll continue to look to add pieces here in March and April and see what it looks like after the draft."
Beane said earlier this month that he’s going to stick to his "best player available" approach, particularly early in the draft. Is it any surprise, though, that in each of the last two years, the "best player available" just so happened to be Allen and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in the first round in 2018 and Ed Oliver in 2019? Quarterback, middle linebacker and defensive tackle were the biggest roster needs at the time those picks were turned in.
It's true that there is a case that can be made for a defensive player at No. 54 being just that. An edge rusher or cornerback could help … down the road. Long-term planning is a part of Beane’s job, but trading his first-round pick shows that this is an organization focused squarely on the here and now.
Tom Brady is gone. The AFC East is there for the taking. The Bills have a defense that is playoff ready – if not more. The roster is built to win now – provided the offense improves. The best way to do that is to invest the most valuable draft capital Beane has. The Bills need to add to their offense in the second round Friday.