Welcome to the first post-draft edition of the Bills Mailbag. Let’s get right to your questions.
Thomas Larsen asks: Best value in the draft for the Bills? Then, the best value for other teams?
Jay: Plenty of draft analysts expected Boogie Basham to be a first-round pick, possibly by the Bills, so to draft him at No. 61 overall looks like pretty good value. It was a surprise that it came after the team had already drafted an edge rusher (Miami’s Greg Rousseau) in the first round, but rebuilding the defensive line and finding ways to put more pressure on the opposing quarterback was a goal this offseason of General Manager Brandon Beane. Basham has the potential to provide that.
As for other teams, “best value” might not be the best way to describe it, but I really liked the Bears’ trade up for quarterback Justin Fields. Giving up a first-round pick next year will be well worth it if Fields develops into a franchise quarterback. Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah lasted to the Cleveland Browns at No. 52 in the second round. He was viewed as a top-20 prospect on most media rankings. It’s not unheard of for the NFL to have a differing opinion of a prospect, but it’s somewhat unusual to see that big of a disparity for a player near the top of the draft. A report suggested a heart issue was found late in the draft process and that could explain Owusu-Koramoah's slide, but he said during an appearance on "The Jim Rome Show," "I never really had any heart issues or anything going on there." If Owusu-Koramoah pans out, amateur draftniks everywhere will be sure to remind everyone of where they had him ranked.
Paul Catalano asks: How do you think – if they heard – the players reacted to Brandon Beane’s comment on the possibility he’d cut a player if not vaccinated for the safety of the team?
Jay: It depends on the player. If it’s Josh Allen or Stefon Diggs, they probably just went on with their days. It’s not like Beane would cut either one of them if they chose not to get vaccinated. However, if you’re talking about a player who figures to be on the roster bubble, if he was smart, he would take Beane’s words as motivation to get vaccinated. There has been a lot of twisting of what Beane said, but what it boils down to is this: The Bills’ GM thinks it would be an advantage for the team to have “normal” meetings, which is a possibility if a certain threshold of vaccinations among players and staff is met. The hypothetical question was asked if Beane would consider cutting an unvaccinated player to meet that threshold and he said that he would. That’s a pretty good motivation for any player whose roster spot is in any kind of jeopardy to get vaccinated.
MikeyG asks: Just don't think the Bills drafted enough speed. Wish we could have drafted some impact on the offense as well as defense. What are your thoughts on drafting "prospects" rather than "impact?”
Jay: There is no such thing as drafting “impact.” The draft remains a decidedly imperfect science. Before the year he was drafted, Ed Oliver was thought by some to be worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick. He ended up lasting until No. 9, and some would say the Bills overdrafted him. That’s just one of countless examples. For as much as the Bills and every other NFL team spend to scout these players, draft misses are frequent. Now, is it true that some of the Bills’ 2021 draft picks appear more geared toward the future? That’s an easy case to build. With Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison entering the final year of their respective contracts at age 33 and 34, getting younger at the position was an obvious need. It’s true that Greg Rousseau and Basham might be more impactful in 2022 than in 2021. It’s no guarantee, though, that a player at a different position would have made more of an impact. Say the Bills drafted a cornerback at No. 30 overall. If Levi Wallace or Dane Jackson won that job in training camp, that rookie first-round draft pick might have ended up on the bench. At least in the case of Rousseau and Basham, they’ll be part of a rotation. How much playing time they get depends on their performance.
Larry asks: Are the Bills still interested in trading for tight end Zach Ertz? Are they waiting it out for the cost of draft pick compensation to drop?
Jay: That’s one theory. The other is the Bills’ salary cap situation makes a deal right now impossible. According to NFL Players Association records, the Bills have $4.2 million in cap space as of Friday afternoon. That figure will change after the team signs its rookie draft class. Any team traded for Ertz would be responsible for his $8.5 million base salary in 2021. That’s quite possibly more than the Bills can or would spend. If the Bills wait it out long enough, Ertz might end up hitting the open market – a report from NBC Sports Philadelphia said Friday “there still seems to be a very good chance” Ertz will be either traded or released before the season starts. If the Bills are confident another team won’t swoop in to make a play for Ertz, waiting would be the right play. That way, Beane doesn’t have to give up an asset and can try to sign Ertz at more favorable contract terms.
iMD asks: Who has the most to prove this season: Devin Singletary, Cody Ford or Ed Oliver?
Jay: All good choices. I’ll power rank them, since that’s kind of become my thing. 3. Ford. He’s been bounced all over the line and dealt with some significant injuries during his first two seasons. Let’s see what happens when he’s healthy and playing in a set position. 2. Oliver. While it’s true it would be nice to see more “splash” plays, the Bills generally seem to be satisfied with Oliver’s performance. Defensive tackles don’t always put up big numbers in the Bills’ system. 1. Singletary. Running backs are interchangeable in the NFL. Singletary regressed in his sophomore season. The Bills won’t hesitate to find an upgrade unless he turns his career around.
John Jarzynski asks: Can Matt Breida be the difference-maker that the Bills did not draft?
Jay: We shouldn’t rule out the possibility, although it’s a bit concerning that Breida couldn’t make more of an impact for the running back-starved Dolphins last year. I thought Miami made a good move by trading with San Francisco for Breida before the 2020 season, but the deal ended up being a dud after Breida finished with just 59 carries for 254 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and nine catches for 96 yards. Nevertheless, it’s a low-risk move by the Bills to see if offensive coordinator Brian Daboll can figure out a way to best utilize Breida’s potential game-changing speed.
Rick McGuire asks: I know you were hoping for Clemson RB Travis Etienne to be the Bills’ first-round pick (as was I). Etienne was selected 25th by Jacksonville. Do you know whether Beane would have taken him No. 30 had he still been on the board or looked into trading up for him?
Jay: I can’t say for sure. Maybe in about 15 years, Beane will give me an honest answer on that, preferably after Rousseau has a Wall of Fame-level career. Beane did talk immediately after the draft about being linked to a running back, saying, “We were never targeting a running back or anything like that. I think that probably got overblown, it sounds like.” The pre-draft report of the Bills having an interest in trading up for Etienne felt fishy from the start. Beane’s comment would seem to confirm that, although any reports around the time of the draft need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Luigi Mike Speranza asks: My question is does Mitchell Trubisky have any trade value as he becomes a free agent after this year? Thinking a team would prefer to trade rather than compete for him with other teams.
Jay: He might, but the entire point of signing Trubisky was to have a trustworthy backup quarterback. Get ready to knock on wood, but if the Bills were to lose Josh Allen for an extended period of time – say a month – they feel as if Trubisky would be able to keep the season on track until Allen could return. Especially if the Bills go with only two quarterbacks on the active roster, which is a possibility, they wouldn’t trade Trubisky. The only way that changes is if the Bills keep three quarterbacks and decide whoever that third one is – either Jake Fromm or Davis Webb – is ready to take over as the No. 2 quarterback midway through the season. It would also have to be a big return for Beane to even consider a deal. I’d say it’s highly unlikely that happens.
David Kilijanski asks: Wait, we drafted Warren G's kid? How did I miss that?
Jay: The Bills didn’t draft Olaijah Griffin, but he is reportedly going to sign with the team as a rookie undrafted free agent. The Bills have not made any of those signings officials just yet, though social media posts from Griffin and Warren G seem to indicate that will happen.
Louis Stromberg asks: Draft edition, Jay! With the Bills going back-to-back edge picks, please rank the following picks: Tommy Pickles, pick and roll, 52-card pickup, toothpicks, nitpicking. Thanks Jay!
Jay: 5. Nitpicking. There can be no nitpicking with this response (see what I did there?). 4. Toothpicks. Razor Ramon is the only guy in history to make them cool. 3. 52-card pickup. There’s nothing fun about making a mess. 2. Tommy Pickles. "Rugrats" was never my thing, but this is a tough list. 1. Pick and roll. When executed properly, it’s impossible to defend.
Thanks for all the questions, and a reminder that you can submit them to me via Twitter, @JaySkurski, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.