One day away from the best three day stretch in all of sports and I’m just writing my first article on it. What the hell is wrong with me? I apologize for my inconsistent posting over the last couple months but let’s be honest the Buffalo sports institution hasn’t been anything too noteworthy recently. Nevertheless the NFL Draft commences on Thursday at 8:00 and I’m finally starting to get excited so let’s give this a whirl.
The Buffalo Bills own the eighth overall pick in the first round and few if any experts know what they’re going to do. Buddy Nix seemed to indicate that quarterback is the likeliest possibility during the team’s pre-draft luncheon about a week ago but future Bills GM Doug Whaley let it be known that the team is extremely high on West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin. Either way we’re likely in for some fireworks when Roger Goodell steps to the podium around 9:20 on Thursday night.
What the Bills Should Do:
Option 1: Trade Down
Austin and Alabama corner Dee Millner are likely to draw some serious interest from teams sitting in the 15-20 range while Lane Johnson has been flying up draft boards as of late and if he somehow makes it to eight, he would look very intriguing to multiple teams at the bottom of the first. Carolina, New Orleans, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh (picks 14-17) could all use a serious upgrade at both receiver and corner and Austin and Millner are two of the most complete players in this draft. The Saints are no strangers to moving up on draft day and number eight would be a solid fit for them.
When it comes down to it, the Bills need to fill as many holes as possible in this draft and the only way to do that is by accruing more draft picks. St. Louis has two first rounders, while they will not give up both to move up into the top ten, they might be willing to give up a second-rounder to grab a desperately needed playmaker for Sam Bradford.
Option 2: Draft Austin
Call me crazy and make your comparisons to the C.J. Spiller pick in 2010 but Austin is the biggest playmaker in this entire draft. He and Stedman Bailey are the only reasons that Geno Smith is even sniffing the top ten. Austin would bring the dynamic that TJ Graham was supposed to last year. Though I’m not ready to give up on Graham after one year of underachieving, adding Austin into the fold would give the Bills a Maclin/Jackson dynamic with two guys who have homerun potential every time they touch the ball. You could make an argument for Cordarrelle Patterson here but 2 outstanding years of JuCo and one less than amazing season at the Division 1 level doesn’t warrant a top ten pick in my mind (Darrius Heyward-Bey anyone?).
Option 3: Stand Pat and Draft their QB
This honestly seems like the most likely path. Whether it be Ryan Nassib or Matt Barkley all indications are that Nix will finally push away his stubborn pride and pull the trigger on a young signal-caller to develop. Between the two I’d prefer Nassib honestly but I would be fine with either player. Even with a mostly-miserable senior campaign by Barkley he is just one year removed from being projected as a top 5 pick. He has the talent and while I HATE California quarterbacks, I believe this guy has the talent to be a franchise QB one day.
Nassib makes a bit more sense considering his former head coach and offensive coordinator call the shots in Buffalo now. Nassib has a great arm and has played in much poorer conditions than Barkley during his college tenure. He knows Nathaniel Hackett’s playbook and his learning curb would be significantly reduced compared to Barkley.
Put a Gun to my head if:
The Bills Draft a Guard at 8
Don’t get me wrong, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper are two of the top prospects in the draft and would immediately fill the void left by Andy Levitre’s departure but this is a position the Bills could address in the mid-rounds. I may be one of the few people actually intrigued to see what last year’s fifth round pick Zebrie Sanders can do at the guard position if that’s the direction they decide to go. I was extremely high on Sanders going into the draft last year and believe he has the talent to be a very good lineman.
The Bills Pass Up an Opportunity to Move Down
Rumors are swirling today that the Bills are afraid that if they take the opportunity to move down into the teens or 20’s the Jets may draft Nassib with one of their two first round picks (9 and 13). New Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg supposedly has a man crush on Nassib and some experts believe they may nab him if he falls to them.
It would make perfect sense if these rumors were true because the Bills have made historically poor decisions based on urgency and fear (Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract). If Nix can work out a deal that would move the team down in the first and acquire another second or third and still draft either Nassib, Barkley or even E.J. Manuel, it would make Nix look like a genius, which is precisely why they’ll likely turn down any offer to move down and reach for a quarterback at 8. Like I said if the Bills have a guy that they believe can be the future of the franchise then I’m fine with them pulling the trigger at 8. If they are given an opportunity to acquire more picks and address more needs however, they can’t pass it up.