With the dust firmly settled on the 2019 NFL Draft, and most teams bringing in their newest players for rookie minicamps this weekend, it’s time to asses the winners and losers from Buffalo’s eight selections at this year’s festivities held in Nashville. The Bills started out with a consensus steal at their ninth pick of the draft with Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, and addressed various needs through their remaining seven selections. Just the second draft under the current regime, the current crop of players selected will impact not only the team’s future, but it’s present and have effects on many of the current veterans on the roster.
Buffalo’s wide receivers
John Brown, Zay Jones, Cole Beasley, Robert Foster, Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie, Da’Mari Scott, David Sills, Ray-Ray McCloud, Cam Phillips, Duke Williams and Nick Easley.
Yes, the Bills have a ridiculous amount of wideouts on their roster currently, but the fact that they decided not to add any other pass catchers in the draft speaks volumes. The Bills did sign Sills and Easley as undrafted free agents mere minutes after Saturday’s picking ended, but despite stellar college careers, both players are extreme long shots to crack the roster.
Instead of taking a D.K. Metcalf or a Marquise Brown with one of their early picks, general manager Brandon Beane instead decided to instill some confidence in his current group and attack other positions of need. What he’s left with is one of the speediest wide receiver groups in the NFL with the additions of Brown and Beasley, but also without a true number one receiver. The two veterans have combined for 55 touchdowns over their careers, but Brown is four years removed from his 1,000 yard season and it’s been three years since Beasley had the highest yardage campaign of his career. What Beane and head coach Sean McDermott will be looking for is one of those younger players (Foster, Williams, McKenzie) to really step up and develop into a threat in the NFL. Foster and McKenzie both showed promise last year in limited roles, and Williams was a star in the Canadian Football League. Despite not making a draft splash, the Bills are still in much better shape at the position than they were at this time a year ago.
The Bills went out and got their franchise quarterback some weapons and protection. Offensive lineman Cody Ford is instantly an improvement at the tackle position and should aid Allen in finding some much-needed time to throw in the pocket. Buffalo understandably wants Allen to become less of a runner to avoid the injury risk, and this move helps ensure that. Meanwhile, third round draft pick Devin Singletary and his 57 college touchdowns shouldn’t be overlooked, nor should the Bills’ draft pick of tight end Dawson Knox in the third round. It wasn’t by accident that Beane attacked three different offensive areas of need early, and in Ford’s case, even traded up to get his guy. If the organization wants Allen to succeed, they have to surround him with talent. Last weekend’s draft and the free agency class were a major step in the right direction in doing that.
Are Shady’s days in Buffalo numbered? If he does stay, will he have a reduced role in the backfield? There are no clear answers to either of those questions, but it certainly seems like the writing is on the wall for one of the best running backs in NFL history after an abysmal 2018 season. Not only did the team sign veterans Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon in the offseason, but they spent a third-round pick on the aforementioned Singletary. As the running back depth chart currently stands, McCoy is easily the best option at the position. But it’s early May. If Singletary bursts onto the scene in training camp and the preseason and forces McCoy into a reduced role, will he accept it? McDermott and Beane have always preached locker room culture, and with a core of young players making up its roster, they certainly don’t want major distractions. At the same time, McCoy should have a couple of years left in him and played behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league last year. I think he deserves another crack to be the top guy. Gore and Yeldon provide solid depth and pass-catching options out of the backfield, but it will be interesting to see if a scenario will all four players making the Week 1 roster can work in Buffalo’s favor.
Offensive line holdovers
I won’t go name by name here because the Bills currently have 15 -- yes, 15 -- offensive linemen on their roster, but as it stands now, there are at least two players fighting for every position up front. The only thing that is certain at this point is that the team will have at least four new starters from a season ago, and depending on how the offseason and Dion Dawkins’ redemption tour plays out, maybe all five. Cody Ford still has to earn his spot at the right tackle position, but the Bills are going to do just about everything they can so that he succeeds in fostering a long relationship protecting Allen’s rightside. Outside of that, it’s a toss-up on who and how the rest of the Bills’ offensive line is going to shape out. Players like Wyatt Teller, Vlad Ducasse and Russell Bodine, who were all either starters or had good chunks of playing time just last season, find themselves on the bubble. Intriguing free agent acquisitions Mitch Morse, Quinton Spain, Jon Feliciano, Ty Nsekhe and LaAdrian Waddle all have talent and will be vying for positions, but again, there are only five spots on that line. It’s a good problem to have, and by all reviews Ford should be a star in the league, but there will be some fascinating roster decisions and cuts to be made by Buffalo’s brass before the start of next season.