Realistic Trade-Up Possibilites for the Buffalo Bills
The NFL draft is bearing down on us, and coverage is heating up about what teams' plans might be.
Via Mike Rodak, Todd McShay reported Tuesday on ESPN Insider (subscription required) that the Buffalo Bills are looking to trade up in the first round of next week's draft. The likely targets of a trade up would be the top prospects at their respective positions.
In another report from The John Murphy Show, former NFL scout Greg Gabriel disagreed with McShay's notion. Gabriel thinks the Bills would have to sacrifice too much in order to move up.
What you have to give up to move into the top three is a king’s ransom. When you look at the trade sheet, they will have to give up a ton of points. Most likely they will have to give up next year’s number one, plus this year’s number one, and probably another couple of picks this year. Buffalo is not in the position to go after one player. They need a lot of good solid football players to help them win. They are still building the program and they are not there yet. I just can’t see Doug (Whaley) doing that.
With the sale of the team looming, the Bills' front office is kind of in a "win now" situation to make a good impression on the new ownership group, whoever that may be. There's no better way to make a good impression than to snag one of the elite players in this year's draft class.
The only way to do that is to move up the board. It's unlikely any of the top-tier players will slip to No. 9, and you never know if other teams will attempt to move up too. With that in mind, let's explore a few of the scenarios for the Bills to jump up the board.
The Holy Grail
In McShay's report, one of the players mentioned that the Bills could try to get is Jadeveon Clowney.
It's exciting to picture a front seven that includes Clowney, Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kiko Alonso and Brandon Spikes. Opposing offensive coordinators would become insomniacs trying to prepare to face that defense.
But to get Clowney, one would assume the Bills would have to move all the way up to No. 1. In theory, it works because the Texans could get some extra picks and move back to a spot where they could still get the quarterback of their choice.
But what would Whaley have to give up in order to move to the top of the mountain? It would likely be in the neighborhood of the "king's ransom" Gabriel alluded to. Rodak mentioned in another piece that league sources told him the No. 9 pick and next year's first-rounder likely wouldn't be enough to get it done.
But if the Bills can get away with only paying an arm instead of an arm and a leg, Whaley needs to pull the trigger. Clowney is a transcendent talent, and he would immediately put the Bills defense in the conversation as one of the best in the league.
The Texans also know how good Clowney is, so I doubt they will let him get away cheaply. This move is a long shot, but it's not totally out of the realm of possibility.
The Local Legend
Don't sleep on Khalil Mack to stay in Buffalo.
If the Bills can't work out a deal with the Texans for Clowney, Mack is the next best option. The kid went to school right in the Bills' back yard; it almost makes too much sense for them to try and keep him in the 716.
How the quarterbacks are drafted could be the key to how the Bills draft. Teams such as Cleveland, Jacksonville and Minnesota are all drafting ahead of Buffalo and all could use a new face under center.
The Browns especially don't want to head into next season with the Brian Hoyer-Alex Tanney pupu platter under center. Those are the only quarterbacks on the Browns roster right now. Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report (h/t Bryan Rose of SI.com) suggests "many in football" think the Browns want to draft Fresno State's Derek Carr.
The Browns could easily trade back to No. 9 and still land their guy. Hopping up to No. 4 could cost the Bills a second-round pick, per Rodak, which would be worth it to bring in a player like Mack.
Bills scout Doug Majeski (seriously, it's all Dougs and Williamses with this team isn't it?) said at the Bills' predraft luncheon that Mack is "everything we're looking for in a linebacker...I hope we have the opportunity to draft him."
Majeski went on to say that Mack can play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense. He could play either outside linebacker or defensive end for the Bills. They need some help at both positions.
If Mack is still on the board at No. 4, the Bills should be blowing up the Browns' phone to try and work out a deal.
There are some decent offensive players the Bills could target as well.
The best of the bunch is certainly former Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins. Joe Buscaglia of WGR in Buffalo said the Bills "seem to be enamored by" Watkins, according to a league source.
And why wouldn't they be? Watkins is a dynamic wide receiver, which is something the Bills desperately need. The National Football Post even reported that NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell told 104.5 FM in Nashville that Watkins could be the best prospect since A.J. Green and Julio Jones.
Via the Detroit Free Press, ESPN's draft guru Mel Kiper says Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan could go as high as No. 2 and probably won't get past No. 6. If Greg Robinson is another high pick along with Lewan, Clowney and Mack, that could push Watkins down and make a trade up a little cheaper for Buffalo.
The Raiders at No. 5 or Falcons at No. 6 could be trade partners for the Bills. To get to No. 5, the Bills would still probably have to part with their second-round pick and could even get a fourth-round pick back, per Rodak. But hey, it's the Raiders. You never know with them
The Bills sorely need a No. 1 option at wideout. Watkins could be that guy, and if some tackles and quarterbacks get snatched up early, it may not cost as much as originally thought to bring Watkins in.
The Big Boy
If the Bills don't land Watkins, there's another receiver they could target with a move up.
Sure, the Bills could roll the dice and hope Texas A&M's Mike Evans falls to them at No. 9, but I personally don't think he will make it past Tampa Bay at No. 7. After the Bucs shipped Mike Williams to Buffalo, they will also be looking to restock the receiver position.
Therefore, No. 5 or No. 6 would still be the sweet spot to land Evans. The 6'5" receiver would give the Bills offense a big receiving target that would be a threat in the red zone and on third down. Whaley discussed the importance of having a big receiver at the predraft luncheon.
Recently-signed Ramses Barden (6'6") might have something to say about the Bills not having a big receiver, but he failed to catch on with Eli Manning in New (Jersey) York. Therefore, the Bills could still look to Evans to be that guy.
Evans' draft profile said he could have been a Division I basketball recruit. With that size and a 37-inch vertical, it's easy to see why. He doesn't have blazing speed, but the Bills wouldn't need him to run past anyone. That's Marquise Goodwin's job.
There's a lot of possibilities for how the Bills could approach their first-round pick. We don't know for sure what they'll do. We do know one thing, though: The draft can't get here soon enough.