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What we learned about the Bills in the 2020 Draft.

A backup quarterback and a kicker drafted in the same year. Prior regimes would have been mocked for wasting valuable picks on second tier needs.  

These are luxuries a team can afford when they’ve spent three years building a sustainable roster. I find grading a draft to be a needless exercise as it takes at least two seasons for a draft to play out. What we can use the draft for is a window into the minds of NFL general managers and coaches and as a crystal ball for predicting a team’s plans for the next season and beyond.   

Trust the defensive backfield.

I was pounding the table (as were many Bills fans) for a cornerback to be drafted opposite of Tre White. Levi Wallace got burned more than his fair share of times, and Norman has never been the same since his peak in Carolina playing for McDermott as defensive coordinator. EJ Gains shows flashes if healthy, and that’s a big if.  Dane Jackson will not be someone ready to earn playing time on defense in the immediate future.  This means that McDermott trusts that Norman, Wallace, and Gains can man the side of the field opposite Tre White. I think that cornerback by committee is not out of the question.  Not only that, McDermott trusts his nickel corners. With Tarron Johnson always getting hurt, could this be the year of Siran Neal?   

No competition at O Line.

In the last article, I wrote that McDermott is bringing back the same starting five as last year. Even with the same starting five, I thought it would be likely that they draft a lineman early to push Cody Ford or to  start in 2021 when the contracts of Joe Feliciano and Ty Nsekhe expire. The absence of a lineman being drafted means that Cody Ford, despite his struggles, is still in the team’s long term plans at tackle. It also means that Joe Feliciano could be a long term solution at guard, or that Beane trusts that he can easily fill guard next year with someone in free agency or the draft. 

Robert Foster and Duke William put on notice.

McDermott calling his wide receiver room a bunch of “smurfs” last year, due to their short stature, became somewhat of a rallying cry for players and fans alike last year. Despite the smurfs having one of most productive seasons of any Bills wide receiving corps in the 21st century, Beane recognizes the need for size. Robert Foster burst onto the scene in 2018 leading to many (myself included) thinking that he could be a long term deep threat for the team. However, he failed to take a step forward in 2019 and was a near non-factor in the offense. Duke Williams became somewhat of a cult hero last year with fans constantly clamoring for him to take a larger role in the offense. Despite playing well in limited opportunities, he is slower than Hodges, and will not come into camp as a lock. Gabereal Davis at 6’2 and Isaiah Hodges at 6’4 will be a direct threat to their roster spots.   

Bills are building a modern backfield.

The days of workhorse backs are largely over and Beane knows this. Much is being made of the “thunder” and “lighting” backfield the Bills have built, but this isn’t totally true. Moss can run guys over and be a bruiser but he’s far from your traditional “thunder.”  Moss has great balance, vision, and wiggle just like Singletary. The Bills can put either one on the field without telegraphing where they are running.

A hard road to the final 53.

Here is an activity you can do at home. Look at the Bills current 90 man roster and try to cut it down to 53. It is pretty hard, isn’t it? Do you keep an extra wide receiver and cut an offensive lineman? Do you keep an extra defensive lineman at the cost of cutting a defensive back? If Jake Fromm doesn’t beat out Matt Barkley do you keep him on the roster or hope he makes it to the practice squad? This is a deep roster. The battles at camp won’t be for the starting jobs but for the depth spots. The battle for the last wide receiver spot, the battle for backup quarterback, the battle for the last spot or two of each position group.  This is what good teams look like. The Bills are finally in a position where they have had multiple years of good signings and quality drafts that has decrease in turnover and resulted in an improvement in roster depth.

 Take a break and trust the process, this is  sustainable success.  

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