ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Since trading left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Cincinnati Bengals to rise from No. 21 to No. 12 in the first round of next week’s NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills have been widely considered in the market to move up further to select a quarterback.
General manager Brandon Beane, as he has done since January, continued Tuesday to pump the brakes on the idea Buffalo must make another trade up.
“There’s a lot of good players in this draft and that was the big thing from moving from 21 to 12,” he said. “The natural assumption, I get it, is [that] they’re moving up to get a quarterback, yada yada. No, we improved our draft position. That was a second-round value jump to go from 21 to 12. We’re excited about where that moves us on our draft board, the players that we see would be available there.”
Not trading up for one of those quarterbacks could leave the Bills stuck with a lower-rated signal caller and AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman. Such an outcome might not completely square with what Beane said about the position Tuesday.
“You’ve got to have a franchise quarterback,” he said. “That’s one of the main jobs of a GM is to find a franchise quarterback, it’s a quarterback league, I’ll say it every single time. You have to have one.”
Indeed, quarterback was at the top of the list of draft needs offered Tuesday by the oldest player on the Bills’ roster, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. At 34, Alexander spoke about his transition from being a player to being a broadcaster and gave an honest assessment of the roster.
“This is a quarterback-driven league — whether that quarterback is on our roster or somebody that we decide we want to move up and get,” he said. “That’s something that you always, as an organization, that you want to be able to build on.
“We have other needs as well. Obviously losing guys like [Eric] Wood, Cordy Glenn to a trade, now Richie [Incognito] to retirement, you want to have a solid offensive line. You could have an all-pro quarterback, but if we can’t keep him upright, it doesn’t matter. I think with a guy like David Carr, went No. 1 overall, had a lackluster career because he got hit a lot early in his years.
“[And] linebacker, obviously we talked about losing a guy like Preston [Brown], so finding, again, whether he’s on our roster or in the draft, I think those are kind of the three spots that I kind of look towards as far as seeing what their plan is and how things kind of unveil themselves through that process.”
Quarterback, offensive line and linebacker are draft needs for Buffalo. From more of a long-term perspective, three other positions — running back, wide receiver and cornerback — stand out because of the ages and contract situations of current players.
If the Bills stay put at No. 12 and do not trade up or down, Beane stressed to the team’s official website, “We have to draft best player available.”
Assuming the top four quarterbacks are off the board by No. 12, which player could be the best available for Buffalo with its first selection?
RB Saquon Barkley, G Quenton Nelson, DE Bradley Chubb, LB Roquan Smith, CB Denzel Ward, S Derwin James, S Minkah Fitzpatrick: It would take a major miracle for Barkley to fall to No. 12, and the rest of the players listed are all expected to be taken within the top-10 picks of the draft or so. If one falls to the Bills at No. 12, it would be a win for Buffalo. The only question is whether it would make sense to take one of the safeties, James or Fitzpatrick, given the Bills already having Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. The best outcome in that case might be to trade the pick away.
Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph; quarterbacks: Without knowing for sure how the Bills feel about Jackson or Rudolph, it is difficult to tell whether they would entertain the idea of taking either at No. 12. Besides the obvious risk of reaching for a quarterback who is not as highly regarded as the top group in the class, either could still be on the board with their No. 22 selection. One could argue if the Bills feel strongly about either Jackson or Rudolph, it wouldn’t matter whether they are selected at No. 12 or 22 — the pick will either succeed or fail. But it could come at the cost of missing out on a player at another position at No. 12 who would not remain on the board at No. 22.
Tremaine Edmunds and Rashaan Evans; linebackers: The Bills have been connected to Edmunds in some mock drafts in recent weeks for his athleticism and versatility. He could play middle linebacker in the Bills’ 4-3 defense, replacing free-agent departure Preston Brown, or take over at outside linebacker for Alexander upon his looming retirement. Evans offers similar versatility. As with any non-quarterback selection at No. 12, there would be questions about Buffalo’s strategy in collecting draft capital the past year only to pass on taking a quarterback with its first pick.
Vita Vea, Da’Ron Payne and Taven Bryan; defensive tackles: The Bills do not have an immediate need at defensive tackle after signing Star Lotulelei and re-signing Kyle Williams in free agency, but Williams will be 35 in June and seems to be playing year-to-year. If the Bills feel strongly about any of the top defensive tackles in the draft, they could solidify the center of their defensive line for several years — but not come away with a top quarterback.
Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson and Mike Hughes; cornerbacks: Buffalo signed Vontae Davis to a one-year deal this offseason but have little depth at the position and could use a long-term starter opposite Tre’Davious White. Again, if the Bills feel strongly about any of these players, they could settle this position for years to come but not address quarterback with a top pick.
Calvin Ridley; wide receiver: Ridley has generally stood alone as the top wide receiver in the draft and probably the only one with an argument to be selected No. 12. The Bills’ scouts will not have to sweat Ridley because the team already has an up-close look at him from offensive coordinator Brian Daboll spending last season at Alabama. Naturally, selecting a wide receiver without a long-term answer at quarterback would raise eyebrows.