4 burning questions facing the Bills ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft


The weeks leading up to the NFL Draft always feel like a blend of intense excitement and “are we there yet” boredom. Mock drafts change drastically in the weeks following the NFL Scouting Combine, as athletic testing numbers push players up and down boards, and rumors run rampant. But now, we are in that lull period where fans and pundits find themselves in a state of paralysis by analysis. Every realistic scenario has been dissected and analyzed ad nauseam, and folks begin thinking outside the box at different “wow” moves their favorite team’s brass may make during the draft.

That is no different for the fans, media, and content creators covering the Buffalo Bills. Early in the process, Brandon Beane’s No. 27 overall pick seemed easy to predict: another wide receiver for Josh Allen. But after a huge free-agent departure, and some sneaky-good, yet not-so-flashy signings, there are a multitude of directions that Buffalo can go in Round One and beyond.

So, let’s take a deeper look into some of the biggest questions facing the Bills as the 2023 NFL Draft approaches.

Will there be a significant move before the draft?

For a few weeks, it seemed like the Bills acquiring DeAndre Hopkins in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals was a real possibility. However, Hopkins’ current contract and desire for a new one caused a stalemate in all discussions throughout the league. Hopkins’ $19.45 million 2023 base salary is simply too much for an acquiring team to stomach at this stage in the offseason, and it doesn’t seem like Arizona is willing to eat any of that.

Hopkins still may be released by the Cardinals, who would carry a $21 million dead cap hit, saving just $8 million by doing so. But that seems unlikely as well. So, barring any unforeseen changes, the Bills will be rolling into the draft with their current wide receiving corps.

Edge rusher is also an interesting position group in regards to the veteran free-agent market and Buffalo’s underrated need there. Productive rushers like Yannick Ngakoue, Leonard Floyd, Robert Quinn, and Bud Dupree are still available, and either one in that group would be an ideal addition to fill in until Von Miller’s return. Yet my guess is that all of these players believe they have a higher value than what they have been offered thus far and will be signing one-year deals with franchises that miss out on an edge rusher during the draft.

Brandon Beane has always been aggressive to plug holes and add talent to the roster, but with just $7.4 million in cap space remaining, it’s hard to envision any real “splash” move happening until at least May, if at all.

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Will the Bills really consider a guard in Round One?

Buffalo has seen some lackluster play from both guard spots over the last few seasons, and after a major free agency whiff on veteran Rodger Saffold a year ago, the Bills signed Connor McGovern to a three-year, $22.35 million deal. McGovern will join his old college teammate, Ryan Bates, who inked a four-year deal of his own to remain with the team last year.

Still, many see Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence as an option for Buffalo in Round One. Torrence is an absolute beast that will enter the league with a rather high floor, simply due to his strength and power that should allow him to be an asset in the run game early on, as he develops his pass protection. Torrence projects as a high-level starter, so it makes sense why some want him on the Bills. But to me, as much as I like Torrence and have always been a fan of the mauling guards during draft season, I’m not sure that Buffalo would take him, assuming there are other options available to them.

Despite the Bills’ coaching staff’s tendency to ease their young players along, they still expect some early contributions. Torrence would have direct competition with two veterans whose pay locks them into roster spots for at least the 2023 season. If we’re talking offensive line in round one, my belief is that it will almost certainly be a tackle or an interior player that has center versatility, which Torrence does not.

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Jack Campbell or Bust?

Losing Tremaine Edmunds in free agency is a huge blow to the Bills’ defense, regardless of what his critics may say. The 24-year-old manned the middle of Buffalo’s defense for five seasons and while he didn’t have the big interception, sack or forced fumble numbers many covet out of a high first-round draft pick, the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder’s athleticism, range and length allowed the team to rely on him to do things that very few players in the entire league are asked to do, let alone be physically capable of doing.

The team drafted Terrel Bernard last year in the third round, but the Baylor product underwhelmed in his rookie season and projects more as a weakside linebacker than a Mike. He’s undersized but fast, and it’s likely that the team saw him as a potential replacement or backup for Matt Milano – not Edmunds. Buffalo also re-signed Tyrel Dodson, who has filled in for Edmunds in the past. Neither player provides much confidence as a full-time starter at the position, which is why many have set their sights on players like Iowa’s Jack Campbell, among other inside linebacker prospects in a rather weak position group.

Campbell makes the most sense out of the position group that significantly falls off after Drew Sanders and Trenton Simpson come off the board. Campbell boasts a similar size to Edmunds, standing 6-foot-5, 249-pounds and tested better than many thought he would. The Hawkeyes defender had a 6.74 three-cone and a 4.24 shuttle, along with a 4.65 40-yard dash.

Iowa runs a very similar defense to Buffalo’s, which in theory, will help Campbell’s transition should the team select him. The only barrier between Campbell being the Bills’ first-round draft pick is that he’s widely viewed in the 35-45 range. If Buffalo trades down and can acquire Campbell, it’d be an easier ask. Also, with Sean McDermott calling the defense, will he be confident asking a rookie to wear the green dot? Will he tweak the defense as to not put so much pressure on the linebacker position? An inside linebacker is definitely a need, but it will be interesting to see just how much the team values the position in relation to their first-round pick.

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Will the Bills trade up?

There’s been significant speculation about the Bills trading down to acquire more picks and still nab a prospect that they’d consider with the No. 27 slot. But there’s also a possibility that Brandon Beane stays true to his aggressive self, identifying a player he believes is a true difference-maker and making a move up to select him. With just six picks this year, it’d be a bold decision, but one that’s not out of the realm of possibility.

In this scenario, it’s probably a wide receiver like Jaxon Smith-Njigba that Beane would move up for. JSN would mesh nicely into the slot role with Diggs and Davis remaining as the primary outside options. He’s an elite route runner and would be a nifty safety blanket for Josh Allen that can be dynamic with the ball in his hands and downfield as well. TCU’s Quinten Johnston is another pass catcher with the potential to bloom into a dynamic player, but it’s a risky bet. He’s got the Height-Weight-Speed, but for a receiver with his size, he isn’t as physical at the catch point as you’d like, and doesn’t have the best hands. However, he’s a downfield weapon that also can do some work underneath. Buffalo has a history of betting on upside, though, so I wouldn’t rule the Horned Frog captain out as a trade-up target.

Bijan Robinson is an option, but the blowback for not only selecting a first-round running back but trading up for one would cause chaos. The Texas runner is as dynamic as they come, and Beane has not been afraid to allocate assets to the position.

Darnell Wright is a serious option for a trade-up. He’s a polished, pro-ready right tackle with the ideal size and athleticism that the team covets. I don’t think there’s a chance he’s available at No. 27, and it’s likely going to take a top-20 pick to snag him.

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The Bills are in an interesting spot because they have a fairly loaded roster, yet have several small-to-large needs. I think it’s more likely that Brandon Beane trades up for a blue-chip player, rather than trading down to collect more depth or role players. Buffalo’s Super Bowl window is open and the AFC Arms Race between the Chiefs, Bengals, and Bills is heating up.

Overall, Brandon Beane and his staff will be having serious discussions and heated debates about how to approach and execute the 2023 NFL Draft and these are questions that they’ll be asking each other.

Stay tuned to Cover 1 for your latest news, analysis, and breakdowns leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft.