Could the Bills trade up in the 2020 NFL Draft?


The Buffalo Bills have started to get some love from the national media for having one of the better rosters in the NFL. The sportsbooks don’t disagree, as Buffalo finds themselves with the fourth-best odds to win the AFC and the tenth-best odds to win the Super Bowl. Brandon Beane has done a terrific job in the past few seasons to rebuild the roster and is seeing the rebuild come full-circle as the Bills enter the 2020 NFL Draft without a burning need on the roster. There are just a few depth positions that the Bills could really stand to improve, and thus, this triggers the question of how aggressive Beane will be in the 2020 NFL Draft. Should we expect a trade on draft day? If so, when will we see it and in what scenario?

I’ve taken a look at the times that Beane has previously traded up and tried to get a solid answer on the questions above.

Bills Trade Up From #12 to #7 To Select QB Josh Allen
Bills Receive: #7, #255

Bills Trade: #12, #53, #56

Quarterbacks Selected in Prior 10 Picks: Baker Mayfield (#1), Sam Darnold (#3)

Quarterbacks Selected in Following 10 Picks: Josh Rosen (#10)

The Josh Allen trade may be a little different from the trades that follow in that Allen was a quarterback and he’s supposed to be the face of the franchise. Beane has revealed before that there was a plan in place to trade up with the Broncos at number five had Bradley Chubb not been available for the Broncos. In between the Broncos and the Buccaneers, the Colts appeared to be set at quarterback with Andrew Luck and a strong desire to protect him with a guaranteed hit with Quenton Nelson on the offensive line. After Mayfield and Darnold had been selected, it’s likely that Beane had a strong preference for Allen over Rosen and thus pulled the trigger, surrendering the 12th pick along with two second-round picks to move up and select Allen. Beane will likely never admit if he had wanted Mayfield or Darnold over Allen, but it’s clear he wanted Allen over Rosen. This trade suggests that Beane had a top tier of quarterbacks and the top three quarterbacks were preferred over the next two. 


Bills Trade Up From #22 to #16 To Select LB Tremaine Edmunds

Bills Receive: #16, #154

Bills Trade: #22, #65

Linebackers Selected in Prior 10 Picks: Roquan Smith (#8)

Linebackers Selected in Following 10 Picks: Leighton Vander Esch (#19), Rashaan Evans (#22) 

During the draft process, the freakish athleticism of Edmunds and Smith had set them slightly ahead of Vander Esch and Evans, but there was still a clear first tier consisting of these top four linebackers. After seeing Smith get picked at number eight and Edmunds slowly fall all the way to 16, the value was too good for Beane to pass up. I don’t believe that this pick fits in with the rest where Beane seemed to eye in on a target and make an aggressive trade up for them. Rather than a clear preference of Edmunds over the remaining two linebackers from his tier, it seems that the value of Edmunds slipping all the way to 16 was just too good for Beane to pass up. While Evans didn’t have the pass coverage skills that McDermott prefers, he had the same speed and range that McDermott covets from his linebackers. At the end of the day, this is still Beane moving up to select his pick of the litter rather than accepting whichever player of the litter fell to his choice. 


Bills Trade Up From #40 to #38 To Select OT Cody Ford

Bills Receive: #38 

Bills Trade: #40, #158

Tackles Selected in Prior 10 Picks: Kaleb McGary (#31), Jawaan Taylor (#35), Greg Little (#37) 

Tackles Selected in Following 10 Picks: Dalton Risner (#41) 

There’s not much left to interpret for the Cody Ford trade since there have been clips uploaded by the Bills showing Brandon Beane’s desire for Ford to fall in the draft. However, to narrate the trade, a quick run on tackles saw Beane feel threatened as to the availability of Cody Ford at the #40 pick. #31 was likely out of reach from #40, especially considering the 5th year option that comes along with the pick. After watching McGary, Taylor, and Little all get picked within six picks of each other, there were two offensive tackles left in this tier of players at the position. Rather than waiting to see which one fell to #40, Beane decided to pull the trigger and move up to get his choice of the two. 


Bills Trade Up From #112 to #96 To Select TE Dawson Knox

Bills Receive: #96

Bills Trade: #112, #131

Tight Ends Selected in Prior 10 Picks: Kahale Warring (#86)

Tight Ends Selected in Following 10 Picks: — 

This trade sticks out a touch from the rest of Beane’s draft day trades because there were no more tight ends selected in the ten picks following the Knox choice. However, I believe it still fits into the pattern that has become a trend throughout this article. While Warring is the only tight end to be selected in the ten picks before Knox, he was chosen shortly following two other tight ends in Josh Oliver and Jace Sternberger. Following the Knox pick, another tight end wasn’t selected for 25 choices, likely signaling that Knox was the last pick of his tier of players at tight end. It’s likely that Oliver, Sternberger, Warring, and Knox could’ve been lumped into a tier of tight ends for Beane. Given the low demand for the position, he was comfortable sitting and waiting to see how far Knox would drop and decrease the value he needed to surrender for the pick. Ultimately, as pick #96 came around, Beane felt it was time to make the deal and select his tight end of choice before losing out on value and having to select a tight end in the next tier of tight ends available.  

There’s a clear trend in Beane’s knack for trading up in that he wants his guy and his choice, rather than selecting the last available of a tier of players. Beane waits for a string of a position to start getting selected, and once the current tier starts to vanish, he has a targeted player that he values higher than the rest and moves upwards for them. Lastly, it appears that all of his trades up the board have been in the first three rounds of the draft where players still have unique traits and are a bit more separated in talent. 

So, what does this mean for the 2020 draft? At each of the Bills’ perceived positions of need, there’s a tier of players that is likely to be available in the early to mid second round. At running back, there’s a tier that consists of D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins, Jonathan Taylor, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Wide receiver is a little more clouded with the depth of the class, but Laviska Shenault Jr., Jalen Reagor, Denzel Mims, K.J. Hamler, Tee Higgins, and Brandon Aiyuk appear to be the tier destined for the mid-first to second round. On the offensive line, there are tackles like Lucas Niang and Josh Jones, as well as interior players such as Cesar Ruiz and Lloyd Cushenberry III. An edge rushing tier consists of players like Yetur Gross-Matos, Zack Baun, Julian Okwara, Curtis Weaver, and Terrell Lewis. The newly desired nickel position has a group of unique players in Grant Delpit, Jeremy Chinn, and Kyle Duggar that may be available here. And finally, at cornerback there’s a group of players in A.J. Terrell, Damon Arnette, Trevon Diggs, and Bryce Hall, among others. 

From here, it really depends on just what position Beane values and is targeting in the draft. 

Beane said on One Bills Live that he doesn’t “anticipate us at all trying to getting up into the first round. That’s not something we’re even contemplating right now.” 

So, expecting a trade back into the first round may be setting yourself up for disappointment. However, Beane has also laid out clear detail on how he attacks trading up. 

“Let’s just say we were looking at receivers and let’s say we have three receivers there in the second round. And how many teams that didn’t take a receiver in the first that we have penciled as a team that we see a receiver need for maybe they reach here in the second round for that guy and will the third guy get to us? Maybe we love to have any of these three, if two of them go, do we want to be aggressive and go get that other one? Or do we want to be patient? Maybe we get one in the third round and focus on another position. That’ll be my plan. Watch day one. And then see what’s on the board for us to be ready for day two.” 

So, while not trading up into the first round, it seems that Beane may maintain the same aggressive mindset and make a trade up into the 40s or early 50s in the draft. I would advise to watch for a string of players at a position of a perceived need to start getting selected around the 30s or 40s, and then be prepared to witness a trade up anytime from then on. It’s unlikely that Beane will pull a trade out of the blue for a position where activity is relatively quiet in the draft. I wouldn’t expect or count on Beane to trade up for a position — cornerback, for example — if there have been no corners selected recently. 

If Beane were to be aggressive and believes the team is just one player away from a Super Bowl-caliber roster, which I find unlikely, then using picks 56 (360) and 84 (160) could get them up somewhere around pick 38 (520). according to the trade value charts. In this scenario, it would likely be to acquire a high-end running back or a falling wide receiver or edge rusher with star potential. In a more likely small jump, similar to the Cody Ford trade, trading picks 56, 188 and 207 (382.4) could land the Bills around pick 51 (390). This would probably be a scenario where players at a position are reaching the bottom of their tier and Beane prefers one over the other.