And according to sources of Pompei, the Buffalo Bills are the team that some are thinking could take the leap up the board. Per the report, the Bills "appear interested" in moving up in the draft order.
Before getting into the nuts and bolts of this rumor, it is important to note that it is March 28, with the draft's first round slated to get underway on May 8, so everything at this point should be taken with a grain of salt.
However, since it is the first overall pick of a loaded draft, it's a fun "what if" scenario for fans of the team. So, for the sake of appeasement, let's say there actually is something to the rumor. Who would be the likeliest targets?
The report says the move could be to take a quarterback, but GM Doug Whaley has gone on record numerous times to say they are not interested in drafting a quarterback in the first round. With that out of the way, here are the likeliest possibilities if this rumor were to be true:
- DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
- WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
- LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
- OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
3 reasons why trading up to 1st overall DOES make sense for Buffalo
1) The Bills think they’re close
- In his first year of starting for the team, quarterback EJ Manuel went 4-5 as a starter in a season that was plagued by knee injuries. Head coach Doug Marrone has mentioned many times that he believes Manuel will be the quarterback the Bills have been waiting for, to bring them back to the promised land that is the playoffs. If this report were true, then the team would have to be thinking that a full off-season mixed with a healthy quarterback in 2014 will get them very close, and that they may only be one big-time player away. With this line of thinking, trading future first round picks away wouldn’t mean a lot because they may think they’ll be drafting in the twenties in the near future. Some could and would argue with that point, but that is the belief at One Bills Drive.
2) If it’s for a pass rusher, looking beyond 2014
- Both Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack are intriguing options for the Bills if this rumor ever came to fruition. With the admission that they’ll be going to four-man looks along the defensive line with new coordinator Jim Schwartz, the pairing of Clowney and Mario Williams as the bookends with Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams in the middle could have them salivating. Jerry Hughes, who found his most success in 2013 playing as an edge rusher in passing situations, is not an every down player and is also a free agent after the 2014 season. Linebacker Manny Lawson is less of a fit for Schwartz’s defense, and really only provides a spark in run defending. There’s also the component of Mario Williams, his age, ability and contract. Despite what his sack total would indicate, Williams was not a dependable player from game-to-game or even from play-to-play. At 29 years old, Williams has an inflating cap number that went up $6.4 million (it’s now at $18.8 million) from 2013 to 2014, and will go up to $19 million in 2015. The Bills are attempting to take the approach of employing ascending players rather than declining ones. Drafting a player like Clowney could provide them flexibility to get out from under Williams’ deal in the future. While Mack is a good story from the Bills’ backyard, Clowney would be the more logical choice from a scheme standpoint, and they likely wouldn’t have to move up to first overall to get Mack.
3) Fear of St. Louis
- If the rumor is true, the wheeling and dealing St. Louis Rams could be the biggest influence on a potential trade. The Bills could wait for the first couple of picks to happen and then try to make a move up the board, but the Rams have a clear “for sale” sign on the second overall pick, which could prevent the Bills from landing the player they covet — whether it be Clowney, Watkins, Robinson or Mack. Both Clowney and Watkins are immensely gifted players at two positions of need for the Bills, and could be the spark that takes the team to the next level. Not only that, but the Rams could go with Clowney, Watkins or Robinson for themselves as well. With St. Louis standing in the way, all bets are off unless the Bills trade up to the top spot.
3 reasons why trading up to 1st overall DOESN’T make sense for Buffalo
1) The cost
- If you were to follow the draft value chart that has been in circulation for years, the compensation package to land the top overall selection from nine would be immense. The top overall selection is worth 3,000 points, while the ninth selection is worth 1,350. The Bills would have to provide, in the opinion of your author, the ninth selection, at least the 2015 first-round pick (if not the one in 2016 as well), likely their 2014 second-round pick (41st overall) and an additional future pick not in the first round. That’s a lot of ammo to give up if you’re the Bills, especially considering the holes that still exist on the roster.
2) Whaley’s background and philosophy
- Bills GM Doug Whaley sharpened his teeth in the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. Through years of execution and planning, it is their belief to build through the draft, re-sign your own and then cut the cord once that player’s abilities start to decline. It’s a wash, rinse and repeat cycle that Whaley has alluded to, and likely wants to establish in his time with the Bills. Trading up for the first overall pick would cut the legs out from under that very school of thought. Sure, it gives the Bills one phenomenal prospect at a guaranteed position of need. However, it will also cost them multiple potential starters that could impact the roster down the line more than just the one player will, especially with it being a non-quarterback.
3) It’s not for a quarterback
- In all of professional football, one line of thinking remains constant for most: quarterbacks reign supreme. The search is arduous and never-ending for some organizations, while others have found their proverbial pots of gold. The Bills haven’t found that player just yet. While they have stated they believe in EJ Manuel and his long-term potential, there’s no guarantee on him turning into the franchise player they’ve longed for since the mid-90s. Regardless, the Bills have stated multiple times that they will not be selecting a quarterback in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. That makes any potential cost for the top overall pick with the intention of selecting a non-quarterback unlikely. If a team doesn’t have their quarterback and they make that trade for a player with that much of an impact on the game, that’s justifiable. If it’s for anything else, it’s questionable at best.
While it sure is fun to think about if you’re a fan of the team, looking at things from a logical standpoint will render a conclusion that this trade just really isn’t all that likely. While it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Bills to try and move up to secure one of their targets and sacrifice an additional pick in this draft, the thought of giving up multiple future top selections for just one player, that’s not a quarterback, likely isn’t Whaley’s cup of tea. At this point, drumming up interest for the Texans in that first overall pick is smart for obvious reasons. It just doesn’t make sense on the Bills end, at least not with how they’ve been talking.