Orchard Park, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane had a laundry list of positions he needed to address after last season heading into arguably the most important offseason of his tenure.
Getting quarterback Josh Allen in place was important, but filling in around him after a solid rookie campaign became critical if Beane wanted the Bills to take another step forward in 2019.
With free agency and the NFL Draft now in the rearview mirror, Beane can consider his mission accomplished.
After adding 14 of 18 total free agents on the offensive side of the ball, including new center Mitch More and receiver John Brown and Cole Beasley, Beane put an exclamation point on the offseason with a stellar draft.
Here are X things I’m thinking about Beane’s 2019 draft.Ed Oliver is a bases loaded home run at No. 9
Beane needed a little luck for Oliver to fall all the way down the board to nine where his team was picking. In every scenario his scouts played out in their war room in the lead up to the draft, the only way Oliver fell was if multiple quarterbacks went in the Top 10.
Two ended up going ahead of the Bills and they walk away with Oliver, who improves and already elite-level defense that should be equipped to shut down any offense it faces in 2019. The Bills added at almost every position on the defense. They brought in veteran cornerbacks to push Levi Wallace for the No. 2 job in E.J. Gaines and Kevin Johnson. They drafted depth at linebacker and safety in Florida’s Vosean Joesph and Miami’s (FL) Jaquan Johnson. And they added Oliver in the middle to replace longtime staple Kyle Williams.
Oliver’s quickness off the line, athleticism on the rush and finishing ability from the three-technique position adds an entirely new dimension to the Bills defense. They were No. 2 in the league last season and could be the best in 2019. Improvement almost guaranteed on the offensive line
Beane signed six new offensive linemen in free agency and then drafted blue-chip prospect right tackle Cody Ford with the No. 38 pick (second round) on Friday night.
There is going to be legitimate battles at every position except center. Incumbent left tackle Dion Dawkins will get a push from new tackle Ty Nsekhe. Quinton Spain and Wyatt Teller will battle at left guard. On the right side, Spencer Long and Jon Feliciano will duke it out and then Ford should probably be expected to wind up at right tackle.
That’s a new-look line that has a chance to be much better than last season. Allen is going to have to get Beane a nice Christmas present this year.Should the Bills have drafted a receiver?
Simple answer? No.
Brown is the new No. 1 and Robert Foster did enough last year to be the No. 2. Zay Jones will float all over the place and could still end up being the top target among receivers. Beasley should be the man in the middle of the field and there’s plenty of competition below the top four guys.
Isaiah McKenzie and Cam Phillips will be in camp, along with new signing from the CFL Duke Williams. The Bills also reportedly signed West Virginia’s David Sills to a UFA deal.
Beane has proven that he can find hidden talent at the position and it’s hard to argue with his stance of not reaching for a receiver in the draft.What to make of the new-look running backs room
But wait, didn’t he reach for running back Devin Singletary at No. 74?
Not exactly. There was a run happening at the position and he wanted to secure what could be LeSean McCoy’s eventual replacement. Singletary does all the same kind of things McCoy does but he’s nine years younger and significantly cheaper.
New running back TJ Yeldon is an intriguing addition because of his well-rounded game and acumen as a pass blocker in the backfield. Frank Gore is there to share some wisdom and keep McCoy motivated. With a new o-line and plenty of competition, McCoy must produce if he wants to stick around.
Dawson Knox makes all kinds of sense at tight end
The Bills could make a run at Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph. The Vikings are reportedly shopping him and he could be a nice one- or two-year option at TE1.
But with the singing of Tyler Kroft and the addition of Knox in the draft the Bills have adequately addressed the tight end position. Kroft’s 2017 was impressive and if he can be that player this year it would be an upgrade over anything the Bills got at that spot in 2018.
Knox is a developmental talent but could flash earlier than expected. Beane said that Ole Miss didn’t use him the way the Bills plan to utilize his talents. He’s athletic, fast and plans to prove that he can make plays.Wait and see on Vosean Joesph
Joseph is a nice project for Bills coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. He has huge upside because of his good film, speed and athleticism. But when he played sloppy or was out of position he doesn’t look like the same player.
Expect McDermott to get him on track and if that happens he becomes a viable starter and potential high-level player. Remember McDermott snagged Matt Milano in the fifth round two years ago. This group understands how to evaluate talent.
Hat tip to Beane and McDermott
It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes the Baltimore Ravens put it on you and a 47-3 beatdown brings out the criticism. But when things are going right it’s time to give some credit.
Beane and McDermott set forth a vision and have patiently executed despite some tough patches along the road. They haven’t won a single game in 2019 just yet but the upgrades and choices they’ve made, at least, deserve some praise. Next season should be a fun one.