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Assessing Positional Value in The 2022 Draft

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It is officially draft week, as round one of the 2022 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday at 8 pm on ESPN, NFL Network, and ABC. Rounds two and three will start Friday night at 7 pm while day three will begin Saturday at noon.

For as much as we’ve talked about who the Buffalo Bills could draft based on their stats and combine/pro day results, I thought it would be interesting to take a different angle. Let’s talk about when each player might get drafted, based on the value of each position in each round.

Rounds 1 & 2

For starters, I think we are trending more towards drafting skill position players in the first two rounds, specifically wide receivers and cornerbacks. After the Jaguars gave WR Christian Kirk nearly $20 million per year, the market went absolutely nuts. Stefon Diggs was the 15th-highest paid wide receiver at $14.4 million AAV (average annual value) before the Bills extended him; he’s now the fourth-highest paid receiver. Meanwhile, Tre White’s 4-year, $69 million deal seems like a bargain after Denzel Ward’s 5-year, $100 million contract extension from the Browns last week. White is now the sixth-highest paid cornerback with a $17.25 million AAV.

To me, you draft these positions early so you can get high-end, dynamic talent at a cheap rate for three or four years before their rookie contracts expire. Why spend almost $20 million on Christian Kirk when you can draft Garrett Wilson or Jameson Williams? (Not that Jacksonville will draft either of them number one overall, but you get the point.)

The proper way to build your team starts up front in the trenches, and then you work your way out. It’s similar to building a house – you start with the foundation and then build up and out from there. It’s the difference between successful organizations and non-successful organizations. That’s why I love what GM Brandon Beane has done this offseason. He beefed up both of the lines during free agency, signing and re-signing six offensive linemen and five defensive linemen.

It seems as though Beane has set the Bills up perfectly to draft CB and WR early in the draft. Considering the CB room right now, I will be surprised if we don’t have another one on the roster after Thursday night. And I’ll be shocked if we don’t have one going into Saturday.

Potential Targets

So then the question is, who will be available at pick 25 and pick 57? First of all, I think the Bills should definitely look to address cornerback first. Washington CB Trent McDuffie and Clemson CB Andrew Booth Jr. are the best options if they’re still there. Florida CB Kaiir Elam, Washington CB Kyler Gordon, and Auburn CB Roger McCreary the next best options. But that’s where it gets interesting.

Beane said in his press conference last week that he has around 20 first round grades for this rookie class. With the latter three corners rising up the media’s draft charts over the last few weeks, have they moved at all on Beane’s board? Does he see any of them being worth drafting 25th overall? This is where best player available (BPA) comes into play.

If the Buffalo Bills are on the clock Thursday night and don’t think any of the cornerbacks available are first-round talents, they may see more value in drafting a wide receiver in round one and then a corner in round two. (Assuming they don’t trade up for a corner they like).

I’ve projected Buffalo to draft either Booth or McDuffie in round one and either South Alabama WR Jalen Tolbert or Alabama’s John Metchie III in the second round to replace Emmanuel Sanders. But, depending how the board falls, I can see the Bills coming away with Arkansas WR Treylon Burks, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore, or Penn State’s Jahan Dotson in round one, then either McCreary or UTSA CB (and freak athlete) Tariq Woolen in round two. The Bills will not reach.

Rounds 3 & 4

Moving to rounds three and four, I think this is a sweet spot for running backs and linebackers. If you’ve followed my recent articles, you’ll know that I’m really high on Georgia’s pass-catching running back, James Cook, in round three and Baylor’s athletic LB Terrel Bernard in round four. However, if the Bills think there’s more value in drafting a linebacker in round three, Arizona State RB Rachaad White or Notre Dame RB Kyren Williams would be solid round four options. (Potential round three linebackers are Montana State’s Troy Andersen, Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal, Oklahoma’s Brian Asamoah, Georgia’s Channing Tindall, and Penn State’s Brandon Smith.)

Round 5-7

Punter

In the fifth round, I want the Bills to draft San Diego State P Matt Araiza because of his ability to consistently flip field position. However, I’m not sure if they have punter that high on their board, even if it is the Punt God.

They had a similar situation in 2020 when they drafted K Tyler Bass in the sixth round. Bass had one of the strongest legs in the country and the Bills knew they needed to upgrade the position, so they took a flier. Beane and company might do the same thing this year.

They could place a sixth-round value on the punter position. If Araiza is there, great; if he’s not, just go with plan B. Penn State’s Jordan Stout could be a great sixth-round choice.

Other Options

Offensive line, (another) linebacker, and safety are the other three positions I have the Buffalo Bills mocked to take. Now that we’re in the last chunk of the draft, they can just choose the best player available out of these three positions. Toledo S Tycen Anderson and Miami (OH) S Sterling Weatherford could be great options if they’re still available. Wisconsin LB Jack Sanborn, Texas A&M LB Aaron Hansford, and Indiana LB Micah McFadden could be sixth-round linebackers.

And Kansas State OG Josh Rivas and Oklahoma State OG Josh Sills could be seventh-round steals. But again, it all depends how the board falls. The Bills could take a guard in the fifth round, a linebacker in the sixth round, and a safety in the seventh round. (I did in one of my mock drafts at the bottom of the page.)

Final Thoughts

Now, I’m not saying that the Buffalo Bills have to follow this model of segmenting the draft by every two or three rounds. But this is how I see it… this is how my board falls and where I think the most value occurs. I could be totally wrong with my mock drafts.

For instance, if Boston College OG Zion Johnson is available at 25 or Iowa State RB Breece Hall is there at 57, the Bills could very well take either of them. If they are high enough on a linebacker like Georgia’s Nakobe Dean or Quay Walker, they can take them on Friday. Buffalo has such a complete roster that they can let their board dictate what happens.

The Bills do so much work leading up to the draft; they know their board inside and out. Beane will even “mock” draft with his staff, putting someone in charge of every team so they know what could happen and how the board may fall. For example, someone might be in charge of the AFC West teams, another might be in charge of the NFC South, and so on.

With all this uncertainty, the one thing that I can promise you is that the Buffalo Bills are going to stay true to their board. If they have a cornerback with a second-round grade available at 25, they will not reach just to check it off their list. They’re also not going to draft Poyer’s or Edmunds’ replacements just because they may not be able to afford them or because Twitter says it’s a good idea. Every round and every position has different value, and it’s all based on the draft board.

Here are two mock drafts that I created, using the model explained in the article:

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    April 27, 2022 at 7:21 pm

    Glad you’re not drafting for the Bills.

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