The 2022 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching. The Buffalo Bills are locked down as usual; no leaks, no rumours, no news. Brandon Beane builds the team as he sees fit in secret, but we have enough information now to learn from his history. In part three of this mini-series, we ask more questions. What can we gleam from his actions leading up to and during the 2020 NFL Draft? What are his tendencies? Let’s get into it.
Pre-Draft: Many Small Moves
Let’s start pre-draft. Brandon Beane had already made a lot of moves, as he does every year. At the beginning of the season, he’d traded away WR Zay Jones to the Las Vegas Raiders for a 2021 fifth-round pick, already stocking up on future draft ammunition by shedding low-level players who don’t get snaps. On August 30th, 2019, he traded away depth OL Russell Bodine to the New England Patriots as a rare in-division trade. He got their 2020 sixth-round pick in return.
In 2019, he’d already traded up from the seventh round of 2021 to the fifth in 2020, and gained an extra 2020 sixth as well. He shed his own 2018 fifth-rounder, OL Wyatt Teller, in the process. Teller failed to crack the lineup in Buffalo, and Beane had already shown a willingness to be aggressive and go get the guys he wanted; this trade could give him tools with which to do so.
The Stefon Diggs Trade
Zay Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, Cole Beasley, John Brown, and more. Evidently, the front office had spent quite some time attacking our desperate need for more weapons. He’d made a number of moves looking for a future receiver for Josh Allen, and one of his previous attempts cost us our seventh-round pick in 2020. Back in 2018, Beane had traded away that pick to secure Corey Coleman from the Cleveland Browns. It may not have worked out, but he was willing to let go of assets with consistency to get experienced pass-catchers to surround our young quarterback with. He was far from done.
On March 16th, 2020, the Buffalo Bills traded for WR Stefon Diggs. The price? A first-round pick, fifth-round pick, sixth-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick. They also received a 2020 seventh-round pick (#239) from the Minnesota Vikings. Arguably the single largest trade on Brandon Beane’s resume, Diggs was ready to get to work. As a result, we’d significantly depleted our draft capital. Clearly, the front office believed it was worth it.
As a result of this move, the Buffalo Bills were quiet on day one of the 2020 NFL Draft. They would have had to sacrifice more draft capital to get back into round one, and they either didn’t want to lose those extra picks or didn’t have a player worth moving up for. Despite shedding a net of three draft picks to acquire Stefon Diggs, Brandon Beane still had plenty of capital remaining.
In round two, the Bills stayed put at 54th and snagged A.J. Epenesa, a defensive end out of Iowa. Epenesa was a powerful player in college, capable of using his strength and length to his advantage with consistency. Those unteachable traits are valuable when they translate to the pros, but unrefined players don’t always work out. Still, Buffalo had lost a chunk of defensive line production that offseason and were in need of someone to fill out those snaps. This pick was an attempt to hit a current and future need at an expensive position salary cap-wise.
Our next pick was another one we stayed still for. At pick 86, in the third round, Brandon Beane submitted the card for Zack Moss, a running back out of Utah. Moss was a change of pace for this front office, if not a change of pace back. A ‘known commodity’, we needed to fill out the coaching staff’s plan for a running back ‘committee’. Moss was a power runner who lacked creativity, but had the measurables and skill-set to learn new parts of the offense. He was going to be trained to pass-block, which his frame was well-suited for. He had put good film out there as a receiver. As the Buffalo Bills transitioned to a pass-heavy offense, Moss could have made a lot of sense.
Brandon Beane knew that the work for this offense wasn’t done. He found a cheap option in day four, as the Buffalo Bills selected WR Gabriel Davis with the 128th pick. In a reasonable receiver class, Davis was viewed as a strange kind of deep threat. He wasn’t the fastest, but was quick enough to be a problem for certain defenders. His strength was those deep balls because he showed excellent ability to adjust to the ball whilst it was in the air, and above-average body control to secure the ball in tough situations, such as on the sidelines or in tight coverage. Beane took Davis to fill a reasonable role in the offense, projecting as a four-year player with upside.
An oft-unexpected expense in the NFL is the amount of resources one must commit to a backup quarterback. Many of the best teams in NFL history simply invest late-round picks in this position, and hold them for the duration of their rookie contracts to reduce costs. That was likely the plan when Beane selected Jake Fromm out of Georgia in the fifth round, at pick 167. By all accounts, he wasn’t supposed to fall so far, and backup QB probably wasn’t as big a need at that time as we anticipated. Still, the Bills put his name down, an attempt to secure the team in case of disaster. Fromm was soft-armed, but had all the makings of a mid-level game-manager.
Addressing another need, the Buffalo Bills selected kicker Tyler Bass out of Georgia Southern with the 188th pick, received from the Cleveland Browns. Taking a swing on a potential long-term special teams solution with a strong leg seemed almost a no-brainer for the team. Stephen Hauschka had declined heavily and was incredibly overpaid. They needed better and cheaper.
The other sixth round pick came at 207, courtesy of Baltimore via the Bodine trade with the Patriots. With it, Brandon Beane put two trends on tape. For the third time in the span of two months, he spent resources to acquire a receiver who lacked in certain physical aspects but excelled at the catch point. Selecting Isaiah Hodgins out of Oregon State, he also doubled down at a position of need, upping the odds of hitting.
The final pick of the 2020 NFL Draft for the Buffalo Bills came as a result of the Stefon Diggs trade. With the seventh round pick (239) they got as part of that package, Brandon Beane selected Dane Jackson, a cornerback out of Pitt. He had good outside coverage skills, mirrored receivers well, and played into their hips. His size was sub-standard, but his skillset was consistent with what the team had built with previously. Strong traits and teachable areas which they can focus on to take their game to the next level.
2020 NFL Draft: Summary
So, what did we learn? At this point, it’s understood: Brandon Beane consistently loads up on draft picks as camp draws to a close and the early season begins. Conversely, Brandon Beane is willing to let go of those assets for veteran talents at positions of major importance.
This front office continued to bet on players with good traits and coachable weaknesses. If a player wasn’t projected to continue to develop as a pro, they were always drafted to fill a specific role, as a specialist or otherwise. He used late round picks to find players at premium positions, which seems like a cost-saving maneuver.
He doubled down in an area of need, targeting players with similar positive traits and physical weaknesses at wide receiver. It looks like the team prioritized effective hands and adjustments at the catch point over the ability to get open and make plays with the ball in their hands. That lines up well, considering the boost to the completion percentages we’ve seen from Josh Allen and the offense in the time since these moves.
For the rest of this miniseries, click below:
|Summary: Understanding Brandon Beane|