Should the Bills Trade Back in the Draft?
Last year, I wrote an article about how the Buffalo Bills could trade up in the draft. This year, I’m writing one on how they can trade back.
The main difference between last year and this year is the amount of holes on the Bills’ roster. Going into last year’s draft, the only position that really needed to be addressed was cornerback. GM Brandon Beane did such a good job of filling as many holes as he could in free agency that, aside from finding their CB2, they could draft the best player available (BPA) every round. Because of that, I proposed a trade where they could move up to potentially draft CB Sauce Gardner.
This year is a little different.
Beane has done a solid job of working with what he had this offseason, given their cap situation. But there are still multiple positions that need to get addressed. Let’s take a look at those positions.
Positions to Address
As of right now, in my opinion, the Buffalo Bills need a MLB, WR, OT, DT, DE, and TE. Finding a middle linebacker to replace Tremaine Edmunds is probably the biggest need right now; it essentially equates to last year’s need of finding a cornerback. Buffalo chose not to bring in any free agent LBs; they just re-signed Tyrel Dodson to a one-year deal.
Wide receiver is still a big area to address. Between finding a potential WR2 to take over for Gabe Davis in 2024 and the fact that the Bills only have five WRs penciled in on their depth chart, I’d say it’s their second-biggest need. And, regardless of Davis’ contract, you just want to give Josh Allen more weapons in general. (The last first-round pick he played with on offense was Kelvin Benjamin.) That being said, finding a TE2 is another position that could use an upgrade, especially if the Bills want to run more two TE sets.
Moving over to the lines, right tackle is another position that needs some work as the only player who the Bills signed to give Spencer Brown some competition was David Quessenberry, who is not a permanent solution by any means. As for the defensive line, they still need someone to pair with Greg Rousseau at DE while Von Miller recovers from his torn ACL. And even though they have eight DTs under contract for 2023, all eight are free agents after this season. So that is definitely a position that they’ll look to add to.
The Buffalo Bills currently have six draft picks, with one coming in each round through Round 6. But with six positions that could use an upgrade, having only six picks could be troublesome, especially if they’re trying to take the best player available and not draft for need.
Why Trade Back?
The more I think about it, the more I think trading back makes sense for the Buffalo Bills. First of all, they would get more assets to help complete this roster. If they are trying to stay true to their BPA template, they could draft a position other than one of the six that I listed. So let’s say they get to round four and the BPA is a safety. Maybe they were looking at a TE or a lineman but held off because they thought there was more value in drafting that safety; now they have an extra pick or two to still be able to get a TE and/or a linemen later on in the draft.
It could work out where the BPA every round covers all six positions that I listed (or all of the positions that the Bills have highlighted). If that’s the case, having extra picks would still be a benefit as they could have some accessory picks. Maybe they want to draft two wide receivers to provide more depth and competition on the outside. Or maybe they want to draft two offensive linemen, one OT and one IOL. Trading back would allow them to do that.
But the other main reason why the Bills could trade back is to stay true to their board. I think there’s a general consensus among Bills fans that drafting a MLB is priority number one. I also think there’s a general consensus that Iowa LB Jack Campbell is option number one to fulfill that role. Arkansas LB Drew Sanders and Clemson LB Trenton Simpson could be options as well. But, no matter who the Bills like best, a lot of analysts are saying each of these LBs have second-round value.
Why Not to Trade Back
The Bills might want to stay put at #27 and just draft Campbell/Sanders/Simpson right then and there. They might look at it and figure that they need a LB, so they better just take him before another team snags him. (Like last year when Buffalo needed a cornerback, Kansas City jumped them and drafted CB Trent McDuffie.) Plus, there are only four picks until the second round, so it’s not like it would be that much of a reach.
However, knowing how Beane operates, he will not reach for a player; he always stays true to his board. So if his board is similar to the analysts’ in that each of these three LBs have a second-round tag, he will make the necessary moves to make sure the pick matches the value.
Where to Trade Back to
So now the questions are: who to trade with and what is the value in return? The first thing you’ll want to look for is which team has the most picks and might want to trade a couple of them in order to move up. As it currently stands, there are 10 teams who have 10+ draft picks this year (CHI, GB, HOU, KC, LAR, LVR, NE, NYG, SEA, and SF).
After that, you narrow it down to the spot that you want to trade down to. Since the Bills would want to move down enough to get some good assets in return but not too far to the point where their guy would be gone, I’d say the sweet spot is from 35-45. That leaves us with LAR (36), SEA (37), LVR (38), and GB (45).
Typically, you want to stay out of your conference if you can, which leaves us with the Rams, Seahawks, and Packers. If the Buffalo Bills were to trade down to pick #45 with Green Bay, that might be too risky as their LB could be gone by then. So, by process of elimination, we’re down to Los Angeles and Seattle. I think either team works here, but I would lean towards trading with the Seahawks first.
Trade Proposal 1
|Buffalo Receives:||Seattle Receives:|
|2nd (37), 3rd (83), 5th (154)||1st (27)|
The reason I think Seattle makes more sense than the Rams is that they are in less of a rebuild. Coming off a season in which Geno Smith led them to the playoffs, they may be more willing to part with some of their picks in order to win now. The Seahawks have 10 total picks in this year’s draft, so they would still have eight after this trade. Plus, three of those picks would be in the first round since they already own the fifth and 20th overall picks in the draft, thanks to Russell Wilson.
Not only would Seattle have three first-round picks, they would also still have their original second-round pick (52), as well as a pick in every round but the third. If Seattle is in win-now mode, I think this deal makes sense for both sides. The only reason I could see them not wanting to do this is because of the value. They might not have enough players with first-round grades and feel there’s more value in rounds two, three and five.
Trade Proposal 2
|Buffalo Receives:||Los Angeles Receives:|
|2nd (36), 5th (167), 6th (182), 7th (223)||1st (27)|
The Rams could be another potential team for Brandon Beane to call. First of all, we know the Rams’ “F them picks” mentality, so they may be willing to part with some of them. I think GM Les Snead knows he can’t have that same mentality anymore as they are in rebuild mode. But, the Rams don’t have a first-round pick as of right now. This could be the best of both worlds where they can get rid of some picks to acquire a first-round pick.
The reason I didn’t include anything higher than a fifth-round pick in return is because I’m not sure if the Rams would be willing to give that much up considering where their team is at. As of right now, they only have a second-round pick and two third-round picks, with no first or fourth-rounders. They do, however, have three picks in Round 5, three in Round 6, and two in Round 7, so I think those are the picks they’d be willing to move. Assuming this trade works, L.A. would still have eight draft picks, including a first-rounder now, to help their rebuild process.
Another aspect of making a trade like this is considering what the team’s needs are. After losing Bobby Wagner in free agency, the Rams’ linebacking corps is very thin. Could they take Campbell, Sanders, or Simpson at pick 36? Maybe. Los Angeles typically plays a 3-4 defense and Campbell is more of a traditional MIKE linebacker; I see Sanders and Simpson and their versatility as better fits for their defense. However, I’m not even sure if they’ll want to address the LB position this early in the draft as they have so many other holes to fill.
Who Should The Bills Draft?
So let’s say the Buffalo Bills pull off one of these trades and all three LBs are available at either 36 or 37. Who do they draft?
I think it’s Jack Campbell. Sean McDermott has always had a big, stud MIKE linebacker in the middle of his defense, and that is exactly what Campbell is. The 6’5”, 249 pound senior brings size and physicality that McDermott’s former middle linebackers, Luke Kuechly and Tremaine Edmunds, also had. And, oddly enough, Campbell has been training with Kuechly.
While Campbell is described as more of a run-stuffing, down-hill linebacker, he is also great in coverage, specifically in zone. While he may not have the athleticism that Sanders and Simpson have, he makes up for it with his instincts and intelligence, as he has a nose for the football. According to Joe Marino (formerly of The Draft Network), “his coverage reps in 2022 were excellent, showcasing a strong understanding of spacing, squeezing routes, and eye discipline”. Not to mention, he can also play special teams and has great leadership qualities.
One of my favorite parts about Campbell’s scouting report is that, due to his good instincts, he won’t get eaten up by blockers, something that Edmunds often struggled with. According to Marino, Campbell “does well to stack and shed blocks while playing off contact”. In his four years at Iowa (34 games), he recorded 299 tackles, including 140 in 2021 and 125 last season. Because of it, he was given the 2022 Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker.
We don’t know if Campbell is the Buffalo Bills’ guy or not. They could like Drew Sanders or Trenton Simpson more; it all depends on how they fit and what type of defense McDermott wants to run.
Starting with Simpson, he is more of a swiss army knife, as he has experience at not only linebacker, but also safety and on the edge. He reminds me of Micah Parsons given his versatility and athleticism. As great as it would be to have this type of hybrid player, I don’t think he matches the Bills’ scheme.
Sanders is more comparable to Campbell in that he’s projected to be a MLB in the NFL. He was actually recruited to Alabama as an EDGE rusher, where he played for two seasons. He transferred to Arkansas following his sophomore season, and it was the Razorbacks who converted him to an off-ball linebacker. Sanders had a great junior season, compiling 103 total tackles, 13.5 TKFLs, and 10.5 sacks.
However, Sanders is a bit undersized to be an inside linebacker at the NFL level, as he is listed at 6’4”, 235 lbs. Something that stuck out to me while reading Kyle Crabbs’ analysis on The Draft Network is that “his size as an interior stack linebacker could present leverage challenges to stay under blockers who climb up into his lap”. And that is something I just mentioned that the Bills are trying to improve upon.
In addition, Sanders is very raw playing the MIKE role, as he’s only been on the inside for one year. Given his lack of experience and athleticism, Sanders is better in pass coverage and rushing the passer. Having raw skills are great, but the Bills don’t have time to wait for developing arguably their most important position on defense. They need someone who can come in and be ready on day one.
Tying this all back together, the Buffalo Bills are going to stay true to their board. If they are to trade back into the second round, I think we will all be thinking that it’s to get a middle linebacker. But who knows, they could trade back because they find more value in a different position, like OL, DL, WR, or TE, and hold off on a linebacker until Day 3.
It will definitely be interesting to see how Brandon Beane and the Buffalo Bills operate this draft.
Featured Image: Scott Taetsch/USA Today