Similar to the deliberate and detail-oriented approach of their rookie coach Sean McDermott, the Buffalo Bills relied on function over flash during the three-day NFL draft.
The Bills were active and aggressive, making trades with each of their first three picks to take care of their most glaring needs.
Buffalo opened by moving down 17 spots in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs before selecting cornerback Tre’Davious White 27th overall. The Bills then traded up twice in the second round, selecting receiver Zay Jones 37th overall and offensive lineman Dion Dawkins 63rd overall.
“These moves were if our player was there. We were going to look to do something as opposed to sitting around,” McDermott said. “We were able to do some things with that first-round pick where we gained some ammunition to be able to move some things around.”
Buffalo also added some intriguing long-term pieces. The team acquired a 2018 first-round pick from Kansas City after moving down in the first round, giving them two first-round selections next year. They also took a shot on a quarterback in the fifth round, selecting Pittsburgh QB Nathan Peterman 171st overall.
McDermott raved about Peterman, who will compete for a primary backup job behind incumbent Tyrod Taylor, whose long-term future is uncertain after he restructured his contract this spring.
“His success speaks for itself at the position,” McDermott said of Peterman. “If you look at his accuracy and his timing of the throws and his ability to work from under center, that was important for us. It’s not something you see very often in the college game.”
NEEDS ADDRESSED: White and Jones addressed massive needs for the Bills and the two will immediately step into starting roles. After losing Stephon Gilmore in free agency, White is projected to start alongside second-year pro Ronald Darby in the secondary. Buffalo lost its No. 2 and No. 3 receivers in free agency, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin. Jones is the favorite to fill the No. 2 role behind Sammy Watkins.
STILL NEED HELP: The Bills added two linebackers late in the draft in Boston College’s Matt Milano (163rd overall) and Tanner Vallejo (195th overall), but both players will likely begin their careers on special teams. The Bills could use additional help at weakside linebacker, where veteran journeyman Ramon Humber is currently projected to start. Humber is primarily a special teams player and has 19 career starts in 108 games.
SURE TO START: White and Jones are locks to start barring a big surprise. One interesting situation to watch moving forward is at right tackle, which has been in flux in recent years. Former starter Seantrel Henderson was suspended twice in 2016 for positive drug tests . Jordan Mills and Cyrus Kouandjio have been serviceable in Henderson’s place, but Dawkins is a potential answer at the position. But first the Bills have to determine if Dawkins is better off at tackle or guard. McDermott believes he has the ability to play both positions.
CLEMSON GAME STANDS OUT: In discussing Peterman’s credentials, McDermott praised the QB’s performance in a 43-42 win against the eventual national champion Clemson Tigers. Peterman completed 22 of 37 passes for 308 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the upset. Said McDermott: “You go down to Clemson. Not at home, he went to Clemson and he didn’t do it by himself but he led his football team to a win against the eventual national champions. That’s hard to do. The leadership part of the job at quarterback of all positions, that’s important.”
HOW DOES THIS GUY FIT? Milano played a variety of positions at Boston College, eventually moving from safety to linebacker. The Bills view him as a linebacker, though it’s possible that he could line up as a safety in certain situations. McDermott values versatility and hybrid positional players.