Ranking the Bills positional needs in the first round of the draft



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Justin Siejak, President

With the draft rapidly approaching, the Buffalo Bills are preparing to use their draft capital to address the biggest holes on their roster.
For a lot of Bills fans, their opinion on the most glaring void on the roster is different.
Some believe the first pick should be used to protect Josh Allen by adding to the offensive line. Others believe that the team needs to add to the receiving corps with that first pick.
While everyone’s opinion can look different, one thing can remain true when it comes to the Bills’ current state of the roster. There isn’t just one need for the Bills, however there are many positions the Bills could benefit from by adding in the first round.
Let’s take a look at the Bills positional needs by ranking the possibilities of which position the Bills go for in round one.
A couple notes. For the sake of this article, we’re going to merge both offensive guard and center into one category; interior offensive line.
Also, quarterback will not be ranked, as there is virtually no scenario where the Bills would even consider a quarterback in round one.
Special Teams positions will also be excluded (kicker, punter, long snapper). Sorry Reid Ferguson.
10. Cornerback
Kicking off the list at number ten is the cornerback position. Don’t get me wrong, cornerback is a premier, and highly coveted position in the modern-day NFL. However, there are a couple reasons that this would not be the best use of their first-round pick.
To begin, it is important to note that this year’s draft class is incredibly strong at the cornerback position. It’s arguably the strongest cornerback class in a decade.
For most teams, there’s potential to find day-one starting cornerbacks all the way through round four. There are plenty of different style corners available too, so if the Bills were to add to the cornerback room, it’s fair to feel confident saying they could add a good player on day three of the draft.
The other reason is that the current state of the Bills cornerback room is just fine. Going into week one, it’s fair to say it’s arguably the strongest room the Bills have had in over five years.
Look for Tre’Davious White to continue getting his feet back under him after his injury. Kaiir Elam in his second year should take a jump. The team will also enter the year with strong depth with players like Christian Benford, Dane Jackson, and Cam Lewis.
9. Running back
Ah yes, the running back conversation once again resurfaces for the Bills.
The Bills have used early draft capital on running backs a couple times in years past with Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and most recently James Cook.
Singletary was a steady back, but is now gone. Zack Moss was traded to Indianapolis before his rookie contract was even up. The jury is out on James Cook, but he looked very promising in his rookie year.
No, the Bills should not use their first round pick on a running back. It isn’t a good use of a first-round pick and it never really has been. It’s very easy for teams to find serviceable running backs in the late rounds and even the undrafted pool of players in the draft.
The only reason this position wasn’t ranked tenth is because there is one outlier in this year’s NFL draft. Bijan Robinson.
Robinson is one of those can’t-miss prospects, who would be a day-one difference maker. This is the only running back the team should consider in round one because he is just that special.
More on Bijan Robinson: https://soundcloud.com/justin-siejak-129076376/bijan?si=13e33cd43fa444b69b4d25a9c0bf5b47&utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing
8. Defensive Tackle
Defensive tackle is a sneaky position-of-need for the Bills.
While some Bills fans would be annoyed with the thought of addressing the defensive line early again, it’s important to note that there is no long-term security at the position.
As of today, the team has eight defensive tackles under contract, which is fine. The real issue is that not one of these players is under contract for the 2024-2025 season.
On top of that, the Bills could afford to just add talent to the group. Ed Oliver has been a steady player, but hasn’t taken the leap many expected. DaQuan Jones was a massive addition in last year’s free agency, but again, isn’t under a long term contract. Jones could be an extension candidate.
There are few defensive tackles that will make sense in the first-round where the Bills are picking, but keep an eye on Clemson’s Bryan Bresee, Michigan’s Mazi Smith, and Wisconsin’s Keanu Benton. If not in the first round, all of these guys should be targets on day two.
7. Tight End
Dawson Knox has come on strong for the Bills, earning himself a big second contract with the team. However, it can never hurt to add weapons to an offense where Josh Allen is the quarterback.
Tight end is another position in this year’s draft where it is an extremely strong crop. The class is very deep with players that can impact a team, and is highlighted by four guys at the top.
Utah’s Dalton Kincaid, Notre Dame’s Michael Myer, Georgia’s Darnell Washington, and Iowa’s Sam LaPorta are all players who may warrant a first-round selection. There is a strong mix of blocking, ability after-the-catch, and space manipulating in that group.
By no means is tight end a pressing need for the Bills. Despite this, adding more receiving talent to this offense couldn’t hurt.
6. Safety
The Bills were able to successfully bring back Jordan Poyer in free agency. Despite this, it would be wise for the Bills to look towards adding more talent to their safety room. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer aren’t getting any younger, and besides maybe newly signed safety Taylor Rapp, there isn’t much proven talent behind them.

Still, safety is ranked just at six because of a mixture of things. Positional value and strength of the class.

Very rarely will a team spend a first-round pick on safety. Unless it’s an elite prospect, teams just don’t value using first-round picks on safeties. And in this year’s draft class, there is no elite safety prospect.

In fact, it’s a really weak class. There are maybe two or three players who warrant even a second-round pick.

Brian Branch is a strong prospect from Alabama. He’s not really a traditional safety, as he played a lot of slot corner at Alabama. He also played a lot in the box, and was a really strong blitzer as a defensive back.

That is what makes him the best in his class. His versatility. Branch is the only safety the Bills should be considering in this year’s first round.

While it is still a position the Bills could add to, the cards did not fall in the Bills favor this offseason when it comes to safety talent in the draft.

5. Interior Offensive Line
The Bills have had well-documented struggles finding consistency on the interior of their offensive line. Mitch Morse has been a staple at center, which has been nice for the Bills. Outside of that, the Bills have not had consistent guard play since maybe Richie Incognito.

It has been a revolving door at the guard position, and Brandon Beane knows that. In an attempt to find a mainstay at guard, Beane signed free agent guard Connor McGovern to a three-year deal.

McGovern will be a great addition. He’s a great athlete, and played some strong football for the Cowboys. On top of this, he’s still young. At just 25, his best football could be ahead of him.

Other than McGovern, the guard depth could use some work. The team also signed David Edwards in free agency, and still has serviceable players in Ryan Bates and Ike Boettger. That’s it.

The interior offensive line is absolutely a position Brandon Beane should be looking to add to in this year’s draft. It really is a massive need. However, similar to the safety position, interior offensive line is as highly coveted as some other positions.

One player who could be a target for the Bills in the first-round if they wanted to take a guard in round one would be Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence.

Pretty much universally seen as the best pure guard prospect in this draft, Torrence would likely be the only guard worthy of a first-round selection.

Torrence is a big-body mauler, who moves impressively lightly on his feet despite his size. Winning First-Team All-American Honors in 2022 for his play at Florida is really impressive, as the SEC has plenty of defensive talent to boast.

Torrence would be a strong addition to the interior offensive line, but may be the only real option at a true guard in round one.

4. Defensive End
If the Bills Mafia was told that the Bills would be spending another high pick on a defensive end, it’s likely most of them would roll their eyes at the thought.

However, outside of Greg Rousseau and Von Miller (who likely won’t be ready for week one), the Bills simply lack guys who can consistently get to the quarterback.

AJ Epenesa and Boogie Basham haven’t quite taken that leap some thought they would have by now. They’re still young, so it’s hard to expect so much out of them so quickly, but the Bills spent second-round picks on both of these players. You’d like to see a little more production from this tandem.

It’s very possible the team still decides to bring in a veteran pass rusher late in free agency, but even if they did, the team should still be looking to get better at the position.

Luckily for the Bills, this draft class is rich in pass rushing talent. They could get some quality players later on in the draft. However, some of the names that could go at the back end of the first round are very intriguing.

Keep an eye on players like Will McDonald IV, Myles Murphy, and Nolan Smith. All of these guys come in different shapes and sizes, but every single one of them have high end pass-rushing potential.

3. Linebacker
Likely the biggest hole on the entire Bills roster, the team will need to find a way to fill the void at middle linebacker after Tremaine Edmunds’ departure.

So why isn’t this the number one position to look for in round one? Well, there’s a couple of reasons.

The first and most important reason is that linebackers are slowly becoming the running backs of the defense when it comes to draft capital.

Teams just don’t put value in linebackers with early picks unless they’re an elite prospect. Most teams look to find starting caliber linebackers in rounds two through five.

Another reason is that it is entirely possible we see a different looking Bills defense formation wise under McDermott’s play calling. Less linebackers and more defensive backs could be a real possibility.

Despite these reasons, it still is a massive gap on the defense, and will likely be addressed relatively early in the draft.

Two linebackers that the Bills could have an eye on with pick 27 are Iowa’s Jack Campbell and Arkansas’ Drew Sanders.

Campbell is a more traditional middle linebacker, with measurables that are eerily similar to Tremaine Edmunds (6″5, 250 lbs.). This could make the transition of middle linebacker a little easier for Sean McDermott.

Sanders is a bit of a different linebacker. He played some off ball linebacker, however oftentimes rushed the quarterback off the edge at Arkansas as well. That versatility could draw the attention of Sean McDermott.

2. Wide Receiver
These top two needs could be interchangeable. However, wide receiver comes second in the most important positions for the Bills to address.

The Bills need to continue to add weapons to their offense, especially at wide receiver. We know what Stefon Diggs can do, and Gabe Davis has proved to be another strong weapon, but beyond this, there are some question marks, and the depth at the position gets a little murky.

The Bills could really benefit from adding a true vertical threat to their offense. Luckily for the Bills, this draft is filled with first-round caliber receivers who can make big plays downfield.

Zay Flowers, the receiver from Boston College, is one of those prospects. He is a dynamic player, with an insane ability to change his direction. He has a knack for blowing by his defender, and proceeding to make big time plays down the field. Flowers’ explosiveness would be a match made in heaven with Josh Allen’s rocket arm.
TCU’s Quentin Johnston is also another big-play threat. The difference between Johnston and Flowers however is their height. Johnston stands at a towering 6″3, while Flowers measures in at just 5″10. Johnston is electric after the catch. The big frame combined with his athleticism could draw the eye of Brandon Beane and company.

There are a few first-round receiver prospects who also excel at separating from defensive backs. Josh Allen is known to take a liking to these kind of receivers, so it’ll be important to
keep an eye on Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba and USC’s Jordan Addison.

The Bills need to keep up with the arms race going on in the AFC. It’ll be crucial for them to keep adding weapons for Josh Allen.

1.Offensive Tackle
Tackle is a position the Bills will need to address very early in this draft.

Some might argue that wide receiver is more likely to be the pick at 27, but there is a strong likelihood Brandon Beane looks to pick one of the top tackles in the first-round.

While wide receiver is important, this class is rich with wide receiver prospects. You can find an impact player likely as late as round four. Tackle is much different, there are only a handful of prospects that can instantly plug in and start right away, which is what the Bills will want as a contending team.

If the Bills seriously want to upgrade their protection for Josh Allen, they’ll need to look at the tackle position, more specifically players who can start at right tackle.

Spencer Brown was arguably the least consistent starting lineman for the Bills last year. Too often would he get beat clean off the snap, instantly blowing up a play for the Bills. It’s important to note he was dealing with an injury, but expecting a night and day difference from Brown next season is hard to picture.

Arguably one of the best offensive lineman in the draft, Tennessee’s Darnell Wright would be one of the best possible picks for the Bills in the first round.

Wright is battle tested, as he played some of the best competition week after week in the SEC. He was a star at right tackle for the Volunteers, earning First-Team All-SEC Honors in 2022. Wright could come in and likely push Spencer Brown hard in camp for that starting spot at right tackle.

Anton Harrison from Oklahoma and Broderick Jones from Georgia are two other possible picks for the Bills at 27. Both are strong players on the boundary, and could be game changers for the Bills at right tackle.

After these few guys, the drop off at the tackle position is significant. It would be a huge gamble to wait and select other players later on in the draft. The Bills should really prioritize tackle in the first round due to its lack of strong players in this draft.

It’s a crucial draft for the Bills. Arguably Brandon Beane’s most important draft since taking the Bills job in 2017. How will he improve this roster? How can he make this team better than it already is? What positions does he value improving the most?

A lot of questions need to be answered. April 27th will be a fun night, and a super important one for the Bills franchise.