The Buffalo Bills may pick at the back end of the first round, but they won’t struggle to find an impact player at 27th overall, if they plan to stay in that spot.
The 2023 NFL Draft class is loaded with talented players. And if four quarterbacks go in the first round — as expected — that’s good news for the Bills, who certainly don’t need a signal-caller. No, Buffalo needs to figure out how to help its quarterback, so that Josh Allen finishes the season in one piece.
The Bills lived and died by Allen in 2022. And I think they probably want to take some of that load off of him. So there are a fair number of prospects who could help Buffalo and Allen. But if the Bills don’t go that direction, they can think to the future — or target a position of immediate need.
So let’s take a look at some of the options for general manager Brandon Beane.
Robinson would be a fascinating pick for the Bills. On one hand, Buffalo would have no business landing a prospect like Robinson at 27th overall. He’s a consensus top-10 prospect in this year’s class. It’s just that he plays running back. And that’s likely to push him down the board. So if he fell to Buffalo, Robinson would be a steal.
That said, running backs are a tough sell in the first round — especially if a GM has used a high pick on another running back prospect. And that’s exactly what Beane did last year, selecting James Cook with a second-round pick. It’s likely the Bills will heavily feature Cook in 2023. But the arrival of Robinson would reduce Cook’s role.
Ultimately, if Robinson falls to the Bills, the team can set aside the optics. They can just select the best player, who is likely to extend Allen’s career. Robinson can help the team with goal-line and short-yardage situations. He can bring electricity to the ground game. He can take some of the offensive weight off Allen’s shoulders. It would be a coup.
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There’s some buzz that Jaxon Smith-Njigba could be the only receiver to go in Round 1. Or, at the very least, he is the only receiver who is getting a first-round grade. So maybe a receiver like Addison, Quentin Johnston or Zay Flowers will be on the board. Even Jalin Hyatt is a good fit for this offense.
But let’s go with Addison, who is one of the most complete receiving prospects in this draft — and would be, without question, the most complete prospect if not for his size. He is 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds. He also ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash. That makes him more slender and slightly slower than Tyler Lockett, another undersized technician. That’s why Addison might fall to No. 27.
Buffalo has been dying for a complement to Stefon Diggs. Addison finished the 2022 season with 875 receiving yards and eight touchdowns at USC. That followed a 2021 season with 100 catches for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns at Pittsburgh.
The combine didn’t reduce Branch’s draft stock. He is an underwhelming athlete, but apparently that’s what evaluators expected, because he’s still lingering in a number of mock drafts with a first-round grade. When a player like Branch excels at Alabama and in the SEC, he can get a pass for poor athletic testing.
And the Bills could use a playmaking safety. Take a look at Buffalo’s roster and you’ll see almost no holes. But Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde aren’t getting younger. Branch might not play much in 2023, but he could be a massively important piece if the Bills need to pivot pieces in their defensive backfield in 2024.
If the Bills want to fill the space Tremaine Edmunds left behind, they may not be happy with what they’re seeing in this year’s draft class. But Simpson can absolutely help.
It’s a tricky year for inside linebackers, without a consensus ILB1. The other top prospects include Arkansas‘ Drew Sanders or Washington State‘s Daiyan Henley. And technically, Simpson plays weak side linebacker. But Simpson is a speedy linebacker who used his explosiveness to compensate for a lack of diagnostic skills. When put into Sean McDermott’s system and benefiting from his defensive coaching prowess, Simpson’s athletic gifts would flourish.
I don’t love either guard the Bills have in place. Neither Ryan Bates nor Connor McGovern is elite, and that’s what Torrence figures to be. He’s strong, consistent and everything you want in a guard prospect. He could have come out in 2021, but his return to college (and transfer to the SEC) did a lot for his draft stock. Maybe Torrence isn’t the most elite athlete in terms of movement. But he has plenty of size (6-foot-5, 330 pounds) and good film. He’ll shore up the pocket in the interior for Allen for years to come.
Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.
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