The debate between drafting to address needs versus going for the best available player will last longer than Fred Jackson’s effectiveness. It’s to football fans what arguing about the new lightsaber’s design is to Star Wars nerds. Some of us refuse to participate because Wookiees aren’t an option. Similarly, there’s a different way to see the player selection process, namely that a team’s needs affect who they should see as the most talented guy not yet picked. Honing on the top player among those left who can actually help their side is a principle that should guide the Buffalo Bills through Saturday.
There can be too much talent at one spot. A promising player is useless if he’s destined to be a reserve. Take someone thriving with the Bills after the Colts couldn’t find snaps for him. Exciting quarterback hunter Jerry Hughes no longer embodies talent rotting on the bench. That wasn’t always so thanks to the glut of skilled players who stood between him and playing time. Indianapolis couldn’t find a place for Hughes even after they made him the 31st choice. But the Colts did get seven starts out of Kelvin Sheppard after being forced to send the idling player away.
The Bills will surely be tempted if there’s a highly-graded defensive end not taken with the first 49 chances. The prospect of adding even more aptitude at the position is of course appealing. But such a pick would come at the expense of a thinner roster spot. Doug Whaley should make sure the franchise will get more snaps out of their top pick than Hughes did for his first pro team. That’s unless Mario Williams’s job is up for grabs.
It’s taken about a decade and a half, but the Bills are finally built to win now. This roster is a few upgrades from being truly formidable, at least in the offseason. The focus on figuratively and literally protecting the quarterback has improved everyone’s outlook.
This front office should be out to deepen the talent pool at one of the few positions where they need more competition. Adding a few players who could help this season counts as an investment in the future. The maxim that this is a win-now league is particularly true for a team that hasn’t won much since the calendar’s odometer flipped.
In fact, the Bills may be talented enough that they can draft with semi-distant seasons in mind. It’s hard to see too many positions so thin where management and fans sink to hoping a presently unknown rookie can start from his first game. There may not be the rookie equivalent of Preston Brown in 2015, which would be promising news for him and his teammates. Still, they could add key reserves to help before next year.
A little bit of help added starting Friday could help a lot by September. Knowing what tweaks this team needs should inform their approach to adding young talent. It beats adding a wide receiver who could maybe contribute in 2017. Either way, they don’t have to fear tripping in the present by looking too far ahead.
It’s a testament to the front office’s ability to diagnose and address concerns that the draft doesn’t seem as important as it has in years past. The Bills are looking for reinforcements more than they seek rookie field generals.
Coaching up last year’s rookies is a more worthwhile plan than banking on this year’s additions being ready to go. Instead of looking for a starter at guard, Buffalo could approach their top pick as a chance to get a quality blocker who could back up improved second-year linemen. A youngster who pushes for a starting role would be a bonus. The Bills aren’t relying on first-round impact from anyone they add.
The draft is finally relaxing. Adding recent students isn’t as big a deal when your team has already obtained flashy players in quantity. For once, it would be fine if this event ended up being anticlimactic. With the positive transactions they’ve already made, Buffalo can sit out tomorrow’s prime-time portion without worry. This year, normally tense fans who wonder if the first-round countdown will bring good news don’t have to fear missing important injury clips on Ridiculousness.
The Bills need to enhance, not rebuild. They could start adding depth at their shakiest position on Friday. Seeking more skill inside the offensive line is naturally less maddening than trying to locate a savior. The lack of panic over trading away this year’s first shot shows this franchise is not investing all hope in someone who hasn’t moved all his stuff out of the dorm. Even if they don’t boldly change places during the draft, the Bills have already set themselves up for excitement after May’s first weekend.