After a 2018 season that featured a severe weakness in the offensive line, Brandon Beane made it his priority to overhaul the unit. During free agency the Bills signed six new players (Spencer Long, Mitch Morse, Ty Nsekhe, John Feliciano, LaAdrian Waddle, Quinton Spain) to upgrade the front five.
On the defensive side, the Bills needed to fill the huge void left by the retirement of Kyle Williams. While free agency didn’t offer much of a chance to do so, the Bills did bolster depth on the defensive line by re-signing Jordan Phillips.
Fast forward to the draft, there were many questions about who or where the Bills would pick. The off-season signings gave Beane the freedom to exercise his best player available strategy he spoke about leading up to the draft. There were rumors about trading up, trading down, or staying put at pick nine and selecting the best talent on the board.
A near perfect scenario ended up happening for the Bills with a couple of surprise picks in the top eight, and they were able to stay at nine and select Ed Oliver, defensive tackle from Houston.
Oliver instantly becomes the successor to Kyle Williams and brings that potential dangerous threat of an interior pass rusher. When you’re in a division with an all time great quarterback in Tom Brady, who can manipulate the pocket with ease, the best way to counter that is with pressure up the middle.
In the second round, the Bills traded up two picks from 40 to 38 and selected offensive tackle, Cody Ford, from Oklahoma. Many scouts had a first round grade on Ford so the Bills were ecstatic to land him at pick 38.
Drafting Ford also filled a long term need at offensive tackle. Ty Nsekhe signed a two year deal and LaAdrian Waddle is only under contract for 2019.
The first two picks by the Bills were a good combination of best player available while also filling a need. Now more than ever, the league highlights huge passing stats and big plays, but dominating up front on both sides of the ball is still one of the top priorities in football. Not to forget priority number one, protecting Josh Allen.
The next two picks were both somewhat of a surprise as the Bills selected running back, Devin Singletary, from Florida Atlantic with their third round pick. People questioned the pick, adding to an already crowded backfield, but Singletary brings talent, youth, and an impressive college resume to a roster that could see two running backs (LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore) move on after the 2019 season.
The Bills then traded back into the third round for tight end, Dawson Knox, from Ole Miss. Knox is a raw but athletic talent with potential that Brian Daboll hopes to unlock.
In the fifth round, the Bills selected speedy linebacker, Vosean Joseph, from Florida. Joseph offers a skill set that Sean McDermott likes in his linebackers, but will most likely start out as a developmental project and on special teams.
The Bills would add more depth to the defense with their next two picks, adding hard hitting Miami safety Jaquan Johnson and Darryl Johnson, defensive end from North Carolina A&T.
The Bills final selection was tight end from Boston College, Tommy Sweeney. Sweeney adds a productive college career and a chance for quality competition at tight end.
Brian Daboll, who came up in the league coaching tight ends such as Rob Gronkowski, likes to use tight ends to create mismatches in his offensive scheme.
In 2018 Daboll didn’t have much to work with at tight end with Charles Clay in and out of the lineup due to injury, and two developmental projects behind Clay in Logan Thomas and Jason Croom.
With the additions of Tyler Kroft, Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney, and even tight end/tackle combination Jake Fisher, Brian Daboll now has a crowded tight end room to work with and see who possibly emerges at a position that has evolved in recent years to become a focal point of the offense.
Going into 2019, the Bills roster looks significantly different from a year ago. Several position battles will be intense during the off-season programs versus last year when they had to field a roster that had glaring holes in several spots.
The Bills may have not added the “star power” that grabs national attention, but they did add several quality role players that are committed to putting in the work both on and off the field required for team success.
Editor’s babble: Out of all the picks made in this year’s draft for the Bills, I’m probably most intrigued to watch TE Dawson Knox. If the Bills can finally get a gem of a TE it will go a long way in creating options in Brian Daboll’s offense. Thanks to Erik Smeal for his terrific contributions to our blog. You can find Erik on Twitter @Buffwagon819.