5 Creative Moves the Buffalo Bills Can Pull on Draft Day
With the NFL draft just a fortnight away, coverage and speculation is reaching a fever pitch.
By now, there's usually an indication of what direction most teams will go. But not this year. The Buffalo Bills especially have a plethora of options for how to use their No. 9 pick.
With no blatant needs at any one position, the Bills can go in a number of directions. Because of that, it's impossible to predict who the Bills will take with any of their selections.
Buffalo managed to trade back in the first round of last year's draft and still land the quarterback they coveted as well as a stud (a legend even) with the extra pick they got.
In what is considered an exceptionally deep draft, there are a lot of moves the Bills could make to maximize their haul. Let's take a look at a few of the more creative and outside-the-box plays the Bills could make once the draft is underway.
Pull a George Jefferson
That is to say, move on up.
Whether it is all the way up to No. 1 or somewhere else within the top five, Buffalo could look to jump up and grab one of the top available playmakers.
First of all, the hypothetical front four of Clowney, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Mario Williams has to have Bills fans drooling. But if the Bills have to pay the Robert Griffin III ransom to get Clowney, it probably isn't worth it. Washington gave up three first-rounders and a second-rounder to move up and get Griffin in 2012.
But if, as ESPN.com's Mike Rodak suggests, the Bills can wrangle a deal for their first- and second-round picks (Nos. 9 and 41 overall) as well as next year's first-rounder, that seems a reasonable price for a once-in-a-generation prospect. Giving up some depth is okay, but giving up multiple first-rounders and the potential to keep building your team is not. Just ask Dan Snyder.
For what it's worth, the Bills have drafted a defensive end No. 1 overall before (some guy named Bruce Smith) and that worked out pretty well for them.
If the price for Clowney is too steep, the Bills could still look to move up somewhere else in the top five. Their top targets would be either Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans or potentially Greg Robinson.
No matter which spot they look to jump to, the Bills would have to approach a trade up with a Pawn Stars mentality. They can only make a deal if they can do it for the right price.
If Buffalo can't find a trade partner to move up and all of the top targets are off the board by the ninth pick, the Bills could look to move back.
In trading for Mike Williams, the Bills gave up their sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft. Moving back would allow them to pick up some extra picks and find value later in the first round.
There's a recent precedent of moving back that worked out pretty well for Buffalo. Just last year, the Bills moved from No. 8 to No. 16 and picked up an extra second-round pick from St. Louis. General manager Doug Whaley made good use of that extra second-rounder and selected Kiko Alonso out of Oregon.
If the Bills could pull off a similar move in 2014, they could grab C.J. Mosley with their pick in the first round and pair him with Alonso and the newly acquired Brandon Spikes in the linebacking corps. Spikes is only on a one-year deal, so if he doesn't stick in Buffalo, Mosley can step in as his replacement.
With a potential extra second-round pick, the Bills could address needs at wide receiver with someone like Martavis Bryant or Kelvin Benjamin and at defensive end with Trent Murphy or Scott Crichton.
The Bills' draft in 2013 was one of the more successful ones they've had in recent years, and it was all set up by trading back in the first round. A similar plan in 2014 can keep the momentum going.
Pass on a Tight End
Tight end Eric Ebron has been a player tied to the Bills in the first round in several mock drafts. They'd also have several options in the second round in Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Jace Amaro among others.
But if the Bills aren't totally smitten with any of those prospects and think No. 9 is too high for Ebron, they could pass on the position altogether. This would allow them to maximize the amount of picks they use to fill other needs.
Besides, it's not like the cupboard is totally bare at tight end. Scott Chandler is back for another go-around in Buffalo, and all he did was lead the team in receiving last year. They've also got Tony Moeaki, Chris Gragg and Lee Smith already on the roster.
Besides the natural tight ends, the Bills also have the potential of Brandon Kaufman switching positions. Kaufman (6'5") ended last season on the practice squad and at 215 pounds. He now says he is up to 245 and has talked to offensive coordinator Nate Hackett about lining up as a stand-up tight end or slot receiver.
That doesn't even complete all the options the Bills are considering at the position. According to WKBW-TV in Buffalo (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk), the Bills worked out former Canisius basketball player Chris Manhertz. Manhertz stands 6'6" and weighs 235 pounds, and he wouldn't be the first former college hoopster to make the jump to the NFL as a tight end. And the Bills wouldn't even need to use a draft pick on him.
Either way, the Bills do have some options at the position. If they want to work with what they have instead of drafting another player, that is one more draft pick they can spend elsewhere.
Add a Quarterback
No, not one of the top prospects in the first round. And no, not to replace EJ Manuel.
There is no reason to abandon ship on Manuel and start looking for his replacement yet. Injuries caused him to miss the preseason and six games in the regular season. It was hard to get a read on him, especially with a first-year coach and first-year offensive coordinator.
Manuel now appears to be fully healthy and said, per Brent Axe of Syracuse.com, he has "no limitations" at the team's voluntary offseason workouts. With the promise of a full season, a better understanding of the playbook and new playmakers around him, Manuel will show what he is (or isn't) capable of this season.
But he still had three knee procedures last year, so his durability is a question mark. And there's still the possibility that he isn't the quarterback of the future for the Bills.
With that in mind, the Bills could look to add another signal-caller in the later rounds of the draft. Thad Lewis was a serviceable backup last year, but he's definitely not the long-term answer. And let's not even talk about Jeff Tuel.
If the Bills want to consider adding a QB with a late pick, Georgia's Aaron Murray is worth taking a look at. Murray was a four-year starter for the Bulldogs who threw for over 13,000 yards, 121 touchdowns and 41 interceptions in his career.
Murray does have injury concerns of his own, as he tore his ACL in November. But stashing him on the bench while he heals could provide some insurance behind Manuel and give the Bills another option under center should they need it.
Trade Stevie Johnson
This would be a controversial move among Bills fans. However, it's something that has been discussed before.
If the Bills move up in the first round to snag one of the top receivers, or Mike Evans somehow falls into their laps at No. 9, they could move Stevie Johnson to recoup some of the picks they lost.
Johnson's contract does get pricey in 2015 and 2016, and if his performance from last year continues, his deal will turn into an albatross.
Should the Bills decide it is time to move on from the troubled wideout, they could do so on draft day and get a pick to fill a hole elsewhere. They shouldn't have a problem finding a team in need of a receiver without significant money invested in the position already (looking at you, Carolina).
The other side of the argument is that Johnson posted three straight 1,000-yard seasons before injury and personal issues sidelined him for four games in 2013. But it's unlikely the Bills will want to pay him and Mike Williams over $10 million combined through 2016.
If the Bills draft a receiver in the early rounds next month, Johnson could very well have played his last down in Buffalo.