The Buffalo Bills were better than every other AFC team except one in the 2020 NFL season. This should have shaped their approach to the 2021 NFL draft, but it didn’t seem to. That point deserves to be explained in greater depth and detail.
Bills NFL draft mistakes:
2. Not trading down more often
The Bills did trade down at one point in the NFL draft, trading out of the fifth round with the Houston Texans in exchange for two sixth-round picks. Buffalo ought to have made more of those kinds of deals, but it didn’t.
Let’s explain why this would have been valuable for Buffalo: The Bills know that their defense was not fast enough to stop the Kansas City Chiefs this past season.
While the Chiefs didn’t destroy the Bills in a dramatic way, they still outflanked Buffalo’s defense in both meetings, beating Sean McDermott’s team with the ground game in the regular season and with a short-intermediate passing game in the playoffs.
The Bills had picks 30, 61, and 93 in the top 100. They weren’t going to get a top-tier pick at any of those spots on the draft board, so the most reasonable move for a very good team which fell just short of the Super Bowl is to improve its odds of finding players who could make a difference. How does a team do that? By trading down.
It’s not hard: Team A trades down but gets more picks in exchange for Team B trading up to get a higher pick. The Bills could have done these 2-for-1 trade-downs at 30, 61, and 93.
The Bills might have ended up with no pick in the top 40, but they could have gained six players instead of three, improving their odds of getting players who could make their defense faster against the Chiefs. Standing pat was a weird move for a team which hasn’t yet achieved its ultimate goal.
Conference champions and Super Bowl champions can stand pat in the NFL draft. The Bills aren’t there yet. They needed to look for more reinforcements. They didn’t have a single pick in the fourth round. That’s a lot of draft real estate Buffalo didn’t try to explore. That feels like a missed opportunity.
1. Not drafting enough speed in the back seven
The Bills’ secondary did not get beaten by the deep ball against the Chiefs, but it still stands that Kansas City had too much speed for Buffalo’s back seven in the AFC Championship Game. This is a key point: Kansas City used a quick passing game to achieve its results. That means Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy devised a system which neutralized the Buffalo pass rush.
Was it really the right play for the Bills to pick defensive ends at both 30 — Greg Rousseau of Miami — and 61 (Carlos Basham of Wake Forest)?
One could accept the need for the Bills to pick one defensive end in the first two rounds, but they picked two. Their third-round pick, Spencer Brown of Northern Iowa, is an offensive tackle.
This just doesn’t make sense: The Chiefs outflanked the Bills’ linebackers and corners in the AFC title game, and yet Buffalo didn’t draft a linebacker or corner in the top 100 picks.
This point flows from the other mistake referenced above — namely, not trading down to accumulate more picks and therefore get more chances to draft players who could provide value at a lower cost. The Bills needed to get faster on defense if they wanted to have a better chance of challenging the Chiefs. This NFL draft did not appear to meet that goal.