Retention -- the theme of the Bills' offseason to date, so their class in the 2021 NFL Draft will mostly be to fill depth holes on the roster of the reigning AFC East champion.
But they do have one clear-cut need on offense, and the defense could use some reinforcements in April's draft, which for them will begin at No. 30 overall. Which rookies could be on their radar? Which positions will they prioritize?
Here's one stab at how the Bills' entire 2021 draft will play out:
|Round (Overall Pick)||Prospect||College|
RB Travis Etienne
CB Eric Stokes
WR Josh Palmer
OG Sadarius Hutcherson
EDGE Ade Ogundeji
DL Jonathan Marshall
LB Isaiah McDuffie
Here's where you can purchase an officially licensed Bills NFL Draft hat and other Bills merchandise, some at 65% off.
The Bills got quality, albeit unspectacular individual contributions from young running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss in 2020, yet one thing was missing from the backfield -- home-run hitting ability. And that's precisely what Etienne would instantly provide. Plus, Brandon Beane was in Carolina when the Panthers had DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in the early 2010s, and high up the organizational ladder when Christian McCaffrey was selected inside the top 10 in 2017. If Etienne's there, I truly think he'll be the pick.
In the second round, Buffalo addresses the No. 2 cornerback spot, even after the re-signing of Levi Wallace with Stokes, a long, athletic zone-savvy defender with legitimate SEC experience and productivity. While a receiver in Round 3 may seem aggressive given the presence of Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders and 2020 fourth-round pick Gabriel Davis, hear me out on this. Beasley is over 30 and playing on the final season of his contract in 2021. Sanders is 34 and on a one-year pact. Buffalo utilizes four-receiver sets as often as any team in the league, so a well-rounded wideout in Palmer is sensible. He plays with good suddenness, speed, and ball-tracking skills.
As for the rest of Buffalo's draft -- Hutcherson is a super-experienced SEC guard with NFL size, high-level athleticism and plenty of pop on contact. He'll add Insurance on the inside of the Bills' offensive front. Ogundeji lacks short-area quickness yet makes up for it with long arms he uses well to set the edge and beat blockers one on one. Given the ages of Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison, the Bills would be smart to address the future of the defensive end position now.
Marshall is an active nose tackle with serious power and a quick first step -- a potential long-term solution at that position after Star Lotulelei's tenure at that position is finished. McDuffie, a Buffalo native, loaded the stat sheet at Boston College thanks to twitch, range, and instincts -- he's definitely a Sean McDermott type.
What's missing? Most namely tight end, but this class is extremely top-heavy at the position, and given the Bills' receiver dependency, it wouldn't be the worst thing if that spot wasn't addressed in this draft.