The recent buzz surrounding the 2014 NFL Draft features plenty of rumors about the Buffalo Bills potentially trading up from the 9th spot in order to select WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M). The thing is, they just don’t need to do that.
Why not? First of all, receiver isn’t even close to their biggest need, or even one of their biggest needs. Secondly, moving up for any receiver in this draft not named Sammy Watkins just isn’t necessary considering how talented the crop of receivers are this year. Third, moving up will give away precious draft capital, not a good idea for one of the deepest drafts we’ve seen in years.
The Bills just traded for incredibly talented but enormously unpredictable Mike Williams from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for only a sixth round pick. Williams played for HC Doug Marrone for half a season at Syracuse before abruptly quitting the team. You have to believe Marrone wouldn’t give up a draft pick, as late of a pick as it may be, for someone he wasn’t confident in taking the next steps of maturation both on and off the field. He’s got a nice size/speed combination and has frontline receiving skills.
Opposite of Williams on the Bills offense is Stevie Johnson, who’s hauled in 289 receptions for 3,720 yards and 26 TDs the last four seasons, all with substandard QB play. He’s in the prime of his career and is locked up until 2017 with a reasonable contract.
After Williams and Johnson, you have Robert Woods (2nd round pick in 2013) and Marquise Goodwin (3rd round pick in ’13). Woods had a decent rookie campaign with 40 receptions for 587 yards and 3 TDs, and is still maturing and developing. Goodwin missed a lot of time due to injury last year, but has world class speed and athleticism. You’re talking about a guy who ran an official 4.27 40-yard dash at last years Combine and was a 4-time All American for the Texas Longhorns track and field program with two National Championships. I don’t think it wise to throw in the towel on him just yet, even if he is only 5-foot 9.
So with those four guys, why trade up for Evans? Don’t get me wrong, Evans is a terrific talent and a legitimate top-ten prospect, but is he really the missing piece for the Bills offense? And at the price of multiple draft picks?
Why not keep all your draft picks, sit at no. 9 and take an elite playmaking tight end like Eric Ebron (UNC). Tight end is a gigantic need for Buffalo, and you’d still be giving young QB E.J. Manuel another big weapon.
Why not keep all your draft picks, sit at no. 9 and take an elite blindside blocker like Taylor Lewan (OT, Michigan)? LT Cordy Glenn could easily swap sides to the right, and Lewan is absolutely skilled enough to excel on either side of the line if he can’t. That’d help keep the youngster under center upright while also help both passing and rushing attacks.
Why not keep all your draft picks, sit at no. 9 and take an elite cornerback like Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State). With tremendous length and athleticism, he’d allow Leodis McKelvin to slide down to the nickel where he’s a better fit, and would pair nicely with Stephon Gilmore.
The point is, Evans isn’t the missing piece for Buffalo, and certainly not at the price of precious draft capital in a tremendously deep draft. The Bills are playing with house money at no. 9, where they can stay put and still add an impact player at a position of true need, or even slide down and add to their stockpile of picks.