Buffalo Payments’ NFL draft technique: Play it protected or swing for the fences?

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Payments personal the No. 30 decide within the 2021 NFL draft — unfamiliar territory for a staff contemporary off its first AFC Championship Sport look since 1993.

They are not choosing on the finish of the primary spherical as a result of they traded down with a contender; they’re there as a result of they are the contender. Wanting on the Payments’ roster, which basic supervisor Brandon Beane has saved largely intact this offseason, there are no main holes as a lot as there are areas for enchancment.

Due to that, Buffalo can comply with numerous totally different paths when the draft begins April 29 in Cleveland (ESPN and ESPN the App) — it could actually make the protected transfer, pull off a commerce or attempt for a house run.

Play it protected

Listening to Beane, it is not possible to discern the place he views the Payments’ greatest space of want. However based mostly on his actions, one might fairly assume it is the beginning cornerback reverse Tre’Davious White.

Buffalo drafted Dane Jackson within the seventh spherical in 2020 and introduced again three-year starter Levi Wallace with a one-year deal through the first week of free company. Payments defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier mentioned of Wallace: “He understands he can by no means chill out.”

Beane mentioned he is content material to let Wallace and Jackson compete for the beginning job, saying of Jackson: “He’ll have each alternative subsequent yr to not solely win a spot, however we’ll see who begins reverse Tre.”

However White, Wallace and Jackson are the one exterior cornerbacks on the Payments’ roster, and there may very well be a number of on the board after they decide at No. 30.

Over the previous few weeks, South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr. have possible risen up draft boards with sturdy performances at their professional days. Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, as soon as believed to be the very best cornerback within the draft, had again surgical procedure and has thus shaken up some analysts’ rankings on the place.

ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay each mission Horn, Surtain and Farley to be off the board earlier than the Payments’ decide, however even when all three are gone the Payments ought to have gamers similar to Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II or Georgia’s Eric Stokes to select from.

That mentioned, the 2021 cornerback class is likely one of the draft’s deepest place teams and gamers similar to Syracuse’s Ifeatu Melifonwu and Trill Williams, or Stanford’s Paulson Adebo may very well be out there within the center rounds. Given the depth at cornerback, the Payments might go a unique route with their first-round decide.

Search for a commerce

In 2018, the Philadelphia Eagles acquired a pair of second-round picks and a fourth-round decide in trade for the No. 32 decide and their 2019 fourth-round decide. The Ravens traded as much as snag franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson.

If the chance arises, it might be prudent for Buffalo to aim an analogous deal. With the draft worth of the No. 30 decide, the Payments might get an additional second-round decide this yr and presumably recoup the fourth-round decide they despatched to the Minnesota Vikings as a part of final yr’s commerce for receiver Stefon Diggs.

Beane has been aggressive on draft day, buying and selling picks to pick quarterback Josh Allen and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in 2018 and offensive lineman Cody Ford and tight finish Dawson Knox in 2019. These trades concerned buying and selling up as an alternative of down, nonetheless, and it’d behoove the Payments to package deal a few of their later-round picks to accumulate one other within the high 4 rounds — a method that might work even after buying and selling out of the primary spherical. Based mostly on the draft decide worth chart, combining their two fifth-round picks can be sufficient to commerce into the late fourth spherical.

Buffalo is in its championship window and can get extra use out of gamers able to contribute now somewhat than gamers who want time to develop. For that cause, the Payments’ third possibility with their first-round decide would possibly take advantage of sense.

Swing for the fences

Sure, the Payments might use a long-term starter at cornerback and depth for his or her offensive and defensive traces — or they might make the NFL’s second-ranked offense much more potent. Buffalo ranked twentieth within the league final season in speeding yards, and Beane has expressed a want to enhance in 2021. The Payments spent third-round picks on operating backs Devin Singletary (2019) and Zack Moss (2020), however neither was a focus for opposing defenses final season.

Contemplating the cash Buffalo has invested into its offensive line this offseason by re-signing starters Daryl Williams and Jon Feliciano, it is protected to imagine any enchancment to the speeding assault can be made within the backfield.

“We consider that now we have the items to run the ball higher,” Beane mentioned. “We consider in Devin. We consider in Zack. Once more, we’ll proceed to search for competitors.”

Enter Clemson operating again Travis Etienne, who has star potential because the ACC’s all-time chief in touchdowns scored with 78. His pace (4.41 40-yard sprint) and dimension (5-foot-10, 215 kilos) make him robust to sort out and sustain with, and his effectivity as a pass-catcher (85 receptions over the previous two seasons) offers Allen one other goal. He is a backfield possibility opponents should respect.

Alabama operating again Najee Harris is one other viable possibility if he’s nonetheless out there. Though there are widespread critics of choosing a operating again within the first spherical, context issues. As a result of the Payments are able to contend proper now, they will maximize the shelf lifetime of a first-round operating again.

One other chance for a house run can be drafting Miami pass-rusher Jaelan Phillips, who was as soon as the No. 1 highschool recruit within the nation. He’s as gifted as any pass-rusher on this yr’s class, however did medically retire due to his historical past of concussions earlier than returning the soccer and transferring from UCLA to Miami. That medical purple flag might push him into the late first spherical, but when he will get a inexperienced mild from Buffalo’s medical employees, he might become an elite possibility alongside final yr’s second-round decide AJ Epenesa, giving the Payments two younger pass-rushers to take over for veterans Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison.

All three gamers have a high-risk high-reward potential, however contemplating how shut they’re to reaching the Tremendous Bowl, the Payments can afford to swing large within the first spherical.

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