Why Bills GM Brandon Beane went against tendency and traded out of first round

For the first time since the 2021 NFL Draft, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane stayed patient and waited for his turn with the team’s original pick. And for the first time in his tenure with the Bills, Beane traded down and eventually out in the first round.

In a deal with the rival Kansas City Chiefs, the Bills acquired picks No. 32 (Round 1), No. 95 (Round 3) and No. 221 (Round 7) in exchange for No. 28 (Round 1), No. 133 (Round 4) and No. 248 (Round 7).

Beane caught trade-down fever once again in a deal with the Carolina Panthers, acquiring picks No. 33 (Round 2) and No. 141 (Round 5) in exchange for picks No. 32 (Round 1) and 200 (Round 6). The Bills were out of the first round completely, ending the night without a new player for the first time, ironically, since the Bills traded for Stefon Diggs in 2020.

As part of their two deals, the Bills turned a late-fourth-round pick into a third-round selection — something they were lacking entering the draft proceedings. They also improved a late sixth-round pick into an early fifth-round pick and a late seventh-round selection into the top pick in the seventh round.

As the Bills recalibrate with a lot of hours to discuss their options, let’s take a deep dive into their decisions, what they could do, and some other options they have throughout the draft.

Beane busting his tendency

Beane summed it up best not only after leaving the first round without moving up from No. 28, but without a player at all.

“I would say Vegas lost today.”

Beane, the usually aggressive draft day trader who had moved up in the first round four times throughout his first six drafts with the team, created better value for himself with some minor moves down the board on Thursday night. While some may disagree with trading with the very team that has prevented the Bills from getting to the Super Bowl, the Bills made substantial improvements with three of their later selections to only move down five spots.

When considering draft day trades, it’s all about the motivation of the seller. The Bills already had 10 picks in this draft. They didn’t need anymore because they are already dangerously close to not being able to keep all ten on their 53-man roster in 2024. Instead, Beane’s motivation was to improve his overall class and creating more depth for his roster with improved picks.

In just two trades, he jumped up 38 picks to give himself a better shot at another starter in the late third round, moved up 59 picks from a late sixth to an early fifth, and then another 27 picks to get the top pick in Round 7. In total, that’s 124 total picks jumped to move down five spots. That’s a pretty good haul if that was their goal.

The Chiefs deal was completely even on the Rich Hill Trade Value chart. The Panthers trade favored the Bills, to the point that they should have had to trade their other sixth-round pick to get the value they got back from the Panthers.

If there’s one thing that became abundantly clear, though, it’s that even a wide receiver-needy team like the Bills felt like there was a drop-off at the position from the top tier to what was next. The only reason the Bills would have felt comfortable passing on Xavier Worthy and Xavier Legette at Nos. 28 and 32 is if they felt extremely comfortable with what else was on the board.

There will be some extreme concern from fans over the Bills setting set up the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes’ new favorite wide receiver, if it unfolds that way. But analyzing the player, Worthy’s fit on the Bills was a bit of a tough projection. He wasn’t the cleanest fit at X-receiver because he struggled with physicality at the line, and already, with Khalil Shakir and Curtis Samuel on the roster, figuring out the plan to maximize Worthy’s talents would have been more challenging than others. Legette was more of a fit for what the Bills needed, but there was a lot of projection on a player who needs to be more of a complete route runner and only had one year of college production when he was nearly 23 years old, going against mostly younger competition.

Now, the Bills have better draft capital to work with and remain smack dab in the middle of the early second-round wide receiver tier. If they take one at No. 33 and wind up with the superior pass catcher of that trio, this will have been a home run move by Beane. But there’s always the chance Worthy or Legette outperform the Bills’ pick, which will wind up in second-guessing to their evaluation process. The trio of wideouts, if that’s what happens, will always be tied together from a Bills perspective.

To auction No. 33, or stand pat?

The first round hadn’t even ended all that long before Beane met with reporters and said he’d already received calls on pick No. 33, the top choice of Day 2. With teams left to look at their boards for nearly 17 hours, teams could get irrational with their offers in trying to land the top player on their board, and that’s what the Bills will have to weigh versus just sitting and taking the player atop their board.

The only way the Bills should consider doing so would be if they would somehow acquire another Day 2 selection by way of moving down, or if someone got really out over their skis and offered them a first-round pick in 2025. The latter isn’t as likely. But if the former comes in with an offer like that, the Bills need to be extremely careful about how far they move down if their target is indeed a wide receiver.

There is a sweet spot of teams in need of a receiver after the Bills’ pick. That includes the New England Patriots at No. 34, the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 37, the Tennessee Titans at No. 38, maybe the Panthers again at No. 39, the Atlanta Falcons at No. 43, the New Orleans Saints at No. 45 and the Indianapolis Colts at No. 46. And that’s not even counting all the other teams below that point that could trade up to take one. The supply at receiver is not strong enough to withstand all of that. There are likely only, at most, seven receivers worthy of an early to mid-second round, and not all of them are a fit for what the Bills don’t currently have on their receiver depth chart.

Beane already said they intended to pick a player at No. 32 before Panthers GM Dan Morgan called and offered what they did only to move down one spot. So, we know the Bills felt good enough about at least two prospects to sit and make the selection. If I had to guess, I think the Bills stay on the clock and pick unless they get an offer they can’t refuse.

The top five WR options at 33

Adonai Mitchell, Texas – Mitchell is a great fit at X receiver for the Bills’ receiver room remaining on the board, with the speed and separation skills that those other projected X-receivers do not have. Mitchell is not a perfect prospect and has some holes in his analytical profile, but there’s a lot on tape that can make a team think he can become a future No. 1 wideout for a team. Beane always swings for the fences and Mitchell would suffice as that — now without the distinction of being a first-round pick.

Keon Coleman, Florida State – Of the remaining possibilities, Coleman joins Mitchell as the other clean projection to X receiver who is still on the board. Coleman does not have the same separation skills as Mitchell, but he’s bigger and can win 50-50 receptions more often. Coleman also is “able to physically dominate as a blocker and will take cornerbacks completely out of plays,” according to The Athletic draft expert Dane Brugler. His timed speed at 4.61 is not ideal, though he’s got more twitch on film than that speed indicates, and his explosive metrics in the vertical and broad jump test well and show a player who is more explosive than fast with long speed.

Ladd McConkey, Georgia – McConkey is an outstanding route runner and a generally safe receiver prospect who will likely walk in, start for a team and be productive. His ceiling is the bigger question. And for the Bills specifically, his fit into 11 personnel may not be the cleanest. He does have the top-end speed to push down the field, though, which will be intriguing to them.

Troy Franklin, Oregon – There is a lot to like in the Bills’ pairing with a player who moves faster on tape than his 4.41 40-yard dash indicates and one with excellent yards after catch and separation skills. Franklin’s size is the biggest concern, as is if they think he can play X-receiver in their offense. But there’s a real argument that the Bills don’t have anyone quite like him on their roster.

Roman Wilson, Michigan – Wilson has some similarities to what the Bills have already on the roster, though he does have a vertical element to his game that could be intriguing to add. He also has outstanding footwork, which helps him separate either in the slot or outside.

How about Non-WRs?

Of the other positions the Bills could target, four names stand out as potential fits at No. 33. Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean is the top fit of all of them, considering how strong of a fit he would be as a starting free safety in their system, though you have to wonder about the positional value and taking it over a receiver. Johnny Newton of Illinois at defensive tackle would be the next strongest fit, though as a three-technique, there is some concern whether using this early of a pick on someone who would be a long-term backup is worth it to the Bills. On the interior offensive line, Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson makes some sense as potential long-term starting center, though the Bills have a full starting offensive line in place. And at edge rusher, Marshawn Kneeland has the ceiling, the prototypical measurements, but lacks in the production aspect from college. Just like the receivers, these top targets all have a “but” when it comes to the Bills’ case to take them.

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Florida State wide receiver Keon Coleman (4) could be an option for the Bills on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. (Melina Myers / USA Today)

A quick Day 2 Bills pick’ em

No. 33 – Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State

A change from my Thursday morning mock draft, but when the Bills passed on Mitchell twice, that did not make it seem extremely promising that they felt strongly about him. Instead, I’ll switch to Coleman, who is a strong fit at X receiver, whose scouting profile is littered with comments in “The Beast” like he “loves to work,” and, “his drive since he was a kid was to max out his ability and cash in for his family… that singular focus and talent? Yeah, I’ll bet on that.” That screams “smart, selfless and versatile,” the very mantra Beane said they wanted out of their receiver room.

No. 60 – Maason Smith, DT, LSU

I last went with Ruke Orhorhoro at pick 71 in my Thursday morning mock, but since the Bills didn’t trade up in Round 1, that means staying at No. 60 becomes the more likely play. That opens up the ability to draft Smith, who seems like an outstanding fit as a versatile defensive tackle who can develop into the team’s long-term starter at one-technique and replacement for DaQuan Jones whenever his Bills career is done.

No. 92 (via trade) – Kamren Kinchens, S, Miami (FL)

This was also my pick from the Thursday mock, and the Bills cash in three of their five Day 3 picks to get a player who could potentially become their longterm starting free safety. Kinchens lacks speed, but makes up for it in playmaking and instincts, which is what the Bills value more at safety more than anything else.

Trade terms: Bills send Nos. 128, 141 and 160 to Tampa Bay Buccaneers for No. 92

No. 95 – Audric Estime, RB, Notre Dame

With the extra pick on Day 3, I think there’s a chance the Bills use it on James Cook’s running mate who offers the backfield something different than what they have on the roster now. The Bills do not have a big, powerful back like the 222-pound Estime on their team.

(Top photo of Brandon Beane: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

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