OPINION: 2021 was different type of draft for Bills

For the first time since Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane took over, Buffalo made selections to help the team's future

What did you think of the Buffalo Bills' draft? I get that question a lot this time of year.

The 2021 NFL Draft for the Bills was one like we haven’t seen around here in a long time. It is much more about having answers to possible roster losses in the future than players who could make an impact as a rookie.

The main theme of the Bills' offseason was to keep the band together.

The Bills were able to re-sign key free agents like linebacker Matt Milano and offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams. Since they were able to do that, the draft wasn’t about filling obvious holes and was instead more about the future.

If you look at the group of eight players selected by the Bills over the three-day event, it is likely that none of them will be starting this season. It's entirely possible only two of the eight will see significant playing time on offense or defense in 2021.

I wasn’t surprised the Bills went with a defensive end with their very first selection, but I didn’t expect back-to-back picks at that position. But those picks can easily be explained by looking at the depth chart at defensive end, and taking into account the Bills' tight salary cap space next offseason.

It is much more about that than following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers model as to how to beat the Kansas City Chiefs.

While I’m on that, can we please stop with the obsession over the pass rush as the way you beat the Chiefs? No offense to Tampa Bay, which has good pass rushers, but they were also able to take advantage of a patch work Chiefs offensive line that was playing without its starting tackles, and also used a guard who had barely played last season.

In addition, as much as everyone talks about the pass rush pressure and the three sacks the Beccaneers got on Patrick Mahomes, Tampa Bay also did something really important when it comes to beating the Chiefs - scoring lots of points.

Tampa Bay put up 21 points in the first half, which is more than the Bills scored against Kansas City in their regular season matchup, and a field goal away from the Bills' point total in the AFC Championship Game loss.

The Buccaneers offense put up 31 points and scored four touchdowns on 11 possessions in Super Bowl LV. The Bills had four touchdowns on 19 possessions, when you total up their two games against Kansas City.

But I digress.

Look at the Bills' depth chart and you’ll see why Greg Rousseau and Carlos Basham Jr. were the first two picks for the Bills. The starting ends, Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison, are both scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after next season. Hughes’ contract expires and Addison has a voidable year in 2022.

Hughes will turn 33 in August, and Addison will celebrate his 34th birthday in September. Perhaps one or both won’t be back in 2022. I’d say Hughes has a better shot of playing with the Bills beyond next season, but I doubt he would get more than a one-year contract.

Rousseau and Basham will be on relatively inexpensive rookie deals for the next four years, and the Bills will also have a fifth-year option on Rousseau.

The depth chart at end reads as follows: A.J. Epenesa, Darryl Johnson, Efe Obada, Bryan Cox, Jr. and Mike Love.

Having read all of this, taking a defensive end in both of the first two rounds should make more sense to you.

You should also take into account a credo for general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott. They have both said numerous times they believe you build a team up front. That might help explain their decision to draft an offensive tackle with their next two picks in the draft.

There certainly wasn’t a need. In fact, I thought they should have selected an interior offensive linemen in the event Cody Ford doesn’t pan out, or if they decide to move on from Mitch Morse next offseason for cap purposes. But they opted to bring in some depth at the tackle spot.

Joe Buscaglia from The Athletic pointed out the Bills have used six of the team’s last eight early round selections on either the offensive or defensive line.

As far as the remaining picks the Bills made, the only player who might also contribute this season would be sixth round wide receiver Marquez Stevenson from the University of Houston. He would, basically, be the new Andre Roberts, serving as the sixth receiver on the depth chart, while also handling the kick and punt return responsibilities.

This draft showed the Bills are now living in the world where successful franchises live. When you win, the good players get paid and you can’t keep everybody year-after-year.

The draft becomes an avenue for players who will replenish the roster, or step in and fill a starting spot when someone leaves in free agency.

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