SPORTS WRAPUP: BUFFALO BILLS 2023 DRAFT REVIEW
“I lied… we traded up.” That was Bills GM Brandon Beane as he opened his press conference discussing his first-round draft pick. But that wasn’t the surprise. That honor was reserved for the actual pick: Utah TE Dalton Kinkaid. The cost to jump over the stunned Dallas Cowboys was a R4 pick (130).
“If Dalton was not there, we were going to trade back,” Beane said. “If you asked me five picks before we picked, I still would have told you we’re gonna trade down.”
True to form, he did that later in the draft, replacing the traded draft pick for one in the 7th.
How did the Bills do overall? How did I do with my predictions? Let’s see.
• Dalton Kincaid, TE, first round, №25
• O’Cyrus Torrence, G, second round, №59
• Dorian Williams, LB, third round, №91
• Justin Shorter, WR, fifth round, №150
• Nick Broeker, IOL, seventh round, №230
• Alex Austin, CB, seventh round, №252
While neither the trade of DeAndre Hopkins nor Bijan Robinson falling deep in the round took place, there was a free agent signing that wasn’t announced until after the draft. That’s veteran RB Latavious Murray, who provides another short-yardage option and enabled Beane to take that position off the need list.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Bills’ front office took a hard look at where the team needed to improve. But they clearly decided the Bills offense needed to be less predictable, offer QB Josh Allen more options, and protect him better. This led to a surprise in the first round.
Round 1 — Bills pick: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah. My pick: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
The first round was breaking well for the Bills WR choices until pick 20, when Seattle led a run of four consecutive wide receivers. Beane said there were none left on the Bills R1 list at their position. There were plenty of D-linemen on the board. But instead of nabbing one of those, the Bills suddenly traded up to 25 and drafted a TE, a position I didn’t consider in R1 because they have Knox.
Afterwards Beane revealed his intent. Kincaid gives the Bills a different kind of receiving threat, one that will enable OC Ken Dorsey to disguise the offense and dictate the defense in a new way. Kincaid can line up anywhere on the field and will play slot receiver. He’s a big target with great hands and Run After Catch (RAC) potential the Bills don’t currently possess. As long as the Bills fully commit to this direction and Kincaid performs and improves as expected, this has the potential to be a home run pick.
Round 2 — Bills pick: Cyrus O’Reilly, G, FL. My pick: Benton, DL Wisconsin.
My prediction came with a caveat: if the Bills decided against a WR in the early rounds, they could focus instead on the offensive line. But OT or a swing lineman seemed much more likely than a guard. However, I never anticipated O’Reilly dropping to pick 59, making him the unquestioned best player and value on the Bills board. I also didn’t expect Beane to commit so early to an IOL given his track record.
But this mammoth human being cements the Bills offensive line move to a zone scheme, and he will compete for a starting position, strengthening the Bills depth. Beane admitted post-draft that he wanted a defensive lineman but the way the board fell it didn’t make sense. He made up for it in the free agent market, signing DT Poona Ford to a one year contract. You can bet Bills fans gonna love shouting “Pooooooo — NA!
Round 3 — Bills pick: Darian Williams, LB, Tulane. My pick: Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan.
Of course, having selected a TE in R1, Beane wasn’t going to take my choice, who Dallas selected when the Bills beat them to Kincaid. Although he was the only LB I highlighted for the later rounds, I wish I’d hyped Williams more ahead of time since I took him in so many of my mock drafts. There’s a lot to like about him and his game, as long as he can pick up the complexities of the Bills’ system. Slated to start as a backup to LB Matt Milano, he may also end up in the mix to replace Tremaine Edmunds, depending on how that position looks in training camp.
As I said above, the way the draft board developed there were no DT worth taking when the Bills spot came up in their final three picks. But otherwise, the Bills did a nice job of filling depth and special teams. WR Justin Shorter (R5) has limitations, which is why he was available here. But his measurables and ability to win 50–50 balls offers the WR room something it doesn’t have. G Nick Broeker adds additional depth to the offensive line and CB Alex Austin is well suited to when the Bills play zone. All three can all be expected to play special teams.
All eight of my alumni list players were drafted in the positions and order below, plus one I missed! It’s always fun to see how players you followed in college do in the pros, and some of these guys are going to surprise. Congratulations to them all.
R1 11, Titans: Peter Skoronski, G/T, Northwestern
R3 94, Cardinals: Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford
R4 110, Colts: Adetomiwa Adebawore, DT, Northwestern
R5 142, Browns: Cameron Mitchell, CB, Northwestern
R5 157, Ravens: Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford
R5 186, Colts: Evan Hull, RB, Northwestern
R6 188, Eagles: Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford
R6 197, Dolphins: Elijah Higgins, WR, Stanford
R7 258, Bears: Kendall Williamson, S, Stanford (added)
The biggest questions heading into the summer are 1) How exactly Dorsey will work Kinkaid into the offense; 2) Who will win the MLB job; and 3) Can O’Reilly beat out Ryan Bates as starting RG. Taken in their totality, Beane, HC Sean McDermott and the rest of the team have to be pleased with the status of the roster in upgrading areas of weakness and protecting/taking full advantage of The Franchise.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think. And as always…
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