Mortgage the future in the 2024 NFL draft? Brandon Beane shouldn't do it


Staff member

I hate to hearken back to the bad old days of The Drought, but I can’t resist as we enter the final stages of the run-up to the 2024 NFL draft.

The Buffalo Bills took a giant swing in 2014 by mortgaging the future to move up to select Sammy Watkins No. 4 overall in a draft that was loaded with wide receiver talent. It was widely questioned from the moment it happened, and we all know how it turned out.

Here we are in what we can call the third golden era of Bills football (after the AFL championships and the Super Bowl run). The Bills’ football department, led by General Manager Brandon Beane, knows what it’s doing. It pushes a lot of the right buttons.

Is it possible Beane & Co. are considering a giant swing by trying to move up to the top 10 of the draft to fill the team’s gaping wide receiver need? In a draft where the wide receiver talent is deep?

I am against mortgaging the future, meaning trading away the Bills’ 2025 first-round pick. If Beane needs to move up three, five or 10 spots to get someone like LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr. or Texas’ Adonai Mitchell, wonderful. That might cost a second-rounder this year, or next year’s second in some combination, but it’s not going to cost the 2025 No. 1.

If the Bills want to try to get the No. 3 WR in this year’s class – the University of Washington’s Rome Odunze – it will cost next year’s No. 1 and more. It also will be very hard to get a team to move from a top 10 position all the way down to No. 28. That’s rare.

Yet even ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. is enticed by the rumor mill – which churns every year at this time – that maybe Beane would roll the big dice.

“I think the Buffalo Bills are going to be a really interesting team because of the Stefon Diggs trade,” Kiper said on a conference call with reporters last week. “You have some guys they like there, led by Khalil Shakir. But do they move all the way up to the top 10 to get Rome Odunze if he slides down into the eighth spot? Do teams want to move out of there?”

Kiper said he was thinking about projecting a big move by the Bills up the draft board in his latest mock draft but couldn’t find a team he thought would move way down.

“Maybe it’s Tennessee at No. 8,” Kiper speculated. Wide receiver isn’t near the top of the Titans’ many needs.

Chicago has the No. 9 pick and needs more selections, but the Bears would be hard-pressed to pass on Odunze if he’s still on the board.

The last time a similar move was made was in 2011, when the Atlanta Falcons moved from No. 27 to No. 6 to take Julio Jones out of Alabama. But it was a very weak wide receiver class that year. And it cost Atlanta a No. 1, a No. 2 and a No. 4, plus a No. 1 and a No. 4 the next year.

“If you want to give up a lot to get that one player, it’s what Atlanta did with Julio Jones and it paid huge dividends,” Kiper said.

“Or you could move up just five, six, seven spots and get a receiver like an Adonai Mitchell from Texas if he dropped down to that 20, 21 spot,” Kiper said. “You could maybe move up a little bit to get Brian Thomas Jr. ... I think Jacksonville is a team at 17 that certainly could take a wide receiver. I gave them a corner. That’s where I thought about Brian Thomas Jr.

“Can they sit where they are and see a receiver get to 28?” Kiper asked. “Yeah. Will it be the guy they really want and the guy they have the highest grade on? That’s the debate.”

The great thing about Odunze is he checks every box. He’s not as spectacular as the top two wideouts, Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. and LSU’s Malik Nabers. But Odunze does it all. He gets open at all three levels of the defense, has great hands, runs good routes, can win vs. man or zone coverage.

Mitchell isn’t as good at run after catch or contested catching. But he’s darn good. Ditto for Thomas. Georgia’s Ladd McConkey isn’t a pure X-WR but he’s versatile, separates and has a very high floor.

There are good options – not as sure-fire as Odunze but good ones – if the Bills stay in the 20s of the first round and make a pick.

There isn’t a need to gamble away a prime pick. Would Bill Belichick make this kind of move? No. Has Kansas City felt the need to gamble in the wake of jettisoning the great Tyreek Hill? No. The Chiefs have kept hitting their draft picks.

The Bills have gotten younger. They need to continue to fill the pipeline with young talent, and that means having enough prime draft picks to do it.

“I’ve got to feel the Buffalo Bills are aggressive and move up,” Kiper said.

Beane made a clear effort to pooh-pooh the idea if a blockbuster trade into the top 10 during his pre-draft news conference Thursday.

“I don’t know if teams in the top 10 are calling us, I wouldn’t expect that,” he said.

Asked point-blank if he would trade the 2025 No. 1, Beane said:

“There were times in Carolina in some of my younger years where we did trade it, and I felt more times we were disappointed later that we did it. Like, that player we got didn’t put us all the way at the top. And then you get to the next year’s draft, and you’re going, ... ‘Look who we just could have had.’”

Sounds good to me. Of course, if it was even the slightest thought in Beane’s mind, he wouldn’t admit it seven days before the draft.

I’m a conservative person, not a risk taker. This is where I’m coming from.

Stay relatively put and pick the best player available. Josh Allen will make it work. The Bills’ offense is going to be good. You don’t need to take a wild gamble when Allen is your QB.