Everything general manager Brandon Beane and the Buffalo Bills have done this offseason seems to have them pointed toward one position at the top of next month’s NFL Draft: Cornerback.
Obviously they haven’t shut down their search for veteran help. But after a week of furious wheeling and dealing, that’s the position with the most questions following the loss of starter Levi Wallace to free agency and the uncertain status of Tre’Davious White’s surgically repaired knee following a ruptured ACL on Thanksgiving.
Beane has been able to replace the loss of other starters and key rotational players and in many cases arguably improved their overall position groups in the process.
The Bills feel that they’ve upgraded both lines and are deeper at tight end and running back. They believe they’re just as potent now at wide receiver as they were a year ago and have the kind of veteran presence in the quarterback room that will continue to help Josh Allen’s development.
What they can’t possibly have a strong sense of is who their starters at both outside corner spots will be in their season opener.
Yes, they love the job Dane Jackson did as a starter after White went down last season. No, they’re certainly not ready to hand him the CB2 job.
Furthermore, they don’t even know if White will be ready to jump back into his CB1 role by the start of the season.
Last year, the Bills used their first two picks in the draft on defensive ends. One of them, Greg Rousseau, became an instant starter.
It would come as no surprise if they repeated that pattern at cornerback this year, because this year’s draft is believed to be particularly fertile in that area, with potential value picks galore in every round.
So let the countdown begin …
At least two cornerbacks, LSU’s Derek Stingley and Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner, are expected to be off the board by the time the Bills first pick at No. 25. But keep an eye on Stingley, who could be prone to a draft-day slide down the board.
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Injuries limited him to seven games in 2020 and just the first three games of last season before he shut it down, finishing his career at just 25 games. Stingley did not work out at the NFL Scouting Combine and did poorly in his interview, according to WalterFootball.com.
Regardless, plenty of players capable of making instant impacts are expected to be available at No. 25.
If Washington’s Trent McDuffie is not there, Clemson’s Andrew Booth and / or Auburn’s Roger McCreary or Michigan’s Daxton Hill will be, though Hill projects more as a slot corner or safety at the next level.
There’s also the rangy Kaiir Elam of Florida, who at 6-2 has long arms to play the kind of press coverage that should have been dialed up (with deep help as well) in the final 13 seconds of regulation at Kansas City. But we digress.
We’ll have more on the cornerbacks and other positions over the next couple weeks, including our annual Bills Mock Draft.
For now, the point is that the Bills should have a smorgasbord of appetizing options at cornerback without even having to move up in the first round. And there probably will be enough for them to move down and still get an impact corner.
No team wants to be in the position to draft for immediate need, but the wealth of talent at this position should be able to keep the Bills for reaching for someone who doesn’t deserve to have their name called so early in the process.
Suffice to say, they’re going to get younger and possibly stronger at cornerback very soon.
Everything they’ve done since the start of the new league year points to that.
Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.