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Five Bills NFL Draft takeaways through Day 2: Ryan Bates on alert, the lean for Day 3


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McGovern, Moorse, O'Cyrus, Bates and Bottger solidify the IOL. Dawkins, Brown, Doyle and Quessenbarry are OK for OT but need an UDA to push for backup role.

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#Cup or Bust 2024 #Bowl or Bust 2023 - It is the way.

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The Bills have used higher picks on offensive players in the past, but after drafting Josh Allen in 2018, none of their other collective drafts since have committed to the offense the way they did in 2023.

Just one night after selecting Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid in the first round, the Bills used their second-round pick on Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence (No. 59), instantly upgrading the team’s offensive line depth and overall blocking situation for Allen. In the third round, the Bills finally went with a defensive player, selecting Tulane linebacker Dorian Williams at No. 91.

Now that the Bills are through the first two days, what stands out and what’s to come? Here are five takeaways from the top three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

O’Cyrus Torrence has arrived and Ryan Bates is officially on alert

Brandon Beane finally did it. For the first time since taking over as the general manager, he finally invested an early-round pick in an interior offensive lineman and it was for a falling value he just couldn’t ignore. Despite Torrence likely being a guard only with the Bills, the team is getting a potential plug-and-play starter. As cliché a term as that may be, it absolutely applies to Torrence, who started his last 34 games in college at right guard. And if Torrence is a potential plug-and-play starter in 2023, he has to go somewhere, and the only place for him to go is at right guard.

That’s bad news for Ryan Bates, who signed a four-year deal with the Bears last offseason only for the Bills to match and still has three years remaining on his contract. Bates was the starting right guard all last season, but now his hold on a starting job after this caliber of investment is flimsy at best. Bates had a tough start to the season but improved quite a bit by the second half of 2022. Even with the improvement, there were still some bad pass-blocking reps on film, and the Bills are looking to make the most conducive environment for passing success for Allen.

So the question remains, what happens to Bates? Well, the Bills aren’t likely to move on from him this season, even if he loses the job outright to Torrence. If they moved on, they would incur an additional cap penalty of $1.65 million for 2023 on top of his current cap charge of $4.875 million. It’s way more likely that they would just keep him as the top interior reserve player should he lose the job.

His hold, though, on a roster spot after the 2023 season could become tenuous. With a middle tier investment in Connor McGovern and a big draft investment in Torrence, it could spell the end for Bates following the season. The Bills would be able to save $3.125 million on the 2024 salary cap to cut him, which could be too good of savings to pass up. But it all depends on how Bates battles this summer against Torrence. If he staves off Torrence for the starting role, the team could see him as the type of depth they don’t want to part with even if Torrence takes the job in 2024.

Center Mitch Morse’s status after 2023 could be an additional consideration. He’s signed through the 2024 season and is their unquestioned starter, but Bates is probably their top reserve and a potential down-the-line replacement for Morse if Bates shows well enough in appearances. Regardless, the clock starts ticking for Bates as early as the offseason programs, and how he responds could be what determines his future in Buffalo.

Terrel Bernard is the clear Bills’ winner of the draft

When the Bills used their third-round selection on Williams, the initial thought was that Williams would step in and at least compete to replace Tremaine Edmunds at middle linebacker. But it was clear that the Bills had something else in mind for Williams as a rookie. Beane said the team would initially begin with Williams as an outside linebacker in their scheme, meaning he wouldn’t immediately compete with what the Bills have on their roster for 2023. Despite the linebacker pick, that vision for Williams as a rookie confirmed the theme that had been bubbling to the surface through the first three rounds. No player’s potential role benefitted more from the Bills 2023 draft class than second-year linebacker Terrel Bernard.

The Bills declined to add a linebacker in the first round and would have traded down if they couldn’t get Kincaid, so they passed on a linebacker significantly once. In the second round, they again passed on a linebacker even though Drew Sanders of Arkansas and Clemson’s Trenton Simpson remained on the board. Beane let slip that no one was even close to Torrence for that selection at No. 59, meaning linebacker never entered their mind with the guard on the board. And a late-third-round pick is a Day 2 investment, but one that’s likely to be treated the same way as the team treated Bernard in 2022.

At every opportunity leading up to the draft, the Bills have been quick to say they believe Bernard could be the middle linebacker in their scheme, pointing out that he played middle linebacker in college at Baylor. Coach Sean McDermott also said he thought Bernard, Tyrel Dodson and others earned the opportunity to compete for a starting job, and that’s where Edmunds’ job is initially headed as the team’s offseason workouts open up in May. Due to their draft investment in Bernard, he is likely to have the inside track on the job, but it’s not going to be a foregone conclusion. He’ll need to defeat both A.J. Klein and Dodson for the role, and if Williams impresses the Bills enough as an outside linebacker early on, perhaps he could factor in this summer. But with how things have gone, Bernard will have every opportunity to establish himself as the starter next to Matt Milano moving forward.

Was Kincaid worth the trade-up? An interesting thought exercise with new information

Shortly before the second night of the draft began, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated unleashed an interesting tidbit regarding the Bills’ plans in the first round. After the Kincaid pick, Beane revealed that if they hadn’t selected Kincaid they were going to move down, but left it at that without detail. Breer filled in some of those blanks, reporting that the Bills and Titans discussed a deal centered around No. 27. It ultimately fell apart when the Bills had an opportunity to move up for Kincaid. The Titans were trying to get to Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and ultimately landed him on Day 2, and that desperation for a quarterback could have yielded a pretty nice return for the Bills.

In that prospective deal, the Bills would have moved down to No. 41, which would have yielded them the Titans’ third-round pick (No. 72) and likely either a Day 3 selection this year, or a 2024 mid-round pick. Effectively for Kincaid, the Bills rather had him than a combination of four players — No. 41, No. 72, No. 130 (the pick they gave up to move up for Kincaid) and either a Day 3 pick this year or a mid-round pick in 2024. It will be fascinating to track Kincaid’s career versus what they could have had at all those positions relative to their needs and what would have been a more effective use to help the roster.

Day 2 DT targets were picked apart earlier than expected

The Bills’ third-round selection likely would have gone a lot differently had the defensive tackle prospects that fit them not flown off the board as quickly as they did. South Carolina’s Zacch Pickens, who would have been an outstanding fit in the Bills defense, went off the board with the first selection of the third round. Pickens was selected by the Bears, who also just spent a second-round pick on Florida defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr. 11 picks earlier. Dexter could have been a consideration at No. 59 had he still be on the board. Alabama’s Byron Young came off the board a bit earlier than expected, and then Wake Forest’s Kobie Turner also was picked just ahead of Buffalo at No. 89. Despite having a clear long-term need at defensive tackle, the Bills were frozen out from the defensive tackle market where the values met their pick.

What’s the lean for Day 3?

Beane has made it clear that he views the final day of the draft as the time to address their “needs,” and look for positions where they have a potential spot on the 53-man roster in 2023. The last thing they want to do is to draft a player at a position where they don’t have a spot, because in their view, it would be a waste of a pick. Their Day 3 possibilities comes down to six different positions that have a potential roster spot in 2023. Running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive tackle, defensive tackle and safety all have either a vacant roster spot, a player in the final projected roster spot that doesn’t have a firm hold on the job or some other circumstances the Bills are accounting for. Of that group, the best bets are likely defensive tackle to give them a long-term asset past 2023, offensive tackle to push David Quessenberry for the backup job, running back to fill out the room with four as they usually do, or wide receiver, which has only five players when they usually keep at least six on the final roster.

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A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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