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Pollock: The Buffalo Bills need a wide receiver, but will they take one in Round 1?

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By CHUCK POLLOCK, Sun Senior Sports Columnist

Last Thursday afternoon, Bills’ general manager Brandon Beane held his seventh annual pre-draft sit-down meeting with the media.

However, and though this is my 52nd draft covering Buffalo, I remain cynically skeptical about what I’m going to hear.

That feeling was crystalized under former president/GM Tom Donahoe over 20 years ago.

In one of his press conferences, he warned, “When it comes to the draft, everybody lies.” Then, to laughter, after a pregnant pause, Donahoe added, “… except us.”

The point is, don’t believe anybody.

But one point Beane made last week seems undeniably true.

A questioner asked if there were 28 — where the Bills pick Thursday night—- first-round grades. He said, “No, but more than last year.”

The accepted standard is that only 18 to 24 players have first-round scores of the 32 picks in any given season.

Buffalo has 10 draft selections this year, but after the opening round, they have only one other choice (No. 60 overall in the second round) and no other picks until the others are selected from Round 4 on.

When Rounds 2 and 3’s picks are made, with only a second rounder, Friday will be a long wait for the Bills’ draft staff until a busy Saturday with the final six selections.

THE QUESTION, of course, is whether Beane will, once again, make a first-round trade, especially if one of the players upon which Buffalo has  such a grade doesn’t fall to the 28th pick/

In his first six years with the Bills, he’s made 34 deals involving draft choices, 13 during the haughtily-named NFL Player Selection Meeting. Beane has traded up four times in the opening round to get quarterback Josh Allen, his career-making decision, and middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, both in 2018, cornerback Kaiir Elam in ‘22 and tight end Dalton Kincaid last year. Only Elam has been a disappointment.

So if you’re betting Buffalo makes a first-round deal Thursday night, your odds are good.

But Beane admits there are risks trading in the first-round.

“THERE WERE times in Carolina in some of my younger years (as assistant GM) where we did trade up and I felt we were disappointed that we did it,” he admitted. “That player we got didn’t put us over the top. Then we’d get to the next year’s draft and you’re going ‘We would have been picking 17th and look who we could have had.”

Beane added, “It’s easy today to say ‘put it on the credit card’ and don’t worry about next year’s (No.) one … but hopefully I’m still sitting here, and I know how tough it is to do that. 

“We did it for Stefon Diggs when we traded for him … if there’s something that makes too much sense, heck yeah.”

THE QUESTION is, what are the Bills draft priorities early on.

With Diggs traded (to Houston) and Gabe Davis lost in free agency (Jacksonville), Buffalo has no No. 1 wide receiver and an iffy No. 2 in free agent signee Curtis Samuel.

And with between six and eight wideouts predicted to go in the first round, the Bills could have a quick fix with the right choice.

But Beane pointed out, “If there’s a (No. 1 wide receiver) that pops up in free agency or the draft and it makes sense for us … we’ll do it. But I don’t think not having a ‘one’ doesn’t mean we can’t have success on offense or as a team.

“There’s a lot of different-style receivers from size, speed, quicks … some have great hands, some are not great RAC (run-after-catch), some have less size but if you get the ball in their hands they kind of turn into a running back.”

He continued, “People don’t always know the full details … what are their mentals, what are their smarts, what are their habits? Those (are) big. Then there’s the medical (health-wise) … some are are buyer-beware.

“What you need are guys, in this offense, that are versatile, selfless and can make the plays their skill-set allows them to make. If it’s a tall guy, Josh is going to throw a lot of 50-50 balls, he’s gotta come down with it. If it’s a guy we want to get the ball in his hands and we need some RAC, he’s going to do that. That’s what we’re looking for.”

BUT IS wide receiver going to be Buffalo’s first-round pick?

Beane alluded to the Bills needs on the defensive line with leading sacker Leonard Floyd gone to San Francisco and Von Miller, a virtual non-contributor last year while rehabbing from knee surgery, approaching his 35th birthday and with a domestic violence charge hanging over his head, edge rusher is a concern.

Worse, that unit embarrassed itself in last January’s playoff loss to Kansas City. The seven defensive linemen who saw action for Buffalo collectively totaled only seven tackles and no sacks.

Draft “experts” see four edge rushers (ends) and two tackles possibly going in the opening round.

So who do the Bills covet, a wideout, a defensive lineman even a cornerback?

Beane gave no hint but maintained, “If it’s a guy I like and I’m confident, I want to go to sleep Thursday night knowing ‘I got him.’”

(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at cpollock@wnynet.net.)

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