BBD Editor: Dan Hope
During the Buffalo Bills’ predraft luncheon, general manager Doug Whaley was asked about the concern of the team “mortgaging its future” to be aggressive in this year’s draft.
“Depends on what you mean by mortgaging the future,” Whaley replied. “We give up our whole draft? You’re mortgaging our future. If we give up a second round or a pick next year, again it’s a calculated decision. I would say it all depends on the deal.”
If you read between the lines on that answer, Whaley was clearly thinking about giving up future assets to make moves in this year’s draft.
The Bills made their first “calculated decision” in Round 1 of the draft when they gave up 2015 first- and fourth-round picks to move up from the No. 9 overall pick to the fourth spot and secure Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. They made another during Day 3 of the draft, when they traded a conditional 2015 fourth-round pick for Philadelphia Eagles running back Bryce Brown.
Some might call that mortgaging the future, but the Bills have a clear agenda: win now.
The Bills are set to only have five picks in next year’s draft, and might only have four had they not traded wide receiver Stevie Johnson to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2015 conditional fourth-round pick on Friday.
As a result of the multiple conditional trades, the pick going to the Eagles could end up being either the 49ers’ fourth-round pick in 2015, the Bills’ third-round pick in 2016 if Brown’s performance meets the conditions of the deal, or if he does not but Stevie Johnson meets conditions in the San Francisco, the Bills’ fourth-round pick in 2016, according to the Eagles’ Twitter account.
The Bills and Eagles also swapped seventh-round picks in this year’s draft, meaning the Bills move down from the No. 224 overall selection to the 237th pick.
As for the player they acquired, Brown gives the Bills the third running back they were evidently looking to acquire in one fashion or another. Rather than using one of their Day 3 picks to take a chance on an incoming rookie such as Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk, the Bills instead decided to acquire a player who has shown some proven big-play ability in the NFL already.
In two NFL seasons, Brown has rushed for 878 yards while averaging 4.6 yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns.
Brown never saw consistent playing time, in large part due to the consistent workload given by the Eagles to LeSean McCoy, one of the NFL’s premier running backs. Another factor that affected his playing time: fumbling the ball four times in his rookie season.
Nonetheless, it’s quite fair to call this a calculated risk. While the Bills are throwing caution to the wind as it pertains to next year’s draft, they’re picking up players who can help their team now. And Brown, a 2012 seventh-round pick who still has two years left on his rookie contract and is just 22 years old, has shown as much explosiveness and potential as any running back they could have selected on Day 3.
He might not see any more significant playing time with the Bills in 2014, as he will be third on a depth chart led by C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, but he gives the team a legitimate third playmaker at the position. He also gives the team an experienced option going forward—at least for the 2015 season—should the Bills lose Spiller and/or Jackson when both are able to become free agents next offseason.