Busy offseason makes up for Bills lacking 1st-round pick
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) After a busy offseason of making big splashes, the Buffalo Bills will be spectators during the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night.
That's all right with general manager Doug Whaley, who will have to wait until the second round to open the draft with the 50th pick on Friday.
''With what we did in free agency, we felt very comfortable with the pieces of the puzzle we have in place,'' Whaley said.
Backed by new owners Terry and Kim Pegula's aggressive and free-spending approach, Whaley was creative in addressing the Bills' various needs via trades and free agency.
Running back LeSean McCoy was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia. The Bills landed tight end Charles Clay by extending him an offer the Miami Dolphins declined to match. Whaley also kept Buffalo's formidable defensive front intact by re-signing Jerry Hughes.
And don't forget the Bills' most attention-grabbing addition of the offseason: Rex Ryan.
The former Jets coach took over in January after Doug Marrone abruptly stepped down following a 9-7 finish, which matched Buffalo's best in 10 years. The Bills still missed the playoffs to extend the NFL's longest active drought to 15 seasons.
The player acquisitions, which included receiver Percy Harvin, quarterback Matt Cassel and offensive lineman Richie Incognito, offset the bold gamble Whaley made during last year's draft. That's when he traded Buffalo's 2015 first-round pick - which has become No. 19 - to Cleveland to move up five spots and select receiver Sammy Watkins fourth overall.
Though Whaley insists it's his intention to take ''the best player available,'' the Bills still have pressing needs at offensive line, defensive back and quarterback.
Here's a number of things to look for regarding the Bills this weekend:
ADDING PICKS: Whaley essentially ruled out the likelihood of making a trade to move up in the draft. He is interested in trading down and adding to Buffalo's current collection of six picks.
''It's free to listen,'' Whaley said. ''We'll be by the phones if anybody wants to call. But we'll be excited just to see how the board falls.''
The Bills also lack a fourth-round pick, and have two in the sixth.
QB QUESTIONS: Whaley was blunt in assessing the status of Buffalo's starting quarterback position.
''We don't have a proven franchise quarterback,'' Whaley said. ''That's obvious.''
As it stands, Cassel, former starter EJ Manuel and newly acquired free agent Tyrod Taylor, are in the mix to compete for the No. 1 job. Cassel, a 10-year veteran, was acquired in a trade with Minnesota. And Manuel is attempting to rebound after losing the starting job a month into last season to Kyle Orton, who has since retired.
With four quarterbacks on the roster, including practice squad player Jeff Tuel, Whaley isn't ruling out adding a fifth at some point in the draft.
ON THE LINE: The Bills spent three of seven picks on offensive linemen last year. So far, only one has panned out after seventh-round selection Seantrel Henderson started all 16 games at right tackle.
''I still feel he can start at this level,'' Bills college scouting director Kelvin Fisher said, referring to Kouandjio. ''But it doesn't change what I think when I'm out looking at other linemen.''
WAITING GAME: Barring a trade, this will mark the fifth time the Bills won't pick in the first round. The last time was 2005, when Buffalo selected receiver Roscoe Parrish 55th, a year after trading the first pick to Dallas to select quarterback J.P. Losman in the first round.
Most notably, in 1988, the Bills traded three draft picks, including their 1988 and `89 first-round selections, to the Los Angeles Rams as part of a three-team deal to acquire linebacker Cornelius Bennett. Buffalo opened the 1988 draft by selecting future Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas in the second round.
DRAFT LOTTERY? The NHL and NBA have draft lotteries to determine the order of selection among non-playoff teams. Whaley isn't sure the NFL needs to adopt such a plan to prevent teams from bottoming out on purpose to land a No. 1 pick. ''I kind of like the way we're going right now,'' Whaley said. ''If it ain't broke, don't fix it.''
The NHL's Buffalo Sabres, also owned by the Pegulas, have lost the lottery twice after finishing last in each of the past two years.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL