The NFL Draft is a crapshoot even in the best of times, which these are not for the NFL.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, this year's Scouting Combine was canceled following a season in which many top draft prospects opted out. This has forced teams to turn on the tape from 2019 and earlier, do as much research as they can about any medical or character issues and hope for the best.
Against this backdrop, we present the 2021 Bills draft guide to a prime-time event spread over three days that begins Thursday evening in Cleveland and runs through Saturday for a total of seven rounds — all televised by three networks.
♦ Thursday: Round 1 (8 p.m.); 10 minutes allowed between picks
♦ Friday: Rounds 2-3 (7 p.m.); 7 minutes between picks in Round 2, 5 minutes for Round 3
♦ Saturday: Rounds 4-7 (12 p.m.): 5 minutes between picks in Rounds 4-6, 4 minutes for Round 7
♦ TV: NFL Network, ESPN, ABC
♦ Live stream: NFL mobile app, ESPN app
Round 1: No. 30 overall
Round 2: No. 61 overall
Round 3: No. 93 overall
Round 5: No. 161 (From Las Vegas)
Round 5: No. 174 overall
Round 6: No. 213 overall
Round 7: No. 236 overall (from Carolina)
Top Bills needs
Defensive line, tight end, cornerback, running back
Who's hot at No. 30
According to mock drafts, here are the names being mentioned most as Bills' first-round picks: Clemson RB Travis Etienne (Sports Illustrated Fan Nation), Alabama RB Najee Harris (Alex Mansanarez of The Draft Network), Georgia DE Azeez Ojulari (Underdog Sports, Trevor Sikkema of The Draft Network), Miami DE Jaelan Phillips (Ryan Fowler of The Draft Network), Florida State CB Asante Samuel Jr. (CBS Sports), Penn State DE Jayson Oweh (The Athletic).
GM Brandon Beane says ...
On trading down: "If our first round's completely wiped out of players, and maybe the top of the two is wiped out also, then you're really trying to trade back to maximize your value. Doesn't mean you'll be able to do it, but that's when you would consider doing that. The nice thing about the first-round pick is you have that fifth-year option. It's that extra year to protect you."
On Rounds 2 and 3: "Those are still premium picks. It's probably a more exciting day than Day 1 in a lot of respects. You're still hoping to get two players. Maybe they're starters, maybe they're not, but you're hoping they're vital contributors, if not immediately, then through their career depending on who they're backing up and what position it is. So it's very important for us to hit on those. We try not to take crazy risks in those rounds."
Bills draft nuggets
♦ Billy Shaw, selected by the Bills in the second round of the 1961 AFL Draft, is the only player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who never played in the NFL. His entire nine-year career was spent with the Bills, before the AFL-NFL merger became complete at the end of the 1969 season, ironically Shaw’s last and O.J. Simpson's first.
♦ In 1969, the Bills drafted James Harris in the eighth round, then made him the first African American to start at quarterback on opening day in pro football history
♦ The only other time the Bills picked No. 30 in any draft was in 1970, when they selected quarterback Dennis Shaw out of USC. Shaw went 8-27-2 in 37 career starts, including 1-11 in 1971, when he led the league with 26 interceptions.