Bills stayed disciplined in NFL Draft, thanks to terrific offseason leading up to it

General manager Brandon Beane was able to stick to his board because of depth throughout roster.
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Realistically, teams that finish 13-3 and win two playoff games with so much young talent don't tend to have as many openings the next year as most of their rivals do the next season.

That's where the Bills were before the start of free agency and the NFL's new league year. And because they were able to keep so many of their key players from departing, they began the draft on Thursday night with no gaping holes.

Yes, they were still seeking to improve their pass rush. Yes, they were looking to add depth in the secondary and perhaps a home-run hitter general manager Brandon Beane said they were lacking at running back.

No, there was no quota or draft strategy, other than sticking to the instincts that have carried them this far.

That the Bills came away with three offensive linemen and two defensive ends out of eight total picks had to do with the way things unfolded around them. Nothing else.

"There wasn't a conversation where we said, `hey we've got to get X number of linemen," Beane said. "We do believe in being, you know, stout up front on both sides of the ball. That's something that you know you're going to see here as long as [coach] Sean [McDermott] and I are running this thing. We're in sync on that.

"The game evolves, it changed. ... You know, there's more passing now than there was 10 years ago and obviously 20 years ago, but the game is still won and lost up front. And so we want to be strong there.

"Obviously there were some really good skill players that we had in good positions. But we either had some of these linemen [ranked] over them, or they went before we were able to get them. So we followed the board. As we went down, we started going for some need spots -- you know, corner, returner, safety. But again, even our last pick, [Texas Tech offensive lineman] Jack [Anderson] was the highest guy on our board, and there was nothing else sticking out that we said, `man, this guy's definitely going to make our roster.' "

Yet the Bills came away with an encouraging haul.

Being able to get Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau, who had 15.5 sacks in 14 career games before opting out of the 2020 season, at No. 30 was a tremendous break. Rousseau is 6-foot-7 with an enormous wingspan and still growing into his body.

So they have this player with more career sacks than games played whose best days they believe are ahead of him.

The Bills didn't get a home-run hitting running back. They didn't get any running back.

Not a problem. It's not like they can't win with that they have. Because, well, they just won 15 of 19 games last season. And that was before adding one of the fastest humans on earth, Matt Breida, in free agency. Who knows, maybe he hits a few homers.

So disciplined they stayed, which is how they wound up with Rousseau.

"There were some [running backs] that we thought were really good and would help us at the right spot," Beane said, "but it didn't work out until when we were on the clock for any guy that was better than the one we selected."

And so on down the line.

The Bills were more than pleased with what they were able to do given the position they were in at No. 30, with the goal obviously to drop two more places before long.

Yet they expect instant impacts from at least a few of their selections, like Rousseau and fellow defensive end Boogie Basham, their second-round pick.

"I'm not going to promise either one of them a starting job, but they're going to have an opportunity to start," Beane said. "And, yeah, I expect them to be part of the gameday rotation of our crew.

[Third-round pick] Spencer Brown, he'll come in and compete with the [tackles]. I'm not saying he's going to win a starting a job, but, you know, he's an injury away from being in the game, and that happens. We wanted to make sure that if something happened to [left tackle] Dion [Dawkins] or [right tackle] Daryl [Williams], that we have a guy that can step in and protect No. 17 and block for those running backs."

Beane believes sixth-round pick Marquez Stevenson, a raw but explosive wide receiver out of Houston, can make an instant impact on special teams and perhaps fill the giant void left by the departure of Pro Bowl returner Andre Roberts.

"He's still a young player as a receiver," Beane said. "Didn't run a variety of routes. But you get the ball in his hands and he's explosive."

Read more about each pick here.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro.