By taking care of critical roster business in the opening month of free agency, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane has better positioned the team to concentrate only on the best available players with each of its seven picks in the NFL Draft, according to renowned football analyst and former pro and college coach Jim Mora Jr.
Mora, speaking exclusively to SI.com this week, believes the team is in an enviable position a]fter re-signing key starters like offensive linemen Daryl Williams and Jon Feliciano, linebacker Matt Milano and cornerback Levi Wallace and adding offensive line depth in Forrest Lamp, Jamil Douglas and Bobby Hart, linebacking depth in Tyrell Adams and Marquel Lee as well as running back Matt Breida, tight end Jacob Hollister, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Trubisky, who has extensive starting experience, including a pair of playoff games, and a lifetime winning percentage, was obtained for the bargain-basement price of $2.5 million.
"I think it gives them great flexibility," Mora said. "Their strategy was correct. They're a really good football team, they're a young football team building around one of the top quarterbacks [Josh Allen] in the NFL, and going in and re-signing your own players, guys who understand your environment, have bought into your culture, understand where they fit in the scheme, can improve [the team] not only because of physical ability but because understanding the scheme, helps you to get better.
"And then you supplement with some guys that fill some immediate needs and then that gives you flexibility in the draft you know there's always that debate is it best player belt available or is it position of me. And now Buffalo sits in a position where they don't have a great indicator of what's going to be available when they pick ... so I commend them for what they've done. They realized they're on the right track, they realized they had to fill a couple holes and they did a tremendous job, and now they're set up to have a really good draft."
As far as that draft goes, getting an impact pass rusher as late as the Bills pick (No. 30 in the first round), could be tricky, but not impossible, according to Mora.
One player he recommends to keep an eye on is Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips, who has been linked to the Bills in several mock drafts because of medical and character concerns that could make him tumble down the draft board on the first day.
Phillips transferred from UCLA to Miami, then quit Miami's team before its bowl game this past season. He's suffered at least three concussions and at one point decided to quit football after the second one, before changing his mind.
"I think Jaelan Phillips a top top guy," Mora said, "but I think there are people out there that have some character concerns on him. I recruited him at UCLA and coached him his first year and I've stayed close to him and I can promise you there's zero, zero, zero character concerns on this kid. He's a home run draft pick. So if he's sitting there at 30, I'd expect the bills to jump on him.
"You know, one thing we know about [Bills coach] Sean [McDermott] is that Sean is one heck of a defensive coach and he's going to recognize traits that match what he needs to fit a guy into his system and for that guy to have success."