The Buffalo Bills beat the system in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Bills already had a good roster heading into the offseason, but they needed to make some upgrades to keep progressing forward, just like every other team in the league.
One year after completing a trade for Antonio Brown (remember that one?) the Bills finalized a trade for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, a young but experienced receiver who can be the WR1 for quarterback Josh Allen.
Trading away a first-round pick for Diggs, the Bills appeared to have some of the most depleted draft capital in the league considering they had also made the playoffs in 2019 after an impressive 10-6 season.
With no first-round selection and only two picks in the first three rounds overall, the Bills went into the 2020 NFL Draft undoubtedly proud of the fact that they had acquired one of the best receivers in the game already, but even they couldn’t have expected how the board would fall for them.
- DE AJ Epenesa, Iowa
- RB Zack Moss, Utah
- WR Gabriel Davis, UCF
- QB Jake Fromm, Georgia
- K Tyler Bass, Georgia Southern
- WR Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State
- CB Dane Jackson, Pittsburgh
If you just look at that draft class without knowing which rounds the Bills had picks in, you might think they still had a first-round selection.
Almost every mock draft scenario between November and April had Iowa defensive end AJ Epeneas as a first-round player, and rightfully so.
Epenesa was dominant at times for the Hawkeyes despite not having elite athleticism or athletic traits in general.
What Epenesa showed at Iowa was relentless effort, power, advanced technique, and the ability to take over and finish games. He showed that in his final game against USC, to be certain.
The selection of AJ Epenesa in round two of the 2020 NFL Draft after trading away a first-rounder for Stefon Diggs is an example of the Buffalo Bills beating the system. They got a cheat code. They played the game perfectly.
Not only did they still have seven selections in this draft after the big trade for Diggs, but they also managed to get a player most everyone had in their top 32 overall and certainly someone who is capable of (and likely will) starting in 2020.
Even after Epenesa, there was nice value throughout the Bills’ draft, especially on day three. They started off their day three by taking advantage of the depth at wide receiver in this class with Gabriel Davis out of UCF, a guy who can make plays deep down the field.
The Bills also used a fifth-round pick on Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, another player whose college resume is much more impressive than his physical and athletic traits.
Fromm helped lead Georgia into the College Football Playoff as a true freshman, and could be a starting-caliber player for this team down the line. Certainly if the Bills need someone to come in and hold down the fort in case Josh Allen is hurt, Fromm will be able to do that.
Some felt like Fromm could go on day two, specifically to a team like the New England Patriots, but getting him in the fifth round is a tremendous value for Buffalo, even though they don’t need a starting quarterback right now.
In round six, the selection of Oregon State wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins is one of the top value picks in the entire draft.
Hodgins has phenomenal hands and is a huge red zone weapon at 6-foot-4. He has a long, lean body, but he knows how to get himself open even with a lanky frame and as you can see — nine of his 13 touchdowns this past season came on a wildly efficient bit of red zone work.
The Bills crushed it again this offseason with some of their acquisitions in free agency, through the Stefon Diggs trade, and certainly with their impressive 2020 NFL Draft haul.