ORCHARD PARK, NY – With three draft picks under his belt, Sean McDermott is a happy man. That’s because he knows the Bills got “their guys,” through the first three rounds of the NFL Draft, in CB Tre’Davious White, WR Zay Jones and OL Dion Dawkins. What’s interesting though, is that Buffalo gave very little indication those were “their guys” before McDermott stood at the podium Friday night, admitted as much.
Generally, you can get a pretty good vibe on what players a team is in interested in based on who they host for pre-draft visits or hold private workouts with. Take last year for example, four of the Bills draftees participated in a pre-draft visit, including Reggie Ragland, Adolphus Washington, Cardale Jones and Kolby Listenbee. The year before that, second round pick John Miller and running back Karlos Williams made visits to One Bills Dr. In 2014 there was Sammy Watkins, Preston Brown Cyrus Kouandjio and Ross Cockrell. In 2013, EJ Manuel, Jeff Tuel, Jonathan Meeks and Da’Rick Rogers…you get the idea. Essentially, Buffalo’s pre-draft visit list has often served as a treasure map for who they may have their eye on come draft weekend.
But McDermott – who since the day he was hired back in January has been instituting this grandiose culture change – went strategically against the status quo. Consider the responses of each of the Bills first three picks, when asked how much contact they had with the team prior to the draft….
“I knew that they needed a corner but I didn’t know they were going to pick me,” White said at his introductory press conference. “I didn’t know they had that much interest in me at all.”
“Not a whole lot,” was Jones’ answer. “I didn’t have any visit or workouts but I am assuming it’s because Coach (Phil) McGeoghan was my coach at ECU”
And for Dawkins, “Short. Nothing at all – very short.”
It’s not a coincidence that none of those guys participated in a pre-draft visit or private workout for the Bills, or that they heard next to nothing from the franchise leading up to draft day. For Buffalo, their affinity for certain players came in the form of silence. And while their public interest in names such as Cam Robinson, Marlon Humphrey, Garett Bowles, Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes was probably sincere on some level, it also served as a form of deception to other teams.
McDermott didn’t tip his hand, and by doing such, the Bills were ultimately able to land three players they privately coveted in White, Jones and Dawkins, even trading up to ensure they got the latter two.
“If you were to tell me after day two we would be sitting here with Tre White and Zay Jones and Dion Dawkins, I’d feel pretty good about it,” McDermott said. “So I feel good about it from that standpoint. These guys are going to come in and compete. They’re going to come in and compete and join our family and so I look forward to that.”
If it is in fact true that McDermott is the puppeteer behind Buffalo’s personnel decisions, then he’s already proving more than capable of manipulating the circumstances in his favor to get the players that he wants.
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