General manager Doug Whaley was honest when he sat down, flanked by three of his staff members, for the Buffalo Bills' annual pre-draft luncheon with reporters Friday.
"I would say it's finally one time where we could use you guys to our advantage," Whaley said, tongue-in-cheek. "There's things that you can put out there to see if someone bites. Some things that you put out there and it's true. You have to let people read between the lines. You don't want to show your hand, and I'm sure everybody else is doing the same thing."
With two weeks to go until the draft, Whaley has little reason to reveal information about the team's plans. Given that disclaimer, here are a few highlights from the 50-minute session Whaley held with reporters:
Chances of moving up in draft: On WGR 550 earlier Friday, Whaley said that defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is a player who "if I'm going to miss, I'm going to miss on a guy like [him]." The Bills would undoubtedly have to trade up to take Clowney, so Whaley's comments fueled speculation that they could do so. Whaley didn't douse those flames at the luncheon. "We're going to keep every option open. To tell you the truth, why would I back myself into a corner and say 'No, we're going to stay here. Or we're going to move down, or we're going to move up?' You always have to keep your options open because you never know what's going to come across your desk, on the phone. That's one of the early lessons I learned: don't say 'no' until you hear what's being offered." Whaley was asked if the team would "mortgage its future" by trading up. "If we give up our whole draft, you're mortgaging your future. If we give up a second-round or a pick next year, again it's a calculated decision. It all depends on the deal," Whaley said.
Prospect of drafting a quarterback: Whaley said at the scouting combine in February that the Bills could go any position in the first round -- except quarterback. He blurred that statement Friday. "Let me say this: I've been vocal about it. Will it happen? I will always say to you guys, 'Never say never.' We don't plan on it. But there are a lot of things that could go down, and we may be staring at a guy and he's the best person for us and the Buffalo Bills and it may be a quarterback and it may not be."
Changing view of right tackle: Traditionally, left tackle has been viewed as a more important position than right tackle, given that the left tackle protects the quarterback's blind side and often blocks the defense's best pass-rusher. Whaley sees that perception changing. "This is a copycat league. The team that won the Super Bowl were the Seattle Seahawks. They have a 'NASCAR' package," Whaley said. "And that's a package where they have a lot of speed on the defensive line coming at you in the pass rush. You need a right tackle nowadays as athletic as your left tackle. That's why we feel that these guys are interchangeable. We're excited about the depth at the position." As a follow-up, Whaley was asked if he would value any right tackle highly enough to select at ninth overall. "If he can play every play and we forget about him for 10 years, why wouldn't we? We'd have two bookend tackles," he said.
Adding size to receiving group: There has been an ongoing debate this spring about whether the Bills should add offensive line help or a play-making receiver or tight end with their first-round pick. On Friday, Whaley particularly hinted at the need to add the latter. "We're very excited with the guys we have on our roster, but what we're looking -- sometimes you have to bring in a dimension that you don't have, and a size receiver is a dimension we don't have. And everybody's looking for that. It would help EJ [Manuel], just because he can find that guy anywhere, and then also EJ can basically throw up the ball, and you have a 6-foot-5 guy with 30-plus inch arms and a 30-plus [inch] vertical. That's a big target that you can have down the field. So that's an exciting thing."
Evolution of the tight end: Whaley also pointed out a trend in the NFL towards more athletic tight ends. "It's trending towards those basketball, athletic guys that can position their bodies and go up and get balls, take balls away from lesser defenders. There's a lesser emphasis on blocking at the tight end position nowadays," Whaley said. "That's the way it's going and you have to get with the times." Asked if North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, considered the best at his position in this class, could be a Jimmy Graham-caliber player, player personnel director Jim Monos responded, "Does he have the potential to be? Yes."