ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Bills president Russ Brandon had only one regret when assessing the series of bold moves and big splashes Buffalo pulled off during the NFL draft.
Pausing briefly to gather his emotions after the final round was completed Saturday, Brandon wished Ralph Wilson, the team’s founder and owner, could have been around to enjoy it.
"I thought about him a lot as we led up to it. He would have loved the last three days," Brandon said, referring to the Hall of Fame owner who died in March. "He loved to wheel and deal."
The Bills did plenty of that over the past three days.
The trading began on Thursday, when Buffalo moved up five spots to select Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins with the No. 4 pick. And the Bills weren’t done dealing until Saturday, when they acquired running back Bryce Brown in a trade with Philadelphia, and then swapped draft picks in a deal with Tampa Bay.
Add in the deal on Friday that sent receiver Stevie Johnson to San Francisco, and the Bills completed five trades involving a combined seven picks and two players in Doug Whaley’s first draft since taking over as general manager.
Whaley wasn’t making any promises that every draft weekend in Buffalo would feature such drama. But he wasn’t shying away from the "win-now" approach he took in a bid to transform a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in 14 years — the NFL’s longest active drought.
"I can’t say it’s always going to be like this, but I will say, I will not be afraid to be aggressive and bold," Whaley said. "I anticipate doing everything in our power to make this team better, and make this team a playoff team."
Whaley particularly delivered on his pre-draft objective to spur the development of quarterback EJ Manuel by surrounding him with more talent entering his second season.
Buffalo used four of its seven picks on offensive players, including two of their final four picks on Saturday to select big-bodied lineman.
Baylor guard Cyril Richardson, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 343 pounds, was selected with the 153rd pick. And the Bills took a calculated risk on drafting Miami offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson with their final selection, 237th overall.
Henderson, who is listed at 6-7 and 331 pounds, raised attention at the NFL combine by acknowledging his college suspensions were related to marijuana use. Henderson started 26 of 43 games for the Hurricanes, and at one point was projected to having first-round potential.
"I’ve been putting it behind me," Henderson said. "I want to move on and become a professional and work hard and be a Buffalo Bill."
Whaley defended the selection by saying everyone deserves a second chance.
And yet, he acknowledged that one more chance is all Henderson will get.
The Bills rounded out Saturday by drafting Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell in the fourth round and Florida Atlantic linebacker Randell Johnson with their first of two seventh-round picks.
And then there was the addition of Brown, a running back Whaley said he had been interested in acquiring for the past 18 months.
The deal finally came together when the Bills agreed to give up a conditional draft pick — either a fourth-rounder next year or a third-round selection in 2016. The teams also swapped seventh-round picks this year, with Philadelphia moving up five spots to land the 224th selection.
The Bills regard Brown as someone who can add a dynamic dimension to an already solid group of running backs, rounded out by co-starters Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
Brown has 190 carries for 878 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons with the Eagles. He overcame fumbling issues during his rookie season to finish with 564 yards rushing and four touchdowns in 16 games, including four starts.
"Yeah, I was definitely surprised," Brown said. "But I think it’s a great opportunity for me to come in and be able to contribute any way that I can. I’m excited about the journey. And I can’t wait to get started."
Brandon is confident the Bills have the pieces in place to finally start contending for a playoff spot.
"Where we’ve been as an organization on the field is unacceptable to anyone that’s sitting up here," Brandon said. "It’s all about winning. There’s nothing else — absolutely nothing else — that matters."