Last year's group of WR's was a solid group, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Going into the season without Eric Moulds, there were plenty of question marks...Could Lee Evans step into a #1 role? Would Peerless Price return to relevancy? Could Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish provide enough plays out of the slot? Would Martin Nance be the next big thing?
Well, to start things off, Nance failed to live up to many Bills fans' hype during the preseason and was cut right before the season started. Guess, the fans shouldn't be running the team, huh?
On the other hand, Lee Evans probably exceeded anybody's expectations of him last year. After struggling the first couple of games to get open and build a rapport with JP Losman, it looked as if Lee was overmatched. He began to pick it up with 32 catches for 375 yards over the next four games before coming back to earth against New England. From then on, Evans was one of the most productive and exciting WR's of 2006 highlighted by his 265 yard performance against the Texans and his undressing of Samari Rolle in Baltimore. Evans has arrived and will continue to improve, especially with a more confident and (hopefully) better protected Losman. My one main gripe with Evans has been his boom or bust mentality. He's just as likely to go for a 2 catch game as he is to go for well over 100+ yards. In order for him to complete his ascent to the top of the NFL WR platform he needs to add consistency. I'd also like to see him start turning routine plays into big ones. He has a knack for the deep ball, but he has yet to show he can turn a 5 yard slant into a 50 yard TD. I think we see a little of that this year.
Peerless Price came back and provided some exciting plays (the TD for Minnesota, the game winner against Houston), but those were few and far between. He wasn't really a factor downfield, which surprised me as that was his speciality in his previous time here. He seems to be nothing more than a possession receiver, but I think he'll have a chance to make more plays this year.
Josh Reed was resigned much to the chagrin of Bills fans every year. I've always been a fan of his and feel he's be unfairly disrespected here in Buffalo. He is not a #1 or #2 WR, which he was forced into early in his career. Instead, he excels in the slot and can take a quick out and turn it into a solid 15-20 yard gain. His strengths are with the ball in the middle of the field and he breaks tackles as well as any WR in the league. He was an excellent 3rd down player for us last year.
Roscoe Parrish had his moments as well, but was quiet for much of the year. He had a couple of big receptions (vs the Jets and Lions) and had that beautiful punt return against the Jags, but really provided little else. His sideline tightrope catch against the Jags on the game winning drive showed his excellent ability and athleticism, but overall, I feel he was somewhat of a disappointment last year.
Andre Davis and Sam Aiken were nothing more than special teamers last year, but both, especially Davis, were important members of the Bills late season improvements.
We bring back our top 4 WR's and are not necessarily in need of any more players at the position. Evans is a borderline superstar and we have good role players in Price, Reed and Parrish. However, we lack size at the position and may need to look to the Draft to fill that.
We have recently just lost Davis, so Sam Aiken will again need to be an important member of the special teams. We may need to find another "gunner", but that does not necessarily have to be a WR.
With free agency all but over, at least for impact players, we will need to add a player via the draft if we want another contributor at WR. The position does not NEED another player, but with the lack of size at WR, it is probably in the best interest of this year's offense and beyond to bring in a draftee with good upside.
Luckily, this draft is deep with big receiving talent. Of course, the best WR prospect in years, Calvin Johnson, will be long by #12, but there will be plenty of options to find a potential superstar later on in the Draft.
There are a number of first round caliber WR's in this draft: Johnson, Robert Meachem, Ted Ginn Jr, Dwayne Jarrett, Dwayne Bowe and potentially Sidney Rice. All of them, besides Ginn, are bigger WR's that would be nice fits for us, but there are much greater needs than a WR in the first round.
Beyond the first, I love the talent that will be available. But also like the first round, I don't think our greater needs will allow us to take a WR in the 2nd round. But after that I could see the Bills taking a WR at any point.
Early in the third round we may want to look at a guy like Jason Hill from Washington St, a guy who ran the second faster WR 40 at the combine. Craig "Buster" Davis is another bigger WR with good speed who should be available early in the 3rd and would help give us better size at the position. Later in the 3rd we could look at Paul Williams from Fresno State, Aundrae Allison from East Carolina, or Courtney Taylor of Auburn. All have good size and would be good value at that point in the Draft. But my personal preference would be to take a WR in the 4th round. Assuming all previous players mentioned are gone by our 4th round selection we could look to smaller school WR's Laurent Robinson of Illinois State or Mike Walker of Central Florida. Both bring good size and excellent speed and would not be forced to contribute until they are ready.
If we decide to wait until later in day 2, there are a number of intriguing prospects that could develop into good NFL WR's down the line. Guys I'll have my eye on at that point in the draft include Brandon Myles (West Virginia), Joel Filani (Texas Tech), Legedu Naanee (Boise St), Jordan Kent (Oregon) and Matt Trannon (Michigan St).
What will happen:
I do not see a WR being selected in the first two rounds, but I do believe we'll take a player in the 3rd or 4th round. I would be happy with any of the players I mentioned in the prior section and hope the Bills would jump all over Hill if he slipped to the 3rd, but I believe our first day selections will be LB, RB, CB, and LB in a similar order. Therefore, I believe we'll lead off day 2 with a WR selection.
With that, I think Mike Walker of UCF would be our best selection in the 4th round. He would add size, speed and immense potential to our WR group.