When you scan the Buffalo Bills message board at buffalobills.com, there is no concensus as to what the team's greatest NEED is. Some argue that we need a possession receiver above all else or that Youboty just simply isn't going to cut it so we need a corner etc etc. What I am going to set out to do is use a purely logical path to arrive at our greatest need so that we can evaluate our own draft to see if our priorities were met (trying to play GM I suppose).
QB- I think it's fair to say that JP deserves the starting role (thank God there will be no more QB controversies). Craig Nall is a great luxury to have as a backup as he filled in nicely during clean-up for Brett Favre and performed well in preseason last year. But if we draft a QB it will most definitely be late and this is not a major need.
RB- A great deal of people see this as our greatest need, which is kind of puzzling. We have a player in A.Thomas that has a lot of starting experience, is durable, can block, catch, and runs extremely hard. Thomas is not a gamebreaker but he plays the RB position very well and does not make crucial mental errors. However, Shaud Williams or Fred Jackson are currently the backs ups and we have all seen Shaud Williams run, and the bottom line is he is a terrible NFL RB. So, we have a capable RB, but are in desparate need of solid depth. Starters are found on the first day of the draft, depth more so the 2nd. However, we are dealing with a very weak RB class, so that may artificially raise our "need" of a RB.
FB- We don't have a FB, and it doesn't sound like they want one, either.
WR- We certainly have enough WRs. However, the Bills failed to re-sign Andre Davis, which could mean they are ready to insert Sam Aiken into his role (not likely) or they will add one via the draft. We have our bona fide #1 in Lee Evans, and after that there are essentially 3 slot receivers in Price, Reed, and Parrish. Price had a hard time producing last season, and we are all familiar with Reed and Parrish's inability to produce on the outside. I personally feel that Price will improve as he spends more time gaining JP's confidence. But, WR as a "need" is minimal. We have 4 solid receivers and drafting a receiver early in the draft would purely be a luxury.
TE- This may be the biggest question mark on the team as far as evaluating what we have goes. We know Robert Royal can block, and he showed flashes when given opportunities as a receiver. But what about Kevin Everett and Brad Cieslak? Cieslak had a good showing but Everett failed to make a positive impact for the Bills, usually only hearing his number called for hankies. We don't "need" a TE in the draft, we have enough of them, but we certainly "need" them to answer the bell when their name is called. Imagine how many drives we could sustain if we had that option on 3rd and under 10. The OL upgrades should help that.
OL- I think it's fair to say that this is now the deepest position on the team. We have 4 guys who we know can start and play at a high level. The remaining spot will be fought for by a versatile and experienced verteran and two 2nd year players with loads of potential. The bottom line is we have 7 guys who are capable of starting for us (I'm taking the coaching staff's word on Butler) which means there is plenty of depth. OL is a minimal "need" in this draft.
DL- The DL rivals the OL for the deepest group on the team. Denney and Kelsay turned in over 100 tackles and 10+ sacks last season. That is phenomenal production. Schobel had the best season of his career. Tony Hargrove has a ton of upside and provided some serious intangibles last year. Kyle Williams was a pleasant surprise and the added weight should help him be a better NT. McCargo was coming on before the injury. Larry Triplett needs to be more consistent, and with the addition of Darwin Walker, all of our DTs will be more consistent as they will all be fresher in the rotation. Hopefully Tim Anderson will be cut.
LB- Angelo Crowell is our LB corps right now. Ellison earned a starting spot but is not exactly a known commodity. Haggan, Stamer, and DiGiorgio all provide solid depth. There's talk of Crowell being moved to the middle, which I oppose. His skills make him the best fit for the strong side where he can use his nastiness to attack the LOS. LB is the clearest area of "need" on the team as we only have 5 of them on the roster. Roy Manning is practice squad material. A high draft pick will need to be invested at the LB position if we are to field a competitive front 7. LB is a playmaking position, and we don't have very many playmakers there right now.
CB- The CB situation is similar to the TE situation. We have guys on the roster, we just need them to step up. Jabari Greer and Terrance McGee have shown that they can cover people, they just need to become more consistent. Kiwaukee Thomas played very well last year on the outside against the Jets when Nate had to take a few plays off. I'm confident he will be solid. We "need" Youboty to step up and play big next season, period. Whether it is in the nickel or on the outside. I'm fairly confident he will do that. So as far as drafting corners go, we "need" a 5th one for depth and competition, but it is not a priority.
S- Safety is a "need" as we only have 3 viable safeties right now. We will need to draft one, but depth at the safety position is not a high priority when we have a guy in Jim Leonhard who can play both safety positions. Depth at other positions becomes more important.
Based on this analysis, I would have to say our priority of need would be LB, RB(depth), LB(depth), CB(depth), WR(depth), S(depth). Most of our "needs" are for depth, so this obviously is not a team with as many holes as some would suggest. With this value system, we might be able to see just how Marvelous Dick Inc. prioritize during the draft (that is, if my assessment is accurate). Last year they felt safety was our biggest "need" as they drafted Whitner ahead of the 2 best DT prospects. So, it seems that the front office drafts strongly with team needs in mind (not just the best player available strategy).