PART I: THE DRAFT BOARD
Note: This is a post that is based on Brian's front page story. I was going to post it as a reply, however, it got too long. What follows below is how I believe the Bills draft strategy is unfolding:
Well I attempted to do an "overall" list, however, I realized I couldn't do that until I ranked the players by position, so here are my positional rankings, the way I think the Bills have it (first round grades only):
The positional orders are based on need (i.e. WR is first on the list because that is the biggest need. CB follows that, and so on...)
- Devin Thomas
- Malcolm Kelly
- James Hardy
- Limas Sweed
- Leodis McKlevin
- Antoine Cason
- Brandon Flowers
- Mike Jenkins
- Aquib Talib
There are no tight ends with a 1st round grades (have Bennett rated highest however)
There are no centers with a first round grade
There are no fullbacks with a 1st round grades
- Chris Long
- Vernon Gholston
- Derrick Harvey
- Phillip Merling
- Sedrick Ellis
- Glenn Dorsey
1. Kenny Phillips
- Keith Rivers (devalue)
- Jerod Mayo (devalue)
- Jake Long
- Brandon Albert (devalue)
- Ryan Clady (devalue)
- Jeff Otah (devalue)
- Chris Williams (devalue)
- Gosder Cherilus (devalue)
1. Matt Ryan
- Darren McFadden
- Rashard Mendenhall
- Jonathan Stewart
- Sedrick Ellis - DT
- Glen Dorsey - DT
- Leodis McClevin - CB
- Derrick Harvey - DE
- Antoine Cason - CB
- Devin Thomas - WR
- Brandon Flowers - CB
- Brandon Albert - G/T
- Keith Rivers - LB
- Ryan Clady - OT
PART II: DRAFT STRATEGY
First, lets look at two of the more interesting comments that caught my ear from Modrak yesterday over at Buffalobills.com:
"We've done our studies and history has said that over time," said Modrak. "All of us have broken ranks on those things. Part of it is picking 11th, a point where there's enough guys coming off the board that it's not slam dunk wherever you're going. There is consideration what you can pick up next time around and not be isolated, and ask, 'What's better for us now and what's better for us in a little while?'"
And though the Bills draft board at this point isn't complete, they will have a definitive course of action with just a few candidates pegged for number 11.
"In reality, our pick is pretty well established in that we have the tight shot circle of the people we're looking at," said Modrak. "If they all came off the board then you're into a little bit more of discussion."
He also said that CB has good depth, but that's one of those positions where one of them comes off the board and then a run starts and all of a sudden the depth is gone.
So what do I infer from all of this? Well the draft board above I think exemplifies nicely. Although Ellis and Dorsey are top of the list, they both very easily could have gone in the "Long-Long-Gholston" category of too remote to consider. After that is McKlevin. He fits a position of need and would be the next highest player on the Bills board. We can consider him "Plan A." At this time, though, he probably has about a 35-40% chance of being their when the Bills pick, so having a solid Plan B is important.
Here's where I think it gets interesting. The next four guys on the board or Harvey, Cason, Thomas, and Flower at 4-7, respectfully. First off, I think these four guys, along with McKlevin make up the "tight" circle that Modrak is talking about. Secondly, if the Bills stayed true to their board, then they would take Harvey. Well we all know how I feel about DE in round 1, and it obviously ignores two important positions of need (CB and WR), which happened to be represented by players directly below Harvey on the board (Cason and Thomas). So the question becomes: Do the Bills draft by the board, or do they by-pass Harvey and go with Thomas or Cason?
But it's not just a simple "pick one or the other" question. The Bills also have to think about (1) the value of the pick, (2) the depth of the position, and somewhat related, (3) which players will be available in later rounds, (4) the teams drafting around you, and of course,(5)overall team needs/shape of current roster.
First, value. Well we already established that Harvey would be the best value according to the board. But Thomas and Cason are a close second and third. So, although Harvey has the edge, it's not a drastic separating factor.
Second, depth (in terms of the draft class). Another one that works in favor of Harvey. DE depth, compared to WR and CB depth is very weak. So if Buffalo really wants a blue-chip DE, they will have to Harvey, because one will not be available by the time the Bills pick again at #42. CB has good depth, however, like Modrak said, once the run on good DBs starts, the good depth quickly disappears. WR is not top-end heavy, but has decent depth. Of course, it is also the team's clear-cut, most pressing need, so even though the depth is there, getting the top guy on your board at that position becomes much more necessary.
Third, which players will be available in the later rounds. In relation to depth, Harvey wins out here because the DE's in the later rounds don't hold up to the CBs and WRs. CB's that could be available in round 2 or 3 include Flowers, Branch, King, etc. WR's that could be available in round 2 include Kelly, Hardy, Nelson, etc. Out of all of the positions, WR has the best chance of having the best players available in round 2. I think Flowers will be gone and up until a week ago, Kelly was the Bills favorite.
Fourth, taking into account the teams drafting around you and their needs. Lets look first at DE and Harvey. If Harvey is there when the Bills pick at 11 and they pass on him, he will likely go within the next 4 picks. Detroit at 15 has expressed interest in him and he'd likely not slide past them. So if the Bills want Harvey, they would have to take him at 11. As for Thomas and Cason, the issue is not so clear. Teams directly below Buffalo are not in desperate needs of WRs or CBs. You have to go to the late teens to start finding teams that could be interested. However, with CB, you also have to consider the teams in front of you. There is a good chance by the time that Bills pick at 11, two CBs will already be off the board. This of course, depletes the overall depth, and makes a team more apt to grab one of the top guys now, instead of waiting.
Lastly, you have to look at overall team needs and the shape of the roster (and salaries). This is where it hurts Harvey the most. Out of the three positions, DE has the most talent, depth, and financial investment. In addition, the hole at WR is so large, that it becomes even more of a need. The depth is better at CB, but it appears the front office feels that the top end talent can be better. If the Bills take Harvey in round 1, they would have to deal with the consequences of obtaining lesser talent to fill these holes.
So what does all this mean, overall? All three players offer something the others don't: Harvey-value, Cason - need/value, Thomas - major need. However, when taking everything into consideration (including the knowledge that the Bills were high on Kelly pre-workout), I think the Bills pass on WR in round 1 with the hopes of trading back up to grab Kelly or having him fall to them at #42. So that leaves "plan B" down between Harvey and Cason and all the factors leave me to think that this is going to be a hard decision for the organization and one that might tilt on some draft day action. The Bills will go into draft day with one above the other, that's for certain. However, I do think they will be flexible. For example: If they decide Harvey will be their "Plan B," they only do so with a caveat. Knowing the team needs, if another team like Detroit or Philly offer a good deal to trade down, the additional 2nd or 3rd round pick the Bills could get for trading down, may ultimately put Cason above Harvey in terms of value, even though he didn't start out there.
Here's my guess on how the Bills draft plan looks:
Plan A: McKlevin at 11 if he's there
Plan B: If McKlevin is gone, the Bills will fish around for trade partners. If they find one, they will trade down to the mid- to late teens and grab the best CB available, whether that be Cason or Flowers.
Plan C: If the Bills fail to find a trading partner, they will take Harvey at 11, if Harvey is gone at 11, they will take Cason.
Note: of course, they very well could have either Harvey rated clearly above Cason or vice versa. If that is the case, then Plan B just reverts to picking one or the other. Of course, if it's Cason, I think they will entertain trade offers, because taking him at 11. If it's Harvey, they will just take him at 11.