We've seen quite a few FanPosts and stories recently that have, in some way, related to the central topic of accurate assessments of players in the draft by the Buffalo Bills organization. We've hashed and rehashed the DE vs C at #11 debate. Some have suggested that this guy or that guy are 'can't miss' prospects. That raises the question of how this incarnation of the Bills' front office has done with recognizing future quality players. The Pro Bowlers Buffalo could have had are indicated with an asterisk.
So as not to clutter the front page, take the jump and check out the 2006 draft, now that those players have had the requisite 3 years to prove themselves...
#8 Whitner--on the board: DT Ngata, DT Bunkley, DB Cromartie*, DE Hali, G Joseph* (S Allen was taken at #16 but hasn't been a world beater, neither have other safeties taken in later rounds)
#26 McCargo--on the board: C Mangold*, DE Kiwanuka, LB Ryans*, OT McNeil'* (DT Wroten was taken early in the 3rd, kind of suggesting that no team thought any DTs were worth taking after McCargo)
#70 Youboty--on the board: G Jean-Gilles (CB Pittman only CB taken before Buffalo picked in the 4th)
#105 Simpson--on the board: WR Marshall*, G Colon (S Salley only other S taken before 5th round)
#134 Williams--on the board: no one in particular
#143 Butler--on the board: no one in particular
#178 Ellison--on the board: DB Bethea*, DB Finnegan*
#216 Pennington--on the board: no one in particular
#248 Merz--on the board: WR Colston
None of the safeties taken after Whitner have really covered themselves with glory we can, at this point, say that Buffalo probably got the best safety on the boad....but has he really been better than, say, Dawan Landry of the Ravens? I'd suggest not. After 3 full years I'm quite comfortable with saying the Bills really reached for a safety and missed on the #8 pick in the draft.
This pick doesn't speak well of Buffalo's talent evaluation. The McCargo pick was an obvious flop. Ironically, the only DT taken after McCargo to really make any sort of impact at all was.....drum roll....Kyle Williams.
Youboty finally had the light go on and started to contribute before his season was cut short by injury. It took him quite a while to get going, something that downgrades this pick.
Simpson didn't have a bad first year and then missed most of the 2nd. He rarely saw the field in his third, bringing this pick into question.
Williams was the best DT left on the board, by far. He beat out McCargo in spite of the fact that McCargo had been drafted 4 rounds ahead of him. He's no world beater but he's a steady rotational guy who gets more respect from opposing offensive linemen than many fans.
I've said for quite a while that Butler was a real steal in the 5th. He missed one year to injury and some games in each of the past two years. With that said, he stabalized the RG position and has often outplayed Dock.
Ellison was followed by only 4 more LBs, none of whom you've ever heard of. While I don't see him as a starter he has at the very least contributed on special teams and filled in far too much on the defense.
With better draft evaluations, Buffalo's draft could have been: DT Ngata/Bunkley (Bunkley was allegedly a 'better' Tampa 2 fit), C Mangold, CB Youboty, S Landry, DT Williams, OT Butler, LB Ellison with the rest being scrubs. Yeah, that did hurt to type.
On the plus side, the case can be made that Buffalo got the top safety on the board in Whitner--just not by enough to justify his selection. Youboty was a solid pick, with only two late round players developing into significantly better players. Williams was, in retrospect, the 3rd best DT in the 2006 draft class. Butler has been an above average guard and Ellison has returned well for the modest investment in him.
So, how does any of this related to the 2009 draft? Buffalo has reached for positions of need, even when it wasn't necessary. Buffalo has also demonstrated a tendency to flaunt conventional wisdom--taking a CB at #11 when there were seemingly more pressing needs. For a guy who wants to see the C position really addressed (like me), this would seem to make it somewhat more likely that the Bills will take a C at #11 if that player is graded higher than the other C prospects. The problem is that, as with Whitner and McCargo, this version of OBD hasn't demonstrated the ability to grade players accurately. Even worse for Bills fans is that there really haven't been a lot of indicators to suggest that Buffalo would pick the best available DE at #11.