Buffalo's DEs had 8 sacks last season. That tied with Cincinatti for the second fewest of the 22 teams that ran a 4-3 (Cleveland was the only 3-4 team with 8 or fewer sacks from their OLBs and they tied Buffalo with 8). So I have to ask, why doesn't everyone have Buffalo addressing DE with one of their first couple picks in all the mock drafts that keep getting posted? (note: I love that people post their mocks, I'm going to put one at the bottom of this post) Everyone would have Buffalo picking a RB if Marshawn and Jackson only averaged 3.7 ypc for the last couple of seasons. Who wouldn't have us taking a QB if our team had the 3rd worst QB rating of any team? If Buffalo gave up 5 yards per carry last year, wouldn't we all want a new DT or MLB? Why is it different for the DEs? I don't get it.
Aaron Schobel is not the savior of the pass rush. In 2007, Our DEs only had 11.5 sacks. So for two seasons in a row, with Schobel playing 21 of the 32 games, Buffalo's DEs have consistently been one of the worst units in the league. Schobel is is soon to be 32 years old. He barely weighs 240 pounds and comes to camp a little slimmer every season in an attempt to maintain his average athleticism. And most importantly, Schobel has 7.5 sacks in his those last 21 games.
Let me try to explain why Peters' trade value is so low if he won't come down off his contract demands like this: If Buffalo just cut Peters and he was available to any team without having to give up compensation, how many teams would actually sign him to the contract he wants? So if teams are barely willing to do that, then why would any team give up a first round pick AND other pick(s) to sign Peters to a huge contract? Buffalo better hope that Peters' demands go down with a trade (I think they will).
I know a lot of people would like our defense to be more like Philly or the Giants, but both of those teams had more sacks from their defensive ends than Buffalo did as a team. Both the Giants and Eagles get 62% or more of their sacks from their DEs (Buffalo's 35% is pretty easily the lowest percentage of every 4-3 team). So in my opinion, drafting say, Clay Matthews, makes Buffalo's defense look less and less like NY or Philly.
Speaking of Philly, we really should model our DL after them. They have two established pass rush threats who can handle their duties as run stoppers, but are pass rush first guys. Trent Cole weighs an impressive 270 pounds, but he is an all-out get after the QB guy with 30 sacks in his last 3 seasons. Darren Howard weighs 260 and had 10 sacks last year. They then supplement those two with situational guys. Juqua Parker weighs 250 and has had 5 or more sacks 3 years in a row. Despite the presence of those 3 players, Philly still went out last offseason and gave 15 mil to Chris Clemons, a 240 pound speed rusher who had 4 sacks last season after having 8 as a situational guy in Oakland 2 years ago. Buffalo really needs to revamp their entire group of DEs if they ever want to have a dominant defense. A LB simply isn't going to impact the game enough to change the overall look of this defense.
If I'm drafting for Buffalo then I'm putting an emphasis on defense for a reason that we havn't really talked about yet. Special teams. Buffalo has by far the best punt return group in the NFL. They averaged a league best 15.5 yards per punt return last year. Oakland came in at 2nd with 13 yards per return while Houston and New Orleans both avereaged about 12. Only 7 other teams even averaged 10. With that big of an advantage a team that forces our opponents to punt from inside their own 40 more could help put more points on the board without addressing the offense as much. Last season, Buffalo only returned 30 punts. Only 6 teams had less than 29 returns while the leader, Philly, had 52. Don't blame the Tampa 2 either because the 2nd most PRs were by Tampa Bay and their 47 and that was in a very strong offensive division too. Just stop for a second and imagine how much better this team could be with Roscoe or McKelvin getting an extra punt return per game (not fair catch, actual return).
Here is one more reason to trade Peters (or at least one more reason for us fans to hope the team trades Peters). If the Bills end up with a coaching change next offseason (which we can all agree is very possible, if not very likely), then not paying Peters, letting TO and Denney leave and making some cuts like one (or both) of our other 30something DEs, maybe Walker, maybe Spencer Johnson and who knows who else could put this team into position to have a huge offseason. If this team trades Peters and has a solid draft, I think a new coaching staff could come in and have the roster flexibility and money to instill any new type of scheme they want and bring in their kinds of players immediately. I think this roster could be turned over in just one offseason and Buffalo could start competing immediately while still building for the future.
In my mock offseason, I traded Peters to Philly for the 28th pick and the 4th pick in the 5th round, so for this mock draft, I will do that again.
11 - Michael Oher - no explanation should be necessary
28 - Connor Barwin - Immediate pass rush contributer with the upside to be an every down RE in just a season or two. He also has plenty of schematic versatility, which I would be drafting for If I were the GM and got final say over a potentially soon to be fired Jauron. Michael Johnson and Larry English would also be options here if Barwin was off the board. I would have to be pretty confident that one of those three would still be available with our second round pick to not go DE with this pick.
RD2 - Jarron Gilbert - I would use him as a true one gap DT who can provide pressure on pass plays, take Stroud out of the game for a few extra plays (did anyone think Stroud played too many snaps last season?), make the overpaid Spencer Johnson expendable after this season, play DE in short yardage situations and/or a third DT for short yardage/goaline and he also offers that long term upside and schematic versatility that I would be looking for.
RD3 - Tyrone McKenzie - I'm not sure if he can take Ellison off the field in year one, but I like his upside and just think he is one of the few best players available at this point regardless of position.
RD4 - I'm praying that a TE I still like is available. I think one of Beckum or Casey is still here and I grab him. I'm a big fan of Casey and I think he has a higher floor than the other non-Pettigrew TEs, while still having the potential that guys like Beckum and Ingram have. If nobody is left then I'm taking the best interior OL player available.
RD5 - Best G or C available. I'll be honest and say that I don't know if that will be Tyronne Green, Louis Vasquez, Cornelius Lewis, Greg Isdaner, AQ Shipley, Edwin Williams or whoever. I'm pretty comfortable with Chambers starting so I'm not afraid to wait on a guard. If I went OG in round 4, then I'm probably settling for a blocking first TE like Anthony Hill with this pick.
RD5 - Best G or C available .... again. I am making sure that at least one of these two played center in college and can back up Hangartner.
RD6 - There are some intruiging late round safeties that I would look into here. I would consider FS Trimane Goddard and see if his 7 INTs last season were for real. To be honest, I don't really view either safety spot as a bigger need than the other right now, so I'm just taking the best available safety and that player is likely a FS. I just think you find more late round gems with the smaller ballhawk types than you do with the bigger in the box guys this late in the draft.
RD7 - Slade Norris, Oregon St. I'm hoping the 245 pound DE is still available here and I'm hoping to stash him on the practice squad and tell him to work on strength, but to not bother trying to get bigger. I would like to see Buffalo keep a 5th DE who they can use solely as a pass rush specialist (like Copeland Bryan is supposed to be) at some point. Slade is a bad-ass name and his 19 sacks over the last two years are just as bad-ass.