I think there's too much emphasis on what's happening with the team in 2010. Regardless of what happened in the draft the Bills were going to be a mediocre team at best in 2010. And they still might be mediocre this year.
This team needs to be built with an eye to 2012. There's lots of positions that needed to be filled sooner or later: QB, LT, RT, WR, RB, NT, DE, OLB, ILB and probably more. You can't do that all in one draft.
While it's probably not a popular thing to do, what I think people should be looking at is how this team will look in the 2012 season because that's the realistic point where the Bills could be serious playoff contenders.
Filling holes with players at need positions that you don't believe in isn't going to help in the long run. It would have been great if Clausen was viewed as a franchise QB. But the Bills didn't think so, and almost every other NFL team thought the same way. Same thing with all the other QBs in the draft that they had a shot at. Same thing with LT - they obviously didn't think Bulaga or Davis was worth it.
Jason Campbell likely would have been an upgrade at QB for the Bills. But do you think that he has a chance to be a Super Bowl winning QB? I don't think so. And I don't think anyone else does as either. If they did they could have given up more than a 4th rounder for him. So why waste a draft pick on Campbell when you could use the pick to potentially get a player that could contribute to the next Super Bowl team? If he was a free agent and you're using him as a stop gap, that's fine, but you shouldn't give up resources (draft picks) to get players that aren't part of the long term solution.
Was Spiller a need pick? Jackson and Lynch are a fine pair of RBs. But you know what? They don’t make big plays. And big plays are the best way to put points on the board. If you’re looking at 2010 is Spiller the right move? Probably not. But if you’re looking at 2012 and beyond is he the right move? I think there’s a good chance of it. Big-time playmakers are tough to find. Players that can score TDs are not a luxury; they are a necessity.
While Troup and Carrington will be part-time players this season, what will they be in 2012? At that point they should be the anchors of a really good DL. I keep reading how Williams isn't a NT and the Bills need a real big run stuffer in there. Stroud is near the end of his career and likely won't be effective in 2012 if he isn’t retired (or cut). Those are two significant spots that will need to be filled at some point with an eye on 2012. So while it isn’t the biggest need in 2010 the Bills aren’t playing for 2010 – they’re playing for 2012 and beyond. DL is probably one of the tougher positions to grow into an effective player – you don’t see too many rookies dominating that right from the start. It takes time both mentally and physically. And if it wasn't done now you're looking at a good team in 2011 looking to fill their DL with rookies who likely won't be effective right away. So is it the best move to win games in 2010? No, probably not, but is it the best move for 2012 and beyond? Time will tell, but I think there’s good logic behind it.
Beyond the first three rounds you’re pretty much looking for players with traits that you think could turn into effective players. The odds of these players being effective starters is low, but they all appear to have traits that could make them successful which is what you’re looking for.
Last time I checked they’re going to have another draft in 2011 (even if there’s no football). And as far as I know they’ll have one every year thereafter. There will be good players in those drafts. The Bills need a lot more players that what they can get in 1 draft, and even 2 drafts if you’re really realistic. Keep your eye on 2012 when looking at the team. If there’s still huge questions marks at that point then yes, it’s probably time to hit the panic button. But it’s not that time now. If you think it is, I think you’re being short sighted. It might hurt to watch in the short term. But you know what? It's hurt in the short term for about 15 years now. It’s about time to get it right.
With so many prominent needs right now the hardest thing that Nix could probably do this draft is keep his eye on the long term picture. But ultimately, looking at 2012 and beyond is the right approach. That Nix didn’t take a QB, LT, or OLB ought to really tell you how he felt about those players. It would have been easy to stray slightly from the board to take a player that filled bigger short-term 2010 needs but if that was to the detriment of 2012+ then it’s a move that I wouldn’t have endorsed. Nix set up his board and drafted accordingly. I applaud him for looking at the big long term picture when it would have been a lot easier, and probably produce better short term results, to draft primarily based on the biggest holes today.