It is early January and back in the day I would be sweating over potential Divisional Round foes for the Bills. That has not been the case for far too long. Instead I am in the middle of a new annual ritual, searching the interwebs for any morsels of information on college football players eligible for the draft who might be the next impact player for the Bills.
Even this annual lemonade made from yet another lemon-filled season has been overly sour the past few years. From Tom Donahoe, to Marv Levy (oh how it pains me to have to lump you in Marv) to the Russ Brandon era; it has been rough times drafting at the top.
Though the Mike Williams pick by Tom D. holds an especially place of ignominy with Bills fans, each of the GMs above had atrocious misses. Marv had his Whitner instead of Ngata moment in 2006 and Brandon presided over the Maybin pick instead of going with Orakpo, Matthews or Cushing in the 2009 draft. All three picks, had they been different could have sent this franchise in a whole other trajectory.
I am willing to give current G. M. Buddy Nix a pass for now. C.J. Spiller can still become a special player. Last year's draft did not present the opportunity to take the offensive tackle the Bills desperately needed(and still need). They picked 9th overall and taking the 3rd rated tackle at that high of position would have been a disastrous move. As the Bills have shown with the picks above you cannot afford to miss with top 10 picks.
Admittedly Spiller was a disappointment this past season. He battled injuries and struggled with the speed of the NFL game. However he was the top play maker in the 2010 Draft class and the 2009 Bills had a dearth of play makers. Here is hoping that C.J. works hard in the off-season, listens to Fred Jackson and becomes more of the back that Bills fans hoped he would be when he was selected last April.
I am just not ready to put Spiller with the Williams, Whitner and Maybin on The Island of Misfit Draft Picks yet. Sorry King Moonracer, you'll have to wait at least another year for that. You can have James Hardy if you would like a thrown away second round pick to hold you over if that helps.
The 2011 draft is upon us and at first glance I don't like the talent at the top of this draft for the Bills. That is not say that there are not players that I don't really want, they just don't seem to fit into the Bills system. Two I really like for the 3rd pick are:
- Nick Fairley, Defensive Tackle from Auburn. He is the real deal. If you watched the Iron Bowl this year you had to walk away impressed. But the Bills are in the 3-4 scheme (with multiple fronts, per Coach Gailey) and Kyle Williams is among the Bills' best players and is a DT. Scouts rave about Fairley as a potential stud in a 4-3 defense. How I wish the Bills would shift back to that front, if not for Fairley how about for:
- Da'Quan Bowers, defensive end from Clemson is another impact D-lineman, which the Bills sorely need. Again, scouts see him much more effective as a 4-3 guy. I am sure they may have said the same about a certain number 78 from Bills past and he worked well in the 3-4 for years. Still if the guy is not a fit in what you run how do you pick him at number 3? Bowers is further suspect as he suffers from Maybinitis; he is a one year wonder.
- There are other impact players such as Patrick Peterson, corner back from LSU and A.J. Green, wide receiver from Georgia. They are studs at their positions. But they do not play at positions of pressing need for the Bills. Corner could be one if Drayton Florence leaves as Terrence McGee and former 11th overall bust Leodis McKelvin both struggled this year. 3rd overall is still high for a DB, no matter how he rates.
Anybody who watched the Bills this year knows that there are two pressing needs for the Bills: offensive tackle and defensive line. The Bills need a top flight left tackle and it is unfortunate that this seems to be the one draft in years that does not seem to have an elite one they can snag with their top choice.
To say that they struggled to stop the run this year would be a gross understatement. I would love someone up front to help shore that up. The Bills are going nowhere if they are a sieve against the run again. Although the Bills could use a stud linebacker to help with that issue conventional draft wisdom says that number 3 is too high for an LB unless they are of a Ray Lewis pedigree.
And what about quarterback? Andrew Luck was it for me. However the Bills are not picking first, so they have no shot at him. I was not about to root for losses for the dishonor of being able to pick #1. It is not even certain that Mr. Luck will come out this year. I have a feeling that had the Bills been #1 that we could've faced an Eli moment and he would've refused to come out or come to Western New York. Things have gotten that bad at One Bills Drive.
Still 3rd in the draft is a huge opportunity. Between now and the draft there will be many steps that will unearth other potential fits. Bills fans now enter their own post season gauntlet of fun: Senior Bowl, combine, and mock draft surfing. For that time between the end of the season and the draft the Bills will be relevant again on a national level; how they pick in the draft impacts a majority of the teams. It is a dubious relevance, but relevance nonetheless.
Let's hope that this time that we get to taste some sweetness from this lemon of a season. Lombardi knows that we have had plenty of the sour and I am ready for some nice Draft lemonade.