State Of The Bills Roster: Explaining Our Evaluation System

For those of you who have been reading Buffalo Rumblings for more than just a few months, you may (or may not) be familiar with a series we run here called State of the Bills Roster. It's a fairly self-explanatory title; in January, and then again in May (after the annual NFL Draft), we break down the state of Buffalo's roster on a position-by-position basis.

That series will be kicking off again very soon, though it may come with a different title. It'll arrive this off-season with a little twist, however, and in order to abate future confusion, I thought we'd take a little time to go over that twist. In short, we've got a very rough, hopefully-useful player tier system that we'll be incorporating to try to help better define Buffalo's positional needs.

The only person who has seen the tiered system that I set up is Matt, and from what I can tell through various emails, he thinks it'll be useful, too. We tried to come up with a clever name for each tier of this system, but that conversation quickly devolved into Matt calling me a nerd for liking building toys, and me not understanding anything about the parts of a car. (Don't ask.)

An explanation of the subjective tier system lies after the jump.

There are six groups that we'll be dividing players into when we begin going over Buffalo's roster - but there are really only four tiers.

Tier One (Group A): This one will be easy to understand. Tier One consists of Group A, and Group A consists of players (or, in Buffalo's case, player, singular) that is elite at his craft. Pretty basic. Obviously, the Bills need more than one player in this group. (We don't care if you correctly guess who that player is, because again, it should be blatantly obvious. Plus, we're going to tell you by the end of this post.)

Tier Two (Group B, Group C): The second tier of our system consists of two groups, Group B and Group C.

Group B will be made up of veteran Bills players that aren't considered elite, but do a respectable job within Chan Gailey's various systems. They are players that the team can compete - and possibly win - with. All of these players, when described as "veterans," are 26 years of age or older.

Group C will consist of players age 25 and under (at the outset of the 2011 regular season, that is) that have already contributed something (positive) to the field of play. These players - there are a fair few for the Bills - have the potential to ascend into Group A in a year or two, but we get the feeling most will end up in Group B. Then again, these young guns may flame out quickly and end up in a lower group, as well. That... would suck.

Briefly: why 25? It's somewhat arbitrary, but a player typically goes from "young gun" to "in his prime" to "over the hill" throughout his career. We used 26 as the start of "in his prime," though that is obviously subjective. You'll just have to deal with it if you don't like it.

Tier Three (Group D, Group E): Now we're getting down into the bulk of Buffalo's roster, as you might imagine.

Group D is an extension of Group C, in that it consists of players age 25 and under. These guys, unlike Group C players that have already made strong-ish contributions to the team, are more project-types that the team likes and will be trying to develop up our tiered system. Some of these players have immense potential, while others do not, but all of them will get a shot to stick with the team and continue their development.

Group E will be the group that everyone here hates, if my intuition is accurate. I like to call it the Fringe Division (I love that show) - it's full of players that the team could probably get by with if they're really desperate, but they could probably do better than, as well. You'll see an occasional name of a guy that's done a pretty good job for this team, but mostly, it's full of overrated vets, also-rans, and other similar contingencies. You might think of this as the "meh" group.

Tier Four (Group F): I originally called Group F "Spare Parts," which Matt and I rather enjoyed. It embraces the spirit of our sixth group and fourth tier - these guys are probably either on their way out of Buffalo, or aren't any better than the typical street free agent teams bring in left and right during the season.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is our rudimentary player evaluation system.

In practice, when we begin our positional breakdowns in the very near future, we will simply put a tier number and a group letter next to each player's name. If you haven't guessed by now who we believe Buffalo's only elite-level player is, well, prepare to be spoiled, because we're going to use him as an example here. When we break down Buffalo's interior defensive linemen, Kyle Williams will be listed as follows:

Kyle Williams (1-A): [Insert lavish praise here.]

I don't think this is particularly complicated, and even while it's subjective, I believe it'll help add a little bit of perspective to the ensuing discussions that follow each positional breakdown. In reality, we have those discussions anyway; this will hopefully help us better define those discussions.

We understand that people will inevitably try to poke holes into this system, but we're not planning on using it as anything more than a simple way to bring a dose of reality to our breakdowns. We also understand that you, our very intelligent readers, will likely see a player placed into a group that you didn't expect, and will argue his case either up or down. That's fine, and encouraged. But we're not going to change our evaluations based on those discussions. Just so you know.

If anyone has any thoughts on the potential value or setup of this system, please let us know. And if you're a far more creative person than either Matt or I, and want to take a crack at giving these groups much more interesting names, well, we're up for that, as well.

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