Typically, when you read about an NFL team's "needs," you read it in list form, and that list tries to prioritize those needs in order from most urgent to least urgent.
I'm making an attempt to discuss the Buffalo Bills' biggest needs in a different manner this year. Aided by the depth chart results of my subjective roster evaluation system, this year's needs list will focus on a bigger, yet still incomplete, picture - and, just like today, features "elite players" as a central theme. An explanation, and the list itself, lies after the jump.
The first major point I'd like to make is a simple one: the Bills are picking third overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. They do not have the luxury of removing any positional group from their needs list, and thus, every single position will appear here. I seriously doubt I'll get any objections to the sentiment behind that thought process, so let's move on.
Now we get into the discussion of elite players again. I tried to split up Buffalo's needs into three tiers (here I go with tiers again) - positions at which elite talent is needed, positions at which good talent is needed, and positions at which depth is needed. This is only a hair more complex than your "typical" needs list, but it's an important delineation that few make. For example, Buffalo's most critical need numbers-wise may very well be inside linebacker, but no 3-4 team is going to break the bank for an elite player there when you just need active, sturdy players. It's the outside 'backers in a 3-4 where elite talent is needed.
That, in reality, is the extent of the thought process behind my list. Without further ado, my Buffalo Bills needs list:
ELITE NEEDS: Positions at which the Bills should try to find elite talent.
1. QB: Buffalo has a serviceable short-term answer in, but absolutely nothing in the way of long-term direction and top-level talent.
2. OLB: Ifis healthy, this might slide down the list a bit - but we won't know that in time for April's draft, so here it stays. has some upside, and still has a moment or two of brilliance, but there is not an elite playmaker here - unless Merriman regains the form he hasn't had in three years.
3. CB: Buffalo does not have a true lock-down cornerback; even if they re-sign, they have a group of serviceable twos, at best. In an increasingly quarterback-driven league, Buffalo's defense would thrive with a corner that can match up against the game's best receivers.
IMPROVEMENT NEEDS: Positions at which the Bills should try to find starting-level talent.
4. ILB: The team seems to like, but he's surrounded by unremarkable veterans that, to put it mildly, struggled to stop the run in 2010. Youth, size and the ability to shed a block and make a stop is severely needed - in the form of not just depth, but possibly one or two starters.
5. OT: Right now, the Bills only have one tackle -- that it should feel remotely comfortable starting next season. Right tackle is wide open, and depth is completely non-existent. Multiple tackles are needed, and one that could start opposite Bell would be a major plus.
6. DE:will hold down one starting spot, but even he is not a perfect fit as a five-technique player. Unless the team is ready to count on as a starter, or is content with the deteriorating , a starter is necessary, and depth is a huge problem.
7. S:will always be a one-dimensional player, but he's looking good to stick at free safety. is a free agent, as is . It's likely one will be back, but depth is an issue, and Wilson might not be starting-caliber if pressed into duty at strong safety.
8. TE: This position is a void. They need a player that can be a starter and, you know, do more than chip on edge rushers.
DEPTH NEEDS: Positions at which the Bills won't deny talent, but would use it in more of a competitive fashion.
9. OG/C: The team has a nice depth chart at center - finally - and is set at left guard. Right guard is wide open, however, and it wouldn't be a bad thing if the team added more competition (not to mention size) at any of those three interior positions.
10. NT: The Bills have an All-Pro (second team) in Kyle Williams and a developmental prospect in Torell Troup. Given the way they use Williams, a backup at the zero tech spot wouldn't hurt - especially if said backup was a massive human being.
11. RB:and have the top two spots locked up; a reliable third back may be needed, unless the team likes enough to keep him around.
12. WR: This is by far the deepest position on the team, but it may not have a true go-to receiver among them (unless you're willing to affordthat honor after just one year). Again, the team won't say no to talented, competitive depth here.