This year marks the second year of the Buffalo Bills organization under Head Coach Chan Gailey and General Manager Buddy Nix. Despite a disappointing season at 4-12, the Bills showed more life than they had over the last five years combined. Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix (CHIX) have already implemented several major changes during the 2010 season and the 2011 off-season in an attempt to bring the Bills back to the playoffs and beyond. In this post, I shall reflect on the 2010 draft, the roster moves during the season, off-season moves, and the Bills current free agents. Next, I shall look into a Bills position depth analysis, who the Bills should/could look at in the FA market elsewhere (once the new CBA is in place), and where I feel the Bills need to focus their attention come April in the draft.
§ I: The 2010 Draft & Review
In the Bills first draft with new coach Chan Gailey and manager Buddy Nix, nine impact players were drafted. In a year when many fans were expecting the Bills to go QB, OT in the first two rounds of the draft. But with the Bills needing an offensive pop and switching to a 3-4 defense, CHIX decided otherwise. Here is how the draft wound up.
1: RB C.J. Spiller - Clemson
2: NT Torell Troup - Central Florida
3: DE Alex Carrington - Arkansas State
4: WR Marcus Easley - Connecticut
5: OT Ed Wang - Virginia Tech
6: OLB Arthur Moats - James Monroe
6: OLB Danny Batten - South Dakota State
7: QB Levi Brown - Troy
7: OT Kyle Calloway - Iowa
With Spiller, CHIX wanted a playmaker RB to complement Jackson and Lynch, but that plan backfired. Due to constant switching between the three players (leading to Lynch's trade to Seattle) Spiller not able to adjust to NFL level of play this year. In 4 years, Spiller has 3,500+ yards (5.85 yards per carry) rushing with 32 TDs, with 1,400+ yards receiving and 11TDs. As the team’s true #2 RB though, Spiller is expected to make a big impact in 2011.
In the second round, I truly believe CHIX was targeting QB Tim Tebow before McDaniel's infamous gamble to trade up for him in the late first round. Instead the Bills drafted Troup to step in as a 3-4 nose tackle to eventually supplement Kyle Williams. In two years, Troup recorded 4 sacks and 83 tackles. However, mainly because Kyle Williams dominated from nose tackle, Troup never got a lot of playing time. But having bulked up a bit more could see more field time this year.
Troup was followed by DE Carrington, who like Spiller had trouble adjusting early, but is now in line to grab a starting position over DE Spencer Johnson (DL Marcus Stroud started during the regular season). In college Carrington came to form in his last two years recording 19 sacks and 89 tackles. Ultimately all three of these guys, due to depth issues and inconsistency, never quite took off.
This is followed by our injured draftees, players who looked good on tape, but never saw playing time do to injuries. Kicking off this bunch is WR Easley who CHIX took to compete for the #2 spot before sustaining a season ending injury during training camp. Tall and quick, Easley started in his last year and got nearly 900 yards receiving (18.6 yards per catch) and 8 TDs. Easley is expected to make the roster this year, but towards the end of the receiving corps.
The fifth round product, Ed Wang suffered a knee injury in training camp and missed the first half of the season and only saw limited action as he healed. Wang has an outside chance to grab the RT spot and currently sits as the backup LT (he also used to be a tight end).
Jumping the gun a bit, the same happened to DE converted OLB/ILB Batten. Batten had 273 tackles and 23 sacks in four years. Both players should make the roster this year, but for depth reasons only.
This leaves us with the miscellaneous group. Arguably the most constructive player of the Bills 2010 draft class is OLB Arthur Moats whose late season stats shone on a diminished and struggling defense. In college, Moats had 208 tackles and 29 sacks. Moats is currently the backup WLB behind Merriman.
Following Moats is QB Levi Brown who in the last game showed more poise than Brohm and will serve as the 2nd or 3rd QB in 2011 depending on who is drafted this year. In his last two years, Brown threw over 6,200 yards (at a 60% completion rate), 38 TDs and only 12 INTs.
Lastly, Kyle Calloway never adjusted to the NFL and missed the final cuts.
§ II: The 2010 Season Roster Moves
CHIX did not stop trimming the team after training camp though, making several big transitions mid-season. Easily the biggest maneuver made was releasing QB Trent Edwards in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, a gambit that paid off immediate dividends and giving the Bills at the very least a competent short-term QB. Among other names that the Bills released included OTs Cornell Green and Jamon Meredith, OLB Chris Ellis, ILB Kawika Mitchell and RB Marshawn Lynch. Green and Meredith were clearly not cutting the bill while Mitchell was injured too much to prove useful. Lynch, albeit a good runner was not producing in Buffalo, and his release, like Trent's, allowed another, Fred Jackson to assert full control over at running back for the betterment of the team. Ellis's departure was due to a lack of stats and struggling against the run, but given that he was performing better than Maybin, is a bit puzzling that he got the boot first.
Leading the mid-season pick-ups, OLB Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman was brought in to shore up the weak side creating a lot of hype. The injury bug struck him within his first practice and ended his season. Still, Merriman is expected to start at WLB and if properly healed, should provide immense improvement. Also brought in were OT Mansfield Wrotto and Erik Pears, OG Colin Brown, Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart (promoted from practice squad) and TE Scott Chandler. Wrotto turned out to be better than Green at RT, but was outplayed in the end by Erik Pears. Hangartner's injury moved Eric Wood back to center where Urbik played a little (before getting injured), ultimately taken over by Rinehart who showed promise in a few games as well. The other player the Bills acquired that demands interest is Scott Chandler, who seems to hold the most potential of a lackluster group of tight ends on the team right now. Of these players, Merriman and Pears seem to have secured a starting role this year.
§ III: The 2011 Off-Season Roster Moves
At the end of the season, the Bills biggest decision was to release DL Marcus Stroud, a player who struggled to adjust to the DE position in the 3-4 defensive scheme. This not only freed up millions of dollars for the Bills to spend elsewhere, it also allows the Bills to address the D-Line through FA or the draft and gives Carrington a chance to show off his skills. On the other hand, the Bills have resigned safeties George Wilson and Jon Corto as well as tackle/guard Mansfield Wrotto. They have also restricted SS Donte Whitner and ILB Paul Posluszny, while tendering Scott Chandler, Felton Huggins and Garrison Sanborn. Re-signing Poz is the Bills first priority as he is the best ILB we have right now. Whitner follows, but only if he lower his demands, but Wilson and Scott could step in for Whitner if a deal cannot be made. Drayton Florence, also a free agent, is icing, in that it would be good to have him back, but not horrible if he wants too much as McGee/McKelvin can start with Corner operating at nickel.
§ IV: Bills Current Free Agents
Before we can dissect who the Bills need/could draft in a few weeks, we must also take in account the players the Bills have that are free agents right now. These include the defense Big 3 Freebies of starters SS Donte Whitner, ILB Paul (Poz) Posluszny, and CB Drayton (Free Agent) Florence.
Of these, the most important player to re-sign and probably the most willing to resign once the new CBA is in place is Poz. Poz has been the only steady linebacker (despite a few injuries) for years now recording 100+ tackles in his last three seasons, including a career best of 151 in 2010 when he also got 2 sacks. Poz is currently the second best inside linebacker free agent according to Walter.
Whitner is the next piece of the puzzle to try and bring back if he is willing to negotiate down in his salary by a million or two a year. Since being drafted in the first round, Whitner has gotten 451 tackles and a disappointing 5 interceptions, but has gotten better in stopping the run this past year. Still not performing at level that a top ten pick should be though. Whitner is only the 9th ranked safety according to Walter (George Wilson is ranked 11th for perspective) Michael Huff is still on the market…
Lastly Florence is a competent starting corner, whose biggest problem has been interference penalties all year long. In his two years with Buffalo, Florence has made 118 tackles and 4 interceptions, but is only the nineteenth ranked CB-FA according to Walter so a replacement could be brought in without too much sacrifice.
Other names that the Bills Free Agents include QB Brian Brohm, RB Quinton Ganther, TE Scott Chandler, TE Jonathan Stupar, WR Felton Huggins, DE John McCargo, ILB Akin Ayodele, ILB Keith Ellison, CB Ashton Youbouty and LS Garrison Sanborn. Restrictive (RFA) Tenders have been offered to Poz, Whitner, Chandler, Huggins and Sanborn. The other name that the Bills could look to re-sign is ILB Akin Ayodele (ranked 13th by Walter) who made 106 tackles with the Bills last season.
§ V: Bills Offensive Depth Analysis
Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Levi Brown, Brian Brohm
Runningback: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Quinton Ganther
Fullback: Corey McIntyre, Jehuu Caulcrick
Left Tackle: Demetrius Bell, Ed Wang, Jason Watkins
Left Guard: Andy Levitre, Cordaro Howard, Colin Brown
Center: Eric Wood, Geoff Hangartner, Sean Allen
Right Guard: Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart
Right Tackle: Erik Pears, Mansfield Wrotto
Tight End: Scott Chandler, David Martin, Jonathan Stupar, Shawn Nelson, Mike Caussin
Left Wide Receiver: Lee Evans, Roscoe Parrish, Donald Jones, Namaan Roosevelt, Paul Hubbard
Right Wide Receiver: Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, Marcus Easley, Felton Huggins
Special Teams: Rian Lindell, Brain Moorman, Garrison Sanborn
Offensively, the Bills have a few areas to improve on, but no major needs to address except for perhaps the tight end position. At quarterback, the Bills seem to have a very capable starter (at least for the short term) with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Their franchise alternative though, Brian Brohm, seems to have lost his luster in his time with the NFL and may need replacing. Levi Brown seems to hold some promise but is most decidedly a backup.
With regard to their halfback corps, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are the one-two punch the Bills have been looking for and should complement each other well over time. Quinton Ganther will likely not stay as the third back after a lackluster season. As for the fullbacks, Corey McIntyre seems to be a fair starter while Jehuu Caulcrick is an unknown.
The offensive line seems to hold a lot of questions after this year, as it has for a while now. At left tackle, Demetrius Bell seems to have secured the starting job. Ed Wang on the other hand is the back up for now, as he played that position in college, but there are questions that he may be more of a guard now. At left guard, Andy Levitre is the unquestionable starter. Cordaro Howard and Colin Brown should be fighting for the backup role in that spot.
Center is where things start to throw the situation into flux. Last year’s season starter, Geoff Hangartner played well up until the time he got injured. When that happened, RG Eric Wood moved back to his college position (All-American) and performed strongly as well. Wood, being that franchise player seems likely to stay at center. That in turn leaves a gap at right guard. Assuming Hangartner stays as a backup at center to Wood, Kraig Urbik seems to be penciled in as the starter, having been a highly touted player at that position in college. Chad Rinehart meanwhile gives good competition having performed well in the last two games of the season after moving up from the practice squad.
Right tackle seems to hold the most questions. The Bills went through two tackles (Cornell Green and Mansfield Wrotto) before settling on midseason acquisition Erik Pears.
Tight End most decidedly needs an upgrade given the Bills have no true starter right now, but at the same time may not warrant a pick until the third day of the draft because Gailey uses them sparingly in his offensive schemes. Part of that could have been that none of the tight ends were particularly effective during the course of the season. Jonathan Stupar was the most productive of the Bills tight ends with over one hundred receiving yards during the season. David Martin, a free agent, was one of the better blockers while Scott Chandler stepped up later in the season towards that capacity. Shawn Nelson has been unproductive after two seasons with the Bills after being drafted in the fourth round. Lastly Mike Caussin was a midseason acquisition that never saw the field who holds some interest.
Wide Receiver is probably the position with the most depth where the Bills may have to make a cut or two instead of bringing anyone in. Lee Evans is the most experienced receiver on the roster with two one thousand yard receiving years. He however is one of the controversial players on the roster having been inconsistent over the years although that could be due to double coverage and having a new quarterback to work with every year now. Stevie Johnson meanwhile emerged last season as the Bills top receiver and definitely has secured the number two spot. Roscoe Parrish did well as the slot receiver last year with Gailey finally able to use his speed and elusiveness. David Nelson is the last receiver with a seemingly secured roster spot after performing well last season following Parrish’s injury between good his good hands and height.
Of the receivers fighting for one or two remaining slots left in that position, Donald Jones seems to have the leg up after showcasing some promise last season offensively and as a gunner. Namaan Roosevelt meanwhile stepped in towards the end of the season demonstrating excellent catching skills. Marcus Easley despite not having played at all last season following an injury holds promise with his physical attributes that got him drafted in the fourth round last year. Receivers that show potential but stand little chance of making a roster spot are Felton Huggins and Paul Hubbard who have good skills but rarely have gotten to show it.
In special teams, the Bills have no need to replace anybody despite the fact that Moorman and Lindell had slightly off years this past season. Sanborn is a free agent, but the Bills have expressed interest in him so he may stay once a new CBA is in.
§ VI: Bills Defensive Depth Analysis
Left Defensive End: Alex Carrington, Spencer Johnson
Nose Tackle: Kyle Williams, Torell Troup, Kellen Heard
Right Defensive End: Dwan Edwards, John McCargo
Sam Linebacker: Chris Kelsay, Aaron Maybin, Antonio Coleman
Mike Linebacker: Andra Davis, Akin Ayodele, Danny Batten
Will Linebacker: Paul Posluszny, Keith Ellison
Jack Linebacker: Shawne Merriman, Arthur Moats
Left Cornerback: Drayton Florence, Terrence McGee, Ashton Youboty
Right Cornerback: Leodis McKelvin, Reggie Corner
Strong Safety: Donte Whitner, Bryan Scott, Jon Corto
Free Safety: Jarius Byrd, George Wilson
Defensively is where Nix sees the Bills getting the majority of their picks. After Marcus Stroud could not adjust to the duties of a 3-4 DE, the Bills only have four DEs left. Last year’s starter Dwan Edwards is poised to return in 2011 in the same spot. Who plays his opposite though is still up for grabs. With more experience, Spencer Johnson is the current starter on paper but has only played competently. Alex Carrington did not see much action last year, but being a former third rounder holds potential to move up to grab the starting slot. The last DE on the roster, John McCargo is the definition of a draft bust and unless he has a phenomenal training camp, will likely be cut.
At nose tackle, the Bills seem to be set. Kyle Williams, although not your typical nose tackle because of his smaller frame, performed beyond the call of duty last season to earn the sole pro-bowl nod. His backup, second rounder Torell Troup, did not see much playing time last season because of Meatball’s success fits the 3-4 nose tackle frame more and has reportedly added some more weight to secure his spot next year. Kellen Heard is a huge player, but has not seen any playing time yet.
Perhaps the most controversial area of the roster lies within the outside linebackers. Perhaps one of the most important positions in a 3-4 defense, the Bills have questionable talent in that area. Chris Kelsay, the current strong side or Sam linebacker converted from defensive end but simply lacked the pass rushing ability and speed to man that position. However given that he recently got a 4 year multimillion dollar deal (that was probably over-inflated), Kelsay seems likely to stay if for anything, he plays consistently with energy. His backup is 2009 first rounder Aaron Maybin who is en route to being the biggest bust the Bills ever had seeing very little playing time and struggling to generate pressure and shed blocks. More likely to retain a spot is undrafted rookie Antonio Coleman who showed a lot more promise on the field before getting injured.
Moving to the middle, at the Mike linebacker the Bills have Andra Davis and Akin Ayodele (and depending how you look at it, Danny Batten) there. Davis was average before getting injured last season, resulting in Ayodele taking over and performing a bit better. Both of these players are getting up there in age though so there is the question if the Bills will try to retain Ayodele in particular as he is a free agent. Lastly, if you have been following CHIX, they picture Batten moving on the inside which could be interesting given that he got injured in preseason (when he was an OLB).
At Will linebacker (middle), the Bills have their best LB, Paul Posluszny there and he retains the middle spot in 4-3 defensive schemes as well. Poz’s only drawback is that he is not the fastest LB out there and can get burned on passing routes, but he is a beast in the running game. I personally see the Bills trying to keep Poz full time in the Mike slot and a rookie at Will by the end of next season. Behind Poz is Keith Ellison who needless to say is probably going to go as he only offers special teams experience.
Lastly at the Jack weakside linebacker position the Bills currently have Shawne Merriman pegged in as the starter with Arthur Moats backing him up. Merriman is a player with huge potential having gone to three pro bowls in his first three seasons, but has mostly been sidelined with injuries since then. If healthy, the Bills would greatly benefit from his pass rushing ability. Moats however showed some promise at the end of the season and will forever be known for taking Brett Favre out of the game.
Onto the secondary, the Bills have good talent, but may lose some people to free agency that could result in some problems. At cornerback, the Bills are at a bit of a crossroads. Terrence McGee plays well but has not lasted a whole season for a while now. At his opposite, Drayton Florence is a fair player who can cover opponents but is a penalty machine. As a free agent, he is one of those players that if you keep them, it is great, but if not, won’t be missed that much. That leaves the other possible starter, Leodis McKelvin who has not been playing at first round draft caliber, but flashes brilliance. Behind McKelvin the Bills have Reggie Corner who is ideal for a nickel slot. Lastly on the depth list is Ashton Youboty who could be considered a third round bust for the Bills and will likely be let go in free agency.
With strong safety, the Bills stand a good chance of losing Donte Whitner to free agency if he does not lower his salary demands. Whitner played his best season in 2010 becoming a big asset in stopping the run but still has yet to show his dominance in the pass game and thus not that great of a first round pick. Should Whitner go, the Bills can sub in Bryan Scott who is a big safety that can be subbed in for linebackers from time to time. The other strong safety the Bills have is Jon Corto a local who is a special teamer and also has the build to sub in at linebacker if need be.
Lastly at free safety the Bills have Jarius Byrd as their starter who had a fair second year after recording nine interceptions in his rookie campaign. Behind him is a growing talent in George Wilson whose playmaking has him ranked almost as high as Whitner on Walter’s 2011 free agents list. Also Wilson has the versatility to play both free and strong safety should the situation call for it.
§ VII: 2011 Draft Needs
Based off of my depth chart analysis the Bills are definitely in need of getting players to fill certain holes and then there are areas that could go either way. Position that will likely be addressed at some point in the draft include a cornerback, a defensive lineman, an inside linebacker, an offensive tackle and a tight end. Areas that the Bills could also try and get a quarterback, a power/third string running back, an outside linebacker, a strong safety and possibly double up at the inside linebacker, cornerback, defensive line and or offensive line (although for the sake of simplicity we will assume that only the ILB postion will get double dipped, the rest relying on free agency).
From what Brian and Matt have been reporting as well as items at the Bills website, CHIX has made several statements as to where they are going in the draft. Firstly, as the Bills hold the third overall position in the draft, many Rumblers, myself included would like to see CHIX trade down to get another second rounder to support the aforementioned draft needs/wants. However, Nix has said multiple times he is unlikely to trade down; and although there is definitely no consensus as to whom the Bills would target there, there are a few talented prospects available for defensive end, outside linebacker, cornerback and quarterback.
The quarterback perhaps the biggest acquisition the Bills would make in the 2011 draft. It is also one that may not happen for a number of reasons. While Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are both slated to go in the top 10 picks, they really did not play consistently enough to warrant going that high to being with. That being said, Carolina seems set on drafting a QB while Denver is poised to trade down to a QB seeking team. That leaves Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Ryan Mallett, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick to go sometime in the later first to the early third round. The other option is that the Bills could wait until 2012 to grab a QB (Andrew Luck, Terrelle Pryor, Landry Jones and Kellen Moore). Regardless, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter for the Bills for the next year or two. Unless Gailey thinks that there is a quarterback with potential to become a franchise signal caller in this draft, the Bills might wait. However, CHIX would rather start the development process this year and barring no trades, will grab a guy in the second round, but anywhere between round 1 through 3 is fair game.
At running back, the Bills have a good one-two punch with Jackson and Spiller, but now that Lynch is gone, have no true power back. That much is especially evident in goal line situations where the Bills struggled running the ball and only got 6 TDs total rushing. There was also a point where Spiller got injured leaving Jackson to handle every down (which he did well), largely because there was one behind him. Now CHIX knows that having just gotten a playmaker running back in 2010, that to get another RB in the first two days would be suicide. Fortunately, there are a few options that have been successful in college and hold promise in the NFL available in the later rounds. Starting with the sixth round through the seventh, the Bills could target a power-back to remedy their goal-line woes, but could just as well see who makes it to free agency afterwards. My call is that the Bills will rely on using their compensatory pick to pick up a runner that fits this bill although they could go as early as six to do so.
Moving onto the offensive tackle, the Bills have a desire to add depth and give Erik pears competition on the right side. The Bills, seemingly set on the left side with Bell, backed up by Wang, will not draft a second player there. Gailey and Nix seem confident that Pears will start on the right side as he is an experienced lineman who played better than Wrotto did in the season. Because you have Wrotto competing for a backup spot with the starting position already decided, expect the Bills to go no earlier than the fourth round for a tackle. Even if the Bills have good options on the second day of the draft, don’t hold your breath.
One position the Bills are definitely going to draft is at the tight end position. Unfortunately, the depth this year is not that great, but any player that is drafted has a shot at starting because the current roster players struggled heavily in the year. However, given the number of areas the Bills need to address, the tight end could get shelved until the third day of the draft. The Bills could go as early as the second round if they can get Kyle Rudolph, but more realistically, the Bills will grab a tight end in the third, fourth or fifth round.
Defensive end is an area that has a lot of depth in this year depth with potential starters available in the first and second round, with quality depth players going in the fourth and fifth round. However, because no defensive end last year (with the exception possibly going to Dwan Edwards) clearly defended well enough against the run or pass, expect an early investment. If Carolina and Denver decide to pass on addressing their D-Line in the first the Bills stand a good chance of getting Marcell Dareus. If he is not available, I do not expect the Bills to trade down to draft five technique prospects like Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt but rather wait to see who is available the next day (more prospects likely if QB trading up in the latter rounds occurs).
Outside Linebacker is ultimately the most controversial area to address in the draft due to two highly paid players pegged at starting on either end, yet both were not especially productive last year. These people are Chris Kelsay who has moderate production and three time pro-bowler Shawne Merriman who has been injury ridden for the same amount of time. Behind them, they have Arthur Moats who shows promise as a backup on the weak side and Aaron Maybin who is a bust. Ultimately, the questions are can Kelsay and Merriman still produce and can Maybin ever improve. If either of these questions are no, the Bills will try to draft LB Von Miller, whose speed and production is astounding. If they cannot get him though, they could try for a prospect like Sheard or Reed in the second round. Otherwise, the Bills may largely ignore this position until the sixth to ultimately replace Maybin on the roster. Again it’s a big if.
One thing the Bills need is a person to complement Poz on the inside. However, like at the tight end position, there is not a lot of standout players in the early rounds that the Bills would put at inside linebacker. In the second round, the Bills could go after Martez Wilson, but aside from showing great speed, has poor technique and has had a major injury in the past. More realistically the Bills would grab an ILB in the third or fourth round with a second inside linebacker in the fifth, sixth or seventh round.
Cornerback will require an addition at some point in the draft with too much uncertainty with the current starters. If Florence leaves, McGee and McKelvin will start but as McGee is injury prone and/or Leodis is inconsistent, the Bills will need a player that can start. Patrick Peterson is obviously a highly skilled corner that can go in the top 5, but sits only third on the Bills wish list. More likely is the Bills waiting to the third through the fifth rounds to acquire a player that can start after a bit of development in the near future.
The strong safety is another one of those positions that the Bills may choose not to address in the draft, depending on whether they feel that Whinter can be re-signed, the Bills sign another free agent, or that either Bryan Scott of George Wilson can start in his stead. In any case, the Bills will likely only focus on this position towards the seventh round as there are bigger needs out there and good depth already there. Here’s the recap
QB: Round 1-3 or not at all
RB: Round 6-7 or not at all
OT: Round 4-7 leaning towards later
TE: Round 3-5 probably a day 3 pick
DE: Round 1-6 probably earlier
OLB: Round 1-7 or not at all
ILB: Round 3-4 for their first one
ILB: Round 5-7 for their second one
CB: Round 1-7 craps shoot here
SS: Round 6-7 or not at all
§ VIII: 2011 Draft: My Mock Draft Choice A:
Contingent upon who they are able to grab in the draft, the Bills will obviously bring in a few players to compete for spots and/or fill roster/depth needs. Based off of my diagnosis of the Bills draft needs and current roster depth, the Bills may follow along the lines of one of two mocks. Here’s the first of them.
In my first mock draft for the third pick, I have the Bills selecting DL Marcell Dareus – Alabama [6-3, 319, 4.93] in the first round. Dareus fits the bill as a big run stopping DE to shore up the line for the next few years and would probably have Carrington switching off with Edwards from time to time in passing situations. In two years, Dareus recorded 66 tackles and 11 sacks. The next best options for that position are J.J. Watt – Wisconsin [6-5, 290, 4.81] and Cameron Jordan – California [6-4, 287, 4.74] who are both solid prospects, but are mid first rounders instead of top 5.
In the second round, the Bills would then take their pick of QB. First off, this decision will be very chaotic given there are probably teams that will trade into the lower first round to ensure a QB selection. Having said that though, let’s assume the Bills still have their choice with the exception of Locker who may be taken in the lower first round regardless. With Locker off the boards, the Bills best bet is Andy Dalton – TCU [6-2, 215, 4.82], who despite not having the best arm, shows consistent technique, smart decisions and has improved every year and even went 14-0 in his senior year. In his career, Dalton has thrown over 10,000 yards for 71 TDs and only 30 INTs (most coming in his first of four years) while completing over 60% of his passes. He also has some rushing ability. The other options the Bills will strongly look at are Colin Kaepernick – Nevada [6-5, 233, 4,53] and Christian Ponder – Florida State [6-2, 229, 4.63]. Kaepernick has a big arm and is very mobile but needs to learn a pro-style offense. Ponder is also a mobile QB whose biggest concerns are consistency due to injuries.
In the third round, the Bills reinforce their linebacker corps with Quan Sturdivant – North Carolina [6-1, 241, 4.63]. Sturdivant has a lot of potential to become a big linebacker in the NFL with his speed and playmaking ability shown by his 310 tackles and 7 sacks in college. Other names to watch out for include Casey Matthews – Oregon [6-1, 231, 4.79] for his bloodiness and Colin McCarthy – Miami [6-1, 238, 4.59] for good speed and playmaking. While these guys are all slated as mid to late third rounders, the Bills need on the inside could compel Nix to grab a bit early to ensure they get the guy they want.
For their first fourth round pick the Bills will take Lance Kendricks – Wisconsin [6-3, 243, 4.65] if he is available do to his production in receiving (72 catches for 1,019 yards and 8 TDs in the last two years) and blocking. Alternatives include Virgil Green – Nevada [6-3, 249, 4.54] and James Cameron – USC [6-5, 254, 4.53]. Green fits a similar form as Kendricks in the fullback TE type and had good production in college. Cameron on the other hand has not had the same production in college but has the tools to become a good tight end.
For their second, fourth round selection the Bills will bolster their secondary with Josh Thomas – Buffalo [5-10, 191, 4.46]. Thomas has made almost 200 tackles in college as a four year starter showing good awareness and physical play. Also in the mix are CBs Jalil Brown – Colorado [6-1, 204, 4.52] and DeMarcus Van Dyke – Miami [6-1, 176, 4.25]. Jalil Brown is a proven #2 corner in college with good all around coverage, while Van Dyke has blazing speed (but no muscle or starting experience).
Fifth round options go to OT Derek Newton – Arkansas State [6-5, 311, 5.00], Jah Reid – Central Florida [6-7, 327, 5.32] and Bryon Stingily - Louisville [6-5, 313, 4.96] All have experience at right tackle and show good size and strength. Newton holds more potential thereby earning the nod.
In the sixth round the Bills will double up on inside linebackers. Mark Herzlich – Boston College [6-4, 244, 4.91] is a good risk at this area as he is a highly talented player who has yet to fully recover from cancer in 2009. In college, Herzlich recorded 314 tackles, 7 forced fumbles and 11 interceptions on the outside and is a force against the pass and run. Alternatives include Mario Harvey – Marshall [5-11, 257, 4.46], who could be a small school steal and Chris White – Mississippi State [6-3, 240, 4.74].
In the seventh round the Bills will reinforce their outside linebackers with Bruce Miller – Central Florida [6-1, 254, 4.81]. Miller got 36 sacks in college showing a lot of production and performs strongly against the run. Steven Friday – Virginia Tech [6-3, 240, 4.66] and Cheta Ozougwa – Rice [6-2, 247, 4.84] are also on the short list after posting good senior seasons.
Given the uncertainty of Whitner and the current safety depth the Bills will wait until the last seventh round to acquire an additional player here. As the safety depth is low this year, there a few fair prospects this late in the game. Eric Hagg – Nebraska [6-1, 209, 4.62] gets the nod as Nebraska was one of the top defenses in the nation. Hagg recorded 88 tackles, 3 sacks and 6 interceptions. I can also see the Bills looking strongly at Davonte Shannon – Buffalo [6-0, 211, 4.64] for his consistency in coverage and production as well as Mana Silva – Hawaii [6-1, 206, 4.44] for pure athleticism. Here’s the recap:
1: DE Marcell Dareus Alt: DE J.J. Watt, DE Cameron Jordan
2: QB Andy Dalton Alt: QB Colin Kaepernick, QB Christian Ponder
3: ILB Quan Sturdivant Alt: ILB Casey Matthews, ILB Colin McCarthy
4: TE Lance Kendricks Alt: TE Virgil Green, TE Jordan Cameron
4: CB Josh Thomas Alt: CB Jalil Brown, CB DeMarcus Van Dyke
5: OT Derek Newton Alt: OT Jah Reid, OT Byron Stingily
6: ILB Mark Herzlich Alt: ILB Mario Harvey, ILB Chris White
7: OLB Bruce Miller Alt: OLB Steven Friday, OLB Cheta Ozgouwa
7: SS Eric Hagg Alt: SS Davonte Shannon, SS Mana Silva
§ IX: 2011 Draft: My Mock Draft Choice B:
If Dareus is not available, the Bills will instead target OLB Von Miller – Texas A&M [6-3, 246, 4.42]. Miller has great pass rushing skill, is very fast and can play pass defense as well. In the last two years, Miller recorded 111 tackles and 28 sacks, production the Bills need very much. Alternatively, the Bills could look at Robert Quinn – North Carolina [6-4, 265, 4.62] and Ryan Kerrigan - Purdue [6-4, 267, 4.67] if they trade down although again, that is very unlikely given Nix’s statements.
For the second round, DE Cameron Heyward – Ohio State [6-5, 294, 4.95] tops the list after posting 162 tackles and 15 sacks in four years. DEs Christian Ballard – Iowa [6-4, 283, 4.75] and Allen Bailey – Miami [6-3, 285, 4.71] are other options but more towards the mid-second round. There is a strong possibility that Heyward will be gone after the first round, so if that happens, depending who is available; the Bills could look at other options and take a DE in the third or a later round.
In the third round, the Bills stand a good chance of reinforcing their corners given the uncertainty there and take CB Davon House – New Mexico State [6-1, 200, 4.44]. House is a sound prospect with good speed, 202 tackles and 11 interceptions in his career. If he is not available, both Marcus Gilchrist – Clemson [5-10, 195, 4.45] and Chimdi Chekwa – Ohio State [6-0, 191, 4,38] are good alternatives between their covering abilities and speed.
In the fourth round the Bills will acquire ILB Kelvin Sheppard – LSU [6-2, 250, 4.70]. Sheppard has stong physical play as seen with his 311 tackles and 5 fumbles, and has garnered major interest from Chan Gailey. Other options here though include Greg Jones – Michigan State [6-0, 242, 4.75] and Nate Irving – North Carolina State [6-1, 240, 4.74] Jones has been very productive for Michigan State and aside from lackluster performances at the combine, appears well on tape. Irving is a lesser known prospect, but still has a very physical level of play that should be kept in consideration.
For their other fourth round selection, I shall have the Bills pegged to take an offensive tackle. Jason Pinkston – Pittsburgh [6-3, 317, 5.39], Joseph Barksdale – LSU [6-5, 325, 5.31] and James Carpenter – Alabama [6-4, 321, 5.22] could go earlier, but one of them should remain on the boards. Pinkston is the selection because of a big leg injury in college combined with his shorter structure may hurt his stock; but reuniting with assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt would give the Bills an edge.
In the fifth round, the Bills could finally address their tight end situation by drafting D.J. Williams – Arkansas [6-2, 245, 4.59]. Williams is a very productive tight end who had over 1,800 yards receiving and ten TDs and has good blocking skills to match his energy on the field. Alternatives include TE Rob Housler – Florida Atlantic [6-5, 248, 4.46] and TE Julius Thomas – Portland State [6-5, 246, 4.64]. Housler is a tall pass catching tight end while Thomas is a basketball convert who has a lot of good qualities as a prospect.
Unfortunately the Bills will ignore the quarterback position for another year. CHIX seems to have good faith in Fitz, but Brohm clearly does not continue so they need a new backup. Therefore for their sixth round selection the Bills will take QB Greg McElroy – Alabama [6-2, 220, 4.84]. While McElroy lacks the dynamic speed and arm Gailey would want, he is very consistent and Gailey saw that in him when coaching the senior bowl. As a two year starter, McElroy threw for over 5,000 yards at 65% completion rate with 37 TDs to just 9 interceptions. Other options include Pat Devlin – Delaware [6-3, 225, 4.81] and Tyrod Taylor – Virginia Tech [6-1, 217, 4.47], who is very mobile but needs to work on passing better. Expect a high QB pick in 2012 if the Bills do draft a player here.
In the seventh round the Bills would then double dip at the inside linebacker position with Mike Mohamed – California [6-3, 239, 4.65]. Mohamed had 329 career tackles, 7 sacks and 7 interceptions. ILB Alex Wujciak – Maryland [6-3, 247, 4.78] could be taken here instead for his bloodiness and Nick Bellore – Central Michigan [6-1, 245, 4.84] as well for his consistency.
For their seventh round compensation pick the Bills could add some goal line power with RB John Clay – Wisconsin [6-1, 230, 4.83]. Clay has over 3,000 yards rushing in three seasons as a power back with 41 TDs and is mostly ranked this low because of his relatively slow speed. Although given the current Bills RBs, speed is not going to be the focus is another RB is picked up. RB Anthony Allen – Georgia Tech [6-1. 228, 4.56] and Darren Evans – Virginia Tech [6-0, 227, 4.56] could also be targeted as they fit the power back build and speed and both had good production in college. Here’s the recap
1: OLB Von Miller Alt: OLB Robert Quinn, OLB Ryan Kerrigan
2: DL Cameron Heyward Alt: DE Christian Ballard, DE Allen Bailey
3: CB Davon House Alt: CB Marcus Gilchrist, CB Chimdi Chekwa
4: ILB Kelvin Sheppard Alt: ILB Greg Jones, ILB Nate Irving
4: OT Jason Pinkston Alt: OT James Carpenter, OT Joseph Barksdale
5: TE D.J. Williams Alt: TE Rob Housler, TE Julius Thomas
6: QB Greg McElroy Alt: QB Pat Devlin, QB Tyrod Taylor
7: ILB Mike Mohamed Alt: ILB Alex Wujciak, ILB Nick Bellore
7: RB John Clay Alt: RB Anthony Allen, RB Darren Evans
§ X: 2011 Free Agents to Consider
Contingent upon who they are able to grab in the draft, the Bills will obviously bring in a few players to compete for spots and/or fill roster/depth needs. Going back to the aforementioned areas that will need to be doubled up after the draft the Bills will likely bring in for competition, an offensive tackle, a defensive lineman, and a cornerback. Other areas to consider if not addressed by the draft are running (power) back and strong safety.
Looking at the first of three areas likely to add on a free agent, the Bills could bring in an offensive tackle. Names that the Bills could look at include the Patriot’s Matt Light who can play both left and right with his experience, Baltimore’s Jared Gaither who similarly can play both ends but has had several injury woes and Damien Woody of the Jets who has experience and would provide quality depth.
With addressing getting another defensive lineman, the Bills are not going to be high spenders on the free agency market assuming they go high on DE in the draft. They want someone who can play against the run, but do not need that player to be an every down guy assuming they want Carrington and their new rookie to get more playing time. Three names that I consider grabbing here include Shaun Smith with Kansas City, Marcus Spears, the former first rounder from Dallas and Cleveland’s Kenyon Coleman.
I thought I’d splurge a bit at cornerback. The Bills may need a starter after Drayton Florence leaves. So why not try and grab the best guy out there, Oakland’s Nnamdi Asomugha. He’s quick and reads plays well with little downside other than he’ll be paid very big bucks. More realistically the Bills can visit either the New York Jets to grab Antonio Cromartie who would be the #2 corner on the roster. Cleveland’s Eric Wright is the last name I’d consider despite the fact that he has struggled in the past, but so has Florence; Wright just posses more upside than him.
If the Bills do not address getting a running (power) back in the draft, there are a few names that have struggled as of late, but could easily play a few downs well in games. The Fins, Ricky Williams is a possibility as he has struggled more lately but possesses that raw power necessary for a power back. The Broncos/Patriot former first rounder Lawrence Maroney also tops my list despite his struggles as he is still young and can be developed. Lastly, Jalen Parmele from Baltimore is another option that is young but has struggled early and could be used well in goal line situations.
If the Bills do not draft a strong safety, but are then unable to get back Whitner, look no farther. Starting with the Saints Roman Harper, the Bills can get a playmaker with slightly fewer skills than Whitner. Also likely is the guy whom Walter seems to think Levy originally wanted to get, Oakland’s Michael Huff who despite some inconsistency is a better safety than Donte. Lastly the Cowboy’s Gerald Sensabaugh emerged as an option this past year. Still, running back and safety are not priority needs and may not be addressed with big free agents.
I hope that you enjoyed my opinions and recap of everything that went on since the last draft. Here’s crossing your fingers that everything goes well for the Bills and the 2011 season (that it does happen). Go Bills!