I read fanposts and as always I sense post-draft excitement. So, as always, I tried to look at the draft from a practical standpoint.
Going into the draft we knew we sucked in defense. Even though we sucked at offense equally, it didnt appear that way probably because of seeing Trent Edwards for 3 years past. Chanix ( I am borrowing this because it sounds better than "chicks") made it clear that they are going to focus on defense before the draft. They followed it up by drafting 7 defenders out of 9. The obvious conclusion many are forming is we have become solid at defense. Lets see if that is true.
Before I continue, I want to say this. While watching the draft, I was trying to decipher Chanix's draft strategy this year. When I started looking at it, it seemed very obvious to me they had the lockout in mind. I think they assumed the worst that they wont be able to sign or re-sign any of the undrafted free agents and they have to rely on the draft solely. In offense we have almost everyone signed and under contract, whether they are any good or not. We were only unsure or shallow at right tackle. But in defense we had several starters and depth who are UFAs. poz, ayodele, whitner, florence, youboty. that's 2 ILB, 1SS and 2CB.... funny we drafted exactly that. They drafted not to add talent but to replace talent they might lose... if they resign poz, ayodele and florence, well, they always needed depth there...
Now lets see how much the team has improved offensively or defensively.
From team role standpoint. First up: offense
We added chris hairston and johnny white in 4th and 5th round. And that's all we did for offense. White is going to be a 3rd down back and maybe a committee back in the future. Realistic expectations, he is not going to change anything significantly. The more important player is hairston. Now we already have a 4th round talent in wrotto at right tackle in the team. A valid argument is, if he was so good, he would have never been cut by seahawks. So there is a very good chance hairston is an upgrade over wrotto or pears. The most realistic expectation is he wont be a day 1 starter. But being a 4th round pick, I dont expect a major step improvement at that position.
Verdict: Marginal to no improvement.
Pass offense: White brings nothing to the table. Hairston's strength lies in run blocking. If he becomes the starter this year, he would be even less of an improvement over wrotto in pass protection.
Verdict: marginal improvement.
Overall offense: marginal improvement. We might improve in the offense just because Fitz is the incumbent starter for the first time in his life. If there is a training camp, he might get his team chemistry before the season starts. But we wont improve because of the draft.
The general feeling is we should be solid this year compared to severely weak last year.
Throughout the post season, all the Kiper's and Mcshay's have been telling our biggest need is a defensive tackle/end to fix our run defense. Well we got the best defensive tackle in the draft, we should be awesome now. Those national media types dont have the same perspective as us locals. But the surprising thing to me is, many of the regulars in this website themselves have forgotten things we learnt during the season.
The first 8 games of the season, all of which we lost, we used to have post-game analysis regularly. What we saw was our defensive line was the best part of the team. They were all playing well. Williams and edwards were the top tacklers in the league at one point of time. More than that, a lot of us noticed how the teams are running against us. They were going east-west and then turning north for gaining big chunk of yards. The reason is, we had slow and stiff OLBs in torbor and kelsay. It was to the point of being ineffective. Then edwards got hurt and things started falling apart on the inside as well.
Now we cut stroud and replaced him with dareus. Dareus can be an immediate upgrade over stroud and potentially way better than stroud ever was. Stroud, while at jacksonville, was a 3-time pro-bowler and 2 time all-pro. But dareus cant still cover laterally. Our key issue still remains. merriman is not known for his run support. the issue remains even with merriman and kelsay. More than a DE, we needed a fast and athletic OLB. Miller would have been ideal for bills but he was taken by denver. we didnt draft any athletic OLB in the draft.
On the inside, we drafted, kelvin sheppard. Again, it looks like a great pick but every analyst says he has good instincts but limited athletically. Ayodele was a 3rd round pick as well. And I remember reading he was back to his old form in the 2nd half of the season. Plus andra davis was solid till he was healthy next to poz. Even with sheppard as starter, him being a 3rd round talent, I see again a marginal improvement only.
Verdict: I dont think we will be 32nd in the league. I dont think we will give 200+ yards in 8 games this season. But I still see us giving around 130 yds/ game on average and we will be around 25th in the league in run defense. I would be ecstatic if we are better.
The single biggest factor for bills being 5-11 or 8-8 and better is not the draft but merriman. He is the difference. But not many sound hopeful he will be back to his old self. So, the only difference in pass rush would come because of dareus over stroud and moats. Moats showed signs of being a solid starter. By my most optimistic outlook I hope moats could have a 7-8 sack season or better. Dareus has pass rush skills but he was never known for it. He didnt have production like fairley or suh in college. I doubt he would have the same rookie year like suh and get 11 sacks. The most optimistic prediction by me would be 5 sacks as a rookie. This could take our sack total from 27 to around 35 sacks by the team. This would put us in the middle of the league. Again, if merriman is fully effective, that could make our team a 40+ sack team. Then our defense could be something to talk about.
Verdict: Assuming sacks as a measure for the pass rush of the team, we would have an average pass rush which is way better than being 29th in the league.
Now we drafted aaron williams and da'norris searsy. But is sounds very likely we lose florence and whitner. CB is a very difficult position to expect a rookie to start in the first year. It is likely that our starting secondary goes from florence, mcgee, byrd, whitner to mckelvin, mcgee, byrd, wilson... Despite florence's a pass intereference a game streak, many had him as our best CB last year... to me it appears our secondary is weaker atleast for a season...
Verdict: This is a wild card. the much improved pass rush discussed above could even bring us close to 2nd in the league that we were in 2009. Our run defense being better could also expose our secondary and we might be in the bottom half of the league. One thing is for sure, the draft didnt play a role in improving this position despite drafting 3 DBs.
Overall defense: Even in 2009, with allegedly the 2nd best pass defense and good pass rush with schobel, we were bad overall at defense. Marginal improvement.
Season verdict: Overall I see only marginal improvement in defense despite 7 picks and marginal improvement in offense more so because of continuity and team chemistry.
I expect a 6-10 season at best but more like a 5-11 season. The draft didnt really solidify our defense this year but maybe for the future.
Thanks for sticking with the long post.