A long-time reader asked me a very interesting question last evening that I'm turning into a discussion post here today. Knowing that the Buffalo Bills will be running a wide-open offense under Chan Gailey, Ryan Fitzpatrick and company this year, this reader asked me to lump all of Buffalo's skill position players into one group - running backs, receivers and tight ends - and then rank them in order of importance.
I won't bore everyone by ranking every player - there are 23, after all - but I thought it'd be an interesting exercise (particularly given the addition of one of the team's free agents this year) to rank the major players in Buffalo's offensive arsenal. He'll make the list, but you'll find him after the jump. I'll limit the list to seven skill players for now, but y'all are welcome to campaign for other names to be added to the list.
1. WR Lee Evans - For now, Evans is still the one Bills skill player that opposing defenses will look to limit first. He's proven he can beat teams; until other Bills prove that consistently, Evans will be atop this list.
2. WR Stevie Johnson - Before the Bills' secondary offensive talent are able to hurt defenses underneath, the Bills must be able to consistently win on the edge. Johnson can elevate Evans, and vice versa, with more consistency and routinely winning matchups split wide.
3. RB Fred Jackson - The other piece of the puzzle to offensive balance and rhythm is the running game, and Jackson is the Bills' workhorse. Add in everything else he does - especially his much-improved blocking - and Jackson's value skyrockets.
4. WR Roscoe Parrish - With the big three out of the way, Parrish leads the charge from the team's secondary options. Gailey will look to get him involved early and often, and if healthy, he'll have a big year.
5. RB C.J. Spiller - Spiller and Parrish are cut from the same cloth, in a way, and Gailey will look to utilize them as such. Until Spiller is more comfortable with the ball and effective without it, it's tough to rank him higher - but he's got No. 1 potential.
6. WR David Nelson - Any good offense needs a guy that can consistently move the chains, and while we can debate his upside, there's no question that the reliable Nelson is very capable as a possession receiver. With any luck, defenses will continue to forget he's on the field.
7. QB/WR Brad Smith - We've got a loose idea of the Slash role Gailey has in mind for his new toy, but until we see it in action, it's tough to envision Smith getting enough touches to rank higher than this. Still, the level of investment made in Smith makes him worthy of inclusion on this list.