Oh, man. These take forever to compile. I had two main goals here: Find a QB of the future, and improve the defense. How did this turn out?
Either Nix stays, or it's Doug Whaley. We need some semblance of consistency moving forward.
Gailey won't give up playcalling - it's the hallmark of his coaching career. He won't take steps to address the defense - he doesn't know how (as he himself has said week after week). He won't step back to become an offensive coordinator, which is what he really is for the Bills (hence the silly assistant head coach role Wannstedt had last year). His "Player X was winded" is actually making me angry, which makes me sad because I'm sure Gailey is a nice guy.
I have to get rid of Gailey because my team needs a head coach who can focus on being a head coach, and an offensive coordinator to call the plays. An offensive coordinator in a Chan Gailey team will always, always be a meaningless sidekick, and Gailey will never, ever give up enough of his OC stuff to just be the team's head coach. Gailey has to go.
Head Coach: One of Bruce Arians, Jay Gruden, or Jon Gruden.
My three head coaching candidates all share two things in common. They are all QB-Centric - Arians helped develop Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck; Jay Gruden has done good things with Andy Dalton; Jon Gruden has "QB Camp" (ha), and they all exhibit strong leadership abilities. The younger Gruden is more of a question mark in this regard, but if he's anything like his brother, he'll be a tough dude who holds people accountable. Arians' leadership abilities were demonstrated in abundance this season.
I'll also make a strong run at Mike Zimmer.
The HC can bring on board whoever they like at DC as long as the defense stays in 4-3. Joe D'Alessandris (OL) stays. John Teerlinck (DL) as my D-Line coach is an important, even essential hire. The guy coached for three Super Bowl winners (DENx2, IND) and is a legend. Teerlinck has turned unheralded guys like Robert Mathis and Maa Tunavasa into gold, and has helped 1st-round guys like Dwight Freeney and Trevor Pryce get the most out of their abilities. I think he gets a lot out of our star-studded D-Line.
Byrd (tag if necessary, FS tag is not expensive this year)
C-Mac (I will always keep C-Mac...always)
Kelsay and Fitzpatrick restructure, or they get cut. I'll assume that both of them do so. I honestly think Fitz will take very well to the backup/mentor role. I don't like Tashard Choice as a guy to spell CJ, but I do like Tashard Choice as a spot fill-in for an injured guy, and I don't see anyone on the FA landscape much better.
The Bills sign Manny Lawson as a UFA. Lawson, a former 1st-round pick, is 6'5" and probably runs a mid 4.5 at this point in his career. (Crazy, right?) Lawson is an OLB in our 4-3 scheme. A big, fast guy like this will always be welcome on special teams, and he's a good bet for some good plays in coverage and a few sacks coming off the edge. Lawson saw 31% of the snaps for a very good Bengals defense this year. We get him for cheap.
The Bills also sign Kevin Vickerson from the Denver Broncos. At 6'5", 324 LBs, Vickerson is an extremely effective space-filler, and will surprise you with backfield plays as a wave player. Vickerson has routinely occupied two blockers this year for the Broncos, and the Broncos' more high-profile players (*ahem* Von Miller) owe much to his play. If Dareus gets hurt or tired, we lose some agility and pass rush, but none of his ability to occupy blockers. Vickerson is expensive enough to take us to our cap limit (minus the space needed for rookies).
Rd. 1 - Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
Geno Smith won't be around, but if he is, you take him. Glennon is taller than Fitz (fewer batted passes at the LOS, which have plagued Fitz all year), has a stronger arm, is pretty smart, and a good leader. Glennon once had ten dropped passes against him in a game. His best football is ahead of him.
Rd. 2 - Kevin Minter, LB, LSU
Minter is a proficient cover LB, and he is pretty good at shedding blocks/attacking the line as well. Minter instantly gives our D some of the ugly that it so desperately needs. He competes with Sheppard at MLB and probably unseats him by the early goings of the season.
I think Alexander Ogletree (LB, Georgia) will be gone by this pick. If he's around it's a tough choice between him and Minter. I like Minter's ability to shed blocks, so I take him over Ogletree.
Rd. 3 - Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State
Can you tell that I'm tired of our current LB play yet? Hodges is one of the very best cover LBs in the class. Hodges is fast and was a leader at Penn State. He projects as a 3-down player at OLB, probably at WILL. Hodges came into college actually as a safety, but has played LB for the past three years. Both Hodges and Minter racked up a good number of pass defenses in college. I want as many of those in my defense as possible this year.
Rd. 4 - Ryan Otten, TE, San Jose State
I'm worried about Scott Chandler. Knee and concussion injuries in the same season could spell trouble later. In 2011, Ryan Otten had 52 catches for 739 yards, 5 TDs. In 2012, he has 44 catches for 706 yards and 4 TDs. He is a surprising downfield threat for his position and blocks well. I want this guy on my roster as insurance for Chandler, another option on 4-wide sets, and to eventually grow into a starting role. Otten may go up the draft and I have no problem taking him earlier.
Rd. 5 - Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon
The guy put up huge numbers at a small school - is Elon a university or a brand of shampoo? 149 YPG, 1639 yds and 12 TDs in 2011; 1408 yds and 18 TDs this year. Wow. I give him a shot based on production and this maxim from the great Bill Polian - "If a guy's done it once, there's a good chance he'll do it again."
Rd. 6 - Brad Sorenson, QB, Southern Utah
Developmental/backup guy with a quick release and good size.
Rd. 7 - Travis Howard, CB, Ohio State
The usual late-round CB. Good size and speed, decent production (8 picks, 20 PD)
2013 Buffalo Bills
QB: Mike Glennon, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brad Sorenson
HB: CJ Spiller, Fred Jackson, Tashard Choice
FB: Corey McIntyre
TE: Scott Chandler, Ryan Otten, Lee Smith
LT: Cordy Glenn
RG: Kraig Urbik
NT: Marcel Dareus, Kevin Vickerson
DT: Kyle Williams, Alex Carrington
RDE: Mario Anderson, Kyle Moore
MLB: Kevin Minter, Kelvin Sheppard
FS: Jairus Byrd
K: Rian Lindell
P: Shaun Potter
LS: Garrison Sanborn
What did we achieve? I've given us speed and coverage ability at linebacker and new blood at QB - both things this team seriously lacks. Our revamped LB corps has athletes capable of running with TEs and playing zone. Our offense gets a QB capable of stretching the field. Our new QB gets a nice mix of possession targets (Stevie), downfield threats (TJ, even CJ), and safety valves (Chandler, Otten, Nelson) to go with his well-established OL and quality run game.
There were a lot of hard decisions to make, and I still don't feel right about all the choices I made. But I did my best to address what I perceived to be our team's biggest disadvantages this year. Hope you guys like it.