Around Bowl Season, I published the first Jaeger Plan. The theory was Stabilize, Fill, and then Build. The idea was to resign Buffalo free agents, then sign free agents, and the draft to build. The majority of the first two steps are complete, though in the original post, I didn't know if Buffalo would resign Stevie Johnson, and thought they would resign Demetrius Bell and Bryan Scott. I also didn't think Mario Williams would make it to free agency, and thought Buffalo would have to pull off a Jared Allen-esque trade to acquire him.
Over two months later, let's review the bidding:
- Buffalo fired George Edwards, elevated Dave Wannstedt to defensive coordinator, and installed a fast-flowing 4-3 defense. Buffalo also hired David Lee, a noted quarterback developer.
- Buffalo resigned Johnson, Scott Chandler, Kirk Morrison, Garrison Sanborn, Rian Lindell, tendered Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart, and restructured Terrence McGee's contract. Only Bell and Scott were allowed to test free agency.
- Buffalo signed Mario Williams.
- Miami hired Mike Sherman as their offensive coordinator.
- Buddy Nix has made public that he doesn't feel there's a pass rusher worth the tenth pick. Nix's only other comments that indicate where he's thinking is that the team is going to add an offensive tackle somewhere in the draft. And Buffalo scouts reportedly spent a lot of time at Arizona State, and I'm sure it wasn't for Vontaze Burfict.
- The best deep threat receivers signed somewhere other than Buffalo.
What's all this information mean when synthesized? Here's my attempt to put it together.
Minus some minor additions, Buffalo looks to be done in the free agent market. I wouldn't count out Bell and Scott returning. If they don't, Buffalo doesn't have any truly glaring weaknesses like many seasons over the past decade. Buffalo does have a lot of positions with adequate starters, or starters with question marks, that they'd like to upgrade.
Nix could look to upgrade at left tackle over Chris Hairston. The team still needs a deep threat as the number two receiver to be upgrade to Donald Jones, though Marcus Easley could fill that position. Oft-injured Shawne Merriman isn't a sure bet to remain healthy at right end. Though Aaron Williams and Justin Rogers offer promise, McGee is injury-prone and Drayton Florence has the consistency of a roller coaster.
By Nix's own words and actions, Buffalo is almost a lock to take an offensive tackle somewhere in the draft (Nix's own words) and draft a deep receiver (Nix's actions to attempt to sign Robert Meachem). Nix also expressed concern over his cornerbacks and pass rush earlier in the off-season, and I don't think Williams eliminates the pass rush need completely.
Onto the draft. Andrew Luck is a sure bet to go first to Indianapolis, and RGIII will go to Washington, who gave up three season's worth of first round picks for the right to take the Baylor passer. I can see the draft going like this:
1.) Indy: Luck
2.) Washington: RGIII
3.) Minnesota: Matt Kalil, OT USC. I don't buy the hype about Minnesota trading down. Kalil is a franchise LT, and you don't pass on those.
4.) Cleveland: Trent Richardson, RB Alabama. I don't think they go Ryan Tannehill here. Holmgren won a lot of games with a workhorse RB named Shaun Alexander in Seattle, and I think Richardson is too hard to pass up.
5.) Tampa Bay: Morris Claiborne, CB LSU. Need equals rankings.
6.) St. Louis: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU. I think Fisher passes on Justin Blackmon. With all the picks he has, I think he takes the DT that makes his front four go. There are plenty of receivers to choice from in the second round.
7.) Jacksonville: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. The front office should be doing everything they can to ensure Gabbert works out, or they might end up with the quarterback the new owner wants.
8.) Miami: Ryan Tannehill, QB Texas A&M. With Flynn in Seattle and Manning deciding between Tennessee and Denver, Miami off-season feels like Buffalo's 2010 off-season. Even Jeff Fisher didn't want to come to South Beach. Joe Philbin is now their head coach, and Sherman's pupil at Texas A&M, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, seems like the right pick for Miami in the first round of the draft.
9.) Carolina: Dontari Poe, NT Memphis. Ron Rivera eventually wants to go 3-4. Poe is a good start.
10.) Buffalo Bills.
Players available with a high enough grade, that fit Buffalo's needs, fit Buffalo's prototypes for positions, and haven't been discounted by Nix:
- Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame; Reilly Reiff, OT Iowa; Mike Adams, OT Ohio State; Cordy Glenn, OL Georgia; Reuben Randall, WR LSU; Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Alabama; Janoris Jenkins, CB North Alabama.
Players available with the grade to be picked, but don't necessarily fit a need:
- Luke Kuechly, LB Boston College; David DeCastro, RG Stanford; Mark Barron, S Alabama; Donta Hightower, LB Alabama; Peter Konz, C Wisconsin.
Let's start discounting players. I don't think Reiff is going to be the pick. Nix passed on a player similar, Brian Bulaga. I think Reiff ends up at RT, like Bulaga. Buffalo already has Erik Pears at RT. Kuechly and Hightower don't fit Wannstedt's defense well. Hightower is a thumper but doesn't flow sideline to sideline well. Kuechly also struggles to get to the edge quickly, something that's a must in Wannstedt's defense. DeCastro and Konz play positions that Buffalo doesn't need and already has a lot invested in. I think they'd also pass on Glenn, who could play LT but is probably a guard.
That leaves Floyd, Adams, Randall, Kirkpatrick, Jenkins, and Barron.
Nix likes first rounders who played a lot and produced. I think that effectively takes out Randall, who did a lot of damage in just two seasons as a starter. That leaves five players on the board, all except Barron come with character concerns. So, for me, it's going to come down to the interviews and background checks for Adams, Floyd, Kirkpatrick, and Jenkins. I wouldn't be surprised to see Nix go with Barron, a senior that's produced, started on two National Championship teams at Alabama, and obviously plays in the favored region, the Southeast.
One final note: I wouldn't be shocked to see Buffalo take a flyer on Brock Osweiler in round two. Buffalo needs a developmental quarterback. Osweiler is the ultimate developmental guy. He possesses more natural quarterbacking talent than all but a handful of NFL throwers. He's just raw, really raw. With Fitzpatrick in place, I could see Nix taking Osweiler and having David Lee work with him for a few seasons before determining if he's ready. If Osweiler pans out, he could be a more mobile and confident version of Joe Flacco, a guy who was a dropped pass away from the Super Bowl.