For those looking to skim, topics are in bold.
On drafting a kicker, the numbers do not add up to the Bills needing a kickoff specialist. Lindell had 44 kickoffs last season. One gets thrown out of the stats because it was a squib quick with three seconds before a half ended. Another gets thrown out because Buffalo actually forced and recovered a fumble. On the other 42 kickoffs, the opponents average starting spot was the 20.7 yard line. The John Potter pick was a joke. Touchbacks are overrated when you're the Bills and have good kick coverage and turn 13 of Lindell's kickoffs into tackles behind the 20. Lindell did kick one out of bounds, but that happens. There were 26 OOB kickoffs last season. There was one return out to the 45 yard line (where Lindell actually got hurt making the tackle), but it was the only return past the 30 yard line of Lindell's season. How is somebody an upgrade over one turnover and other teams starting at their own 21? Does Nix think that is worth a spot on the 45 man gameday roster? Also, does anybody else find irony in Buffalo taking a bunch of players who are all talked about as plus special teamers in the mid rounds and then take a touchback guy with their last pick? Or is he just another example of a team trying to improve on specials?
Does anybody else think that that the Pats didn't have a good draft at all? I know that a lot of people liked Chandler Jones, but I'm not one of them. I'm a huge Syracuse fan and have watched Jones play at least 20 times. He's really long and a pretty smooth athlete, but I don't see the burst or change of direction to be anything more than just another guy along a DL. Where does Dont'a Hightower fit there? He's a great option when they're doing 3-4 looks, but when they go 4-3, do they really want to line him up over a TE and ask him to cover? I thought he was a reach for a non 3-4-only team like NE. Not only did they take the wrong players, IMO, but to trade up for them? And Tavon Wilson, are you serious?
For the Bills draft, here are my useless grades for the Bills picks and my explanations are randomly somewhere below:
Stephon Gilmore is a solid enough pick. It's not an incredible pick or anything like that because there is some risk there. He was a little inconsistent at USC, gave up some big plays at bad times and didn't look like he played as fast as he timed before the draft. I think there are some ways to knock Nix for his draft style because of the ridiculous amount of players from the southeast and he's clearly very big on measurables. That said, I'll buy the argument that there wasn't all that great of a pick to be made and that Gilmore was a rock solid selection in terms of both talent and need.
That the Bills really liked both Gilmore and Barron is telling of how Buffalo is doing some combo of reacting to the success the Pats have had with TEs and trying to get ahead of the curve of an always changing league. The big variety of ways that offenses can find success moving the football leads to things becoming more and more of chess match style coaching. That leads to to things being more and more about matchups and scheme. Gilmore matches up well with every playmaker in the league, at least from a schematic perspective (obviously, he has to prove he can be successful on the field, and not just on paper against some of the league's better players).
On the Buddy Nix Approval Poll: I didn't get a chance to chime in on the conversation, so my thoughts are going here. I did change from "disapprove" to "approve", although I'm barely at approve. I'm really a "not sure" that gets pushed over just enough by the Mario Williams signing. My logic is that there is simply too much that I'm unsure about. I know that Kelsay is overpaid and Merriman was an awful signing and that the CJ Spiller pick is still a headscratcher and I know that Nix has had some great finds in guys like Urbik, Rhinehart, Nelson and Chandler. I like that the organization is all on the same page and the Mario Williams signing shows that and leads me to approve. But, some things I'm not sure about:
Has Buddy Nix figured out free agency and to not waste money on mediocre 3rd and 4th tier guys like Cornell Green and Brad Smith when younger players can come in and do the same job? He obviously doesn't need to sign a superstar every offseason, but was this past year Nix learning from past mistakes or will he again try to address holes with crappy FA moves in the future?
Is Nix really trying to win a Super Bowl with Fitz or has the opportunity to draft a QB simply not happened yet? Is Nix serious about finding an elite QB or not? I just don't know.
Does Nix really understand that this league is about passing and stopping the pass or has he finally stopped the build up the middle approach because his neglect of certain positions (ie: pass rushers) forced him to fill the only holes left on the roster? He seems content with the TEs, but is that him undervaluing the position or a Chan Gailey or maybe even David Nelson thing?
What is the deal with all the southern players and does Nix overvalue measurables? Are his drafts really that good or are we just being optimistic too early in the process?
I think the thing I like most about the Cordy Glenn pick is that he's a great fit at LT for this offense, but if Buffalo were ever to move to a different system with a big armed QB chucking it down the field and more power style running, Glenn becomes a great fit at RT, or worst case scenario he's a starter at guard. Incredible value for a 2nd rounder.
How lucky was it that Buffalo had both Glenn and Martin available and got to pick their guy in the 2nd round? Was there a better scenario for Buffalo to have there? Even Stephen Hill and some WRs were available if Buffalo wanted to go that route.
I guess I like that Buffalo was high enough on TJ Graham that they moved up for him .... I guess. IMO, this is nothing more than Nix reaching on a guy with great measurables, specifically speed. It's a reach to fill a need as a deep receiver, but he doesn't fit the offense at all. I don't think he's a threat to be a starter for this team because he can't be asked to run the whole route tree, or really, anything close to it. Expect him to come in and out of games and basically, only run fly routes down the sideline this season.
I'm not as high on Nigel Bradham as many other Rumblers are. I think he's stiff and slow to react. I think that, in combination with mediocre instancts leaves his upside as a high end reserve. He should be a stud special teamer and solid backup though. Given that it's the fourth round and Buffalo definitely had to address LB depth in that area of the draft, I think it's a alright pick.
Random side note, as a math nerd, I'd be pretty numbers oriented in my approach to building a team if I were a GM. One study I'd happily use some of the team budget to pay for would be on star college recruits, like Bradham was, and how they do in the NFL when they are mid and/or late round picks. I wonder if a superstar recruit and instant contributor like Bradham has historically been a disappointment in the NFL when they don't really improve all that much in college or if it's the other way around. That players with that kind of talent, but end up as mid or late rounders often have more untapped potential.
I really, really like the Ron Brooks pick. I've mentioned that I think Nix is a little too into measurables, but I think this is a great example of taking a shot on an athlete without much of a track record. The logic being that the reward with this pick outweighs the risk because Brooks does have a great track record as a special teamer and quite a good one playing in the slot. I think that if Brooks was a junior this year and could start across from Matheiu next year, he'd have a good shot of being taken considerably higher than 124. The Bills can use him in so many different ways this year and down the road that I maybe should have even graded it out higher than a B+. Just tough to ignore the bust factor of him coming from a defense with so, so much talent in the secondary surrounding Brooks. Maybe he was in such a good position that it made him look better than he really was and would have been a fringy draftable guy if he had spent the past few seasons starting at Ole Miss or some other lower tier SEC school.
I think Zebrie Sanders has soon to be swing tackle written all over him. The Bills say they like him for the right side, but he's definitely athletic enough and the kind of natural bender who can play on the left side. He needed too much development to go as early in the draft as many predicted he would. Nice upside pick here that gets an A- if for no other reason than that Ed Wang was taken in this spot a few years ago. It also helps that, despite going into the draft with one of the worst OT situations in the NFL, Buffalo's OL is actually a pretty ideal spot for him to land. He gets to be 4th in the pecking order and play under a legit veteran in Erik Pears.
I like Tank Carder as much as Nigel Bradham. I think he was a better college player and should be able to back up multiple LB positions, if not all three spots. Sure, he profiles as a career backup who will struggle in coverage, but he's the kind of depth that you can't go wrong with in the 5th round.
Will Mark Asper really make this team? I think it's funny that it's probably an Asper vs. Jasper battle for the last OL spot on the team. I actually like that Asper comes in older, already 26 due to a Mormon mission. Has some experience playing a handful of different spots. I simply do not see still being part of the Bills organization in a few years and that's why he gets the low grade.
A kickoff specialist? I know the Bills landed Aaron Corp after the draft, but wouldn't this have been better used on a priority FA, like Corp, or a player that Buffalo failed to land? Couldn't they get Potter after the draft by simply telling him he had a decent shot at making the team with Buffalo's very low % of touchbacks? Pathetic use of a draft pick.
I've done a complete 180 on the Wannstedt hire. My initial concern was that it was reactionary and the perfect example of a lack of a plan. Turns out, it was just a brand new plan for the defense. I still think he's going to be a mediocre DC, but that's fine because he'll do a good enough job running a 4-3 and calling plays. I've just got to point out that I was very wrong about the hire because Buffalo now has a real plan and direction on defense.
I never cared about 4-3 vs. 3-4 in terms of the scheme of where to line guys up. My problem was that I didn't think the Bills had a real plan to attack QBs and challange them with coverages. It's not about which scheme you run, it's about why you run it. It's about why players are lining up where they are. It's now obvious what Buffalo is trying to do on defense which is a welcome change from pass rusher-less teams of the past couple seasons.
My Live Draft Results
Here are the picks that I "made" for the Bills during the draft.
1 - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame - Nothing complicated about this pick. I simply like him a little more than Gilmore or the other options and think he's a better fit than players that could have been added later in the draft.
2 - Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia - No surprises here. I like Glenn for Buffalo more than Martin because I think Glenn fits just as well at LT as Martin does for this specific offense, but is more versatile in his ability to play RT or guard in a different offense down the road.
3 - Ronnell Lewis, LB/pass rusher, Oklahoma - I thought it was too much talent to pass up on here. He'd be the understudy at SAM LB and maybe in the game in certain packages. Lewis is an instant contributor on special teams and offers situational pass rushing down the line. Not necessarily a need or great scheme fit, but I think he'll end up being good enough that he'd eventually force the coach's hand about how to run the 4-3.
4 - Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia - Great slot fit in the NFL. Nice senior bowl week. Potential to be a playmaker in the NFL, even if he doesn't really profile as a future outside starter.
4 - James Brown, OL, Troy - Can't believe he went undrafted. I watched him effortlessly handle Andre Branch this year and Brown not being drafted is a total head scratcher to me. Good feet, powerful hands, but I guess too raw and too much of a guard/tackle tweener?
5 - Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma - Fell to the 7th round due to injury concerns, but I'll take the risk here. Polished and great in coverage, instant backup despite being taken this late.
5 - Janzen Jackson, S/CB, McNeese St. - Another player who went undrafted. This time probably due to character. Or at least I'm guessing character because he sure looked good to me when he was playing safety next to Eric Berry at Tennessee. Offers depth at CB and can play a dime role in addition to backing up FS and playing special teams. I don't mind one real character risk in a draft if I don't think he'd be the type to hurt a locker room.
6 - Emmanuel Acho, LB, Texas - Solid, versatile backup.
7 - Mike Brewster, OL, Ohio St. - Wasn't planning on taking a center, but I thought Brewster should have been drafted.
7 - Aaron Corp, QB, Richmond - funny how things work out as he ends up a Buffalo Bill after the draft.