Which Buffalo Bills Players Are Considered "Elite"?

July 27, 2012; Pittsford, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (94) enters the field prior to a training camp practice at St. John Fisher College. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-US PRESSWIRE

How many "elite" players do the Buffalo Bills have? That's an idea that we've explored in the past, though it's been nearly two years since we've done so. The idea for this post is a bit of a long story, so we'll let reader Tony explain via his email inquiry submitted Tuesday afternoon.

"Brian, before the Steelers-Packers Super Bowl game, you wrote a piece that identified each of the two teams' elite and exceptional players," Tony writes. "If I recall correctly, your main point was that Buffalo didn't have near enough of these player to be legitimate contenders. I was wondering if you could do the same exercise using the current Bills roster."

The posts that Tony is referring to were written in early 2011, right before Green Bay defeated Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV. I used a rudimentary and highly subjective evaluation system to identify elite players and rank the roster in tiers, and I'll happily get into that again after the jump.

To briefly describe the system, it splits the roster into four tiers: elite players; good players; fringe players; and roster filler. The second and third tiers are further divided by an age-25 barrier to help build upside into the evaluation method.

If you're interested, you can see how I applied the system to Buffalo's roster right after the conclusion of the 2010 season. At that point in time, I identified just one elite player on the team: defensive tackle Kyle Williams. Today, I consider two Bills players elite: Kyle Williams and Mario Williams. That answers Tony's question!

But since I'm on a roll here, I might as well break down the entire roster again, right? Here we go!

Tier 1, Group A: This group of players are, I believe, considered elite by NFL standards.

2 players: DE Mario Williams, DT Kyle Williams

Tier 2, Group B: This group consists of veteran players (age 25 and up) that have proven, to varying degrees, that they can be dependable and productive starting-level NFL players.

14 players: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Fred Jackson, RB C.J. Spiller, WR Stevie Johnson, WR David Nelson, OG Andy Levitre, OG Kraig Urbik, C Eric Wood, DE Mark Anderson, LB Nick Barnett, FS Jairus Byrd, SS George Wilson, K Rian Lindell, LS Garrison Sanborn

Tier 2, Group C: This group consists of young players, under the age of 25, that are already significant contributors (or will soon be, in a couple of cases) and hold significant upside.

5 players: OT Cordy Glenn, DT Marcell Dareus, LB Kelvin Sheppard, CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Aaron Williams

Tier 3, Group D: This group consists of young players, under the age of 25, that are not yet significant contributors, but with a little TLC from the coaching staff could evolve into players or even stars.

19 players: RB Johnny White, HB Dorin Dickerson, WR Donald Jones, WR Marcus Easley, WR T.J. Graham, WR Kamar Aiken, TE Lee Smith, OT Chris Hairston, OT Zebrie Sanders, DT Torell Troup, LB Arthur Moats, LB Nigel Bradham, LB Tank Carder, LB Chris White, CB Justin Rogers, CB Ron Brooks, SS Da'Norris Searcy, K John Potter, P Shawn Powell

Tier 3, Group E: This group consists of veteran players, age 25 and above, that I consider "fringe" players. They may be steady contributors - and many are starters - but they are also average-level players that could (or in some cases, should) be upgraded on when the opportune moment strikes.

19 players: QB Vince Young, FLEX Brad Smith, FB Corey McIntyre, WR Derek Hagan, TE Scott Chandler, OT Erik Pears, OG Chad Rinehart, C Colin Brown, DE Chris Kelsay, DE Shawne Merriman, DT Spencer Johnson, DT Dwan Edwards, DT Alex Carrington, DT Kellen Heard, LB Kirk Morrison, LB Bryan Scott, CB Terrence McGee, CB Leodis McKelvin, P Brian Moorman

Tier 4, Group F: This group consists of players of any age that I consider marginal NFL talent. All of these players certainly have redeeming qualities, but they're all unlikely to make a good NFL team.

31 players: QB Tyler Thigpen, RB Tashard Choice, RB Chris Douglas, WR Ruvell Martin, WR Naaman Roosevelt, WR David Clowney, WR Derek Session, TE Kevin Brock, TE Mike Caussin, TE Fendi Onobun, OT Sam Young, OT James Carmon, OG Michael Jasper, OG Keith Williams, OG Jake Vermiglio, C Mark Asper, C David Snow, DE Kyle Moore, DE Robert Eddins, DE Sean Ferguson, DT Jarron Gilbert, DT Jay Ross, LB Danny Batten, LB Scott McKillop, CB Prince Miller, CB Cris Hill, CB Isaiah Green, FS Joshua Nesbitt, FS Nick Saenz, SS Delano Howell, SS Nick Sukay

And, finally, we'll put that in depth chart form as we did in 2010, including all players on the depth chart sans the final "roster marginalia" group.

Pos. Group 1 (A) Group 2 (B, C) Group 3 (D, E)
WR

Derek Hagan
Donald Jones
T.J. Graham
WR
David Nelson
LT
Cordy Glenn
LG
Andy Levitre
C
Eric Wood Colin Brown
RG
Kraig Urbik Chad Rinehart
RT

Erik Pears
Chris Hairston
Zebrie Sanders
TE

Scott Chandler
Dorin Dickerson
Lee Smith
WR
Stevie Johnson Marcus Easley
Kamar Aiken
QB
Ryan Fitzpatrick Vince Young
Brad Smith
RB
Fred Jackson
C.J. Spiller
Corey McIntyre
Johnny White
LE Mario Williams
Chris Kelsay
DT
Marcell Dareus Spencer Johnson
Alex Carrington
DT Kyle Williams
Dwan Edwards
Kellen Heard
Torell Troup
RE
Mark Anderson Shawne Merriman
SLB

Kirk Morrison
Arthur Moats
Tank Carder
MLB
Kelvin Sheppard Chris White
WLB
Nick Barnett Bryan Scott
Nigel Bradham
CB
Aaron Williams Terrence McGee
Justin Rogers
SS
George Wilson Da'Norris Searcy
FS
Jairus Byrd
CB
Stephon Gilmore Leodis McKelvin
Ron Brooks
K
Rian Lindell John Potter
P

Brian Moorman
Shawn Powell
LS
Garrison Sanborn
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