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)|
|C||Eric Wood||Colin Brown|
|RG||Kraig Urbik||Chad Rinehart|
|WR||Stevie Johnson||Marcus Easley
|QB||Ryan Fitzpatrick||Vince Young
|LE||Mario Williams||Chris Kelsay|
|DT||Marcell Dareus||Spencer Johnson
|DT||Kyle Williams||Dwan Edwards
|RE||Mark Anderson||Shawne Merriman|
|MLB||Kelvin Sheppard||Chris White|
|WLB||Nick Barnett||Bryan Scott
|CB||Aaron Williams||Terrence McGee
|SS||George Wilson||Da'Norris Searcy|
|CB||Stephon Gilmore||Leodis McKelvin
|K||Rian Lindell||John Potter|