Mark Gaughn of the Buffalo News is widely considered one of the best reporters covering the Bills and the NFL in general. This morning he did a live chat on the Buff News website that contained a number of observations that bear on discussions we have been having on Rumblings. The Buff News now has a paywall, but in my view having access to Gaughn and his colleague Tim Graham is well worth the price. In any event, here are Gaughn's key points:
- First and foremost, Gaughn does not think the Bill should take a QB in the first round this year. Rather, they should go BPA at a position of need, preferably WR, and then take the QB they like best among those still on the board in round two. Gaughn is not that impressed with Geno Smith and believes E.J. Manuel should not be drafted in any round, but thinks Nassib, Tyler Wilson and Barkley would all be fine. That's because he assumes that whoever they take this year will NOT be their eventual franchise QB, but rather a future back-up.
-He believes the team will have a poor record this year because of their QB situation. Also, as much as he likes Mike Pettine, he thinks Pettine's scheme is so complex it will take at least a year for players to master it. Thus he predicts the Bills will likely have another Top Ten pick in 2014, and very possibly a Top Five. That's when they should draft their franchise QB. In his words: "The best path I see to the Bills making the Super Bowl and Doug Marrone getting a big contract extension some day is the Bills being bad in 2013 and getting The Answer (Bridgewater would be great) near the top of the draft in 2014."
-In his view, the team's greatest need at the moment (leaving QB aside) is WR. The problem has been made worse because no decent FA at the position wants to come to Buffalo this year given the reality that our QB situation is completely up in the air. For that reason Gaughn would have tendered Nelson and possibly Jones. What to do now? The best bet as he sees it is to take two WR's in the draft, with one possibly coming in the first round. He would not mind having the team sign a bunch of low-cost FA's and see how they work out. One that he would especially target would be Darius Heyward-Bey, who has improved over the last year or two and might be "real good."
-Gaughn is not worried about how FA has gone this year because he wasn't expecting much. In his view, $8 million for Levitre would have been way too high. He expects the Bills to retain Eric Wood next year and he believes they are fine at OT, so the o-line should be fine. He reports that the Bills have been trying to convince Jets' veteran Brandon Moore to come to Buffalo, but so far Moore has held off because he is nearing the end of his career and wants to go to a team likely to be a winner over the next couple of years. Taking an OT at pick #8 Gaughn would regard as a big mistake.
-On defense, he expects we will see the 4-3 more than the 3-4 because "you can't play 3-4 against the spread" and opposing teams are using a spread offense most of the time these days. But there will also be a lot of nickel defense, which means that Bryan Scott will be in at LB. That means that LB is not that great a priority in his view, although he would like to see the Bills find an ILB who can cover.
-He believes the coaches are"ok" with Kelvin Sheppard, even though he is only a two-down backer. He also notes that they really like Bradham and want to find out what Searcy can do. Gaughn had written earlier that Brad Jones of the Packers would be a good LB acquisition for the Bills, but after looking into it further he now finds that Jones is weak in coverage and not that good a bet.
- Finally, Gaughn strongly endorses paying Jarius Byrd whatever it takes to keep him. Some players are worth it, Gaughn said, and Byrd is one of them.