So another draft has come and gone. With this draft, the Bills came in with 6 picks, but came out with 8. The offense looks a lot quicker, the secondary has more depth, but there are still questions pertaining to who will be on the roster come this September. So here is my breakdown of the picks and my grades for each.
OVERALL GRADE: B-
A- Round 1. QB E.J. Manuel – Florida State [6-5, 237, 4.59]
A+ Round 2. WR Robert Woods – USC [6-1, 201, 4.42]
B+ Round 2. LB Kiko Alonso – Oregon [6-4, 238, 4.75]
B- Round 3. WR Marquis Goodwin – Texas [5-9, 183, 4.21]
B- Round 4. S Duke Williams – Nevada [5-11, 203, 4.48]
F Round 5. S Jonathan Meeks – Clemson [6-1, 209, 4.55]
C Round 6. K Dustin Hopkins – Florida State [6-2, 193, 4.71]
B+ Round 7. TE Chris Gragg – Arkansas [6-3, 244, 4.46]
Round 1. QB E.J. Manuel: GRADE: A-
With their first pick, the Bills actually traded back from 8th overall to 16th overall gaining a second and a seventh round pick from the St. Louis Rams. With that pick, the Bills took Manuel as the first QB and only first round QB off the boards. Firstly, there has been some criticism for the Bills for taking Manuel as the first QB of the draft especially given that Barkley and Nassib escaped to the fourth round. With regards to those two and I mean no disrespect, all 32 teams in the NFL recognized a lack of strength as a serious issue to not take these players throughout the first two days of the draft.
Second, with regards to Geno Smith whom many had as the top QB of the draft, Smith had several issues from consistency to a lack of pocket presence that hampered his draft stock. Thirdly, while Manuel has his faults (lacking consistency), the draft statement is bold; the Bills took a QB with one of the strongest outings and most physical of QBs to develop their offense around. Additionally, the Eagles reportedly had a strong interest with Manuel so had the Bills gambled and traded down again, the Eagles could have traded up and grabbed him. Manuel seems quite poised as a person and can take a year or two to learn the schemes as Kolb can start in the interim. I graded it as a B+, but it has the potential to be higher.
Round 2. WR Robert Woods: GRADE: A+
The Bills clearly needed a wide receiver to start opposite of Stevie Johnson and Woods certainly fills that need. He may lack the ideal height the Bills wanted heading in, but definitely has speed and the ability to make plays after the catch. Woods is a safe, solid prospect who can contribute immediately. Woods had an off junior year, but given that he has regained his speed, and that USC focused on sophomore Marquis Lee, Woods was an underrated prospect heading into the draft.
Round 2. LB Kiko Alonso: GRADE: B+
The Bills had a major problem in stopping the run largely due to poor play from their linebacker corps. Alonzo was not the best LB on the board, but given that Arthur Brown was projected more as a Will LB, not a middle LB, I understand going with Alonso. Speaking of whom, Alonso has some character concerns, but does well in both run and pass protection. He was one of the biggest ILBs in the draft and should be an upgrade over Shepp.
Round 3. WR Marquis Goodwin: GRADE: B-
The Bills also needed depth at receiver; I respect Marrone wanting to bring in his own speedster, but like T.J. Graham, Nix jumped the gun a bit. Goodwin is a faster (and smaller) player than Graham, needs more development, but definitely adds speed and depth to the roster. Watch out Brad Smith this guy could steal reps from you.
Round 4. S Duke Williams: GRADE: B-
Williams was not my top rated safety still on the boards, but he wasn’t far from it either. The Bills needed a little depth at safety given Pettine’s safety-heavy defenses. However, I feel that the Bills could have used this pick to address other areas with BPAs.
Round 5. S Jonathan Meeks: GRADE: F
Meeks may’ve gone in a later round, but that’s not why I dislike this pick. While Meeks was a fair safety in college, the fact that the Bills are doubling up at this position after switching Aaron Williams here can be bad indicator of Nix’s chances of tying up Jairus Byrd to a long-term deal. 5 safeties is a lot for a team too and given other players on the board, Nix could have gone in a different direction. On the plus side, Meeks should be a decent special teams player.
Round 6. K Dustin Hopkins: GRADE: C
For the second year in a row the Bills drafted a kicker. True Hopkins and Sturgis were the best 1 and 2 kickers on the board. But the Bills still have Lindell under contract and he’s fairly reliable inside 50 yards. Hopkins has better range, although with Marrone, the Bills could try to use Lindell on longer tries. Hopkins grade can go up provided he stays on as more than a kickoff specialist.
Round 7. TE Chris Gragg: GRADE: B+
With Scott Chandler possibly not healthy to start, the Bills could’ve picked up a TE in the earlier rounds, but Gragg has speed, starting experience and was one of the best TEs left on the board. Even if Chandler is injured, Gragg probably won’t start, but provides depth.Other options: G Garrett Gilkey, QB Zac Dysert, TERyan Otten, DE Michael Buchanan