Football Outsiders publishes an annual recap of the mainstream expert draft grades for each team, compiling an average post-draft evaluation for each year and then ranking each team from #1 highest average grade all the way down to the worst at #32. The experts used this year were:• Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com (AFC East, North*, South, West, NFC East, North, South, West) • Pete Prisco, CBS Sports • Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News • Evan Silva, Rotoworld (NFC, AFC) • Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated • Jason Cole, Yahoo! Sports (NFC, AFC) • Nate Davis, USA Today • Mel Kiper, ESPN Insider
Led by Kiper's C-, the Bills finished this year with a consolidated draft grade that put them in 29th place out of the 32 NFL teams. Most of the analysts did not agree with the 1st round selection of Manuel, and there was various levels of criticism over the selection of Alonso in round 2, Goodwin in round 3, and Meeks in round 5.
So should we care, and are the "experts" usually correct?
Football Outsiders has archived these grades since 2005- in the last 9 years (including this year's draft), the Bills have received an average draft grade in the bottom 4 of the league 5 times, an average grade in the middle of the league (14th-20th place) 4 times, and received a top 10 grade only once.
In other words, criticizing the Bills' draft performance is the norm, not the exception. Here are the recaps and grades from 2005-2012, in order from worst to best.
2010, 31st place. The experts hated Buddy Nix's first draft, especially the selection of CJ Spiller with Lynch and Jackson already on the roster. While the Spiller pick was eventually validated, the Bills have gotten almost no return from the next four players selected: Troup, Carrington, Easley and Wang. Expert Accuracy: Spiller alone elevates the draft above 31st place, but not much more.
2005, 30th place. The last of the Donahoe drafts before he was finally fired. The Bills did not have a 1st round pick this year, having unfortunately traded it the previous year to move up and select JP Losman. Yes, Kevin Everett was tragically injured, but when the most productive players taken are Roscoe Parrish, Duke Preston and Eric King, you know it's a bad year. Expert Accuracy: 100% accurate.
2006, 28th place. The first of the Marv Levy drafts was panned at the time for the reach selections of Whitner and McCargo in the 1st. Add in Ashton Youboty and Ko Simpson, and it becomes abundantly clear why the Bills playoff drought has lasted as long as it has. Kyle Williams in the 5th was a great pick, and Brad Butler and Keith Ellison were solid late picks, but Levy blew this one. Expert accuracy: unfortunately, right on.
2009, 20th place. The last of the Brandon-Jauron drafts. If you can put aside the selection of Aaron Maybin with the 11th pick in the draft, the next three selections of Wood, Byrd and Levitre were outstanding. The Bills got nothing out of the mid and late rounds in the draft. Expert accuracy: fairly close, although the case can be made that the draft merited a higher grade, if you can ignore Maybin.
2012, 17th place. We'll have to revisit this one again after the 2013 season. Once again, Nix got no value from the late rounds, but there is a lot of hope in the group of Gilmore, Glenn, Graham, Bradham, Brooks and Sanders. Expert accuracy: we will know in 7 months.
2011, 16th place. See comments above, shake, rinse and repeat. If Dareus, Williams, Searcy, Hairston improve, then give the advantage to the Bills. If they don't, then the experts probably pegged this one pretty closely. Sheppard is gone now, but the Bills have gotten decent value in the 6th and 7th round from White and Rogers, which is a rarity in the Nix drafts. Expert accuracy: Very close.
2008, 14th place. Another Brandon/Jauron draft- this one the experts liked, but the reality has been something much less than desired. Stevie Johnson has been an outstanding pick at #7, and McKelvin has his value, just not 1R draft pick value. Hardy, Ellis, Corner, Fine, Bowen- we hardly knew you. Expert's accuracy: poor, as this draft was significantly overrated.
2007, 6th place. The only draft in the last nine years where the Bills were universally praised for having one of the best drafts in the NFL. In retrospect, it wasn't that good. Marshawn Lynch has been a 3-time Pro Bowler, putting aside his character concerns, and Poz is a solid if unspectacular MLB. But Trent Edwards, despite the glowing recommendation from Bill Walsh, was a bust, and the Bills got nothing of value from the rest of the draft. Expert's accuracy: poor, as they overvalued the draft.
I am actually bullish on this year's draft picks, but recognize it is very much a high risk, high reward group. As much as I hate the Kipers of the world and their slavish attachment to their draft boards, I have to admit they've been right about the Bills far more than they've been wrong. Here's hoping this is one of those "got it wrong" years.