Well the draft is over, teams are done signing their UDFA's, and it's time to prepare for the OTA's, other free agent signings, and training camp! Of course, for the scouts, it's time to evaluate how the pre-draft prep went, and begin preparing for next year's prospects.
And so I'm going to share my thoughts on the draft process. My player evaluations, my slot predictions, and of course, my thoughts on Buffalo's draft. This involves a little bit of "self-patting-on-the-back," and I encourage other Rumblers who may have guessed right to do the same when they get the chance!
Concerning the Buffalo draft strategy
Overall, I felt like I had a better-than-good read on Buddy Nix this year. After three years with him in charge, I've started to figure out his process. I don't have any sources, but I just analyze the players and the comments and get a sense for what Buffalo's planning. I made the following comment in this fanpost, a week before the draft, and I think I did pretty well considering it was a full week in advance:
This is what I’d guess Buffalo does (or tries to do) on draft day:
Trade down with the Rams, pick up a second rounder along with pick #16. They’d like to move further down, but there’s the chance that the Jets, Cardinals, or Jaguars trade ahead of Buffalo in the first round to poach a QB.
Buffalo takes Ryan Nassib or Matt Barkley at 16, and my guess is it’s Nassib. Plenty of talent, plenty of familiarity with the coaching staff, plenty of intangibles.
In the second round, the Bills are getting a WR. I think it’s down to Justin Hunter or Robert Woods. Patterson’s out because he won’t fall to 41 overall, but considering Alshon Jeffery’s fall last year I think it’s possible for Hunter or Woods to be available. Buffalo probably prefers Hunter’s size and athleticism, but Woods was very productive and is probably a better complete receiver.
I knew Buffalo was thinking trade-down, and I knew they were targeting the Rams.
I was unaware that Buddy's plan involved a swap of third rounders to pick up a seventh rounder, but that's a good strategy that I definitely approve of. Buffalo came out as narrow winners on that trade, especially when you consider that they still got their choice of franchise QB (more on that later).
I was clearly off on the idea of who Buffalo would pick at 16, even though I got the position right.
For that, I have to complement Buddy for doing another tremendous job manipulating the media, and I have to remember that everybody has player biases (man-crushes) and I wasn't exempt. I clearly wanted Ryan Nassib to be the guy, long before Doug Marrone came in as coach, and I allowed that want to make me believe that Nassib's talent and the coaching staff connections would be good enough for Buffalo.
I knew Buffalo wanted a WR in round 2, and was correct about it being Robert Woods at 41.
It probably helped that Justin Hunter was already gone, making this an easier choice for Buffalo. I fluctuated in my evaluations of Hunter throughout the offseason, and ignored Woods at first because of his lack of elite size, but when I eventually did watch Robert Woods' film it became clear to me that he was a complete package at WR, and that had to appeal to Buffalo as they brought him in to visit.
With their second round two pick, things get harder to predict. I think it’s easier to say who they won’t pick – it won’t be a QB, RB, FB, DT, or G/C. Common belief says they pick a LB, but I think Buffalo doesn’t see any excellent talents at LB who have to be picked early. Really, outside of Arthur Brown and Alec Ogletree, and Manti Te’o, nobody exceptional is even in the draft at LB. Buffalo will wait on that position.
I think TE is out, because Eifert should be gone, and I don’t think Zach Ertz fits the player that Buffalo wants. DE is also probably out, because outside of Sam "Headcase" Montgomery the talent is going to be taken in the first round, leaving developmental prospects. So in my belief, Buffalo’s pick is going to be either a safety or a cornerback. The only player at those positions who visited OBD is Phillip Thomas, who I think is a sleeper pick for Buffalo. He’s a great ballhawk with undeveloped technique who has potentially great instincts – a lot like Jairus Byrd was in his rookie season. If Thomas isn’t the pick, Eric Reid and Matt Elam both represent great hard-hitting safeties with ball skills who would fit right in with Buffalo. Or Buffalo could grab a cornerback – in my analysis, corner is a really freaking talented position in this year’s draft. Buffalo needs an Antonio Cromartie-type player to go across from their "Darrelle Revis" in Stephon Gilmore. In other words, a big athlete. Johnthan Banks or David Amerson might appeal to them.
With my analysis of Buffalo's 46th overall pick, I had more misses than hits.
I was pretty good at guessing who Buffalo wouldn't pick, but missed out on getting the position right
We won't know if Matt Elam or Eric Reid would have been on Buffalo's radar even at 41, because they were both gone really early. But I had a feeling that the main talent available in the second would be concentrated in the CB and S positions. and I was off on Buffalo's evaluation of both Arthur Brown and Kiko Alonso. Brown was my second-rated OLB (behind Barkevious Mingo) and Alonso my first-rated ILB, but I didn't think Buffalo would be fans of Alonso's style, or that Brown would be on the board at 46.
The third round is probably the hardest to predict, and where I start to diverge from "what would Buddy do" into "what would I do" territory. I think if Jamie Collins were available in the third round Buffalo wants him. But his Combine was so good, he might be gone in the second round. If Collins is gone, Buffalo could go Vance McDonald, but I think that’s one round too early (and I just don’t like him as a prospect). I think Buffalo would instead go with one of my sleeper picks, OLB Sean Porter from Texas A&M. He’s an SEC guy who transitioned from a 3-4 to a 4-3 this past season, and is productive and smart. He’d fit in as a 3-down backer in Buffalo’s hybrid system.
In the fourth round, I think Buffalo goes TE. It seems like they want athletic, raw players for this position, so it’s likely one of Vance McDonald, Ryan Griffin, or Nick Kasa out of Colorado.
I started missing into the middle rounds
There was plenty of talent available, but it was hard to get a read on what Buddy wanted. I knew Buffalo wanted a versatile LB, but they got their guy in round 2, not round 3. I knew Buffalo wanted athletic players for the TE position, but Vance McDonald went early, and Buffalo likes waiting for TE's.
In the fifth round, I believe Buffalo will go with either another safety or another cornerback – either doubling up on a position or filling the extra hole. Cooper Taylor and Sanders Commings are the guys I think might drop to the fifth.
Lastly in the sixth round, I think that Buffalo takes the fullback they were looking at, Kyle Youse-check, and thus continue their Harvard farm system.
I knew Buffalo wanted to double up on the secondary
I may not have watched any film on Jonathan Meeks (so many players, so little time) but I was able to see that there was enough secondary depth in the draft that Buffalo would want to add more players than we might want. I missed out on Duke Williams being picked in round 4, but I guessed that Buffalo would want two safeties in this draft, regardless of how the fans would feel about that. Mike Pettine loves his DB's after all!
The late rounds are a crapshoot
I guessed that Kyle Juszczyk would be picked in round 6, but he went way earlier. After the first 4 rounds, it's difficult to predict where players are valued by each team. I also had no idea that Buffalo would acquire a seventh round pick, or that they would be picking a kicker.
Concerning EJ Manuel
It's pretty clear that I was not a fan of the EJ Manuel at 16 pick. If you open up the thread from EJ Manuel's selection on draft night, you'll see that I have the dubious distinction of being the first comment, eloquently proclaiming "BOOOOOOOOOOO." In years to come, as Brian does his annual draft evaluations and draft approval poll articles, you can bet that the thread will be addressed many times. What I have to say is that I hope that my comment ends up in the same place as Ron from NM's and Kurupt's comments regarding the Jairus Byrd pick in 2009: Proven wrong, and used as a punchline and a reminder of how little us fans know.
I did not like the EJ Manuel pick for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was that he was not Ryan Nassib or Matt Barkley, who I both considered to be the top QBs in this draft. They are not the main reasons.
My main reason is the same trouble that the editors of SB Nation sister site Tomahawk Nation describe seeing for EJ Manuel - that he has plenty of talent, but doesn't seem to have a good feel to the game.
Here are my notes on EJ Manuel, taken after I watched the following games of his on Youtube: Northern Illinois, Clemson, USF, Wake Forest, VA Tech (all 2012) and Notre Dame (2011):
An enigma. Has plenty of athleticism, but not good at running the option. Arm has plenty of strength and accuracy, but his mechanics are "mechanical" and rigid. The way he plays, you expect the ball to fall incomplete or get intercepted, but his team seems to play better than the defense on all aspects. Questionable ability to read defenses.
EJ Manuel is really talented, but never seemed comfortable playing quarterback. He was mechanical, didn't show good anticipation, and while he's a great person, smart, and a role model, there are questions about how easily he deals with pressure. I hope that EJ sits all year long. I hope he impresses in the 2014 training camp and starts after that. But I don't think he's nearly ready to begin starting.
Concerning the other Bills draft picks
I love the strategy for Buffalo's draft this year. While I'm not a proponent of the EJ Manuel pick, it's a great centerpiece to the strategy they had.
Buffalo's plan for a long while has been to get better than other teams by building up a talented team that they could drop a talented QB into, filled with leaders that could maintain a strong core of excellence. They continued that plan with this year's draft (Player evaluations below):
EJ Manuel: "An enigma. Has plenty of athleticism, but not good at running the option. Arm has plenty of strength and accuracy, but his mechanics are "mechanical" and rigid. The way he plays, you expect the ball to fall incomplete or get intercepted, but his team seems to play better than the defense on all aspects. Questionable ability to read defenses."
Robert Woods: "Fast outside receiver with plenty of physicality in his game. Great awareness and good at getting open. Not great size."
Kiko Alosno: Most talented ILB in the draft. Outstanding A-gap blitzer. Great size. Concerns about alcoholism and occasional injuries.
Marquise Goodwin: "World-class speed. Still raw as a route-runner. Eager blocker. Has trouble finding the ball in the air. Scratching the surface of his potential."
Duke Williams: "Hard hitter. Good in man coverage, lost in zone coverage. Athletic, but small. Makes plays on the ball - 3 FF, 8 PD senior year."
Chris Gragg: "Smaller size for a TE. More of an H-back. Excellent speed, okay blocking. Great athlete, solid hands. Multiple leg injury problems senior year."
In summary, Buffalo is building up the talent on this team, and in doing so they're going to start to outclass other teams with lower-ceiling players. It's a strategy I can admire, as someone who likes Tools better than Production.
Concerning quarterbacks in the 2013 draft
I'm not sure what happened here. I was expecting a "perfect storm" of need this offseason, with new coaching staffs and uncertainty at the position creating a major rush for a position that always seems to have plenty of players go in the first round. Instead, just about every team opted for the "safe" veteran and used their picks on other players - Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, Michael Vick, Matt Flynn, Blaine Gabbert - they all will have a chance to start for a while, because in most cases, no one was drafted as a potential replacement. Matt Barkley went to the Eagles, Tyler Wilson to the Raiders, and the Chiefs, Cardinals, and Jaguars all opted to handle their QB dilemmas in the UDFA territory. A very weird year, for sure.
Concerning over/underdrafted players (in my mind)
The whole thing is rather meaningless since it's a bunch of scouts arguing over whose evaluation is right, and if the NFL teams were smart in making their actual picks where they did. But here are my thoughts on the matter.
I don't think Dion Jordan is going to have a great NFL impact. He's a very athletic player, but his lack of weight was very concerning to me, as was his lack of pass rushing ability. I don't buy that he wasn't used right by Chip Kelly's scheme at Oregon. In my viewing, Jordan just didn't seem to be good at pass rushing. He was pushed around by linemen pretty easily. The Dolphins are making a huge gamble on Jordan not only to be an impact player, but to begin playing immediately, based on the trade-up and free agent moves they've made. They also are pushing aside star OLB Cameron Wake and former second round pick Koa Misi in the process, which hurts everyone for reps.Justin Pugh
Another one of those athletically limited, size-limited college offensive tackles who will either sink at LT or swim at G. Pugh was a good college player, but he probably won't ever be better than Andy Levitre was at guard, and considering that players like Sharrif Floyd and Desmond Trufant and Tyler Eifert were on the board, I think Jerry Reese missed here.Vance McDonald
A very athletic prospect for sure. But man, are his hands bad. Saw multiple drops or fumbles in every game of his I watched. Not to mention his lack of experience as an in-line TE - I always saw him line up in the slot. He was talented, but I didn't see him as a second round pick at all.
UnderdraftedAll the QBs
I don't care what the results were in this year's draft. I maintain that Ryan Nassib, Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, et al were clearly more talented than their draft positions indicated.Most RBs
Stepfan Taylor, Joseph Randle, and Mike Gillislee, 5th rounders? Kenjon Barner, Andre Ellington, Spencer Ware and Rex Burkhead, 6th rounders? And don't forget about the UDFAs. There were plenty of strong RB prospects in this draft that went in the late rounds, and any of them would have been great complements for CJ Spiller. While I like that Dustin Hopkins has a high ceiling for a 6th round pick, I would have loved to get one of those RBs in the draft. Especially Gillislee.Da'Rick Rogers
He may have had his drug trouble a few years ago. But when Tyrann Mathieu is a 3rd round pick, why did no one pick up Rogers during the draft at all? Mathieu was a good player in college, but had small size. Rogers had size, athleticism, and production, and was better than a whole lot of players on the board. I can't fathom how he fell out of the draft altogether, but I'm happy that he was good enough for Buffalo.