Doug Whaley was hired by the Buffalo Bills in 2010. Whaley came to Buffalo from the Pittsburgh Steelers where he was the Pro Personnel Coordinator from 1999-2009. During his tenure in Pittsburgh, the team reached the post-season six times (while the Buffalo Bills haven't reached the post-season since 1999). The Steelers also reached the Super Bowl two times, winning both games in 2005 & 2008. The level of success experienced by Pittsburgh during Whaley's tenure certainly has had an impact on his decision making process.
Now that Whaley is the General Manager of the Bills, he certainly has the ability to make his own decisions for the team. However, it's certainly very likely that the principles related to scouting, player evaluations and the draft are still deeply engrained in him. After all, Pittsburgh's combined record during Whaley's tenure with the team was 109-66 (whereas Buffalo's record during the same period was 77-99). Why walk away from a successful approach, right?
Because it seems likely that Whaley would follow the same approach that brought two Super Bowl titles to Pittsburgh during his tenure, I have broken down the positions drafted by Pittsburgh by round. This should give us greater insight into what we can expect from the Buffalo Bills during draft days on Whaley's watch. Luckily he was able to spend 11 years with the Steelers, which gives us a larger sample size to analyze. It also rules out the team drafting based solely on need, as an 11 year span will undoubtedly have needs at every position at least once.
|1999-2009||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Round 5||Round 6||Round 7||Rounds 1-4|
Obviously we can spin this any way we like. But one of the first things that stands out is the investment in WRs. The Steelers drafted 12 WRs over 11 seasons, 7 of which were in the first three rounds. Also, 7 of the 11 first round picks were spent on the offensive side of the ball. Despite this, only 1 OL was taken, 5 year starter Kendall Simmons. It didn't get much better in the second round as the team only selected 1 OL there, 7 year starter Marvel Smith.
Because the last three rounds aren't expected to become difference makers, I place a greater significance on rounds 1-4. The most significant investments in these rounds were at WR (9), DB (9), OT (7), and LB (6). Despite these investments, the only position taken more than once in the first round in 11 drafts was WR at 3 times. OT was the only one not taken more than once in the second round.
Obviously this year's draft can shake out any number of ways. Doug Whaley could go against the Steelers draft record, or he could stay on the course that resulted in two Super Bowls. That clearly remains to be seen. I hope this is useful for you guys in trying to paint the bigger picture with what to expect during the draft this season.