Hey Rumblers, long-time reader, first-time poster. Hope you enjoy the post, and feel free to applaud, berate, or educate me in the comments.
It's the time of year when "Team Needs" are a big topic of conversation, and rightfully so. Usually, I would focus on specific positions (OT, DE, OG, and WR are obvious this year)...but this year I think the team needs to take a different approach: what we need is PLAYMAKERS. Think about how many times in the last several (14?) years that you've been watching our Bills play...it's a one score game, midway through the 4th quarter...and you find yourself screaming at the TV "WOULD SOMEBODY MAKE A FREAKING PLAY!!!" over and over until you get kicked out of the bar. 90% of the time, our offense sputters with just enough time left on the clock to justify a punt, and the opposing offense eeks out a couple of first downs and finishes the game in victory formation. Fun times.
So what's a playmaker? In my mind, it's someone who can consistently make big plays against ELITE competition. This is something that always drove me nuts about Jairus Byrd (side-tangent coming)...remember that one time he picked off an elite QB? Yeah...me neither. In fact, let's take a look at the list of QBs that this big-time playmaker picked off (going off game logs and memory here, feel free to correct me): Derek Anderson, John Skelton x2, Mark Sanchise x4, Geno Smith x2, Matt Cassell x2, end-of-career Jake Delhomme x2, Vince Young x1, Matt Schaub x2, Tim Tebow, Rex Grossman, Mike Glennon, Ben Roethlisberger, Chad "Blame it on the" Henne, and Rihanna Tannneyhill. So is he a playmaker? Eh, kind of. I mean somebody has to pick off these guys...but he's not the kind of playmaker I'm talking about. He's an athletically limited safety who is extremely intelligent and has great hands, but he mostly just takes advantage of mistakes by the offense. We need people who FORCE mistakes by the offenses...specifically great offenses. Byrd is a very good player, don't get me wrong...but let's not act like we lost Ed Reed in his prime here.
Anyway...sorry about the rant. So we need playmakers. Luckily, the draft is full of them. I feel like we have a few on defense, so most of these will focus on the offensive side of the ball. Here's a few, along with the rounds I'd look at drafting them...feel free to add your own or belittle me for my choices! I'm leaving out Sammy Watkins, because if I keep telling myself he won't be there at #9, then there's a VERY good chance it will actually reverse-jinx him into being there. I encourage you all to do the same.
Mike Evans: Duh. The guy averaged 20 ypc in the SEC...as his teams #1 receiver! That's crazy. Huge guy with a massive catching radius and good-enough speed, but he also plays with an edge when the ball is in the air (a la Marshall and Jeffery in CHI). Also, had two MASSIVE games against the two best teams they played all year...that's exactly what I'm talking about.
Greg Robinson: An offensive lineman? You bet. Watch this guy play against MU (a pretty good defense)...he's as much of an offensive weapon as I've seen in a long time as an OT. The guy doesn't just wall off would be tacklers...he obliterates them. In the run game, he's fully capable of destroying multiple defenders on the same play...and he can do it against the best of em.
Eric Ebron: I usually wouldn't take anything but a complete tight end in the top 10...but if he catches 60 for 900 with 8 TDs as a rookie then we won't care where he was drafted. Not ideal as a blocker, but it's not an effort issue so I can live with it. This guy owns the middle of the field, and can separate against anyone either vertically or horizontally. I actually think he plays faster than the 4.6 he ran at the combine, and he led all TEs in YAC. Check out the long TD catch-and-run against Miami (had 199 yards in the game). The perfect candidate to take an EJ "Trent" Manuel dumpoff and turn it into a big play. You know those 20 yard crossing routes that Chandler catches against zone? Imagine Ebron catching those. Exactly
Calvin Pryor: My favorite safety in this draft...underrated in coverage, and he hits like a ton of dynamite. He legitimately changes the way the offense plays, somewhat like Chancellor in Seattle (except he can actually cover). We currently don't have a hitter of this caliber in our secondary. Also had a nice game against Bortles and UCF.
Darqueze Dennard: CB isn't a huge need for us after the Graham signing, but this guy reminds me a lot of Joe Haden. Good athlete, GREAT football player. Watching his game against OSU, it's everything you want out of a lock-down corner. Consistently left on an island, and responded with a play every time he was challenged. Best player on an excellent defense.
Aaron Donald: Not a need now, but will be in a year or two. Athletic enough to play base end, though he doesn't have ideal length for it obviously. Geno Atkins/Kyle Williams-level disruptor...probably an 8-10 sack guy as a rookie if he goes to the right place. Check out his play against UConn where he tackles the QB and RB as the hand-off is occurring...was like something out of Tecmo Super Bowl. Always tough to pass on Tecmo Super Bowl-level players
Donte Moncrief: One of my favorite players in this draft...how he's not getting first round hype is beyond me. This guy started all 12 games as a TRUE freshman in the SEC...and led his team in receiving. What were you doing as a college freshman???? Overall, played 37 games (starting 36) in his 3 year career...produced against good competition. Check out his 2012 LSU game...he's open on every snap against a secondary loaded with NFL talent. Can blow the top off a defense on any play. That said, he had a couple of quiet games so consistency may be an issue, and he's prone to the occasional drop like most college WRs. Could be better on 50/50 balls...he's not on Mike Evans' level in that regard. But he DID run a 4.40 with a 39.5 inch vert at 220 lbs...so he has that going for him...which is nice. Reminds me of Demaryius Thomas as a prospect, but everyone seems to think he's a third rounder so what do I know. If you could guarantee me Moncrief at 41, I'd pass on Evans at 9 in a heartbeat
ASJ: He may slide farther than this due to work ethic issues, and you can see it when he plays that he doesn't dominate like he should. But, he is a freak for his size and has a knack for boxing out defenders. Could be a larger Antonio Gates if he pans out...I don't see the Gronk comparisons, he doesn't play with the same effort as a blocker. Would've come in handy on the one yard line against KC though.
Dee Ford: Zero chance he makes it here, but i feel like you would have thought less of me if I only listed 2 second rounders. He's a middle-class man's Von Miller and was consistently in the backfield against good competition. If Bruce Irvin can go in the teens, this guy absolutely can.
Allen Robinson: His poor combine showing might push him down this far...if he makes it to this pick he's a steal. Always going to struggle to separate against man coverage, but could easily become a Boldin-type receiver. 6'3", 220 with great hands...I wouldn't want to fight him for a 50/50 ball.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste: Seahawks will probably draft this guy...converted WR playing corner, nice hands but he did get burned a few times this year. Don't know that I would trust him on the outside just yet, but as a hybrid S/CB he has the length, range, and athleticism to make plays all over the field. Worth a flyer in the 3rd on upside alone.
That's all I've got for now...plus I'm as tired of writing this as you are of reading it. If you made it this far, thanks! If I was running the draft room, I'm thinking* I'd go Ebron, Moncrief, Jean Baptiste, and grab an OT somewhere in the 4th. That's a lot of size, speed, and playmaking...all of which we need!
*subject to change up to 300 times before May 8th