FanPost

CSR Mock Off-season

Greetings, Rumblers! My name is Lee and I am a Carolina Panthers fan from SC. This year we held our second annual Mock Off-season at Cat Scratch Reader, and I took over the role as the Bills GM. As one of 32 volunteers assigned to their own team, our job is to look at our respective franchise, take them through the free agency period and draft, and determine who our final 53 man roster would be for next season in an effort to improve the team!

I am an avid fan of fantasy football, but I'll admit that college fantasy is my top choice (if you've never played, I recommend it). However, without fantasy football, I needed something to fill the void during the off-season, and this was the perfect way to do so; it also gave me a much needed break from medical school to keep me sane. To be honest, I probably spent wayyyy too much time on this and not studying, but it was worth it.

Obviously, I am coming from an outside viewpoint, and (with the power of scientific method) I deduced that Buffalo Rumblings would be the best place to start my research. That being said, I would like to start off by thanking all of the wonderful writers employed by this site (shout out to Brian, DanRoc, etc.)! Since joining SB Nation, I always come away impressed by the ability of fans to have intellectual discussions, and am glad to be a part of it.

Obviously, these are just my opinions on how I would go about improving the Bills roster. There are moves that people will disagree with, but that's what draws discussion, which is my ultimate goal. Without further ado, I bring you my Mock Buffalo Bills Off-season!


Table of Contents


I. Starting Philosophy (spx)

II. Trades (tx)

III. Free Agency (fax)

IV. Draft (dx)

V. Final Roster (frx)

VI. Summary (tl;dr)

*The items in (x) are searchable.


I. Starting Philosophy

(spx)

When I took my initial look at the Bills roster, I saw young offensive weapons and a highly versatile defense to work with.


Offense

On offense, my goals were to revamp the offensive line, and attempt to bring in more weapons at the TE and WR position in order to assist with E.J.'s development.

Offensive Line - First, I believe that Cordy Glenn is a franchise LT (I grew up watching him go against my Gamecocks when he was at UGA). Eric Wood is a good center and Kraig Urbik is a decent starter at RG, as well. The LG and RT spots, however, are lacking and deciding which position is in worse shape appears to be a common discussion by the fans. There was not a lot of proven depth, either, in case of injuries.

Offensive Weapons - The Bills struck gold with Robert Woods, who will be a great #2. Goodwin is the deep threat that defenses must account for, and Stevie seems to be decent on the outside. However, the Bills would benefit greatly from a true #1 receiver, and moving Stevie into the slot. There is also a lack of a receiving threat at the TE position. Chandler does not display the quickness or speed to gain any real separation, but his size provides a decent red-zone target. Therefore, I wanted to get an athletic TE to give E.J. a reliable target in the middle of the field, make plays up the seam, and still be able to create a push while blocking. I also wanted to find a young RB who could be groomed to eventually replace Fred Jackson, a model of consistency for tough running in the Bills backfield, and spell C.J. Spiller (who I still believe can be a star RB in this league, if used correctly).

Offensive Targets (in order of discussion) - LG, RT, #1 WR, Athletic TE, Back-up RB


Defense

On defense, it was to improve the 28th ranked rush defense.

The Bills finished 2nd in the league in sacks thanks to Pettine's blitzing hybrid scheme. The ability to get to the quarterback also helped the team finish 4th in passing defense and 2nd in interceptions. And despite their 28th ranked rush defense, they still managed to finish as a Top 10 squad. The defensive line has a ton of star power with Dareus and the Williams twins (they look exactly alike, amiright?). The linebackers have runner-up DROY in ILB Kiko Alonso, former 1st Rd. pick Lawson, and some depth. The secondary has one of the best (if not best) safeties in the game with Byrd, who is a FA, young corners in McKelvin (appears to struggle with inconsistent play), Gilmore (cough Go Cocks cough), and Robey, and a bunch of young safeties (except Leonhard, of course).

The departure of Pettine and arrival of Schwartz threw a wrench in my initial plans, however. With the potential of bringing in a scheme that may rely more on traditional 4-3 looks, I edited my strategy to find players who could fill those roles, but maintain the scheme versatility I liked so much with Pettine.

Defensive Line - Even with Schwartz's hire, I went into my off-season with the idea of keeping the 4-3 under scheme (Thanks to Brian for his article describing the scheme differences between Pettine and Schwartz). However, with more "Wide-9" looks, there needs to be the ability to rush the passer from the DE position. Mario is great in that role and Hughes had the best year of his career, but there is not much else for depth. So, targeting another player who can play the 4-3 DE role was a goal.

Linebackers - This is where I viewed the biggest problem for the rush defense. Not that there isn't talent in the LB core, but is there enough NFL starting material? Alonso was a gem for the Bills in the 2nd round and Lawson is a solid SLB, but I don't believe there is enough depth to maintain success. Therefore, with a potentially dominant DL, I wanted to upgrade the LBs in order to really boost the meat of the rush defense.

Secondary - While the Bills have two 1st rounders starting at CB, there is not much depth on the outside. So, finding quality depth there was key (will also providing additional depth to nickel). Finally, the safety position is filled with a ton of young talent with Aaron Williams, Duke Williams, Meeks, and Searcy. Byrd, as previously mentioned, is a FA, and the decision on what to do with him would determine my whole strategy on defense. Ultimately, I decided to franchise tag and trade Byrd, making the FS position an additional defensive target.

Defensive Targets (in order of discussion) - DE, LB, CB Depth, FS



II. Trades

(tx)

This year we were allowed two total trades and one additional draft-day trade. I chose to only use one of those trades prior to the draft:

FS Jairus Byrd to Green Bay for 1st Rd. Pick (21st overall) and OL Bryan Bulaga

After not responding well to the franchise tag last year, I felt that making him play another year on the tag would not be the best way to go (and he would have been too expensive to try and win during free agency). So, I arranged to trade him to the Packers for the 21st overall pick and OL Bryan Bulaga (which is fantastic value, in my opinion). This would make Byrd happy by allowing him the opportunity to get the paycheck he wants and play for a playoff team. In addition, moving him to another conference prevents the Bills from having to face him too often.

Bulaga, a former 1st Rd. pick, has experience playing left and right tackle for Aaron Rodgers, and even began his career at LG for the Packers. The only negative is his injury history over the past two years. In 2012, Bulaga ended the season early due to a dislocated hip, and he missed last year on IR due to a torn ACL. However, since his ACL tear occurred during training camp, he will have almost an entire year to recover for the off-season program. He is currently projected to be the starting RT for the Packers in 2014.


III. Free Agents ($24):

(fax)

Our free agency period began at 12:00 AM EST on Feb. 1 and officially ended 12:00 AM EST on March 1 (we obviously didn't take that long). For free agency, we did not take a team's true salary cap into consideration. Instead, each GM was allotted $25 to spend on players. Players receiving the franchise tag were tagged prior to the beginning of free agency for a pre-determined price based on position, and that total was deducted from the $25. However, if the tagged player is traded, then neither team had to pay the tag cost. Each player was bid on (usually in increasing $1 increments) and the GM that bid the most money after an allotted amount of time won.

For the free agent pool, we used the Top 5 free agents for each team, as listed by WalterFootball.com (the remaining free agents were automatically kept by the team, unless the GM decided otherwise). I prefer to fill holes during FA, so that I could draft more value with my picks and avoid reaching for need. Here are the players I brought in, with the amount I bid and a brief blurb on why:


ILB Perry Riley ($6)
- Riley (6'0" 238) is a young and upcoming player from Washington who will provide a consistent force in the middle. Over the past two years, he has had over 100 tackles, shown an ability to blitz with at least 3 sacks a year, and remained extremely durable (played in all 16 games the past 3 years and started the past 40), all while being tutored by London Fletcher. This move will allow Kiko (6'3" 238) to move to WLB, giving Schwartz two young, core inside linebackers to scheme around (similar to his situation as DC in Tennessee with Stephen Tulloch (5'11" 240) and Keith Bulluck (6'3" 235)).

CB Corey Graham ($5) - One of Buffalo's own, this is will be a homecoming for Graham (6'0" 196). As a member of the 2012 Super Bowl champion Ravens, Graham brings veteran leadership and a winning mentality to the secondary. He has shown the ability to play inside and out, and will provide insurance in case of an injury to McKelvin or Gilmore. Only 28 years old, Graham had a career year in 2013 with 74 total tackles, a career-high 4 interceptions, and 12 passes defended. Graham has played in every game since 2008.

DE/OLB Matt Shaughnessy ($3) - Matt (6'5" 285) spent the last year playing 3-4 OLB for the Cardinals. Prior to that, he showed promise playing both 4-3 DE and DT for the Raiders, before suffering a shoulder injury. With Schwartz potentially moving the Bills back to a more traditional 4-3, Shaughnessy has the ability to start at RDE and will be another rotational piece with Williams and Hughes.

TE Scott Chandler ($3) - He may have been slightly more expensive than I would have liked and he may not be the flashiest (or most consistent), but he's still a large body that would be useful in the red-zone. I certainly don't want him being the main go-to guy, but he'd be a decent TE #2.

ILB Arthur Moats ($2) - Moats provides good depth with the ability to play multiple linebacker spots.

SS Jim Leonhard ($2) - A core player on special teams, Leonhard is a veteran secondary player. Re-signing him provides an additional source of information and leadership for the younger safeties.

OG Chad Rinehart ($1) - Remember him? Chad spent the past year starting at LG for the resurgent Chargers offense (11 games). Often plagued with injuries, he will provide good depth at both OG spots.

DE/DT Alex Carrington ($1) - The Bills starting LE prior to going on IR, I brought Alex back to compete for a starting spot. He also has the ability to play inside.

QB Matt Hasselbeck ($1) - In our mock world, the Colts GM decided to release Hasselbeck. Though 38, I saw him as a quality back-up with extensive experience that could come in to help the coaches mentor EJ. While he never had one of those jaw-dropping years, statistically, he consistently led the Seahawks to the playoffs in his prime years (mid-2000's) before making a stop in Tennessee to assist Locker's transition. He spent this past year backing-up and mentoring Andrew Luck. I believe that he is definitely worth the $1 value as a mentor and back-up to the Bills' young QBs.


IV. Draft

(dx)

We waited until after the combine to hold our draft, and it took place this past weekend (March 1-2).


Round 1 Pick 9 -
Jake Matthews OT Texas A&M - I was incredibly fortunate that Matthews fell to #9. Even with my trade for Bulaga, Matthews is the most pro-ready offensive tackle in this draft, and I will be plugging him into RT while moving Bulaga over to LG (where he should, hopefully, have less risk for further injury). With this pick, I solidified the starting offensive line.

Round 1 Pick 21 - Calvin Pryor FS Louisville - Byrd's replacement, Pryor is going to bring a vicious, heavy-hitting presence to the secondary. With Williams and Pryor, the Bills will have one of the more physical safety tandems in the league. Not only does Pryor have the ability to play as a deep center-fielder, but he is extremely strong in run-support, as well.

Round 2 Pick 9 - Troy Niklas TE Notre Dame - A huge target at TE (6'6 1/2" 270), Niklas is arguably the best blocking TE in the draft. Draft Analyst Mike Mayock has even said that he thinks Niklas "could be the best blocking TE in the NFL in two or three years." He also has a ton of potential in the passing game, doing a lot of work down the seams in the short to intermediate range. I would have Niklas as TE1 with Scott Chandler serving as TE2.

Round 3 Pick 9 - Brandon Coleman WR Rutgers - Another massive receiving target (6'6" 225), Coleman showed 1st round ability in 2012, but had a disappointing junior campaign in 2013 while recovering from preseason knee surgery and inconsistent QB play. He is a long-strider with sneaky deep speed, and would serve as a talented receiver to develop with E.J. and Niklas.

Round 4 Pick 9 - Charles Sims RB West Virginia - Say hello to Fred Jackson's successor. Sims played for Houston before graduating and transferring to WV. A true dual-threat RB, Sims ran for over 1000 yards and 11 TDs, as well as having 45 catches for 401 yards and 3 TDs. He has received Matt Forte comparisons for his multi-faceted game, and also happens to be one of the best pass-protectors in his class.

Round 5 Pick 9 - Aaron Colvin CB Oklahoma - Colvin picked up his game towards the end of his senior year and was invited to the Senior Bowl. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL during Senior Bowl practice and will likely not play this year. However, he is still a great talent with versatility to play CB and S, and will provide good depth and size when he returns (5'11" 186). Similar to Marcus Lattimore this past season, Colvin will likely redshirt his rookie year, giving himself plenty of time to recover and bulk-up in a NFL training program.

Round 6 Pick 9 - Trai Turner OG LSU - An absolute road-grader at RG, Turner (6'3" 310) came out of LSU after his redshirt sophomore season. Only 20 years old, Turner started the second half of 2012 and all of 2013 at RG, and was named Second Team All-SEC in 2013. With continued development, Turner has legitimate physical tools to become a long-term starter in the NFL at OG.

Round 7 Pick 9 - George Uko DT USC - Already a disruptive pass-rusher, Uko (6'3" 284) needs to add some weight and develop more strength in order to improve his rush defense. He has shown a lot of versatility (lined up at multiple positions on USC's line), and spent the past year playing DE after playing DT in 2012. Uko has had 5.0 sacks the past two years, and had a career high 36 tackles, a forced fumble, and blocked a kick in 2013. He will serve as an additional pass-rusher to spell Dareus and Kyle inside.

UDFA

Brett Smith QB Wyoming - Smith was not invited to the combine, but I feel that he has been underrated. In three years as a starter, Smith threw a minimum of 20 TD passes and never threw more than 11 interceptions in a season, all while dealing with an extremely porous offensive line. He is also a dual-threat QB with 21 career rushing TDs and has plenty of athleticism. He was a leader for Wyoming since he enrolled, and no one should blame him for leaving early with a new head coach arriving.

Tyler Starr OLB South Dakota - Plus athleticism; Starr has good LB size (6'4" 250) and can be a contributor on special teams right away. He has shown the ability to put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer, as well.

Tom Hornsey P Memphis - 2013 Ray Guy award winner. Hornsey is a native Australian who only started playing American football his senior year of high school. He started all four years at Memphis, improved his yards/punt average every year, averaged 45.2 yards/punt his senior year, and ranks in the Top-10 for career average for active punters. He also had an astonishingly small number of touchbacks (12) for his school-record career punt attempts (297). With Moorman's numbers declining recently, an infusion of new talent should push and overtake the veteran in training camp.


V. Final Roster

(frx)

Now, for the moment we've all been waiting for! For our final roster, we were allowed 53 players (so unfortunately, no practice squad). Some of the cuts were difficult, but after much inward reflection, I came up with the following roster for the 2014 season:

Bold denotes Rookie

* Denotes Free Agent/Trade Acquisition


QB (3)

E.J. Manuel, Matt Hasselbeck*, Brett Smith

RB (4):

C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Charles Sims, Frank Summers (FB)

WR (7):

Brandon Coleman, Robert Woods, Stevie Johnson, Marquise Goodwin (KR), T.J. Graham, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley

TE (3):

Troy Niklas, Scott Chandler, Lee Smith

OL (9):

Cordy Glenn (LT), Bryan Bulaga* (LG), Eric Wood (C), Kraig Urbik (RG), Jake Matthews (RT)

Chris Hairston (OT), Chad Rinehart* (G), Trai Turner (G), Eric Pears (OT)

DL (8):

Matt Shaughnessy* (DE), Marcell Dareus (DT), Kyle Williams (DT), Mario Williams (DE/OLB)

Alex Carrington (DE/DT), Alan Branch (DT), George Uko (DT/DE), Jerry Hughes (DE/OLB)

LB (6):

Manny Lawson (SLB), Perry Riley* (MLB), Kiko Alonso (WLB)

Tyler Starr (OLB), Arthur Moats (ILB), Nigel Bradham (ILB)

DB (10):

Leodis McKelvin (LCB/PR), Aaron Williams (SS), Calvin Pryor (FS), Stephon Gilmore (RCB)

Corey Graham* (CB), Nickell Robey (CB), Aaron Colvin (CB) Ron Brooks (CB), Da'Norris Searcy (S)

Duke Williams (S)

Specialists (3):

Dustin Hopkins (K), Tom Hornsey (P), Garrison Sanborn (LS)


Players Released (30)

QB Kevin Kolb, Thad Lewis, Dennis Dixon, Jeff Tuel

RB Ronnie Wingo, Evan Rodriguez

WR Cordell Roberson, Kevin Elliott, Brandon Kaufman

TE Tony Moeaki, Mike Caussin, Chris Gragg

OL Thomas Welch, Doug Legursky, J.J. Unga, Mark Asper, Antoine McClain, Edawn Coughman, Jamaal Johnson-Webb

DL Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles

LB Ty Powell, Jacquies Smith

DB Brandon Smith, Mario Butler, Jonathan Meeks, Jim Leonhard

K Dan Carpenter

P Brian Moorman


Free Agent Arrivals

QB Matt Hasselbeck

OG Chad Rinehart

DE Matt Shaughnessy

ILB Perry Riley

CB Corey Graham


Left via FA:

None


Draft:

Round 1 Pick 9 - Jake Matthews OT Texas A&M

Round 1 Pick 21 - Calvin Pryor FS Louisville

Round 2 Pick 9 - Troy Niklas TE Notre Dame

Round 3 Pick 9 - Brandon Coleman WR Rutgers

Round 4 Pick 9 - Charles Sims RB West Virginia

Round 5 Pick 9 - Aaron Colvin CB Oklahoma

Round 6 Pick 9 - Trai Turner OG LSU

Round 7 Pick 9 - George Uko DT USC

UDFA - Brett Smith QB Wyoming

Tyler Starr OLB South Dakota

Tom Hornsey P Memphis


VI. Summary

(tl;dr)

Buffalo Bills Depth Chart - 2014

OFFENSE

STARTER

2ND

3RD

4TH

QB

E.J. Manual

Matt Hasselbeck

Brett Smith

HB

C.J. Spiller

Fred Jackson

Charles Sims

FB

Frank Summers

TE

Troy Niklas

Scott Chandler

Lee Smith

WR

Brandon Coleman

Stevie Johnson

T.J. Graham

Marcus Easley

LT

Cordy Glenn

Chris Hairston

LG

Bryan Bulaga

Chad Rinehart

C

Eric Wood

RG

Kraig Urbik

Trai Turner

RT

Jake Matthews

Erik Pears

WR

Robert Woods

Marquise Goodwin

Chris Hogan

Defense

LDE

Mario Williams

Jerry Hughes

George Uko

LDT

Marcell Dareus

Alan Branch

RDT

Kyle Williams

George Uko

RDE

Matt Shaughnessy

Alex Carrington

George Uko

WLB

Kiko Alonso

Nigel Bradham

MLB

Perry Riley

Arthur Moats

SLB

Manny Lawson

Tyler Starr

CB

Leodis McKelvin

Corey Graham

Aaron Colvin

SS

Aaron Williams

Da'Norris Searcy

FS

Calvin Pryor

Duke Williams

CB

Stephon Gilmore

Nickell Robey

Ron Brooks

SPECIAL TEAMS

K

Dustin Hopkins

P

Tom Hornsey

PR

Leodis McKelvin

KR

Marquise Goodwin

LS

Garrison Sanborn


Strengths:
The offense has been completely revamped. A new offensive line should work wonders for the running and passing games, and E.J. now has more than enough weapons in place to succeed. On defense, there is plenty of new depth that should give new DC Schwartz lots of versatile players to scheme around, including two young stud linebackers in Alonso and Riley. The secondary should also continue to play strong, especially with more CB depth.

Weaknesses: Like I stated previously, E.J. now has more than enough weapons in place, but only time would tell whether or not he is good enough, or durable enough, to be a true franchise QB. It'll take a little while for the new secondary pieces to gel, and there may be some growing pains with Pryor. There are also obvious questions in the linebacking core as to whether or not Alonso or Perry will thrive in their new roles. Special teams will be a huge question with Hopkins and Hornsey stepping into the starting line-up, as well.


Well, there you have it, folks! With my attempt at the Bills' off-season, I did my best to fix the O-Line and provide some weapons on offense, while trying to help fill in the gaps on last year's atrocious run defense. I had a blast with this project, and hopefully you all saw some things you wouldn't mind happening yourselves!

Again, I would like to that all of the writers here at Buffalo Rumblings for the vast amount of roster knowledge I used. I also want to thank good friends and peers of mine, Ross and Michael (who helped out tremendously with this process) and served as my Director of College Scouting and Director of Pro Personnel, respectively. I honestly couldn't have done it without their help, especially with how little free time we actually have.

I now open myself to all questions, concerns, and critiques that y'all have for me, as is tradition!

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of BuffaloRumblings.com.

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