Buffalo Bills functional depth chart, pre 2014 NFL Draft

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

Does a slightly different way of building a Bills depth chart influence your opinions on the team's biggest 2014 NFL Draft needs?

The 2014 NFL Draft is now just over three weeks away, and Buffalo Bills fans are still doing their best to finalize their thoughts and wrap their minds around the team's biggest areas of need heading into the big event.

One of my favorite ways to take a big-picture look at the team in the days leading up to a big offseason event is to establish a functional depth chart. Rather than list players by their roles if the season were to start tomorrow, this depth chart is broken down first by positional value, and then by each player's functional outlook heading into the new year.

We've talked about position value a couple of times here before. It's important to fold that into any team-building conversations, because the fact of the matter is that NFL teams value some positions more than others. In terms of a player's function, here's my preferred method of separating players into categories.

  • Every-down players: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Assuming full health (the "if he's healthy" scenario), this player will be, or is talented enough to be, on the field in most (if not all) situations for the Bills in 2014.
  • Role players: Again assuming full health, this player will play a prominent role on offense or defense, even if he won't (or shouldn't) be a full-time starter.
  • Situational players: This is sort of a catch-all group, combining players that could have major roles depending on what happens in the draft, prominent special teams players and special case scenarios.
  • Reserve players: Every other player that, for now, is relevant in some way to the outlook at his position. This list consists mostly of players that saw action last year or are well-known project players.

It's hardly scientific, and placing players is debatable in many cases (you're welcome to do that in the comments section if you wish), but I find this method useful in keeping a big-picture perspective on the team. Perhaps you will, too; hence this post.

Pos. Every Down Role Player Situational Reserve
TIER 1
QB EJ Manuel
Thad Lewis
Jeff Tuel
TIER 2
DE Mario Williams Jerry Hughes Jarius Wynn
WR Stevie Johnson
Mike Williams
Robert Woods
Marquise Goodwin Marcus Easley T.J. Graham
Chris Hogan
Kevin Elliott
CB Stephon Gilmore
Leodis McKelvin
Corey Graham
Nickell Robey
Ron Brooks
OT Cordy Glenn Erik Pears
Chris Hairston

G/C Eric Wood
Kraig Urbik
Chris Williams
Doug Legursky
J.J. 'Unga
LB Kiko Alonso Brandon Spikes
Keith Rivers
Manny Lawson Nigel Bradham
Ty Powell
TIER 3
DT Kyle Williams
Marcell Dareus
Alan Branch Corbin Bryant
Stefan Charles
RB
Fred Jackson
C.J. Spiller
Anthony Dixon
TIER 4
S Aaron Williams Da'Norris Searcy Duke Williams
Jonathan Meeks
TE
Scott Chandler Lee Smith
Tony Moeaki
Chris Gragg
X
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