Doug Whaley is anything but boring, that much is clear. I still need time to fully digest all that happened the past few days, but I want to get a few thoughts out now as sort of an initial reaction.
Sammy Watkins was my favorite player in this draft, I honestly think he can be more impactful than Clowney and has a much lower bust potential. Watkins is the kind of talent that can transform an offense, playing Clemson was always a crapshoot as Sammy could simply take over games from the WR position in ways I've never seen. He may not be tall, but he is not small by any means - he is one of the most physical WRs I have ever seen. Once he catches the ball he becomes a stud RB, capable of running through you or juking you out your cleats - on top of that he has run away from you speed. No one ever catches Sammy Watkins from behind. He has excellent hands and will snag balls away from his body with ease, very strong hands, wins most jump balls despite his height. His route running could use cleaning up, but it will come, and is not going to be that much of an issue in this offense.
So, was the price too high? I'm on the side that says no, it was the right deal to make. Clearly Whaley knew what a loaded draft this was and he saw he would get a chance at a 1st round talent in the second round - So why give up a first round talent this year when you can give up a first round talent next year.
My only issue with the deal is it ostensibly locks us into EJ Manuel for 2 more seasons and its my opinion that this means at least 2 more seasons of not being any good. Nobody has ever wanted EJ Manuel to finally 'put it all together' more than me. I am a Seminole alum and a Bills fan, I have followed EJ since his senior year of high school with rooted interest and have watched every game he has played in college and in the pro's - and my assessment remains that while EJ checks lots of boxes on the tangible and intangible checklist, he just doesn't have the proverbial 'it' factor. Arm strength, size, accuracy, athleticism, leadership qualities - he meets em all, but he is a bad split second decision maker, which is really the most important skill for an NFL QB these days.
Trading Stevie was the right move to make, and considering his contract I think we got a solid deal. We spent like a million draft picks in total in order to get TJ Graham, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Watkins, and Mike Williams the past 3 years - thats a lot of investment in the position. We now have guys of varying skill sets who should fit what Marrone and Hackett want to do. Stevie didn't really fit our offense and our marriage just seemed destined for failure, it was the right time to part ways and we shall all wish him the best in SF.
I love Bryce Brown!!! I wanted us to take a flyer on him so bad when he came out of college a couple years ago. This is why I love taking flyers on guys like Seantrel Henderson. That guy, like Brown, was once one of the top prospects in all the nation, he partied a bit too much in South Beach, but he is loaded with talent - I'm stoked about that pick too.
Did we give up too much for Brown? Yeah, on this one I have to say we did. I highly doubt there were teams beating down Philly's door for Brown. I get the feeling Marrone and staff really like Brown and have mentioned how much they'd like to have him as Freddie's replacement. Whaley knew he had to have a plan in place for when he lets CJ walk away for nothing this offseason - its almost inevitable, its becoming our thing. Brown is an excellent talent, yes he has some fumbling issues, but that is one skill that has been proven can be fixed with good coaching. I think he could be a really good player for us, a guy who puts up some big numbers.
Kouandjo and Richardson were excellent picks, with Richardson being one of the biggest steals in the draft IMHO. These guys can seriously block out the sun and could end up giving our OL a real identity - BIG! Whaley has proven he agrees with Buddy Nix when it comes to OL, the bigger the better. I actually think in Buffalo this is clearly the way to go. Go get big OL and play smash mouth football mixed in with some play actions and roll outs.
I really disliked the Preston Brown pick. I don't think he's anything special, a dime a dozen MLB with average-at-best range. He's a back-up to Spikes and was clearly chosen to protect if and when Spikes leaves after the season. There were still excellent prospects at positions of greater need, players who could even possibly start this season. 2 down, run stopping LBs just are not particularly valuable. Even if he ends up being better than expected in pass coverage, we use Kiko and Searcy in nickel situations and it works well - I don't see that changing.
Ross Cockerell is another pick I'm not enthused with. He is simply not a good enough athlete to ever be a starter in the NFL. He sounds like a good kid and a hard worker, but he is a depth CB at best - and I like Ron Brooks more than Cockerell, he's just a better athlete - so that means he's like fifth, maybe 6th string CB.
Last year Robey and Rogers jumped out at you from the list of UDFAs, this year there is not a single name on there that perks my ears up - no one particularly noteworthy. But this is not the worst thing in the world as this team is pretty well loaded with talent up and down the roster.
In fact I would say there is more overall talent on this roster than there has been on a Bills roster in a loooooooooong time, whether that talent translates to wins is yet to be seen, but the talent is there now. By getting 3 talented OL in the draft we have bolstered a weak spot, couple that with a WR group that has more overall talent than any group we've had since the Kelly days. The LB spot was upgraded a lot in the offseason, with 2 big signings and high pick. Losing Byrd for nothing stung, but we spent a couple picks on safeties last year, and brought in a corner who has always been a physical player who likes tackling and could easily convert to safety.
The one big question I have is what the heck are we doing at that other DE spot across from Mario? Manny Lawson as the early down starter, really? Is Jairus Wynn waaaay better than anyone knows? Yikes, I hope Manny is bulking up - he will provide no kind of pass rush, but if he can bulk up he can be a pretty solid edge setter.
I'm excited to see where we go from here. Watkins and the OL improvements should make a big difference for this offense. If Hackett and Marrone figure out how to use Watkins and Spiller properly they could cause all kinds of trouble. Spikes and Rivers should hopefully improve our run defense enough, while the drop off from Byrd to Graham is small enough that our defense improves. I think something like an 8-8 season is in our future.