Good morning, Buffalo Bills fans! Welcome to today's Morning Joe!
I know you haven't heard from me in awhile; like many of you, I have been sitting back and enjoying the great articles that Brian, Matt, and the others have been posting during this draft period. Hats off to those guys for doing a tremendous job by keeping us updated and informed.
Today, I wanted to give my opinion on the Bills' draft weekend. I will hit on all the important topics that were discussed on the front page, FanPosts and comment sections. Of course, I'm going to give it you "Joe" style.
As I sat in my man cave watching the draft, enjoying an adult beverage, my wife screamed to me, "Bills trade!"
I looked up at the little ticker at the bottom of the screen, and saw that we traded up to the No. 4 pick. I told my wife, "The Browns are repaying us for stringing us along during the period when they were looking for a head coach." I immediately jumped out of my seat - without spilling my beverage of course - yelling at the screen, saying "Watkins or Mack!"
Mike Mayock was saying we might be trading up for Jake Matthews; I screamed "no!" As I sat and watched the clock tick down, I had dreams of our new revamped front-seven with Mack across from Mario Williams. Then I had visions of Watkins wearing Bills blue, with his locks blowing in the wind as he blows past defenders.
After the pick was made and it was determined what we had to give up to acquire Watkins, I immediately went in to analytical mode. Did we give up too much, and is he worth it?
No, we didn't give up too much to get a guy we believe is a difference maker. I like the aggressiveness that we displayed, and it was a big contrast from years past.
Is he worth it? That's the better question. I must admit, I didn't watch much of Watkins while he was at Clemson, nor did I watch much film on him. I figured he was out of range from where we would be drafting at No. 9, so I completely ignored him. I don't know if he's the type of talent that warrants a future first round pick, but what I do know is that Whaley and company have consistently proven that they have an eye for talent. They have been hitting draft picks and undrafted free agents out of the park. I have complete faith that they can evaluate talent, so because of that, I agreed with the trade.
Like many of you, I was shocked that we didn't attempt to draft or sign a quarterback or tight end during or after the draft.
I've gone on record and said that I really didn't like the E.J. Manuel pick last season, but I also realize that he was drafted as a player that we needed to develop, so I have a little bit more patience than most. He showed signs that he can be effective, but he was too inconsistent in his down field reads and accuracy. Can that be taught? I'm not sure; we'll just have to wait and see.
However, I'm not confident that he'll be the guy that leads us to the promised land. Aside from my lack of faith in his ability to play the quarterback position at the professional level, I'm more concerned about his ability to stay healthy. For that reason, I felt that we should've addressed the quarterback position. This sort of blind faith that this regime has, kind of reminds of the type of faith we had in Ryan Fitzpatrick. We never had a succession plan in case it didn't work out, and at the end we were forced to completely turn over the quarterback position, and subsequently the coaching staff. At the very least, bring in someone that can compete with Jeff Tuel for third string. You can't tell me Aaron Murray isn't better than Jeff Tuel.
All the mock drafts and "experts" had us taking Eric Ebron at No. 9 if we stayed put. Not only did we not take him at nine we traded up to draft a position that was the deepest in the draft. We passed on tight ends in the second round, and we didn't take a chance on troubled tight end Colt Lyerla.
I was in the minority on this subject. I never wanted us to draft a tight end. Scott Chandler led the team in receiving last year, and we signed him to a rather fair two-year contract this offseason. Chandler has his limitations (blocking and athleticism), but he's serviceable. We have Lee Smith that can run block, Chris Gragg that can stretch the field, and Tony Moeaki who is the wild card in all of this. We're fine at the tight end position.
Stevie Johnson traded
When I saw that we traded Stevie to the 49ers, I was actually happy for him. The guy has been one of my favorite players while he was here, and now he has a legitimate chance to make the playoffs or even the Super Bowl. Now he's able to be closer to home where his family needs him after the passing of his mother. Stevie was able to escape purgatory, so good luck to him.
From a football and economic standpoint, I think it was a necessary move. As GM Doug Whaley eloquently put it, our wide receiver room is crowded. We have younger and cheaper players that can come in and give us what we could've expected from Stevie this season. To pay a wide receiver that much money, only for him to be the third or fourth option on offense, doesn't make much sense.
As far as the compensation is concerned, we got more for him than I think he was worth. A fourth round pick that conditionally could be a third, for a wide receiver coming of career lows and a injury-riddled season? I'm satisfied with the compensation. Good luck, Stevie!
Overall, I like what we did in the draft. I like the late round talent that we were able to acquire, and it looks like Doug Marrone finally has the big offensive lineman that he's been clamoring for. However, I do have some concerns.
As much as I love the job that Whaley and company has done to revamp this roster, I have some doubts on his ability to build a winning team. Having talented players is important, but having the right players that can get you wins is more important. Give it some thought. Look at our offense. We have an offense that is built around West Coast principles, and what is the most important trait that a quarterback must have in the West Coast offense? Accuracy. So why draft a quarterback who has always struggled with accuracy and ball placement? I just don't think Manuel is the right type of player for this offense. What is our identity on offense? Are we a running team, or are we a passing team, or is the goal to be balanced? Our starting running back is a guy who excels in space, but we draft bigger and slower lineman who can't pull or effectively get to the second level. Our blocking scheme is a zone blocking scheme, which is usually done with smaller and quicker lineman, but we got bigger and slower. Perhaps with the trade of Bryce Brown, and bigger linemen in place, we will be going to a more smash mouth run game - but I doubt it.
The theme this whole offseason was to surround Manuel with weapons to be successful. I disagree with most on how to accomplish this. I believe we should've focused on fortifying our strengths, by reinforcing the defense and our rushing game. The best way for us to win in 2014, is to run the ball at will and stop the run. It is the winning formula if you have a young quarterback; just look at the 49ers and the Seahawks.
Lastly, the Bills have been rolling the dice lately, by acquiring guys with off the field issues. They need to be careful, because one bad apple can spoil a bunch. Many point to our locker room as being strong enough to deal with young and immature players, but where is the leadership really coming from? Fred Jackson and Kyle Williams are the two guys that come to mind when I think about Bills leaders. Kyle can't seem to get his fellow defensive lineman Marcell Dareus to act right, and Jackson (who might not be here next season) showed poor judgement in responding to LeSean McCoy's Bryce Brown will start day one tweet.
Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham, Duke Williams, Sammy Watkins, Seantrel Henderson, and Dareus has all had their off the field issues. I hope that their issues are behind them, and their poor behavior or poor judgement doesn't negatively impact this team.