The Buffalo Bills are full-throttle into a regime change. Again. Buddy Nix is the new GM, Chan Gailey is the new head coach, and the Bills have new assistant positional coaches, with DeMontie Cross (inside linebackers), (outside linebackers) and George Catavolos (secondary) the only exceptions. Change is imminent.
Often times, new regimes cling steadfastly to "their guys," meaning that over the long haul, they replace fringe players from the old regime with their own fringe players. However, given Nix's player acquisition strategy - building competition at virtually every position across the depth chart - several young, league-tenured Bills will have a shot to earn their keep despite not being one of the new regime's hand-picked players.
I've got five players sitting right on the fringe of Buffalo's roster that fit this criteria. You'll find those five names, along with my (possibly hair-brained) rationale for inclusion, after the jump. Feel free to add your own names to the list in the comments section.
WR Felton Huggins. Buffalo is currently undertaking a full-blown youth movement at the receiver position, which makes the 27-year-old Huggins seem like a grizzled veteran compared to most of Buffalo's depth chart. The Bills have been targeting not only youth, but size outside, drafting (6'2") and signing undrafted free agents Naaman Roosevelt (6'0"), (6'2") and (6'5") to compete with (6'5"), (6'2") and (6'1"). I see no reason why the 6'2" Huggins shouldn't be a part of those conversations - he's stuck on the Bills' practice squad on the merit of two consecutive strong training camps, and with a strong pre-season could crack the roster if the younger guys disappoint.
TE Jonathan Stupar. It's still not precisely clear exactly how Gailey plans to utilize the tight end position in his offense, but we do know that the team really only has one receiving threat at the position, and that's second-year man . Gailey will, however, run the ball frequently, which means he'll need better blocking from his tight end group. (6'4", 270) will get all the hype here, but I still consider Stupar the best pound-for-pound blocking tight end on Buffalo's roster. In fact, I think he's the closest thing to the complete TE package that Buffalo has, despite his only having five career receptions. Stupar's a great rotational player - he's a smart, heady blocker, a solid short-area receiver, and gives you everything he's got on every snap. I think he's got a great shot to make the team as a third tight end, possibly beating out to do so.
OT Jason Watkins. You don't need me to tell you that the left tackle position is a complete crapshoot at the moment. is the early favorite, but he's also a complete wild card coming off a serious ACL injury. gets a little love here and there, but I think his athletic skills are slightly overrated, and believe his best shot at sticking will come on the right side or as a swing tackle/guard. will get the majority of the "project" and "future starter" labels, but the guy I'm highest on is Watkins. I think he's much more naturally gifted than Wang is, and the only thing holding him back at the moment is a lack of experience - he didn't start playing football until his junior year of high school. Watkins is an excellent athlete with ideal height (6'6") and length (34.4" arms and 10.5" hands). He's a darkhorse candidate to compete for the starting left tackle job to my eye.
NT Marlon Favorite. Insofar as 3-4 nose tackles go, the Bills still really only employ one, and that's second-round pick Torell Troup. Kyle Williams will get snaps at the nose spot, obviously, but Buffalo - likely to keep seven defensive linemen on their opening-day roster - could use a primary backup to Troup's two-gap run-plugging role. Favorite doesn't give you much athletically, but the 6'1", 317-pound NFL sophomore is brutally strong at the point of attack and can control two blockers because of it. He's not a great pursuit player, but in that limited role as Troup's primary backup, Favorite is definitely worth a look at the back end of Buffalo's roster.
CB Lydell Sargeant. There isn't a ton of wiggle room in Buffalo's defensive backfield, as the team already has established rotations at cornerback and safety. The depth chart won't change much at the top at corner, and it already looks to be locked down at safety. It's not yet clear how many corners Buffalo will keep - they'll need to concentrate the majority of their personnel resources at linebacker - but currently, the fifth and sixth corners appear to be and . will get most of the "darkhorse corner" pub, and with good reason - he's a gifted player. But don't sleep on Sargeant, either. Depending on how his return from knee surgery goes, I think Sargeant has as much natural talent as fourth corner , and he's got better ball skills to boot. He lacks straight-line speed, so his NFL effectiveness is essentially limited to the slot, but I think in time and with ample opportunity he could emerge as an excellent slot corner.