Once again, I've allowed questions from fans to queue up in my email inbox and Twitter mentions long enough to have some good discussion topics for another mailbag post. As always, keep the questions rolling in, Buffalo Bills fans - the conversation-starters are much appreciated this time of the year, believe me. The answers to these questions are just my opinion, and we welcome yours, as well.
Do you have an early favorite for the Bills to draft in the first round yet? (Ben S via email)
I don't, and I'll tell you why: it's way too early for anyone to have a favorite 2013 NFL Draft prospect with the Bills' No. 8 pick in mind (or, if you do already have a favorite, please exercise your right to change your mind). Buffalo's roster will undergo significant changes in mid-March, for one; for two, we're still very much in the information-gathering stage on prospects.
As much as possible, I try to keep as broad a view of the prospect landscape straight through the Combine - which starts in two weeks, mind you - before mulling which the Bills might consider with their fourth straight Top 10 pick. That process doesn't begin for me until about late March, once the free agent signing period has cooled down, the team's needs are crystal clear, and we have much more information at our disposal about the big-name guys. At that point, I'll start building boards and mulling scenarios - and that's a month before the draft, which is plenty long enough.
Right now, I think the prudent thing for fans to be doing (and what I'm doing) is weeding out the type of prospects that Buddy Nix likes: experienced, productive big-conference athletes with clean off-field histories and near-prototypical athletic numbers (Buddy is a height-weight-speed guy, for sure). Georgia is the hot school this year; keep an eye on their prospects.
You mentioned last week that you don't want the Bills to get Alex Smith. What about a guy like Chase Daniel? (John M via email)
I'll speak to Daniel first: if you manage your expectations (and by that, I mean that he's not a guy that should be "anointed" or handed any sort of promises about playing time), the idea of acquiring Daniel is an intriguing one. Doug Marrone will be able to get great information on Daniel, who has spent the last four seasons as the backup for the New Orleans Saints, where Marrone used to coach and one of his mentors, Sean Payton, has seen Daniel up close on a daily basis. Payton's offense has a lot of the same principles as Marrone's and Nathaniel Hackett's, and Daniel was an incredibly productive college passer in a tempo-based, spread offense. Plus, he's still only 26 years old (27 in October).
Again, if we manage expectations on that type of acquisition - and more importantly, if the team doesn't let that type of acquisition affect their draft plans as it pertains to a quarterback prospect - then there's a lot of upside to a guy like Daniel. And hey - if the Bills release Ryan Fitzpatrick, they'll need three new bodies at the position anyway. They can do worse than Daniel as a backup-type player with system knowledge and (loose) ties to the coaching staff.
Why does Buddy still have a job here? How is what he's done any better than the previous front office? (Dale H via email)
I can't speak to why Buddy has a job - Russ Brandon oversold Nix's evaluation skills a bit back in January, if you ask me - nor to the three-year win total as it compares to the previous regime. What I can tell you is that having order in the front office is far preferable to complete chaos, which is what the Bills had in 2008 and 2009, after Marv Levy vacated his GM post and left no clear decision-maker at the top of the organizational chart.
Every team allows for a consensus approach to the draft process, with coaches and scouts providing their input, but ultimately the decision is made by one guy. The Bills didn't have that before Ralph Wilson made Nix the GM prior to the 2010 season. Take the 2009 NFL Draft, for example: Tom Modrak convinced everyone else in the room to take Aaron Maybin, when he was not at the top of Dick Jauron's list (he favored Robert Ayers). Jauron and the coaching staff were the driving force behind the picks of Jairus Byrd and Andy Levitre; the coaches even preferred Levitre to Eric Wood, who was still taken ahead of Levitre nonetheless. You can see the problem: it's not necessarily that bad players were taken (three out of four ain't bad at all), but that they were scrambling to come to a decision with no clear-cut final authority.
The Bills are in a better place under Nix. That doesn't mean that it's necessarily a good place to be, but it's definitely an improvement.