The Buffalo Bills added a lot of depth to their offense in the early stages of free agency, signing two fullbacks, three cheap receivers, and two interior offensive line backups. With our focus shifting toward the NFL Draft, where does Buffalo’s roster stand today? Here’s how we break down their areas of need.
Tyrod Taylor, Cardale Jones, Josh Woodrum
Having retained Taylor on a restructured deal, there is no longer a question of immediate need for the Buffalo Bills. Still, Taylor’s new deal shortened his contract length, and it’s still possible for the team to move on in 2018.
Jones will be entering his second season, and the project player didn’t look ready to start during a rehearsal performance at the end of this season. He can handle the backup responsibilities this year, but if the Bills are ready for the next coaching regime to select a quarterback, there’s no guarantee that he’d stay on the roster. Woodrum is effectively a camp body, signed to a reserve/future contract at the end of the season.
If we were to predict Buffalo’s draft targets based on Doug Whaley’s profile, the 6’4” 233 pound DeShone Kizer and the rocket-armed Patrick Mahomes would be the guys. But it’s unclear what sway Sean McDermott holds on the draft process, let alone his own style preferences.
Perceived need: Medium
LeSean McCoy, Mike Gillislee, Jonathan Williams, Cedric O’Neal, Joe Banyard
The Bills are all set at this position, with no teams appearing to bite on the restricted free agent deal tendered to Gillislee. While Williams hasn’t claimed a significant role on the team, the top two created one of the best rushing attacks of the century.
This is one of the best running back classes in recent memory. The Bills aren’t shy to picking running backs in the draft, and a day three option like USC’s Justin Davis, UNC’s TJ Logan, or Clemson’s Wayne Gallman may fit their needs.
Perceived need: Low
Sammy Watkins, Andre Holmes, Corey Brown, Walter Powell, Jeremy Butler, Brandon Tate, Kolby Listenbee, Dez Lewis, Corey Washington
The Bills entered the offseason with a crying lack of bodies at this position, and they did a good job of fixing that much by signing Holmes, Brown, and Butler to cheap deals.
Unfortunately, none of those players has a starter’s production on his resume. Between the three of them, there are ten collective seasons played: Only three seasons with more than 30 receptions, and only one with more than 40.
Watkins, if healthy, is capable of being a star on one side of the field. But the team needs to support him with another talented receiver on the other side, especially now that Robert Woods has departed.
Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross are generally considered the top three receivers in this class. Each has a special trait and a significant weakness: Davis is excellent at earning yards after the catch, but doesn’t take care of the ball while he runs. Williams wins contested catches with the best of them, but his unrefined route running makes it hard to separate. Ross has otherworldly speed, but a long history of major injuries. The Bills could very well pick a receiver in the top 50 of this year’s draft.
Perceived need: High
Charles Clay, Nick O’Leary, Patrick DiMarco, Mike Tolbert
One of the more significant investments in Buffalo’s low-key free agency was DiMarco, who was voted second-team All-Pro for his blocking talents in 2015. They’re also giving Tolbert an extended look as a possible goalline back. Clay still hasn’t produced the numbers that his contract might dictate, but he’s a good blocker and his weaker receiving numbers could be chalked up to Taylor’s middle-of-the-field blindness. After a lousy rookie season, O’Leary earned a roster spot due to injury luck, then played pretty well for a backup tight end.
The question for the Bills will be if they think it’s worth investing in a player who may only be the TE2 in this offense. This is an historic tight end class, and OJ Howard in particular is a rare talent. He’d be a major upgrade over O’Leary, but he might produce about as much for the Bills as he did for the Crimson Tide. Is that worth a pick?
Perceived need: Low
Cordy Glenn, Jordan Mills, Cyrus Kouandjio, Seantrel Henderson, Michael Ola
On paper, the Bills have no needs at this position. Glenn is a great player that the team locked up long-term, Mills started most of the last two years on the other side, Kouandjio did a good job filling in on the left side while Glenn was injured, and Henderson has starting experience on the right side. Even Ola filled in for a couple games and held up fine.
There are issues, however. Mills wasn’t a cromulent starter at right tackle, and he frequently gave up pressure in bad situations. Kouandjio appears to be locked to the left side of the ball, being handed a starting role when left tackle Glenn was injured, but relegated to the inactive list instead of a swing tackle’s job while Glenn was healthy. Henderson is facing long-term suspension, the result of medical marijuana usage to treat his Crohn’s disease. And both Kouandjio and Henderson will be free agents in 2018.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a great draft to need an offensive tackle. Alabama’s Cam Robinson may be the best of the bunch, and the Bills already brought him in for a pre-draft visit. Forrest Lamp and Antonio Garcia are two of the next-best names, but those smaller-sized linemen don’t fit Buffalo’s usual profile. A better fit might be Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton, who played on the right side in college.
Perceived need: Medium
Interior offensive line
Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller, Ryan Groy, Patrick Lewis, Vlad Ducasse
This year, at least, the need is low. In 2018, Wood will be a free agent, and Incognito will be a 34-year-old with a $7.6 million cap hit. That helps to explain why the Bills retained Groy on a two-year deal by matching an offer sheet from the LA Rams, and why they claimed Lewis off waivers from the Seahawks. Miller looked much-improved during his sophomore season, and with those growing pains out of the way, should be Buffalo’s right guard of the future. Ducasse is here to compete for a backup role with Lewis and Buffalo’s offensive tackle depth.
The Bills don’t really need to add anyone to the interior in this draft class. One name who might interest them in the middle of the draft: Temple guard Dion Dawkins.