After what could only be described as an interesting serious of events surrounding the 2017 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills find themselves in an oddly familiar position. They are in the midst of their sixth search for a new General Manager since the turn of the century, having just hired their seventh head coach over the same time frame. Doug Whaley’s firing, while not quite out of left field, happened shortly after a draft considered by most experts to be a successful one.
There are, however, still holes on Buffalo’s roster. What positional groups are most in need of an upgrade?
Using Chris Trapasso’s unofficial depth chart as a reference point, this is the group that scares me the most, especially at the defensive end position. The Bills are dangerously thin in their edge rushing group, with only Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson to show for one of the most important spots on any defense. Even if one considers last year’s breakout star Lorenzo Alexander as an edge rusher in obvious passing situations, this group is still one injury away from being very poor. Ryan Davis is the only backup defensive end with any sort of significant NFL experience, but he has logged zero starts in his 47 career games.
I’m a little higher on the Bills interior defensive linemen than Chris is, as I think Buffalo’s top four of Marcel Dareus, Kyle Williams, Adolphus Washington, and Jerel Worthy is a strong group; however, I understand the point Chris made regarding a lack of depth at the position. Williams is heading into the twilight of what has been an excellent career, and the soon-to-be 34 year-old has experienced enough leg injuries in recent years to sap some, though not all, of his burst. Dareus is one more stupid decision away from triggering a major suspension, and this list looks much worse without either of its top two players on it. A larger defensive end who could kick inside on obvious passing downs might be the smartest depth addition, here.
LeSean McCoy is excellent. Patrick DiMarco is one of the best fullbacks in the league. If only the Bills had a strong, proven change-of-pace back to fill in for McCoy...
Anyhow, the loss of Mike Gillislee makes the depth in Buffalo’s offensive backfield more of a question mark than the strength it was last season. Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Williams will be asked to combine to fill Gillislee’s shoes, and I’m not sure that they will be able to do so with the same deadly efficiency we saw last season. This is one spot where adding more talent can’t hurt.
I’m grouping the safeties and corners together, but the safety portion of the chart is far more concerning than the corner portion. If current projected starters Micah Hyde or Jordan Poyer go down with injuries, this group projects to be worse than it was after injury last season. The cornerback group is deep, but it may lack a true “number one” at this point, although the team addressed that need for the future with LSU’s Tre’Davious White in the first round of the draft. If he becomes an immediate lock-down corner, the team can focus on adding at safety.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
This is less a commentary on the amount of people at each position than it is the dearth of overall proven talent there. The Bills’ wide receivers range from injury prone (Sammy Watkins, whose fifth-year rookie contract option the team recently declined) to inexperienced (second-round pick Zay Jones, last year’s sixth-round pick Kolby Listenbee) to physically talented without numbers to back it up (Andre Holmes and “Philly” Brown”). In truth, the Bills will probably be fine here; however, injuries could lead to some less-than-stellar receiving pairings like what we saw in 2016 (Marquise Goodwin and Brandon Tate, anyone?).
The Bills look to be addressing their tight end position after hosting free agent Gary Barnidge on Wednesday. He would add proven veteran depth behind Charles Clay while still giving the team the leeway to provide stellar athlete Logan Thomas a chance to grow into the position. Nick O’Leary is another solid depth player here. Again, the Bills are probably fine, but a Clay/Barnidge pairing in two-tight end sets sounds better than a Clay/O’Leary pairing. Kudos to the Bills (and their “new” General Managers?) for continuing to try to add talent at positions that already seem secure.
What other positional groups need the most improvement?