With the draft only 8 days away we wanted to do everything we could to get you prepped and ready for who the Bills could take, who we think they’ll take, and who might be left available after the draft is over. Today we start that process by doing what every NFL team is either currently doing or has just finished up and that’s building the draft board.
If you missed it last week we released new positional rankings along with a new Top 750 Big Board but that was all based on general rankings and scouting, it didn’t include a Bills centric focus. This series of articles will take you through every stop, thought, and detail of how we will build the Buffalo Bills draft board. We want to encourage you to please comment and give us your input as we go along.
The first step as always is evaluating your needs. Below we have the Bills current roster, including RFA OG’s Kraig Urbik and Chad Rhinehart, and we will go through the evaluation process position by position and assign each group a number. That number will end up between 1 and 10. 1 will categorize ‘No Need’, while 10 will stand for ‘Most Need’. Now let’s get started.
As you look at our QB grouping you see our established starter in Ryan Fitzpatrick who had a pretty good season last year and signed a new contract extension mid-season. Unfortunately for both Bills fans and Fitzpatrick his play regressed heavily in the 2nd half of the season and his position went from one we thought we had filled to on that now has plenty of questions left to answer. Behind Fitzpatrick we have Thigpen who has not looked good in his limited opportunities here and Brad Smith is nothing more than creative way of utilizing the new 3rd QB rule to add another position player.
Need Grade: 7
We need to find a potential long term starter as our faith in Fitzpatrick is waning. We also don’t want to back ourselves into a corner and pigeon ourselves in any of our picks. Fitzpatrick will work for now, so we can afford to wait till the mid-rounds to potentially draft a development project to push Thigpen and hopefully store on the Practice Squad if need be.
I think it’s safe to say that this is probably the Bills best position in terms of talent and depth. The Bills know that no matter if it’s Fred Jackson or CJ Spiller carrying the ball they are in good hands. Both Spiller and Jackson complement each other well and work well in tandem. While it will be more difficult to make sure each player is getting enough carries one thing is for sure, it’s a good problem to have. Behind them are Tashard Choice and Johnny White who offer some versatility between the two of them but thus far have not proven to be anything more than somebody who only sees the field on ST and for 2-4 carries per game.
Need Grade: 2
While we are happy overall with the RB situation we still feel like there is a great need for the Bills to find that big power back to take care of the short yardage situations and potentially stubborn goal line defenses. That can likely be found though in Free Agency after the draft.
Not often used in Chan Gailey’s spread style system, McIntrye finds himself used mostly on ST or when the Bills go into their short yardage packages. McIntyre is a good lead blocker but he doesn’t offer much in terms of his ability to either carry or catch the football.
Need Grade: 1
We just don’t use a FB enough to warrant even considering it.
This is a case where we need to remember that quantity does not automatically equal quality. We may have ten total WR’s (Brad Smith) but we have only one starter in Stevie Johnson. It’s imperative that we find somebody to play opposite Johnson this year. Last year’s #2 was Donald Jones who is a better suited slot style WR who has decent quickness and above average routes. Marcus Easley is at this point a complete wildcard. We have absolutely no idea what he can offer us during a season so counting on him at this point is just not possible. David Nelson, Ruvell Martin, Kamar Aiken, David Clowney, and Derek Hagan will all be competing for the final couple of roster spots working out of the slot and running routes in the middle of the field. While David Nelson seems to have a step up on the competition we sure did like what we saw out of Derek Hagan late in the year last year.
Need Grade: 10
This is probably our greatest need moving forward into April. As of this point no WR outside of Steve Johnson has locked down a spot on this roster and there is literally no competition for the #2 WR role as of this moment. If the right WR is there at 10 we should expect to take him.
Only three of these guys will make it onto the roster at the end of camp and it’s an interesting assortment of talent. You have your sure handed pass catchers in Chandler and Caussin, you have two solid blocking TE’s in Brock and Smith, and you have a developmental athlete in Onobun. Chandler is the starter as of now but is mostly effective in a red zone setting and as a #2 TE who works out of the double TE set. Lee Smith and Fendi Onobun offer some intrigue based on what they potential project to but right now they haven’t shown us much.
Need Grade: 6
Overall the TE position is alright for the time being, it needs to be addressed eventually and if a TE like Dwayne Allen falls then it may be worth a 3rd Round pick for him but we shouldn’t get caught reaching for a TE simply because we are only adequate at the position for the time being.
We have one starter amongst this current group of three OT’s, and I know what many of you are going to say that Hairston is a starter but as of yet he’s only proven that he is capable of starting a few games, not a full season and he didn’t exactly look dominant in his limited time. That being said all three of our tackles are RT’s in the NFL and that means the most important position on our line currently has zero players at it. That’s a BIG problem that must be rectified quickly.
Need Grade: 10
Here in lies the problem with this draft, there is a grand total of one LT prospect who doesn’t have questions about his ability to play the position in Matt Kalil, and there is about a .0001% chance he somehow falls to us and even less of a chance that we trade up for him. After him is a cluster of options that go by the name of Riley Reiff, Mike Adams, and Jonathan Martin that could end anywhere from LT, to RT, to OG when it’s all said and done, and I’m not sure I feel comfortable spending a top ten pick on that kind of a risk. In the 2nd and 3rd Rounds you’re looking at a couple of potential LT players in guys like Bobby Massie and Matt McCants so to some degree you have to hope and pray that they fall to us.
For all the worry about offensive tackles the offensive guard group is quite sound in terms of both talent and depth. Levitre and Urbik combined last year to form a very good starting duo and guys like Rhinehart, and Williams provided decent depth. We also have two interesting projects in former DT Michael Jasper who know works inside and former LT Jake Vermiglio who has kicked inside. There are some looming contracts that will need to be renewed in the next year or two but for the most part this position looks and feels sound.
Need Grade: 4
With contracts for guys like Urbik and Levitre coming up soon there will always be a concern that they will price themselves outside of our market (Demetrius Bell). With that in mind it wouldn’t be bad to see a late round pick used on an interior lineman who has some versatility and can push our current guys to get better.
With Wood at the pivot we are set and as long as he can stay healthy. That health though is a concern that the Bills may need to look at. Colin Brown is adequate but I don’t think any of us want to see him as the starter if Wood goes down for an extended period of time.
Need Grade: 5
Drafting a center, let alone a backup, should never be a top priority and I would only say we should do it if a guy we like falls to us. As it is we can probably wait till after the draft to find a guy to push Brown in camp.