No position got more attention this offseason than the DE position as Mario Williams and Mark Anderson were brought in to rush the passer. Those are moves that had to be made as the Bills are transitioning from a base 34 to a base 43 and had only one proven 43 DE on their roster prior to the signing (Chris Kelsay). Right now it’s a numbers game and they have a lot of guys to only fill a few roles and we expect the amount of players in camp at this position to grow. Ideally we think that the Bills will follow the New York Giants model and find a way to utilize some of his DE’s like DT’s on pass rushing situations. This will allow them to keep their DT’s fresher throughout the game and healthier throughout the season.
Need Grade: 7
I know we just spent how many millions on bringing in two new DE’s and now I grade it as a 7? Well truth be told I don’t want Mark Anderson starting, I don’t think that’s what the team wants. Anderson works best when he can come in and do one thing and that’s rush the passer. In order for him to do that he has to come in on obvious passing downs. Now of course he could do it but I don’t think that’s what they’d prefer. I think we go DE early and two names to watch are Quinton Coples and Nick Perry.
Another group that has a lot of numbers and talent is this one, there are a few 34 holdovers that are going to need to show us something in camp to even stick on the roster (Dwan Edwards, Torrell Troup, & Jay Ross). For the most part though we know that Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams are going to start at DT and that Kellen Heard will be the top backup. This rotation is one that we know works out in a dominant fashion. There seems to be at least one DT spot open behind Heard and don’t be surprised if Jarron Gilbert does something to grab it. He was a highly touted prospect a few years ago who has lots of athletic ability but has failed to put it all together yet.
Need Grade: 2
I don’t see a big reason to take a DT in this draft we have lots of numbers there already and with three well established guys we have a rotation as well. Maybe bring in a FA or two to take camp reps and push everybody else but for the most part we are pretty set at DT.
Lots of people seem to think that Barnett can slide into the WLB spot in a 43 defense with ease but I’m not sold on that. He has clearly lost a step through all the injuries and there is a reason many people said he needed to play ILB in a 34 so as to protect himself with limited field to cover. That being said he’s going to be your likely starter with a bunch of other options that likely don’t represent any starter at SLB. Depth wise you’re pretty good with Morrison, Scott, and Moats though if we add one or two OLB’s to work for the SLB spot you could see a numbers game come into play.
Need Grade: 6
You don’t have a starting SLB guy but you do have some serviceable veterans who can man the spot if you don’t take a guy who can step in on Day 1 and handle the job. I think we want to be careful not to pigeon hole ourselves too much and say that we have to have to take an OLB on Day 1 or 2. If the value isn’t there then let’s not force it. I see us adding multiple outside LB options through the draft and free agency.
Sheppard is the starter and McKillop is his current backup. Sheppard was good last year in his LB role but some question whether or not he has the athleticism and range to make plays outside the tackle box as a 43 MLB. There is also the question about how well Sheppard will work dealing with more traffic and having shed more blocks this coming season. Behind him McKillop is a solid tackling veteran who should help Sheppard in his transition. He’s more of a special teamer for now and doesn’t offer a ton of upside as a backup.
Need Grade: 6
While we don’t need a starter per say getting a good backup is key. We need to find a guy who we can use to groom and develop who has plenty of athleticism and can cover the TE. Right now Sheppard is the man and he will stay it despite who we take in the draft but we need to have somebody ready behind him just in case he’s not the guy.
McKelvin , Leodis
Our CB group is a really interesting mix of veterans who are currently our starters and young players who we hope can take over for them sooner rather than later. It’s no secret that McGee has lost a step and doesn’t look like the same player. He is going to be better with our switch to a more zone based scheme this year but for how long? McKelvin is a guy who we just need to see play to his potential. He doesn’t have to exceed it but he needs to show us that he can consistently play the position. Florence is aging vet whose really a nickel CB right now and we hope that one day Aaron Williams can develop into a starting CB and Rogers into a nickel CB.
Need Grade: 8
The need at CB is such so that if a player is there at 10 who is of good value we can take him. We should consider CB to one of the top priorities moving forward towards the draft and we should expect one to be taken early on. Finding an outside starter that can potentially develop into a lock down CB would be ideal result from this draft.
Jarius Byrd came back this year with a bang and had a very good year. He’s clearly the starting FS moving forward but behind him is only Joshua Nesbitt who is a converted QB who hasn’t seen a snap yet as an actual FS. We have no idea what he brings and Byrd has missed enough time in the past to give me enough concern about the depth at this position.
Need Grade: 5
Similar to our situation at center, we want to see us add some depth through this draft process. With 10 picks in this draft we could easily see the Bills taking a FS prospect on Day 3 but they could also wait till after the draft and grab a couple of UDFA option to compete with Nesbitt.
Can’t complain too much about this position, Wilson is the clear starter and Searcy a solid backup at this point who is still developing. For the time being this position needs little to no help and that’s a good thing for the Bills.
Need Grade: 2
Some age concerns in terms of Wilson already being 31 is a concern but not a big one. Maybe you bring in some camp competition to take some reps but for the most part this position is set.
Lindell, Rian K
Moorman, Brian P
Sanborn, Garrison LS
This is probably our best unit top to bottom, it is set.
Need Grade: 1
You bring in a kicker and maybe a punter to help avoid leg fatigue but nobody is taking Moorman or Lindell’s job.
Tomorrow we’ll break down all the games Bills scouts attended, all the pro days they were reported to be at, and all the visitors they had as we continue to build the Bills board!