Back at the end of July, BBD editors Dan Hope and Ryan Talbot took on the task on ranking every player on the Buffalo Bills’ roster entering the preseason, which was set at 89 players at the time.
More than three months later, the complexion of Buffalo’s roster has certainly changed. Not only are there some new additions and other players no longer on the roster due to injuries or poor performance, some players on the roster have either well exceeded expectations (such as inside linebacker Kiko Alonso, ranked No. 16 in the preseason edition) or had disappointing first halves of the season (running back C.J. Spiller, ranked No. 1 in the preseason, fits this description).
Taking into account how much and how well each of these players have performed in Buffalo’s first nine games this season, we hit the reset button on our roster ranking and put together a ranking of the 53 players who currently make up the Bills roster with seven games left to play in the regular season.
(Preseason ranks in parentheses)
53. Ronnie Wingo, RB (Not with team)
52. Mark Asper, OL (Not with team)
51. Brandon Smith, CB (Not with team)
50. Ty Powell, LB (Not with team)
49. Antoine McClain, OL (Not with team)
48. Evan Rodriguez, FB/TE (Not with team)
47. Chris Gragg, TE/FB (44)
These players are the top seven candidates to be inactive on a week where the rest of the Bills roster is healthy, as none of them have made any impact of significance for Buffalo this season. The only one of these players who has been on the roster all season is Gragg, who has played just 13 snaps in four games active. The most talented player of this group is 2012 fourth-round pick Rodriguez, who was signed by the Bills on Monday, but he has failed to stick on two NFL roster (Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins) due to disappointing play and off-field issues.
Back of the Rotation
46. Stefan Charles, DT (Not with team)
45. Thomas Welch, OT (80)
44. Jeff Tuel, QB (58)
43. Chris Hogan, WR (72)
42. Justin Rogers, CB (45)
All of these players have significant roles for depth, but are not going to see significant playing time unless injuries occur in front of them. Tuel started at quarterback for the Bills in Week 9, but will be back to third-string quarterback once EJ Manuel and Thad Lewis are healthy. Rogers started the first five games of the Bills’ season at cornerback, but he was a major liability in coverage and has been inactive in Buffalo’s past four games.
One player who could have the potential to rise up the rankings if he sees more playing time is Charles, who was signed prior to the Bills’ Week 9 game versus the Kansas City Chiefs yet came in and recorded two surprising tackles on the Chiefs’ second offensive drive of the game. He only played five snaps against the Chiefs and is likely to remain at the back of the rotation unless injuries hit in front of them, but his sudden playmaking was a good sign for him remaining a part of the roster.
41. Duke Williams, DB (32)
40. Frank Summers, FB (64)
39. Corbin Bryant, DT/DE (79)
38. Jamaal Westerman, OLB (Not with team)
37. Marcus Easley, WR (68)
36. Lee Smith, TE (52)
35. Ron Brooks, CB (25)
34. T.J. Graham, WR (21)
33. Tashard Choice, RB (48)
32. Garrison Sanborn, LS (35)
31. Brian Moorman, P (Not with team)
30. Arthur Moats, LB (31)
29. Nigel Bradham, LB (12)
None of these players are offensive or defensive starters, but all of them see the field on a regular basis. Moorman, Sanborn and Easley are all key impact players on special teams. Choice, Graham, Smith and Summers are decent offensive role players, though Graham has been a significant disappointment in his sophomore season. Bradham, Moats, Brooks, Westerman and Bryant can make plays off the bench for the defense, though Brooks’ season has been injury-riddled this year.
Williams, a rookie defensive back, has not seen much playing time this season, but he projects to have a brighter future with the team as he gains experience.
28. Jim Leonhard, SS (Not with team)
27. Doug Legursky, LG (36)
26. Thad Lewis, QB (Not with team)
25. Marquise Goodwin, WR (27)
24. Da’Norris Searcy, FS (22)
23. Dan Carpenter, K (Not with team)
22. Alan Branch, DE/DT (24)
21. Erik Pears, RT (34)
Goodwin and Carpenter are key special teams players, and all of the other players in this group have started multiple games this season.
Pears and Legursky are the weak links of the Buffalo offensive line, but both have provided some stability to that unit. Branch has been a solid starter since taking injured defensive end Alex Carrington’s spot in the lineup. Searcy and Leonhard have their flaws in both tackling and coverage, but both players have made plays when they have had to start at safety this season.
Lewis started out the season on Buffalo’s practice squad, but he performed admirably in three starts in place of injured starter EJ Manuel. Goodwin has only played in five games thus far due to injuries, but he has already caught two deep touchdown passes and is Buffalo’s lead kickoff returner. Carpenter, who was signed prior to the season to replace injured rookie Dustin Hopkins, has had a very good year as the Bills’ placekicker, connecting on 18 of 20 field goal attempts.
20. Nickell Robey, SCB (37)
19. Robert Woods, WR (15)
18. EJ Manuel, QB (17)
Manuel, Woods and Robey have all shown impact player potential in their inaugural NFL season. Manuel has missed the Bills’ last four games due to a sprained LCL, but showed franchise quarterback potential in his first five games of the year. Woods has been an inconsistent performer but has looked like the No. 2 receiver he is expected to be. The most pleasantly-surprising rookie has been Robey, who has gone from undrafted to a key role playmaker on the Bills defense as its nickel slot cornerback.
17. Aaron Williams, SS/CB (23)
16. Eric Wood, C (9)
15. Jerry Hughes, OLB/DE (30)
14. Scott Chandler, TE (13)
13. Kraig Urbik, RG (10)
While none of these five players has been spectacular, all of them have been solid presences in the Buffalo lineup. Urbik and Wood are steady starters on the interior offensive line, though Wood is having a rough season after signing an offseason contract extension. Chandler is coming off his worst game of the season, having dropped two passes against the Chiefs, but he helps the Bills offense as both a receiver and blocker.
The most pleasant surprises of this group have been Hughes and Williams: Hughes has been an explosive pass-rushing threat in a situational role, while Williams has transitioned well to strong safety from cornerback.
12. Stephon Gilmore, CB (7)
11. Jairus Byrd, FS (2)
10. C.J. Spiller, RB (1)
Spiller, Byrd and Gilmore are among the elite talents on the Buffalo Bills’ roster, but all of them are pushed down the midseason rankings due to their battles with injury and subpar play thus far this season. Spiller has been hobbled for most of the season with an ankle injury, though he had his best game of the season with 155 yards from scrimmage in Week 9. Byrd and Gilmore both missed the first five weeks of the season with injuries: Byrd has played well since coming back from plantar fasciitis, though it is likely to be his last season with the team, while Gilmore’s play has been shaky since coming back from a fractured wrist.
9. Leodis McKelvin, CB (18)
8. Fred Jackson, RB (14)
7. Manny Lawson, OLB (20)
6. Stevie Johnson, WR (5)
5. Marcell Dareus, DT (6)
4. Cordy Glenn, LT (8)
3. Kiko Alonso, ILB (16)
2. Kyle Williams, DT (3)
1. Mario Williams, DE (4)
These have been the best nine players on the Buffalo Bills this season. Each of them has been a staple in the Buffalo lineup (though Johnson, Lawson and McKelvin have each missed one game this season due to injuries) and has consistently performed at a high level.
After a somewhat-disappointing first season with the Bills, Mario Williams has played up to his six-year, $96 million contract this year. He has been the star of the Bills defense, leading the team with 11 sacks. Fellow defensive linemen Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus have also been standouts. Manny Lawson has been excellent as a coverage linebacker and edge run defender, while Leodis McKelvin has been a stabilizing presence in the secondary, especially when Gilmore and Byrd were out of the lineup.
The breakout star of the Bills defense this season, however, has been rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso. An every-down linebacker who is third in the NFL with 89 tackles and tied for the league lead with four interceptions, Alonso is a top candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Jackson, Johnson and Glenn have been the core players of the Bills offense. Jackson is a steady, hard-running back who leads the team in yards from scrimmage. Johnson has been inconsistent this season, but remains the team’s top downfield playmaker, as his statistical production has suffered in part due to the team’s revolving door of quarterbacks. Glenn, in his second year, has emerged as one of the NFL’s best left tackles.