BBD Editor: Dan Hope
BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot
Going into the season, BBD editors Dan Hope and Ryan Talbot ranked the Buffalo Bills’ training camp roster from top to bottom, and at the midseason mark, they went back over the 53-man roster at the time to evaluate the first half of the season. With the 2013 Bills season now completely in the books, it was time to take one more look at the 2013 roster and determine which players were the most, or least, productive this year.
The 53 players ranked are based on the team’s final roster with the exception of wide receiver Cordell Roberson, who was signed prior to the team’s last game to replace strong safety Aaron Williams, who was placed on injured reserve for the final game only. These rankings were intended to evaluate the players only on their performance in the 2013 season, and not to predict which players will be back with the Bills or make the biggest impact on the team in 2014.
Midseason rankings are listed alongside each player’s name in parentheses.
53. Antoine McClain, G (49)
52. Mark Asper, G (52)
51. Brandon Smith, CB (51)
50. Tony Moeaki, TE (Not with team)
49. Evan Rodriguez, H-B (48)
48. Ronnie Wingo, RB (53)
All six of these players were signed to the 53-man roster after the start of the Bills’ season, and none of them ended up with any significant playing time this season.
47. Thomas Welch, OT (45)
46. Ty Powell, LB (50)
45. Jonathan Meeks, SS (On IR with return designation)
44. J.J. Unga, RG (Not with team)
43. Duke Williams, FS (41)
42. Jeff Tuel, QB (44)
41. Ron Brooks, CB (35)
40. Chris Hogan, WR (43)
39. Stefan Charles, DT (46)
38. Chris Gragg, TE (47)
37. Marcus Easley, WR (37)
These 11 players all saw playing time for the Bills this year but were not significant factors in the rotations at their positions.
Easley, Hogan, Brooks, Williams, Meeks and Powell were all among the Bills’ key special teams players this year, though Brooks and Meeks both battled injuries.
Gragg and Charles did not see playing time until late in the season, but both players should some promise in limited playing time down the stretch.
Tuel saw playing time in two games, including one start at quarterback, when EJ Manuel and Thad Lewis were both out due to injury. He performed poorly in limited playing time, completing just 26 of 59 passes for 309 yards with one touchdowns and three interceptions.
Unga and Welch did not see much playing time but were top reserves on the offensive line. A midseason addition, Unga made enough of an impression to steal a few snaps from Kraig Urbik at right guard in two of Buffalo’s last four games.
36. Garrison Sanborn, LS (32)
35. Brian Moorman, P (31)
34. Corbin Bryant, DT (39)
33. Frank Summers, FB (40)
32. Nigel Bradham, LB (29)
31. Lee Smith, TE (36)
30. T.J. Graham, WR (34)
29. Arthur Moats, LB (30)
28. Doug Legursky, LG (27)
27. Jim Leonhard, SS (28)
26. Erik Pears, RT (21)
25. Thad Lewis, QB (26)
24. Marquise Goodwin, WR (25)
All of these 13 players made an impact situationally for the Buffalo Bills, but none of them played like starting-caliber players at their positions.
Some of them actually were starters: Pears and Legursky both started on the offensive line, while Graham was technically considered a starting wide receiver and both Bradham and Moats received starts at linebacker. As a result of those players’ subpar play, the team should be looking to upgrade all of those positions this offseason.
Lewis started five games at quarterback when EJ Manuel was out with injury, and though he is not a starting-caliber passer, he performed admirably when called upon, completing 59.2 percent of his passes and compiling a quarterback rating of 81. Leonhard also made some solid plays, including four interception, when called upon to start at times when the Bills had injuries at safety.
Goodwin only caught 17 passes in his rookie season but made a number of big plays as a deep threat, while he also handled the team’s kickoff returning duties. Smith, a strong run-blocking tight end, and Summers, used as a short-yardage runner, receiver and blocker at fullback, played solidly in situational roles on Buffalo’s offense. Bryant saw significant playing time as a rotational defensive lineman after Alex Carrington went down with a season-ending pectoral injury.
The Bills could potentially be in the market for upgrades at punter and long snapper next season, where Moorman and Sanborn were both shaky this season.
Key Players, Up-and-Down Seasons
23. EJ Manuel, QB (18)
Manuel’s first season as Bills quarterback was somewhat of a disappointment, largely due to his battles with knee injuries that limited his first season to only 10 games. He completed 58.8 percent of his passes while throwing 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
22. Da’Norris Searcy, S (24)
Buffalo’s third safety, Searcy began the season as a starter in place of injured free safety Jairus Byrd, but continued to played frequently in nickel and dime packages, even when Byrd and Aaron Williams were both healthy. Searcy was a productive player in run support who also made some big plays on the ball.
21. Eric Wood, C (16)
Wood might have left the Bills with a reason for concern after following up a lucrative four-year contract extension with a disappointing season. Wood is a solid starting center, but he did not play up to the level of consistency he had brought to Buffalo in previous years.
20. Alan Branch, DE (22)
Branch became a starter for the Bills after Alex Carrington went down with a season-ending injury in Week 3, and he ended up playing his way into a three-year contract extension. Though a non-factor as a pass-rusher, Branch proved to be a solid run-stopper and key rotational lineman both outside and inside on the defensive line.
19. Robert Woods, WR (19)
Woods had an inconsistent rookie season, in part due to injuries of his own and to injuries at the quarterback position, but he still showed promise in catching 40 passes for 587 yards and three touchdowns.
18. Kraig Urbik, RG (13)
On an offensive line that was largely shaky this season, Urbik was fairly solid as its starting right guard. He was the team’s most consistent interior lineman in both pass protection and run blocking.
17. Nickell Robey, CB (20)
Robey did not always receive consistent snaps on the Buffalo defense, but made an immediate impact in his rookie season as the unit’s nickel slot cornerback. He consistently locked down his opponents in the slot while he proved to be a playmaker in both coverage and as a blitzer/run support player closer to the line of scrimmage.
16. Manny Lawson, OLB (7)
Though Lawson was a solid starter in his first year on the Bills defense, his performance and production tailed off in the second half of the season. He proved to be a solid run defender both on the edge and at the second level, but he might not be a lock for a starting job next season.
15. Stephon Gilmore, CB (12)
Gilmore came into his sophomore season with high expectations, but never quite played up to his ability after missing the team’s first five games with a fractured wrist. He has the potential to be a very good No. 1 cornerback on the Bills defense and was solid in the second half of the season, but did not play with his usual physicality at any point in the year.
14. Stevie Johnson, WR (6)
Johnson had a disappointing season, catching just 52 passes for 597 yards and three touchdowns after catching at least 75 passes, 1,000 yards and six touchdowns in each of his previous three years. His play was adversely affected by the team’s struggling quarterbacks, but also by missing four games and some costly drops.
13. Scott Chandler, TE (14)
Chandler led the Bills with 53 receptions for 655 yards this season, but he might not have been enough of a playmaker to convince Buffalo to bring him back as its starting tight end from unrestricted free agency this offseason.
12. Dan Carpenter, K (23)
After being cut by three different teams prior to the start of the season, Carpenter found a home with the Bills and excelled, making 33 of 36 field goal attempts.
11. Jerry Hughes, OLB (15)
There might not have been any greater revelation for the Bills this season than Jerry Hughes, who had a breakout year after being acquired from the Indianapolis Colts. Hughes had a career-high 10 sacks this season and became a key part of a terrific pass-rush unit in Buffalo’s defensive front.
10. C.J. Spiller, RB (10)
Spiller led the Bills with 927 rushing yards (4.6 yards per carry) while adding 185 yards on 33 receptions, but failed to live up to expectations (and dropped off by nearly 600 yards from scrimmage from the year before) as he performed inconsistently and was plagued with injuries all season.
Stars of the Season
9. Leodis McKelvin, CB (9)
McKelvin often played as the No. 1 cornerback this year with Stephon Gilmore injured and/or struggling, and he stepped up in a big way. He performed solidly in coverage all season, even against top receivers, while recording a career-high 20 passes defensed.
8. Aaron Williams, SS (17)
Williams flourished in his first season at strong safety after two underwhelming seasons at cornerback. He was a playmaker in coverage, recording 11 passes defensed including a tied-for-team-high four interceptions, and was also quite solid in run support.
7. Jairus Byrd, FS (11)
Even though he missed the first five games of Buffalo’s season, Byrd still earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro recognition as one of the NFL’s top safeties. He made a clear impact upon his return to the lineup, continuing to be a playmaker with four interceptions while he was steady both in coverage and as a tackler.
6. Marcell Dareus, DT (5)
Dareus emerged to have the best season of his career in his third year, even as he played alongside two of the NFL’s best defensive linemen. Though his season ended disappointingly as he was benched for the starts of each of his final two games, he was a terrific run-stopping nose tackle this season who also picked up 7.5 sacks.
5. Fred Jackson, RB (8)
Even at 32 years old, Jackson showed no signs of slowing down in 2013. He led the Bills with 1,283 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns scored this season.
4. Kiko Alonso, LB (3)
Alonso had a phenomenal rookie season, playing every single snap on the Buffalo defense this year while recording 159 total tackles. Even though his game is still developing, Alonso was the on-field play caller for the Bills defense as a rookie and arguably its most important player.
3. Cordy Glenn, LT (4)
While there were many problems with the Bills offensive line this season, Glenn was not one of them. He continued to play like one of the NFL’s better left tackles in his second professional season, protecting the quarterback’s blindside effectively while opening lanes as a run blocker.
2. Mario Williams, DE (1)
After a disappointing first season in Buffalo, Williams looked more worthy of his massive contract in 2013. He recorded a team-high 13 sacks and consistently brought pressure off the edge of the Bills’ defensive line, while he was also a steady run defender.
1. Kyle Williams, DT (2)
Both of us agreed that Kyle Williams was the No. 1 star of the Bills this season. Both an explosive interior pass-rusher and a dominant run-stopper, Williams was the engine that led the Bills to a 57-sack season, the second-highest total in the NFL.