Draft Grades: Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills were already having a strong offseason, highlighted by the addition of Mario Williams. And their 2012 draft class completes the process, and potentially makes them darkhorse contenders in the AFC.

The Bills reached for Stephon Gilmore. There’s no denying his potential, but he’s will need time to develop – more time than you’d typically expect from a top-10 pick. That said, I believe cornerback was one of their most glaring needs, and there was a fairly significant dropoff in talent at the position. If they felt this was an area they needed to address in order to compete in 2012, the reach was justified.

Cordy Glenn could be a steal in the 2nd round, but it depends where the Bills use him. He played left tackle this past season at Georgia, but is best suited to play right tackle or guard in the pros. If the Bills use him at left tackle, they’ll be missing an opportunity to maximize his skills.

T.J. Graham was a reach in the 3rd round. He’s more of a track star than a football player. He can stretch the field and potentially contribute as a return specialist, but his upside is limited.

Nigel Bradham is a developmental prospect but I like how he fits in Buffalo. He won’t be forced to play a significant role right away and can be brought along slowly.

I love the selection of Ron Brooks. He was stuck behind Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu this past year, but had the skills to start for nearly any other program in the country. His lack of experience makes him a bit of an unknown, but he played well in a nickel corner role at LSU and, at worst, should be able to fill that role in Buffalo.

Zebrie Sanders could be the Bills long-term answer at left tackle, but he isn’t ready for that role just yet. Ideally, they’ll keep him on the sidelines for a year, developing his strength and technique. But they’re desperate for help on the offensive line, which may force him into action.

Tank Carder lacks the measurables, but was extremely productive at TCU. He may never start, but should have a long career as a backup and special teams contributor.

Mark Asper may add some depth to the offensive line, but he’ll have to fight to make the final roster cuts. The Bills have no shortage of mediocre interior linemen.

The selection of John Potter doesn’t make much sense. Rian Lindell seems to be entrenched as the starting kicker and Potter is no better than any number of kickers who could have been picked up after the draft.

Overall, the Bills did a nice job of addressing needs without making many significant reaches. They also landed a few solid developmental prospects who could pay off a few years down the line. This may be Buddy Nix’s best draft class since coming to Buffalo.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Draft Grades - 2012 Comments Off

Buffalo Bills select Cordy Glenn, Grade A+

The Buffalo Bills continue to have a brilliant offseason. Cordy Glenn doesn’t solve the issue at right tackle, but the Bills will probably plug him in at right tackle and leave him there for the next decade.

Glenn’s upside is relatively modest, which is probably why he fell, but I love this selection for the Bills because he is such a safe selection. He will be a quality starter from the minute he sets foot on the field and helps solidify an offense line that really needed a boost.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Bills Comments Off

Buffalo Bills select Stephon Gilmore, Grade B

The Buffalo Bills defense is going to be surprisingly formidable in 2012. I’m not crazy about Stephon Gilmore, especially not in the top 10, but he fills an obvious need and gives them the depth they need to compete with the Patriots.

I probably would have tried to trade down if I were them but, assuming that wasn’t option, Gilmore was one of the few prospects on the board capable of stepping into a starting role and making an immediate impact. It’s definitely a risk to draft for need rather than value when you aren’t sure if you’re a legitimate contender, but I do like the Bills aggressive approach. They’re acting like they’re ready to win now for the first time in over a decade.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Bills Comments Off

Draft Needs: Buffalo Bills

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Buffalo Bills [full archive here].

Season Recap: The Buffalo Bills started the season at 4-1, with impressive wins over the Patriots and Eagles and looked like a surprise team. Injuries played a major factor as they finished the season 2-9. Things do look promising, though, and Head Coach Chan Gailey has a clear plan for the team. Hopefully, the Bills can stay healthy and make a run in 2012.

Team Needs:
1. Offensive Tackle: Buffalo lost 2011 starting LT Demetress Bell in free agency, leaving second-year player Chris Hairston and journey-man Erik Pears as the starting tackles. The Bills can’t expect QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to stay healthy with those two players as his personal protectors. Buffalo will be well positioned to select Riley Reiff, Jonathon Martin or Cordy Glenn in round one.

2. Wide Receiver: The Bills have Stevie Johnson and a bunch of average players at the receiver position. Chan Gailey loves spreading the field and throwing the ball around, and would love another impact player for Fitzpatrick. If Michael Floyd falls to #10, Gailey will waste little time turning in the selection-card. Mohamed Sanu, Alshon Jeffrey, and Brian Quick could be options in the second round.

3. Linebacker: The Bills solidified the defensive line with the signings of DE Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, and now need to sure up the group behind them. Kelvin Sheppard looks like the starter in the middle, and Nick Barnett can handle the job for another season, but adding another LB should be a priority. Luke Kuechly would be a good selection and can start right away at any LB spot.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Bills, Draft Needs - 2012 2 Comments

Bills looking to draft a quarterback?

Last October, the Buffalo Bills locked up Ryan Fitzpatrick to a 7-year, $62M contract, so it may seem odd that they’re evaluating quarterbacks in the 2012 Draft.

However, only $24M of Fitzpatrick’s contract is guaranteed, and $10M of that has already been paid out in the form of a signing bonus. Additionally, the yearly value of the contract increases up to $7.2M in 2015 and approaches $10M in the final year of the deal.

In other words, there is no chance of Fitzpatrick playing out this contract, and the Bills are already looking into other long-term options at the position.

The Bills recently met with Kirk Cousins and have a visit scheduled with Brock Osweiler, two potential 2nd or 3rd-round prospects in the upcoming draft.

Neither quarterback would challenge Fitzpatrick for playing time in 2012, but both have the potential to develop into starters and could be the long-term answer in Buffalo.

For more info, follow our Draft Visit Tracker, updated daily. 

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills Comments Off

How Mario Williams affects Bills draft plans

The Buffalo Bills made the biggest free agent signing in franchise history today, officially inking Mario Williams to a six-year $96M deal. But one man cannot turn a 6-10 team into a playoff contender, so GM Buddy Nix still has plenty of work to do this offseason.

The next order of business for Nix, is to sort out his draft board and determine what area to address with the 10th pick in the draft.

Could Dre Kirkpatrick be the Bills target at No. 10?

Throughout the offseason, I’ve assumed the Bills would target a defensive end at No. 10 (Melvin Ingram and Nick Perry have each been matched with Buffalo in my mock draft at various points). But the signing of Williams means the Bills may chose to address another area of concern in the 1st round.

The next most glaring hole is at cornerback, where Terrence McGee and Drayton Florence are both coming off disappointing years. The Bills could potentially fill this hole with Dre Kirkpatrick, the consensus second-best corner in the draft behind Morris Claiborne.

The offensive line is another area which could be addressed. Left tackle Demetrius Bell is a free agent and does not appear headed back to Buffalo. Chris Hairston may step into Bell’s role, but the Bills may still be looking for an upgrade over Erik Pears on the right side. Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin would both be nice fits at right tackle.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Bills Comments Off

Buffalo Bills interested in Courtney Upshaw?

Now that the Buffalo Bills have fully committed to the 4-3 defense – after two years stuck somewhere in between schemes – mock drafts are popping up all over the internet with the Bills linked to a defensive end.

The most popular choice seems to be Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, who played a hybrid linebacker/end role for the Crimson Tide.

Upshaw has 1st-round talent, but would be a reach in the top 10.

While I certainly understand the logic behind the Upshaw/Bills connection, I don’t think he’s a great fit in Buffalo.

As much as I like Upshaw, he shouldn’t be in the top 10 of any draft board belonging to a team which runs the 4-3 defense. He can be an effective pass rusher in that system, but he struggles against the run. He simply lacks the strength to consistently shed blocks, especially when he’s lined up at the point of attack.

That’s not to say he can’t start at defensive end at the next level, but the Bills could get much better value at No. 10. As a defensive end, Upshaw compares favorably to a guy like Jabaal Sheard. He a solid pass rusher, and holds his own in the run game, but not someone you want to build your defensive line around.

If the Bills are committed to improving their defensive line in this draft, their best strategy may be to trade down. This isn’t a great class of ends at the top, but there are up to seven prospects who could warrant mid-to-late 1st round picks. The Bills could potentially slide back a few slots and still land a guy like Nick Perry or Melvin Ingram, both of whom fit into the 4-3 scheme better than Upshaw.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Bills 2 Comments

2011 Draft Grades: Bills

I’m starting to like what Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix are doing in Buffalo. It’s easy to come to a struggling franchise and simply decide to draft the first quarterback that comes along, but they’re taking a patient approach to rebuilding the Bills.

I would have taken Patrick Peterson in the 1st round, but Marcell Dareus isn’t a bad choice. He’ll start immediately and should be a difference maker on their defensive line. His experience in Alabama’s 3-4 defense will help him make a smooth transition to the NFL. Don’t expect multiple Pro Bowls from Dareus – 3-4 defensive ends just don’t get that type of recognition – but that doesn’t mean he won’t still be a great player for them for the next decade.

I like Aaron Williams in the 2nd round. Leodis McKelvin has really struggled and there isn’t much depth behind him. There is also a chance that they move Williams to safety. Donte Whitner is set to become a free agent and may not return. Jairus Byrd could probably shift over to strong safety, allowing Williams to take his spot at free safety. Either way, I expect Williams to see significant playing time as a rookie.

Kelvin Sheppard wasn’t a huge reach in the 3rd round (I gave him a 4th-round grade) but there were better players available. Martez Wilson, Colin McCarthy and Quan Sturdivant – just to name a few – all had higher grades and were still on the board. It will be interesting to see if they keep him at inside linebacker. He has the size to move to the outside, where they actually need more depth.

Da’Norris Searcy could prove to be a steal in the 4th round. I only gave him a 5th round grade, but the Bills will likely give him a chance to win the starting job at strong safety. He’s a big, physical player who has a chance to be an enforcer in their secondary. While it may have been a slight reach, I think he’s a great fit for what they’re trying to do on defense.

Chris Hairston was a reach in the 4th, and it’s disappointing to see the Bills wait this long to address their offensive line needs. He lacks the athleticism to fill their need for a left tackle, and may ultimately have to move to guard which is one of the few positions where the Bills didn’t need help in this draft.

I like Johnny White in the 5th round. He won’t be asked to do much in 2011, but Fred Jackson is 30 and likely won’t be around much longer. Once C.J. Spiller takes over the full time duties, White will be there to back him up.

Chris White had decent value in the 6th round, but just like with Sheppard, it comes at a position that doesn’t need the added depth. White has a future in this league, but I would not be shocked if he struggles to make the final roster cut in Buffalo.

I really like the addition of Justin Rogers in the 7th round. He’s undersized, but I like his chance to devele into a solid nickel back. There will be a lot of competition for that slot in Buffalo, but he definitely has a chance to win some playing time as a rookie.

Michael Jasper is a behemoth of a man. At 6’4″, 394 pounds they’re obviously hoping he can provide depth at nose tackle. At that size it’s tough to imagine him ever being a three-down lineman, but in certain short-yardage situations he can be a valuable situational player and was well worth a 7th round selection.

Overall this was a surprisingly solid draft the Bills. I didn’t have a ton of faith in Gailey and Nix after their performance in last year’s draft, but they rebounded nicely. They landed at least two starters (Dareus and Williams) and possibly as many as four if Sheppard and Searcy are able to live up to expectations.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Draft Grades - 2011 1 Comment

Von Miller visiting Bills, Broncos, Browns

Von Miller‘s stock has been on the rise throughout the offseason and it appears as though he’s headed towards a spot in the top five or six picks.

Miller has reportedly already scheduled workouts with the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns – who own three of the first six picks in April’s draft.

The fact that Miller could go in the top five isn’t a surprise, but it is interesting that he’s drawing interest from nearly everyone at the top of the draft.

A fourth team in the top six, the Arizona Cardinals, may actually be the team most likely to draft Miller. They’re desperate for youth at linebacker and Miller would be a perfect fit in their 3-4 scheme. In my latest mock draft I have Miller going 5th overall to Arizona.

Update: Miller worked out for the Cardinals on March 15

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Broncos, Browns, Cardinals Comments Off

Draft Needs: Buffalo Bills

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Buffalo Bills. [full archive here].

Season Recap – The Buffalo Bills began the 2010 season 0-8, and there were many people who believed they would end up winless. Right around mid-season is when the Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick began to look the part for the Bills and Chan Gailey’s new look offense. Although Buffalo finished the season 4-12, Fitzpatrick, along with 1,000 yard wide out Steve Johnson, showed no signs of quit and stayed competitive in many games: especially the OT thrillers with Pittsburgh and Baltimore. With a year of experience under Gailey look for Buffalo to improve in 2011.

1. Right Tackle – In Gailey’s offense, which consists of multiple shotgun formations using four and five receiver sets and a zone blocking scheme on running plays, offensive lineman are very important. Seventh round LT Demetrius Bell performed well, but Buffalo had no answer across from him. Cornell Green, Erik Pears, and Mansfield Wrotto all took their shots at RT, yet none performed worthy enough for a spot next season. Upgrading the position would pay huge dividends for the entire offensive unit. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Bills, Draft Needs - 2011 1 Comment