Bills

Training Camp Preview: Bills

Biggest Question Mark: Marshawn Lynch
The running game isn’t a question mark, but Lynch’s status certain qualifies. He hasn’t exactly been a happy camper in Buffalo over the years and the addition of C.J. Spiller calls into question his future with the franchise. Rumors have already linked him to Seattle, where he could end up before the season is over.

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 27:  Quarterback Brian Brohm #4 of the Buffalo Bills looks upfield against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 27, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Can Brian Brohm win the starting job in Buffalo?

Position Battle to Watch: Quarterback
Well, it won’t exactly be worth actually watching, but it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. Everyone expected the Bills to draft a quarterback early in the draft this year, instead they’re stuck with another season of Brian Brohm, Ryan Fitzpatrich and Trent Edwards. They all saw playing time last year and each one failed to impress.

Impact Rookie: Torrell Troup
C.J. Spiller may get the most attention, but Troup will be the biggest difference maker. The reason is that the Bills didn’t actually need a running back. Troup, on the other hand, fills a gaping hole at nose tackle. He’ll compete with the undersized Kyle Williams for the starting job.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills Comments Off

Early NFL Rookie of the Year Predictions

It may only be May, but it’s never too early to look ahead. By glancing through some projected depth charts we’ve come up with an early rookie of the year prediction. We’ll track each player’s progress and update our rankings on a weekly basis throughout the season.

OFFENSE
1. Ryan Mathews, Chargers

Offensive Rookie of the Year typically goes to a running back, and often to a player on a good team. Mathews may not be the most talented of this year’s rookies, but he is in the best position to succeed. He’s the feature back in San Diego and should cruise to 1,200 yards and 10+ touchdowns.

2. Ben Tate, Texans
Tate will have to beat out Steve Slaton for the starting job, but he certainly will enter training camp with an excellent shot to be the Texans’ feature back. Unlike Slaton, Tate has the size to carry the load and put up impressive numbers throughout the year.

3. Golden Tate, Seahawks
Tate will likely be used as an all-purpose receiver in Seattle much like Percy Harvin was used in Minnesota last year. He isn’t their No. 1 target, but they’ll find ways to get him the ball.

4. C.J. Spiller, Bills
While Spiller was the top-rated running back on most draft boards, he didn’t land in a great situation in terms of finding immediate playing time. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson still deserve to get their fair share of the carries (assuming they’re still around) which will limit Spillers ability to put up ROY-type numbers.

5. Jimmy Clausen, Panthers
If Clausen beats out Matt Moore he’ll be in an excellent position to succeed as a rookie. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams will carry the load on offense, limiting the amount of work Clausen needs to do.

DEFENSE
1. Eric Berry, Chiefs
The Chiefs defense won’t be very good, meaning plenty of chances for Berry to show off his skills. He’ll clearly stand out as the best player in their secondary from day one, and should be the DROY favorite.

2. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan will start from day one on an already respectable defense in Tennessee. He’s surrounded with enough talent that should allow him to rack up 7+ sacks this year.

3. Earl Thomas, Seahawks
Thomas will start immediately for the Seahawks and should be an instant-impact player. He’s a ball hawk, which means he should have no problem putting up the gaudy interception numbers that will catch the eye of ROY voters.

4. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham likely won’t start in Philadelphia, but he’ll be used as a situational pass rusher. He’s one dimensional, but he’ll put up the numbers necessary to get noticed as a rookie.

5. Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons
Weatherspoon is one of the few defensive rookies who has been handed a starting job. He likely won’t put up the numbers to in the award, but he’ll be in the discussion simply based on having the most opportunities to show off his talents.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Chargers, Chiefs, Eagles, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, Texans, Titans 2 Comments

Bills want Jared Gaither

In one of the worst non-moves of the draft, the Bills failed to land a left tackle. Now they may be taking steps toward rectifying that.

The Ravens have been practically trying give Jared Gaither away, and now the Bills may finally be stepping up as a suitor.

Baltimore Ravens Training Camp 2007

Is Gaither headed to Buffalo?

Gaither has been on the trade market this entire offseason since the Ravens placed only a 1st-round tender on the restricted free agent. Now, despite a dominant 2009 season at left tackle, the Ravens have been using Gaither on the right side. Its more clear than ever that they don’t envision him as a key part of the team in 2010.

I’ve been begging for someone to sign Gaither this entire offseason. He’s simply one of the best young left tackles in the game. However, the Ravens’ willingness to part with him has scared teams off. Rumors about his lack of work ethic have swirled and his stock has plummeted.

Seemingly, he would be a perfect fit in Buffalo. They can’t afford to enter 2010 with Demetrius Bell as their starting left tackle. Gaither would help stabilize their offensive line and perhaps give the Bills a chance at mediocrity in 2010.

However, the Bills should be cautious about giving up too much. As good as Gaither was in 2009, he isn’t worth the Bills 2011 1st-round pick, which will likely be in the top 10. The Bills still need a franchise quarterback and they can’t pass up a shot at Jake Locker, Andrew Luck or Ryan Mallett for a left tackle with work ethic concerns.

But if the Bills can land Gaither for a 2nd-round pick or less, it’s a steal and perhaps one of the best moves of the offseason.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Ravens Comments Off

2010 Draft Grades: Bills

I guess this is what you get when you hire a 70-year-old first-time GM. Buddy Nix has been a well-respected scout for years, but he’s simply not suited to be the general manager in Buffalo.

C.J. Spiller was one of the worst picks of the 1st round. Entering the draft the Bills had needs at just about every position, including some positions that had great value in the top 10. Dan Williams and Anthony Davis would have made perfect sense. A case could have been made for Jimmy Clausen. Even Dez Bryant would have filled a need. The one position that they didn’t need to address was running back.

On top of that, I don’t view C.J. Spiller as a top-10 talent. I know many do, but I believe he’s too small to be an elite running back in the NFL. His defenders will point to Chris Johnson, but he’s the exception to the rule.

I give the Bills credit for realizing that Kyle Williams can’t play nose tackle and addressing that need in the 2nd round, but Torrell Troup? I like Troup, but he isn’t better than Terrence Cody, Cam Thomas or Linval Joseph. At best, he was the 4th-best nose tackle on the board. I gave him a 3rd-round grade, and even that was generous due to the fact that he plays a premium position.

As much as I disliked the first two picks, I love the selection of Alex Carrington. I think he’s a perfect fit at defensive end in their new 3-4 scheme. They really needed to address the defensive line and they did a great job recognizing that as a serious hole that needed to be filled.

I also like the selection of Marcus Easley in the 4th round. He came out of no where and put up huge numbers at Connecticut this past season. You should always be wary of one-year wonders, but in the 4th round he was well worth the risk. They need a No. 2 behind Lee Evans and Easley could potentially fill that role as early as this season.

Ed Wang had value in the 5th round, but its concerning that they didn’t address the offensive line until day three of the draft. He’s a career underachiever who may be put in a tough position in Buffalo if they ask him to start early on.

Arthur Moats and Danny Batten will both likely move to linebacker in Buffalo. They’re developmental prospects, but they should see time early on. The Bills needed to add depth at linebacker in order to make the transition to a 3-4 defense.

Levi Brown was a solid 7th-round pick. He’s a developmental prospect with some upside, but the Bills really needed to find someone earlier in the draft. The Bills just don’t have the veteran presence at quarterback for Brown to learn from. This was a less-than-ideal landing spot for him.

I love the pick of Kyle Calloway in the 7th round. I was surprised to see him fall this far. He doesn’t have a high ceiling, but he can certainly contribute and provide some much needed depth on their defensive line.

Overall, the Bills made some nice mid and late-round picks. However, they failed to find a franchise quarterback or a left tackle – the two positions that were far and away their biggest needs. This is the type of draft that simply destroys a franchise. The Bills are fading fast as an organization and they needed a solid draft to avoid joining the likes of the Raiders, Browns, Lions and Rams as the perennial bottom dwellers of the league. Based on their inability to address key areas of need, they all but guaranteed themselves of another top-10 selection in 2010.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Draft Grades - 2010 1 Comment

Why did Clausen fall and how much further will he fall?

Before I begin, let me start by saying I had Clausen rated No. 14 on my draft board. I would have had no problem with a team like the 49ers taking him in the 1st round, or someone trading back into the 1st round for him at the end of the night.

The question I have now is: if no one liked Clausen enough to take him in the 1st round, then why would they take him in the 2nd?

If you watched Notre Dame this past season, then you know that Clausen has NFL skills. He may actually be the most physically gifted quarterback in this year’s draft class and he’s certainly the most NFL-ready. Because of this, the only reason I can see why a team passed on him is because of concerns about his maturity level and leadership ability. If you’re concerned about those red flags, when why would you take him at all?

Now I don’t actually believe Clausen will far on day two, but I will question the draft philosophy of any team that takes him after passing him over in round one.

Take the Bills for example. If Buddy Nix believes that Clausen can be the face of his franchise, then why take C.J. Spiller in the 1st round? Spiller doesn’t even fill a need. The same can be said for the Browns who also addressed an area that was viewed as a strength entering the draft.

If either the Bills or Browns select Clausen, I think we have to question their commitment to him. While he won’t be paid nearly as much as a top-10 pick, the expectations of developing into a franchise quarterback are still there. I don’t believe either team can convince me that they actually believe Clausen is franchise quarterback after they let the entire 1st-round go by without taking him in the top 10 or trading back up in an effort to land him.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Bills, Browns Comments Off

Who will trade for Roethlisberger?

Per an Adam Schefter report the Steelers are shopping Ben Roethlisberger for a top-10 pick. If, in fact, that’s all they’re looking for then its hard to imagine a deal not getting done prior to the draft. Let’s take a look at the teams in the top 10 with an unsettled situation at quarterback who could be willing to make a deal:

1. Rams
They need a quarterback, but they’re pretty dead-set on Sam Bradford. If they believe that Bradford is the real deal, then why part with this pick for a 28-year-old who has a history of off-field issues and on-field injuries?

6. Seahawks
The Seahawks could also use a quarterback but they’re probably not interested in a 28-year-old, even if he is a two-time Super Bowl winner. They’re probably two years away from being competitive due to numerous other holes, so it makes more sense to hang on to Matt Hasselbeck for now.

7. Browns
This would make perfect sense from the Browns standpoint. However, its hard to imagine the Steelers trading Roethlisberger to their arch rival. True, the Eagles just made a similar move, but Roethlisberger is only 28 and could potentially hurt the Steelers twice a year for another decade.

8. Raiders
The Raiders have countless other holes to fill, but with Al Davis, anything’s possible. He makes moves on the fly, often overpaying for players he’s fond of. He’s seen Roethlisberger win two Super Bowls and its entirely possible that he believes Big Ben is the answer to all his problems.

9. Bills
This probably makes the most sense from both sides. The Bills aren’t years away from competing unlike some of the other teams in the top 10. Big Ben could turn them into a reasonably competitive team in 2010. They also have no guaratees that they’ll get a quarterback or a top offensive linemen with this pick. It may be a smart move to grab a sure thing if they have the opportunity.

10. Jaguars
The Jaguars have a quarterback coming off a [undeserved] Pro Bowl selection but Jack Del Rio has been highly critical of David Garrard. I’m mildly surprised that they haven’t made a more serious move to bring someone in to compete with Garrard, but this could be their opportunity. If the Jaguars want to excite their dying fan base, this may be their best chance.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Bills, Browns, Jaguars, Raiders, Rams, Seahawks, Steelers 2 Comments

10 Bold Predictions for the NFL Draft

10. The Raiders will be criticized for their 1st-round pick
Ok, so maybe this isn’t quite a bold prediction. No one has any idea who the Raiders are going to draft, but I can all but guarantee it will be a reach.

9. C.J. Spiller will be a top-10 pick
And he can thank Chris Johnson for paving the way. The NFL is a copycat league and now everyone wants to the next Johnson. Spiller is an option for the Browns, Raiders and Jaguars. Someone such as the 49ers may also try to trade up for him.

8. Two TCU players will be drafted in the 1st round
Jerry Hughes is all but locked into the 1st round, but his teammate Daryl Washington could join him. He’s a perfect fit for the Colts and Saints and could sneak into the late 1st round. It would be the first time since 1939 that two Horned Frogs went in the 1st round.

7. Bruce Campbell will fall to the 2nd round
Al Davis will consider him with the 8th pick, but he’ll pass. And so will everyone else. Someone will eventually scoop up the most overrated draft prospect to come along in years in the early-to-mid 2nd round.

6. Pete Carroll will reach for someone from USC
Taylor Mays? Everson Griffen? Both could be options for the Seahawks in the 1st round. He may even be tempted to reach for someone like Jeff Byers later on. College coaches are always blinded by familiarity when they move to the NFL game.

5. The Cowboys will draft a WR in the 1st or 2nd round
Motivated by the Redskins acquisition of Donovan McNabb, Jerry Jones will feel the need to bolster his offense. The NFC East could feature a number of shootouts in 2010 and Jones wants to stay ahead of the curve.

4. A  Pro Bowler will be traded
Ronnie Brown? McKinnie? Umenyiora? Roethlisberger?

3. The Steelers will draft a quarterback
Not necessary in the first two rounds, but they’ll grab a signal caller at some point. Maybe Dan LeFevour in the 3rd round? Tony Pike in the 4th? John Skelton in the 5th?

2. There will be at least 5 trades in the 1st round
This could be one of the busiest 1st rounds in recent memory. With so much talent in this year’s class, teams will be motivated to move in two directions. On one hand, some great players will fall and teams will want to move up to grab them. On the other hand, as those great players fall, more good players will be available in the late 1st and early 2nd round.

1. At least 3 quarterbacks will be selected in the 1st round
We know Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen will be 1st round picks. But don’t be shocked when a third comes off the board in the late 1st. The Vikings could take Tim Tebow. The Bills or Browns may also trade up for Colt McCoy.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Colts, Cowboys, Jaguars, Raiders, Saints, Steelers, Vikings 95 Comments

Top 10 most likely players to be traded on draft day

10. Michael Vick, Eagles
With McNabb out of the picture the Eagles aren’t shopping Vick around, but that doesn’t mean they won’t trade him. His value to the Eagles is minimal, since it appears that Kevin Kolb is being handed the starting job. If another team (Bills? Rams? Raiders?) comes along and offers up a trade the Eagles can’t refuse, they’ll pull the trigger.

9. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins
The Dolphins seem to have soured on Ronnie Brown. They only placed a 1st-round tender on him (rather than a 1st and 3rd) making it possible for someone to fairly easily sign him if they wished to do so. By no means are they pushing him out the door, but they’re definitely willing to part with the injury-prone 28-year-old before he loses his value altogether.

8. David Garrard, Jaguars
The Jaguars seem to be moving forward with Garrard as their starting quarterback, but that could change on draft day. Jack Del Rio has publicly criticized Garrard this offseason, stating that he doesn’t view him as a quarterback that can lead a team to the Super Bowl. That certainly doesn’t sound promising for Garrard’s future. If the Jaguars land a quarterback early in the draft (Tebow?) then Garrard could be sent packing.

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

Has Roy Williams played his last game in Dallas?

7. Roy Williams, Cowboys
The Cowboys have given mixed signals about their commitment to Williams. They haven’t tried to trade him yet, to our knowledge, but they haven’t exactly given him a vote of confidence either. They may not be shopping him around, but Jerry Jones isn’t shy about making moves. If the right offer comes along on draft day, he’ll certainly listen.

6. Bryant McKinnie, Vikings
McKinnie is just 30 years old and has plenty of good football left, but the Vikings have reportedly grown tired of some of McKinnie’s off-field actions. He’s another veteran that isn’t being pushed out the door, but could be dealt if the right deal comes along. More and more we’re seeing teams try to move players while they still have value to other clubs in an effort to get something in return. McKinnie could fall into that category.

5. Marshawn Lynch, Bills
Lynch, who turns 24 on draft day, may be the most intriguing player on the trade block right now. With the emergence of Fred Jackson, its possible that the Bills will be willing to move Lynch, who has been nothing but a headache for the organization since they drafted him in 2007. He’s among the most talented running backs in the game, but he’s a handful to control off the field. Despite some character concerns, there will be more than a few teams willing to take Lynch off the Bills hands if they’re interested in moving him. He could be a key piece to the puzzle if they wish to trade into the late 1st round for a shot at Tim Tebow or Colt McCoy.

4. Shaun Rogers, Browns
Mike Holmgren has already overhauled the roster, but he isn’t done yet. Rogers is a difficult player to figure out. When he wants to be, he’s arguably the game’s most dominant nose tackle. But the problem is, no one can seem to figure out how to motivate him. He enjoyed playing for Romeo Crennel in 2008, so a reunion in Kansas City is certainly a possibility of the Chiefs are willing to part with a 2nd or 3rd-round pick.

3. Greg Olsen, Bears
I’m actually shocked that Olsen hasn’t been traded yet. He’s strictly a pass-catching tight end and new Bears offensive coordinator simply doesn’t have room for those players in his offense. Its possible he’ll change things up to accommodate Olsen, but don’t count on it. It seems unlikely that he’ll be wearing a Bears uniform by the end of April.

2. Jared Gaither, Ravens

The Ravens are practically begging someone to take Gaither off their hands and eventually someone will oblige. The Ravens are reportedly not interested in putting up with his lack of effort and poor work ethic, but if he suffers from those issues you’d never know it by his play on the field. He is on the cusp of becoming an elite left tackle and someone could get an absolute steal on draft day.

1. Jason Campbell, Redskins
Shortly after the Redskins traded for McNabb, Jason Campbell stated that he would sign his tender. Not because he’s excited to back up McNabb, but because he needed to sign in order to allow the Redskins to trade him. He won’t be in Washington next season, and its very likely he’ll be gone before the draft is over.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Bills, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Jaguars, Ravens, Redskins, Vikings 3 Comments

The answers to all your Tebow questions

Unlikely most of the mainstream media, I’ve ignored Tim Tebow this offseason. Its not because I have anything against Tebow, I’m just not interested in treating him like an elite prospect. Just by writing this blog entry I’m giving him more attention that I’ve given to similar prospects such as Jonathan Crompton and Jevan Snead. But despite the fact that I normally wouldn’t spend this much time analyzing a 3rd-round quarterback prospect, I’ve been asked enough questions about Tebow via email and Twitter that I now feel the need to address his draft status.

So lets touch on the most popular questions:

Super Bowl XLIV

Who will call Tebow's name on draft day?

Who will draft Tebow?
To our knowledge, Tebow has visited or is scheduled to visit with the Bills, Seahawks, Browns, Patriots and Redskins. Draft visits typically don’t offer too much insight into what direction teams are leaning, but 1st and 2nd round quarterback prospects are the exception. At the very least, these are players that you’re hoping will become the face of your franchise. Coaches work one-on-one with the quarterback more than any other position, so a pre-draft sit-down is viewed as a necessity. This doesn’t mean someone else won’t draft him, but if Tebow is selected within the first two rounds, I would be very surprised if it wasn’t by one of those five teams (or someone else who visits with him in the next few weeks).

Will Tebow be a 1st-round pick?
Maybe. You can never underestimate the egos of NFL coaches and general managers. Drafting Tebow would shine a bright spotlight on their organization and if a coach is able to turn Tebow into a quality starting quarterback, the praise would be heaped upon him. Without a doubt, there are coaches and GMs out there who think they have the answers to all of Tebow’s mechanical issues. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. The fact that we’re asking the question though, means he shouldn’t be a 1st-round pick. That said, someone might take a chance.

The Patriots are a strong possibility. Tom Brady will be 33 in August and Bill Belichick is a close friend of Urban Meyer and admittedly a Tebow-admirer. The Bills could be another option, but they would need to trade back into the 1st round to make it happen.

Why do you hate Tebow?
I don’t hate Tim Tebow. I don’t wish failure upon him. I don’t think he’s destined to be a bust. I simply gave him a 3rd-round grade because his mechanics are a question mark, his accuracy is shaky on deep passes and he’ll need to learn an NFL playbook which looks nothing like what he’s used to at Florida. 1st-round quarterbacks should be considered nearly can’t-miss prospects, guys you expect to be starting by the start of their second year at the latest. 2nd-round quarterbacks come with similar expectations within the organization, but without the outside pressure to succeed due to the lesser contract value. 3rd-round quarterbacks are viewed as likely future starters, but are usually very raw and are expected to need two or three years of seasoning on the bench. Tebow fits into the third category. He could very well end up starting, but he needs a lot of work.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Bills, Browns, Patriots, Redskins, Seahawks 1 Comment

How the Donovan McNabb trade could impact the draft

We’ve heard all sorts of crazy rumors about Donovan McNabb over the past two weeks. Based on the number of trade rumors out there, it would certainly seem as though he’s headed out of Philly sooner rather than later. But rather than break down where he may end up, lets take a look at how the draft will change based on where he could land…

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys - Wild Card Round

McNabb doesn't want to leave, but if he does it will shake up the 1st round

If McNabb lands in St. Louis…
The most obvious repercussion of this scenario is that Sam Bradford is no longer projected as the top pick. Ndamukong Suh would likely go No. 1 overall and Gerald McCoy No. 2. Suddenly the Bucs would be on the clock with no need for a quarterback, but with a highly sought after prospect on the board. The Redskins would be holding their breath hoping no one trades up, while the Browns, Bills and possibly others would be on the phone with Tampa trying move up for Bradford. Assuming he fell to Washington, Jimmy Clausen would then fall to the Bills at No. 9. The real winner could be Eric Berry who suddenly becomes an option at No. 3 for Bucs.

If McNabb lands in Oakland…
Not much should change in this scenario, but you just never know with Al Davis. In an effort to keep McNabb happy, and around for longer than one season, Davis may decide to draft Dez Bryant. It sounds ridiculous at first thought, but it may not be such a bad idea. Heyward-Bey was a terrible selection last year, and he showed no signs of being a meaningful contributor anytime soon. Bryant has the potential to be an immediate impact receiver. Or, since Davis tends to shy away from receivers who run in the 4.5 or 4.6 range, maybe he goes way off the board for someone else. Jermaine Gresham? Golden Tate? Crazier things have happened.

If McNabb lands in Buffalo…
This may be the best scenario for McNabb, but its the worst scenario for Clausen. Assuming Bradford goes No. 1 and the Redskins take Russell Okung, Clausen could fall far. The Browns and Seahawks don’t appear to have an interest. The 49ers may be an option, but wouldn’t be a guarantee. If he slides past them at No. 17, there isn’t an obvious landing spot until the Vikings at No. 30. Its likely that someone would need to trade back into the 1st round to stop Clausen’s free fall.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Eagles, Raiders, Redskins, Vikings Comments Off