Upgrades along the line set Bills up for offensive success

You might say that everything has been laid at EJ Manuel’s feet for the upcoming season, but that’s what everyone is saying. Mainly because it’s the truth.

The message was made pretty clear at the draft with the trade up to select Sammy Watkins and the additional investment in offensive players like Bryce Brown, Mike Williams and even Anthony Dixon. Albeit, Dixon is more of a special teams addition than anything else. Where Whaley really invested this offseason was along the line. While adding Watkins and Williams adds even more depth and talent to the receiving corps, the line could see major changes take hold. Since the Bills are boosting their offensive line-up, expect that oddsmakers will surely consider them as a contenders with official NFL betting lines moving in their favor this season, having fans and fantasy pickers taking notice.

Between the signing of Chris Williams, the expected return of a healthy Chris Hairston and draft picks Cyrus Kouandjio, Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson, the Bills two-deep could undergo some serious changes. Continue reading

How Are The Bills Shaping Up?

The new NFL season will be upon us before we know it, with Organized Team Activities already underway. This will be an exciting time for Bills fans, as the team has slowly but surely been (hopefully) heading in the right direction. There should be some star players back to their usual selves after last season, with mainly CJ Spiller in mind, as well as an arsenal of new weapons for second year quarterback EJ Manuel.

With the latest odds at http://www.bettingsports.com/nfl/ the Bills seem to be a ‘middle of the road’ bet in terms of Super Bowl chances. The truth is, they will have to first concentrate on beating the New England Patriots to the AFC East championship, something which, although daunting after the last few years, is becoming more and more realistic.

So what’s new?

The Bills traded up in the 2014 NFL Draft to land some true star power in Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. With both size and speed, Watkins is the sort of player that can really take the top off a defense and open up opportunities for his teammates. It was definitely a risk to spend so much to get Watkins, but the Bills needed to provide the offense with a spark, and reinvigorate the fans.

The Bills also added some much needed O-line depth in the draft with Cyrus Kouandijo, Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson being added. If Kouandijo and Henderson can overcome troubles (injuries and character red flags respectively), they could prove to be steals. Buffalo also took CB Ross Cockrell, LB Preston Brown and LB Randell Johnson with their remaining picks.

The Star Power

The truth is, if the Bills can gel as a team and pick up a bit of luck with injuries, they have the potential to go far. CJ Spiller can be a downright beast on his day, but struggled through the 2013 season with nagging injuries. He and Watkins could be enough to give any defense fits, and quarterback EJ Manuel could profit from that.

On the defensive side, the D-line looks good on paper, with tackle Marcell Dareus and end Mario Williams providing extreme talent that could hold up against anybody. Young players anchor the back seven, with linebacker Kiko Alonso already a rising star after his rookie season, being named in the NFL’s top 100 players list and cornerback Stephon Gilmore ready for a breakout season.

The fact for the Bills is that a talented young team is being built, and 2014 has the potential to be a great year.

Whaley thought of his offense first with draft picks

Doug Whaley made sure that he put his stamp on the Buffalo Bills with this year’s draft. He made both pragmatic and radical moves over the weekend in what appears to be a clear attempt to end the Bills’ decade-and-a-half playoff drought.

With Sammy Watkins as the obvious crown jewel of the class (as any first round pick would be), Whaley committed to improving Buffalo’s offense with his selections that included three offensive linemen. The trade to get Watkins is a clear risk for a team with as many holes to plug as the Bills do. Whaley deserves credit for ensuring that he kept his 2014 selections intact while sacrificing his first round pick in 2015.

My feelings on trading up wavered on nearly a week-to-week basis as the draft slowly approached. Making a drastic move to secure a cornerstone talent like Jadeveon Clowney would have been interesting and quite entertaining. However the assets required to make a pick like that outweighed the benefits in many cases. Managing to only give up an additional mid-round selection along with the requisite first round pick was a coup for Whaley. Even if you have concerns over giving up that pick, Whaley still did well in maintaining the rest of his assets along the way.

The lone concern I had in giving up a first round pick in 2015 is that the Bills could be on the outside looking in if a quarterback is needed. This is a worst case scenario situation, of course, but should management or the coaching staff realize that EJ Manuel isn’t capable of carrying the team – or if Manuel’s knees don’t cooperate again – the Bills may be searching for a signal caller next year. With Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston expected to be the most sought after signal callers in 2015, the Bills would be left out of the party. Now, a number of factors would need to come together for the Bills to be in that situation, but it certainly could be a possibility come next May. Continue reading

Trade with Rams provides Bills with numerous options

It seems as if Bills fans are largely split on the selection of EJ Manuel with the 16th pick in the first round last night. Most draft pundits are down on the selection since the majority of them graded Manuel as a second round choice. What bears consideration though is what else came from the move to select Manuel.

Obviously the Bills valued Manuel as the top quarterback in the draft. They very well could have taken him at eight and have walked away with the player they wanted all along. While it would have been considered a massive reach – much like the pick at 16 is as well – the Bills could rest easy knowing they came away with the player they targeted.

However, they remained patient and swung a mutually beneficial deal with the Rams to slide back in the first round. The overall haul of the deal gave the Bills an additional second round pick while seeing them move back eight spots in the first round (16th overall) and seven spots (78th overall) in the third round. They also added an extra seventh round pick.

St. Louis came away with the opportunity to get Tavon Austin – the player they coveted most – and Bills were forced to wait and see if they’d still have the pick of the litter at 16. They did.

It’s safe to assume that the Bills would have been able to pick from at least three or four of the draft’s top quarterbacks at 41 had they gone a different route at 16. But as I wrote earlier, if this is the guy they know they wanted, it’s okay that they took Manuel at 16. Now the focus should shift to the second round.

Having two more picks in the top 50 gives the Bills a ton of flexibility and the chance to immediately stock the cupboards in a way they wouldn’t have been able to previously. With cornerback, wide receiver, tight end, linebacker (if Dansby isn’t signed) and even offensive line on the wish list, the Bills should exit the second round with two of those slots filled with two excellent talents.

There is a host of quality talent at receiver and tight end at the top of the second round along with a number of players at various positions who were originally given first round grades. So coming away with two offensive weapons for Manuel to throw to likely won’t be seen as a loss by anyone.

In fact, it might be safe to argue that the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts depending on which positions are targeted at 41, 46 and even 78 before the night is out. For a team in need of depth, securing picks that will impact the roster the most needs to be valued and the Bills did exactly that.

Bills 2012 Draft recap

Stephon Gilmore was a safe, but wise decision.

With the 2012 Draft wrapped up and rookie minicamp beginning in ten days, the Bills have rounded out their 90-man roster with nine draft picks and ten undrafted free agents.

Looking at the entire rookie class, it would appear as if the Bills took another step forward in solidifying the deficiencies they have had over the past few seasons. Buddy Nix has taken a clear path towards shoring up a porous defense and has been doing a fine job. A vast majority of his three draft classes have been defensive players and 2012 was no exception. Considering the 2010 draftees haven’t even reached full potential, it is difficult to say whether this is truly an adequate draft class or not. On the surface, it would seem like a win for the Bills.

While the Stephon Gilmore pick appears to have been made out of necessity rather than choice, Gilmore should be a fine starter for the Bills in no time. There is some fear surrounding him because he rose on many draft boards late in the process – all things being equal, there is probably just as much mystery surrounding late risers as there is for those who drop to later rounds. Regardless, the Bills were approaching critical mass with some of their corners, Gilmore immediately wipes cornerback out as a position with questionable depth.

The later rounds were far more friendly in terms of manageable depth and talent at multiple positions. Cordy Glenn meets the immediate need of a solid left tackle and is likely penciled in as the week one starter at this point. A one-time first round prospect, Glenn will have a battle with Chris Hairston on the left side, but should provide the Bills stability at tackle that has been lacking since Jason Peters departed.

Nix further solidified his tackle depth in the fifth round by taking Zebrie Sanders out of Florida State. This may turn out to be a better value pick than Glenn simply because of where the Bills got Sanders. Most draftniks pegged him as a right tackle who would go between the second or third rounds, but Buffalo managed to steal him in the fifth. Obviously there is some questions as to why he fell, but Buddy Nix answered those with Chris Brown recently.

Looking at Glenn as a left tackle and Sanders as a swing guy, the Bills tackle depth was immediately bolstered between Friday and Saturday. The two rookies join Hairston, Erik Pears and Sam Young as Buffalo’s bookends. Continue reading