Say what you want about the Buffalo Bills draft, but you certainly can't say they failed to address positions of need.
Quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and tight end were all on the hit list. The only spots that could have used more attention were cornerback and guard.
The picks have obvious implications on the depth chart, even though the players haven't taken the field yet. Here's my take on how the Bills roster shakes up, with some thoughts after the jump as to how it might affect or reflect upon the Patriots.
Free-agents and trades are in red, draft picks are in blue, undrafted free-agents are in purple. Layout courtesy Greg Bedard, with some minor changes.
Some notes on the roster:
Biggest strength: C.J. Spiller is dominant, but I'll go with defensive tackle. Starters Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams were both among the top 20 defensive tackles in Pro Football Focus' pass-rushing productivity in 2012. Beyond those two, Alan Branch is a solid gap-plugging defensive tackle and Alex Carrington provides a nice rotational boost to the pass-rush (ranked seventh in pass-rushing productivity). Getting a good push up the middle is one of few ways to get Patriots quarterback Tom Brady off his game, so it's no surprise the Bills have beefed up the middle of the line.
Biggest weakness: Outside linebacker. Let's just say it should be very interesting to see the Bills try to cover tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski during the season. Neither Manny Lawson nor Nigel Bradham are fit to be a cover linebacker, and although Bryan Scott has been solid in that role, the group as a whole is full of specialists; the Bills could be subbing quite a bit depending on packages and situations.
Most improved position from last year: Wide receiver. Robert Woods could be the best addition they've made this offseason. He certainly comes with the most pro-ready skill set. Da'Rick Rogers was projected as a third-round pick; his size, speed and athleticism should all translate to the NFL. If he keeps his head on straight, he'll be a gem.
I have my doubts about the Marquise Goodwin pick -- why draft a smaller carbon copy of a player who's already on the roster in T.J. Graham? Goodwin's an all-star athlete, though, and man does he have some jets (4.27 40-yard dash was the fastest time at the 2013 combine).
He can put those burners on, but can he beat press coverage? Defensive backs are constantly five or 10 yards off him. If Doug Marrone finds a way to use Goodwin like he did Devery Henderson with the Saints (led the NFL in yards per reception twice in Marrone's three years), he'll be productive enough to warrant the third-round pick. I just question the redundancy of it all.
Most downgraded position from last year: Guard. Losing Andy Levitre is bad enough, but they also lost a valuable backup in Chad Rinehart. David Snow was an undrafted free-agent in 2012, and ended up starting two games due to injury, as well. Maybe Chris Hairston or Zebrie Sanders slides over to guard, but this is just a hairy situation overall that the Bills didn't do anything about.
Some leftover thoughts:
- Only four of the 15 quarterbacks drafted in the first round have not been named the Week 1 starter -- Josh Freeman, Tim Tebow, Christian Ponder and Jake Locker. So, while the Bills could let E.J. Manuel develop for a year behind Kevin Kolb, it's more likely they'll put his feet to the fire. Either way, Kolb can't stay healthy for a full season, so Manuel will likely get the starting job at some point.
- The defensive depth chart posed some problems because we don't know exactly what Mike Pettine's scheme is going to look like. We know it will incorporate the nickel defense as its base, but beyond that, alignments in the front seven are unknown. Pettine comes from 3-4 roots with the Jets, and after adding several 3-4 players (mainly Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes) the Bills could be flipping to that front. They have some flexibility in that regard, and their defensive tackles were brought on-board mainly with a 3-4 in mind.
- Let's say they go with a 3-4 front. Here's my revised version of how that front would look.
I'm envisioning the left outside linebacker more like a defensive end here, which is how Williams was used in his limited time as an outside linebacker in Wade Phillips' defense with the Houston Texans. Branch has played in a 3-4 in the past, as well, primarily as a defensive end. Dareus was brought in with a grand vision as a 3-4 nose tackle, and could still play that role in Pettine's defense. We don't know exactly what to expect schematically; one thing you can be sure of, though, is that Pettine's defense will morph to attack an opponent's weakness. For the Patriots, that's right up the middle.
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