>\n\nWorst to First: 9. Buffalo Bills \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 9. Buffalo Bills

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/08/2010

Things have been pretty lean in Buffalo for a really long time now. Giving up home games to Toronto might increase revenues but it's not an ideal situation for one of the NFL's smallest market teams. At least they're still the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo's sometimes controversial owner has to take a lot of the credit for that. Like many perrennial strugglers there's some new coaches and new schemes in town. The 3-4 is coming back to Buffalo. I'm not sold on how well the team will convert to it but they've been active in free agency to band-aid some of the potential holes there. There's been plenty of talent on Defense in Buffalo for a while now but the Offense is a pale imitation of those great Jim Kelly/Thurman Thomas days. This is yet another team picking early in the draft who's been crippled by injuries in recent years and I guess at some point you have to start looking at Strength & Conditioning and not putting it all down to bad luck. I get the feeling with Buffalo that they enough talent on D that if they can stay healthy and get on a run they could be competitive. But the AFC East is a tough division and I don't think this is a playoff team until they can get some consistent QB play and/or a strong running game going. I'm not sure either of those things is going to happen in 2010 but stranger things have happened in the NFL.
2010 Free Agent Losses 2010 Free Agent Additions
 Richie Incognito OG (Dolphins,RFA), Jonathan Scott OT (Steelers,RFA),
 Andra Davis ILB (Broncos,UFA-cut), Dwan Edwards DE (Ravens,UFA), Cornell Green OT (Raiders,UFA), Chad Jackson WR (Broncos,UFA-cut),
2010 Unsigned Free Agents 2011 Potential Free Agents
 Marcus Buggs ILB (RFA), Ryan Denney DE (UFA), Chris Draft OLB (UFA), Derek Fine TE (UFA-cut), Justise Hairston RB (RFA), Gibran Hamdan QB (RFA), Justin Jenkins WR (UFA-cut), Todd Johnson DB (UFA), Seth McKinney OG (UFA), Terrell Owens WR (UFA), Josh Reed WR (UFA), Derek Schouman TE (RFA), Josh Stamer LB (UFA), Kendall Simmons OG (UFA), John Wendling DB (UFA-cut)

 Trent Edwards QB (RFA), Keith Ellison LB (UFA), Drayton Florence CB (UFA), Christian Gaddis C (RFA), Cary Harris DB (XRFA), Felton Huggins WR (RFA), Chris Kelsay LB (UFA), John McCargo DT (RFA), Paul Posluszny ILB (RFA), George Wilson S (UFA), Ashton Youboty (UFA)
Quarterbacks Major Need
This is not a great situation at present. Trent Edwards is accurate, except on deep passes. Fitzpatrick can find Terrell Owens but not much else. With Owens very likely gone elsewhere it's not the best thing to have as the highlight of your resume. Rounding out the QB corps is Brian Brohm who's done nothing yet but was a second round pick. He's also only 24, maybe there's something there yet. Both Edwards and Fitzpatrick are also some way from their 30s yet too so this is a young group. Edwards seems the most likely Week 1 starter at this point but none are looking like being the long term franchise QB everyone seeks. So this remains a position that's a prime candidate for a draft pick, and an early one at that. Jimmy Clausen could fall to Buffalo at #9. Whether they would draft him is another question, Clausen has been having a roller coaster ride of an off season. At one point he looked like he may go #1 overall. Now with QB moves a plenty this offseason if the Bills or 49ers don't grab him, he could be in for a big fall. I think the more likely pick for Buffalo may be their second rounder on Tim Tebow, assuming he's still there. He is the kind of charismatic guy who Buffalo desperately needs but at this point to rejuvenate a franchise, I'm not sure he's a better QB than any of the guys already on their roster due to mechanical problems (that he's working hard to rectify to his credit). Tebow's been up to Buffalo and whilst #9 overall is pretty durn early for Tebow, I guess you can't rule out a trade down and using a later first rounder on him either. My dark horse? Fordham's John Skelton in round 3. Either that or they could trade for Jason Campbell?

Runningbacks Major Need
Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch are currently the only 2 RBs on the roster and Lynch may be traded or cut due to off the field issues which have hugely affected his on the field work. Having lost some games to suspension in 2009 Lynch's trade value might be pretty low but he's surprisingly still only 23 years old and was an extremely effective NFL RB when healthy (and not in jail!). Even if he returns Fred Jackson should be the starter. Jackson was handed the rock more than 20 times in only 3 games last year but responded with games of 163 yards, 99 yards and a monumental effort of 212 yards in the final game of the year (albeit againt the Colts reserves and on 33 carries). So this is a guy who can get you yardage and someone who you can keep feeding that ball. But with an anaemic passing attack (which is unlikely to change this year) and an increasingly tough division, this is a team which needs a ground game it can lean on. They need a Ground game that can punch the ball in the endzone. Something they managed precious few times last year. Buffalo could definitely use a compliment to Jackson (assuming Lynch gets shipped or cut) and as such I'm listing this as a Major Need. It might not be one they look to address until Day 2 but it's still pretty major. I would prefer to see Jackson as the backup and compliment to another guy. Perhaps Buffalo's a good home for Toby Gerhart? They've had quite a few RBs in for visits. C.J. Spiller could be a guy at #9. We shall see but without that dominant ground game it's going to be a long and ugly season for Buffalo fans.

Wide Receivers Minimal Need
Spotty QB play has made it quite tough to evaluate the Bills WR corps. Lee Evans flashes top tier ability then disappears. I'd love to see him with a top QB, I think he could be a real special player but it's probably not going to happen this year. Evans is a deep threat and Edwards has struggled at times to find him. With Owens gone he's going to see a lot of double teams and really Buffalo needs former 1st rounder James Hardy to become that big target that means opposing defenses can't double cover Evans... then they need a QB who can get either one of them the ball! Let's talk about Hardy. He had a tough rookie year, which is not uncommon for big guys who dominate at the college level. He tore an ACL that ended his first year and pretty much cost him all his second year too. So he enters his third year, the usual stepping up point for a WR and we really don't know a lot about him. You don't spend a first round pick to just walk away from a kid like Hardy. So I think he's going to be given every opportunity to earn a starting role this year. That alone lessens the need for a WR in the draft. Roscoe Parrish has been a serviceable 3rd or 4th WR option in the past but seemed to find his way to Dick Jauron's dog house last year. Assuming he starts with a clean slate he should be a dependable, if unexciting, pair of hands. Rounding out the top 4 is Steve Johnson, a draft contemporary of James Hardy but one who has consistently out performed his more vaunted teammate and earned the 4th WR role last year. He's not exactly a big name but he could be a nice surprise for them. Chad Jackson has recently been signed to provide competition. He was another high draft pick who lost time to injury and hasn't really developed yet. All in all I'd say the WR corps, though it could definitely be improved, is young and should be given this season to develop so the new coach can get a clearer picture of what he has there. Minimal Need but I wouldn't rule out a value pick in round 2 or later.

Tight Ends Minimal Need
The Bills selected Shawn Nelson in round 4 last year and I thought that was a great value pick for them. Nelson though disappointed as a rookie. Catching only 18 balls was below my expectation for him. So it's not beyond the realms of belief in a good TE class that Buffalo could opt to use another draft pick here. Derek Schouman (who?) should be back at some point from a knee injury that cost him most of the season. With 9 catches in just those 2 games he may even get the starting nod. Rounding out a questionable group are Jonathan Stupar, who was handy in preseason last year but could only make the practice squad, and former Rams second rounder Joe Klopfenstein. Not the best team to showcase TE skills (and McMike found out) the Rams, and I wonder if Klopfenstein might yet show something as he's only 26. This is definitely a position that could use upgrading though the guys on the roster are all young. Again it might have to be a slot they decide is a value selection but I'd be interested to see if they do pull the trigger on Tim Tebow, might they be temped with a mid round pick on Aaron Hernandez as well? I think a guy like Dennis Pitta could really help out the QBs here too but like WR, they have a few options and they're all young... there's probably a lot of other spots the Bills would be looking to before TE.

Offensive Line Major Need
Last year the Bills traded away their best Offensive Lineman Jason Peters. This year they've lost Brad Butler to a surprise retirement. Things just seem to go from bad to worse on the Bills Offensive Line. This year, even if they don't draft anyone they're going to be an EXTREMELY young unit. 3 rookies saw extensive time last year or were picked early. Andy Levitre who the Bills wanted to play at Guard. Due to injuries he was forced into playing tackle at times. Eric Wood, a college Center and first round pick. The Bills also wanted to play him at Guard. He got hurt pretty early but he should be back for Week 1. Hopefully. Another to show some promises was Jamon Meredith. A guy we had rated fairly highly but who didn't get drafted til round 5. So it's not all bad. They'll return some other guys as well but not so much they couldn't be improved on. They've added Cornell Green as an Offensive Tackle to bring some experience and I'm sure there'll be plenty of Training Camp Battles. Despite this it doesn't seem to be much of a secret that the Bills are looking hard at Offensive Tackles with their #9 pick. They've had a few first and second round talent guys in as well but if they could land a LT at #9 like Russell Okung (unlikely he'd last but we said that about Michael Crabtree last year) or Charles Brown or Trent Williams or Bryan Bulaga, I think they'd be very happy to just that. The 2010 OL is going to have major growing pains but if they're stuck with and given time they could mold into a nice unit down the road.

Defensive Tackles Major Need
Kyle Williams (who's at least 20lbs light for the position) figures to be the Bills NT as things stand. Hardly ideal. And it's certainly a position they could look to in the draft. Especially with their second round selection. If Buffalo can swing a trade down in round 1 as well and pick up an extra first rounder there's any number of talented NT talent in this draft. But probably none that fit in at the #9 slot. Dan Williams could be a possibility there though. Buffalo in the past has shown they are willing to reach inside the Top 10 if there's a guy they really like. So don't rule it out. If that happens look for Kyle Williams to be dangled in a trade.  Underneath Williams at present are Lonnie Harvey, who I know precious little about other than at 6'3" and 340lbs he has great size for NT, and Marlon Favorite. Favorite surprisingly (to me at least) went undrafted last year. He could develop into something but he's a longshot. I'm going to rate this as a Major Need, mostly because I'm a bit iffy on whether Kyle Williams can manage the position. Especially as he's in a division where Centers are used to going up against real NTs.

Defensive Ends Minimal Need
Switching to the 3-4 front often means teams out there struggle with personnel (oh hai Al Haynesworth!) when doing so. Some teams switch and suffer horribly for it. Others, like Green Bay were well set up for the switch. Buffalo, like most, weren't that well set. However, they have gone out and signed a couple of guys with plenty of 3-4 experience and that's to their credit. Marcus Stroud should be an excellent fit at 3-4 DE and newly signed Dwan Edwards should fit in nicely as the other bookend. Spencer Johnson may need to add a good 10lbs or so but should be a more than capable reserve. John McCargo is a little shorter than the usual but again, not bad depth for the position. Carrying more than 4 DEs seems a little like overkill so I wouldn't expect a draft pick at the position unless it's a guy who can perhaps play DT on passing downs who can transition to the 3-4 end slot in 12 months. McCargo has been something of a bust and is a free agent after this year. Stroud is also 31 and given the position usually has a steep learning curve it has to be a consideration.

Linebackers No Need
The difference makers in the 3-4 are your Linebackers. Inside Buffalo can boast Paul Posluszny and the newly signed Andra Davis. Teams may try to run on the Bills but they'll get punished for it. Davis is a tough guy and should do well and bring plenty of 3-4 experience to the Bills. Posluszny hasn't quite lived up to expectations but really stepped it up last year and finally threw in some splash plays to go with his big tackle totals. Kawika Mitchell will compete with Andra Davis but either way the Bills should have some decent depth there too. On the outside there's no shortage of talent but still plenty of question marks. The Primary one being will Aaron Schobel retire? If he doesn't, although he'll be transitioning he should be a great fit for the 3-4OLB slot. Chris Kelsay is a little big but really isn't so different from guys like Adalius Thomas and LaMarr Woodley. Aaron Maybin should be well suited to the position once he adjusts. That will be handy for the BIlls because he was awful as a rookie in the 4-3 last year. Outside they should be fine as long as Schobel comes back. If he doesn't they could do worse than finding someone out there with experience outside in the 3-4. I don't see a draft need here. Maybe a veteran presence, but the Bills seem pretty set here.

Cornerbacks Minor Need
Losing Leodis McKelvin in week 3 obviously put a dampener on the Bills secondary. McKelvin is a top corner in the making and he should be back to full health this year. Opposite him is usually dependable Terrence McGee who had a bit of a down year last year by his high standards but you would hope he'll get back to better play in 2010. With a new long term deal signed last year he won't be going anywhere and the Bills starting CB slots are pretty well nailed down. Underneath is Drayton Florence who you hope to never see as anything other than a nickel DB and Reggie Corner who's got some promise but not much size. This is definitely a position where they could look to improve depth with a draft pick but with both starters entrenched it's hard to see the Bills using anything earlier than their 3rd rounder on a CB. Even then probably only as a look to the future as both Ahston Youboty and Florence are free agents in 2011. But if Florence is one bad tackle away from starting at CB for you, depth is probably an issue.

Safeties No Need
Something of an embarrassment of riches here. Jairus Byrd became an Interception machine as a rookie. Donte Whitner is a former top pick but who may be reduced to depth or trade bait due to the emergence of Byrd and the excellent George Wilson. There wouldn't be much need here even if Whitner gets traded, but let's assume he stays. This is one of the strongest Safety corps in the whole NFL. I think it's fair to say Secondary isn't the problem in Buffalo. Injuries may be...

Specialists Minor Need
Rian Lindell isn't really in the upper echelon of NFL kickers but kicking in Buffalo is not as easy as at some other places and if they didn't get rid of him after 2008 I find it doubtful they'd get rid of him after 2009. Maybe they bring a serious competition to camp but a draft pick? Maybe 7th round?? And for my money Brian Moorman is the best punter in the NFL.

Return Game No Need
The Bills have any number of talented returners. Fred Jackson, Roscoe Parrish and the CB pairing of McKelvin and McGee mean there's no need to look around.

Dream Day One
 1.9 Russell Okung OT Oklahoma State 2.41 Tim Tebow QB Florida   
Player Visits
Tim Tebow QB Florida
Arthur Moats DE James Madison
Jarrett Brown QB WVU
John Skelton QB Fordham
C.J. Spiller RB Clemson
Rodger Saffold OT Indiana
Mike Williams WR Syracuse
Colt McCoy QB Texas
Russell Okung OT Oklahoma State
Charles Brown OT USC
Arthur Jones DT Syracuse
Brandon Spikes ILB Florida
Ben Tate RB Auburn
Jimmy Clausen QB Notre Dame
Jason Pierre-Paul DE USF
Doug Worthington DL Ohio State
Thaddeus Gibson DE Ohio State
Torrell Troup DT Central Florida
Montario Hardesty RB Tennessee


Last Edited: 04/06/2010

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