It’s been a whirlwind for Buffalo Bills fans this offseason. There has been a lot of talk over the last few months and there will continue to be during the final six days leading up to the draft about the Bills front seven. Not many are talking about the Buffalo Bills drafting offense.
It’s very easy to say well “everyone complained about the defense and Rex, so we need defense” or “we finished 1st in rushing, so of course our offense is fine”. How quickly we forget how bad our offense has been for many many years previous to 2015. The league is shifting the rules in favor of offense, hence why some of Rex’s defensive philosophies could be ineffective at times, and lead to the most penalties in franchise history. You can’t press like you used to be able to, and you can’t play as physical as some of the adjustments need. Five yard penalties and increased pass interference kills you. This is a perfect example:
You can easily pass this off as a “bad call”, but we all know the league wants to make that call, a call on 3rd down that lost us a miracle comeback, and a shot at the playoffs. I’m sure a backup edge rusher to Jerry Hughes would have solved this problem and won us this game, right? It starts here. How quickly everyone forgets that we just gave Hughes a 5 year – 45 million dollar deal. He is the pass rush for this team. Marcell Dareus and his 100 million as well as Kyle Williams will help from the 3-4 DE spots. So the theory most common right now is to get another edge rusher to play when Hughes doesn’t or if Hughes gets hurt. That’s too expensive of an insurance policy for me, especially in a draft not filled with a lot of true edge rushers. In this case, the Bills won’t be selecting someone who falls, they would most likely have to reach on a player who isn’t a true edge rusher, or isn’t a finished product.
Here is my projected front 7:
Bryant, Dareus, Williams, Hughes, Brown, Brown, Lawson.
There isn’t anything about that lineup that screams weak. Also a thing to remember in a passing league, DBs are even more important than LBs. The nickel position plays upwards of 50% of snaps. Nickell Robey will sub in for Manny Lawson during 3-wide formations, and may even start in a lot of division games. So now you have 8 starters in the defense. Corbin Bryant is most likely the weakest link out of the 8. So NT is important, it moves Dareus over to a more versatile role, and allows for more pass rush. With the depth of DL this year a second round pick works perfect for a NT, and no, it won’t be Torell Troup. With the possibility of Butler, Billings, Clark, Jones, or Johnson being available at 49, this makes it a prime spot to select our future starting NT. With NT now solved, there is lots to love with our front seven. You have a capable backup in Bryant to play a few spots on the DL, versatility with going between Lawson and Robey, and a few skilled backup DBS to help limit need of front 7 depth (Blanton, Moore, White, Butler, Meeks). This isn’t even mentioning players like Wynn, Barnes, Reddick, Worthy, and Reed who can add some good depth in spots across the defense. Lorenzo Alexander, Randell Johnson, Colt Anderson, Duke Williams and Max Valles add in some good special teams players that limit the need to take one with a draft pick.
What that being said, here is in my perfect positional draft world:
19 – WR
49 – DL
80 – QB
117 – Edge
139 – ILB
156 – OL
192 – DE
218 – QB
As you can tell, I’m fine with the picks being split EVENLY between the offense and defense. I do think there are deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball, and that depth is an issue. Show me a roster that doesn’t have depth issues prior to the draft and the UDFA signing period? What happens to most of our 4th, 5th, and 6th round picks anyways? They end up on the Pittsburgh Steelers (Ross Cockrell) or cut before their second training camp (Tony Steward). See Jason’s (pt1) and Connor’s (pt2) articles on our history of drafting. Veteran proven FAs as well as undrafted free agents are really where your depth is solved. After all, you are signing 10+ guys who were successful in college, it’s not crazy to think one or two of them will present you good depth on your 53 man roster. The team’s starting nickel back is from undrafted free agency, so expecting to score a win every so often isn’t far fetched.
Taking the debate full circle, which is the Buffalo Bills drafting offense. Why would you not select a #2 WR at 19? You are an offseason away from giving up on Goodwin, and Woods will almost undoubtedly walk next offseason. Aren’t you just as bad there as any spot on the roster? Also, isn’t the worst investment in free agency going out and signing a WR? Unless of course you love the fact that Mohammad Sanu is making roughly 40 million. That leaves the Bills (depth chart) with Greg Salas and Leonard Hankerson (both on 1 year deals too) as your 2nd and 3rd WRs. Are you convinced yet that we will be taking one? How about an early one? If we decide to pass on WR at 19, and take front 7, I hope 49 is the latest we will select our #2 WR of the future. Many critics will mention the Bills having all of their targets already eaten up by Watkins/Clay. Well at face value – maybe. What happens if one gets hurt (both did last year)? Do we have Greg Salas soak up the targets?
As we see above, Hogan had 59 targets, Harvin had 30 (in 5 games), and even Gragg had 20. You are telling me that there isn’t 80 targets to go to a new WR? This is after the fact of Woods having a whopping 80 targets to himself and only 47 catches. We need an improvement there, and may have to replace him in 2017 anyways. Having Woods take over Hogan’s role as a 60 target slot guy, and giving his 80 targets to a new outside WR, would really improve our already solid offense. It’s tough to see how the 19th overall pick wouldn’t receive plenty of targets. It would also be a way to take some relief off our running game to continue to be successful.
Laquon Treadwell, Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, or even Will Fuller would be great targets for the 19th pick. If you want to trade down, one will be available as well as Boyd and Thomas. This adds back a pick you need to solve the depth issue. Having a 6-2 WR across from Watkins could really help what the Bills have been looking for since the days of drafting James Hardy. Finally, 2016 could be the year we finally solve the WR issue for good. It puts your potential franchise QB in a position to succeed. In a league where you need to comeback in a hurry, our offense proved it couldn’t do it. It stalled in a lot of key moments and isn’t built to come back in games (see both Patriots games). Adding a #2 WR begins to change that fact.
Watch this Sports Science on Treadwell and Doctson and tell me this doesn’t sway you further:
I trust Rex’s scheme. A scheme that always stops the run and relies on its DBs. Rex has only had 2 10+ sack guys since 2005. Why would he now all of a sudden put precedence on needing a SECOND edge rusher? A 2nd round DL, ILB or SLB isn’t crazy to think will be in Rex’s plans. He has gotten a lot out of Jarrett Johnson, Demario Davis, and even Aaron Maybin in years past. The sky is the limit once he has the players that buy-in to his scheme. The team came out on MNF against the Patriots with a great defensive game plan, only to have the offense fail.
As far as QB goes, it’s a huge need. Whaley has made that clear. Using a 3rd and a 6th round pick helps clear up the potential depth issue next season (we have zero QBs rostered). Also, having two rookie deal QBs behind a potentially handsomely paid Tyrod Taylor could be very beneficial for our cap in 2017. I could also make an argument of taking Paxton Lynch at 19 if he is there. He is a skilled player at the most important position in sports (don’t envision him getting passed 10). This however, would push WR to the 3rd round, and I just don’t want to wait that long.
This doesn’t even the address the issue that is the right side of the line. John Miller is still poised to be the long term solution, but by signing Fernando Velasco we hedged our bet at RG this year. However, RT is a complete mystery with Henderson maybe out for an extended time. Jordan Mills is a nice depth player and swing tackle, but we have no idea if Cyrus Kouandjio will ever work out. A solid RT like Decker/Conklin could be the finishing touches to an already strong OL for many years. Coleman/Hawkins/Spriggs/Ifedi all could be there as RT options at 49. All of them would help lock in a powerful run game and help protect the potential investment into Tyrod and our rookie draft pick(s).
Being a proponent of offense doesn’t mean you are only looking for shiny new toys, stating that RT can be just as helpful to this team as any discussed. It’s all about adjusting with the way the game is being played, and staying competitive in an entertainment business. I’d rather put together an offense that lacks holes and sustains longer success. It helps that the defense is still strong with very skilled DBs and a potentially dominant front 7 with an addition of a much needed 2nd round NT.
The Bills will, and should draft offense and using pick 19 is a good place to start.
Update: Just hours later reports of the Buffalo Bills drafting offense becomes more real.
#Bills eyeing bigger WRs in Round 1 is the newest buzz. Treadwell, Doctson, Thomas
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 23, 2016