We are less than a week away from the 2016 NFL Draft, and a lot of buzz has already been generated. The Tennessee Titans have sent the first overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams, while the Cleveland Browns crafted a deal that delivered the Philadelphia Eagles the second overall selection.
The consensus now is the top two rated quarterbacks, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, will be selected back-to-back. This means that the top tackle, Laremy Tunsil, will be sliding down the board along with fellow top defensive prospects in Jalen Ramsey, Joey Bosa, Myles Jack, and DeForest Buckner.
As a result, the Buffalo Bills will have a plethora of options to consider when they’re officially on the clock. Will they select an offensive player to add on to the momentum the offense created in 2015? Or, will they draft a defensive player to come in and immediately help a defense that severely faltered in 2015? The Bills will do their homework, and make sure they dot their I’s and cross their T’s before making a very important selection in a crucial draft.
I’ll break down the current weaknesses on this roster from both an offensive and defensive perspective, and arrange reasons on why they should invest in that specific position. At the end, I’ll play the role of Doug Whaley and decide the direction in which the Bills should go at pick 19.
By the way, Rob Quinn organized a podcast on Inside the Pylon conducting a mock war room draft scenario with his crew on deciding who the Bills should pick with the 19th overall selection.
Let’s get started!
Why The Buffalo Bills Should Address Offense In 2016 NFL Draft
As I’ve stated earlier, the additions of LeSean McCoy, Richie Incognito, and Tyrod Taylor played a huge role in the breakout of the Bills offense in 2015. So why not add more firepower? After all, the Bills do play in a division that is dominated by the offensive dynamo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Additionally, the division also contains stout defenses in the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins, so it’s vital that the Bills keep adding on to an offense that can be lethal in 2016.
So what positions are in need of improvement on the offensive side of the ball? There are two areas that can be improved upon with the 19th selection: Wide Receiver and Right Tackle.
The Case for Wide Receiver:
Greg Roman’s offense brings a ground and pound mentality that contradicts the pass first approach numerous teams utilize in today’s game. His offense primarily thrives off a successful, complex running game that keeps the opposing team off balance with the multiple run concepts he deploys onto the field.
With an offense that runs 60% of the time, why should the Bills invest in a wide receiver in round one?
Well, one telling statistic is the Bills were 28th in the league in passing offense with 208.9 yards per game. This alludes to the scenario if the running game fails to set the tone early, that puts more pressure on passing the ball, especially when you have a starting quarterback with limited experience while heavily relying on one legitimate receiver to carry your passing attack.
If you look at the games against the Giants and Titans last season, it’s easy to identify that without Sammy Watkins the passing attack was underwhelming. Without a true number two receiver for most of the season, defenses were able to key in on Watkins and force Tyrod to throw to other receivers. The results weren’t great.
Here against the New York Giants, the Bills are in Posse 11 personnel with three wide receivers, one tight end, and one running back. The Bills tried coming out with a quick passing attack to take some pressure off Tyrod.
As you can see, Harvin, the Bills top receiver for the game, couldn’t haul in the pass after initially getting separation. Tyrod did everything right, delivering a catchable ball and giving Harvin a chance to make a play, but Harvin couldn’t muster anything out of it.
Short throw after short throw, the Bills couldn’t find any rhythm on offense against the Giants. Many offensive drives that game were stalled out because of the lack of effective receiver play. The Bills would start to find a little rhythm in the passing attack towards the end of the game, but by then it’s too little too late, as the Bills fell to the Giants 24-10.
Going into the game against the Titans, the Bills were severely limited in the running and passing game, as McCoy and Watkins missed their second straight game. This time around, it was arguably even worse than the performance against the Giants.
For most of the game the Bills were in a offensive stalemate, as they ended up producing miserable results; 3.7 passing yards-per-play, 4-12 on third down, and generating only 82 passing yards for the entire contest. 82 passing yards!
It wasn’t until the game-winning-drive when approximately half of those passing yards came on one play.
Yes. That was the Bills number three wide receiver, Chris Hogan, who is no longer on the team, making a 46 yard grab to get the Bills to the Tennessee seven yard line. Three plays later, Hogan would score the game-winning touchdown to lead the Bills to a 14-13 win.
Overall, without the presence of Sammy Watkins at receiver and LeSean McCoy in the backfield, the Bills, who led the league in rushing, were exploited by the lack of depth at the wide receiver position when the running game wasn’t functioning. There will definitely be scenarios heading into next season when the Bills will need the passing game to help steal a win, as the league is becoming more pass oriented. With that, investing in a true number two wide receiver, that would complement Sammy Watkins, in the first round may be a legitimate route the Bills will pursue.
Potential targets: LaQuon Treadwell, Michael Thomas, Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson.
The Case for Right Tackle:
In 2015, the Bills boasted one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bills were ranked 10th in run blocking and 11th in pass blocking. The left side, most notably, was impressive with Cordy Glenn at left tackle and Richie Incognito at left guard, and Eric Wood’s play at center was good overall, too.
However, the right side of the line was a disappointment. Second year players Cyrus Kouandjio and Seantrel Henderson haven’t provided much certainty for the future at right tackle with relatively inconsistent play. Another candidate, Jordan Mills, won’t initially convince plenty of people he can be the long-term solution at right tackle, creating a hole at the position moving forward. Even the the right guard spot could use an immediate upgrade, as John Miller and Kraig Urbik have yielded unstable production. With Miller being a second year player, the Bills will likely present him another crack at holding down the right guard position. So, this makes right tackle the further pressing need.
Pass Protection is the area where the right tackles have suffered the most by consistently getting beat by the opposing team’s best pass rushers. In this case, Seantrel Henderson, who started at right tackle for 10 games, was erratic in his playing time.
According to Pro Football Focus, Henderson’s rookie season saw him surrender six quarterback sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 28 quarterback back hurries. In 2015, the image above displays his 95.1 pass blocking efficiency is a slight improvement from 2014. Henderson also committed seven penalties with three of them being called for holding.
The clip above results in a strip-sack by Tamba Hali who was harassing Seantrel Henderson all game. Chiefs nose tackle, Dontari Poe, would end up recovering the fumble.
On this play against the Titans, pass rusher Derrick Morgan would slip by Henderson to get the sack.
Once being labeled a top recruit out of high school, Seantrel Henderson hasn’t lived up to those standards in his first two professional seasons.
Cyrus Kouandjio started two games for the Bills in 2015, and while being known for his mauling ability in the run game, he still has much to learn when pass protecting.
Here against the Cincinnati Bengals, Kouandjio gets demolished by Carlos Dunlap.
In his short time on the field, the second round pick out of Alabama hasn’t progressed enough to surpass Seantrel Henderson, and let alone get more playing time.
Taking everything into account, right tackle could need an upgrade if that means keeping Tyrod upright. Although not a pressing need, if the Bills brass think that keeping Cordy Glenn next season might be a challenge, it wouldn’t hurt snatching a tackle early in a weak tackle class.
Potential Targets: Taylor Decker, Jack Conklin
Why The Buffalo Bills Should Address Defense in 2016 NFL Draft
The adjustment to Rex Ryan’s scheme has appeared to overwhelm the personnel that was mainly intact from the successful 2014 season. Specifically speaking the front seven. The Bills front four widely known as the ‘Cold Front’ was indeed cold in 2015, as the unit generated only 21 sacks. Mario Williams only produced five sacks after a career high 14.5 sack season in 2014. Marcell Dareus dropped off from 10 sacks down to two as he primarily played the ‘0’ technique, or nose tackle position, and had to constantly face double teams. Jerry Hughes fell from 10 sacks to five after back-to-back 10 sacks seasons in 2013 and 2014. Kyle Williams missed over half of the season with a significant knee injury that he suffered against the Bengals in week six. In perspective, the defensive line wasn’t as dominant as the year before.
Case for Defensive Lineman:
The Bills will certainly be interested in adding some more defensive line depth. Acquiring a true nose tackle will be a good place to start. Marcell Dareus is making over $100 million dollars, and to waste all that talent, and money, on consistently having to play him at nose tackle causes a need at the position.
This draft is deep with big interior defenders that can free up Dareus to rush the passer and give the Bills flexibility along the defensive line. Also, with Mario Williams departure, the Bills will need to have a replacement for him, whether that is Dareus moving to the ‘5’ technique or a draft pick coming in and making an impact. In additon, Kyle Williams is nearing the end of his career, being 33 years old. It’s imperative they find a replacement for him for the future as well. With depth an issue, expect a defensive lineman to be drafted in the first few rounds.
Potential targets: Sheldon Rankins, Vernon Butler, Chris Jones.
Case for Linebacker:
It’s arguable that the linebackers play was worse. There’s no need to look further than Nigel Bradham’s miss tackle on Rashad Jennings that would end up putting a dagger in the Bills chance of a comeback, as Jennings took this for six.
The complex system Rex runs on defense caused communication problems on defense. Second year player Preston Brown had trouble communicating the specific checks and plays that were being called. Also, Nigel Bradham looked out of place as well, as it seems he wasn’t comfortable in Rex’s defense. With Bradham’s departure in free agency, the Bills will have to address linebacker early in the draft if they want competent play at the position.
The Bills could look to add a true three down linebacker in the middle to pair with Preston Brown. Or they could get a running mate with Jerry Hughes to rush the passer on the outside. In either case, the depth at linebacker is weak, so a versatile linebacker that can line up at multiple positions would be coveted.
A versatile linebacker would be useful in hopes to contain this guy.
Oh, and the Patriots added Martellus Bennett, too. So there’s two tight ends the Bills will have to stop, and that’s not mentioning shutting down receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.
Potential Targets: Reggie Ragland, Darron Lee, Noah Spence, Leonard Floyd.
When considering both sides of the spectrum, there is a legitimate argument for both cases. Adding another offensive piece at receiver or on the offensive line to support Tyrod Taylor could catapult the Bills into a top offense, while adding a quality defensive player at pick 19 could regenerate a once dominant defense.
Being in Doug Whaley shoes, this is not an easy decision to make. I see the need at receiver for this year and into the future. It’s very tempting to grab a LaQuon Treadwell or a Michael Thomas to pair up with Sammy Watkins on the outside. Besides, how do we know if Tyrod is the answer at quarterback if we don’t surround him with enough weapons?
I’m also looking at right tackle and I can see the need for an upgrade there to keep Tyrod safe and propel the running game even further. On the defensive side, grabbing a inside linebacker would supply the Bills with a young duo in the middle for years to come. Selecting an outside linebacker would be an intriguing piece to a defense that generated only 21 sacks. Snatching a defensive lineman to use along the front would be a valuable addition as well.
Considering all of this, I narrowed down the selection to two areas of need; Wide Receiver and Linebacker. This draft is deep with defensive lineman, so selecting one later on wouldn’t be detrimental. At right tackle, I’m willing to give Henderson, Kouandjio, and Mills a crack at starting, as the three should provide solid competition and depth for this year.
In the end, snatching a top prospect at receiver is very tempting, but the need a linebacker outweighs the need at receiver in a run oriented offense. I think picking up a versatile linebacker that can play in Rex’s multiple fronts, while excelling in run and pass coverage, is crucial if the Bills want to compete for a playoff spot in 2016. So with that being said…
With the 19th pick in the in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select, Darron Lee, linebacker out of Ohio State.