Following up on Tony’s Browns draft thoughts, I figured I would do the same for Buffalo.
Round 1: QB E.J. Manuel (16)
Round 2: WR Robert Woods (9), ILB Kiko Alonso (14)
Round 3: WR Marquise Goodwin (16)
Round 4: FS Duke Williams (8)
Round 5: S Jonathan Meeks (10)
Round 6: K Dustin Hopkins (9)
Round 7: TE Chris Gragg (16)
Coming into the draft, the Bills had a boatload of needs. Andy Benoit at Football Outsiders put together a state of the team which I think is a fair assessment. Buffalo definitely needed help at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, guard, inside linebacker, maybe outside linebacker, probably cornerback (given that Aaron Williams is moving to safety next year), and kicker. This draft definitely helped in a number of positions.
I think the Bills did a good job of trading down, picking up two additional picks. I would have liked to see them trade down once more, especially given how the Bills selected the only quarterback in round #1 and only Geno Smith went off the board in round #2. On the other hand, a number of teams wanted to trade down this year, so it might not have been possible even if Buffalo’s front office had perfect knowledge that nobody would select a QB in round #1. Manuel is an interesting selection, in that he’s a very raw, toolsy quarterback. That’s the kind of guy you’d love to groom for two or three years behind a good starter, but he won’t have that luxury. Kevin Kolb will probably start the season as the starting quarterback, but I would expect Manuel to get starts by approximately week 9.
Woods and Goodwin are physically very similar to Stevie Johnson and TJ Graham, respectively, meaning that Buffalo has two mid-sized, physical guys and two burners. I definitely like both of these selections, as Woods is already a fairly polished receiver (though with a drops problem) and Goodwin has elite speed as well as some route-running ability. In round 7, Chris Gragg is a receiving tight end who could line up in the slot. He’ll never be a good blocker, but he might turn into a good hands guy with enough size and speed to beat linebackers and safeties in the middle.
The Kiko Alonso selection in round 2 seems like a stretch. Buffalo does need inside linebacker help—especially now that they’ve traded Kelvin Sheppard for an OLB in Jerry Hughes—but draft grades for Alonso were pretty weak. If the Bills do end up with Karlos Dansby, they’ll shore up the hole at ILB, but I don’t think Alonso by himself can do so. He is a good 3-4 linebacker, however, and given that the Bills are going back to a 3-4 again, they need some of those.
The defensive back picks in rounds 4 and 5 are interesting. Both have the potential to be solid contributors, but with Williams moving to safety, there isn’t all that much room for either of them. I would have preferred to see the Bills draft another cornerback given their lack of depth, but maybe their coaching staff will have a 3-3-5 nickel package with 3 safeties rather than 3 cornerbacks.
Finally, getting a kicker helps, and Hopkins is the kind of guy you want to draft: solid pedigree, NFL-ready leg (able to hit 50+ yarders in college), and good at kickoffs. He’d be an improvement over Lindell.
Notable undrafted guys:
QB Jeff Tuel (Washington State) — Possible #3 QB. He has some talent, but major injury issues.
WR Da’Rick Rogers (Tennessee Tech) — Gets comps with Eric Moulds on physicality and body size, and has the build and route running skills to make it in the NFL. He went undrafted because of drug problems, which could derail his career if he doesn’t clean up. If he were clean, he’d be a legit 1st rounder based on the tools and his pre-expulsion performance at Tennessee Tech.
This Buffalo draft has the potential to be a very good one, but is definitely a high-risk draft. Its success will depend upon Manuel and Woods stepping up and at least one other guy reaching his potential. The bigger question is whether this will be enough to get the Bills to their first winning season in quite some time.