by Mario "Game" Granata
Trade up, trade back, stay put. No one really knows, especially the Buffalo faithful, what the Bills are going to do at the 2014 NFL Draft on May 8th, but where they go, and whom they select with their pick will tell us all we need to know about the direction of the Buffalo Bills. Check out what positions will mean to the Bills in the years to come.
Defensive End: A lot of talk recently has been made about the Bills moving up to take Jadeveon Clowney in the 2014 Draft. The price tag for Clowney might set the Bills back a few years, if Clowney doesn't pan out, but given the history of Jim Schwartz, and his philosophy to get pressure with his front 4, or front 7, this would definitely be the pick to take. Putting Clowney across from Mario Williams, and having Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus, would make Buffalo's line one of the league's elite. However, with a pick in the 2014 Draft already in the hands of Tampa Bay with the Mike Williams trade, how many more are they willing to sacrifice to get Clowney, given that they are still in a rebuilding phase?
What It Means: The Bills are tired of being the doormat for the rest of the league, and they feel with the talent that they already have, they are a contender, and they are looking for that one shining play maker to fortify that defense. They might also think that they need to get EJ Manuel some more possessions by causing a few more turnovers until he finds his rhythm in the offense.
Middle Linebacker: Some outlets are talking about the Bills selecting CJ Mosley with the 9th pick, or if they were to trade back with the Bears to pick him up with the 14th selection. Mosley would solidify the defense in the middle, playing alongside Kiko Alonso and Keith Rivers, the Bills defense would have a more well rounded Front 7, and by trading back with Chicago, maybe they can acquire more picks. With the uncertainty of Brandon Spikes future with the Bills (only being signed to a one-year deal) Mosley can plug the middle as well as defend the pass, something that Spikes has some trouble with.
What It Means: The Bills aren't completely sold on Spikes as a coverage linebacker, or as a 3 down player. With the holes in his coverage, the Bills may insert Kiko on 3rd-and-long, and if they take Mosley, they won't have to change packages.
Left (or Right) Tackle: If one of the 'Big 3' were to slip to the Bills at #9, they wouldn't have an argument here if they were to select anyone of them, Jake Matthews being the likely candidate to slide to them. With an aging Erik Pears, putting Matthews on the opposite side of Cordy Glenn, and the recent signing of Chris Williams, the Bills would have a solid unit to keep the franchise, EJ Manuel upright. Personally, I would like the Bills to select the Mean Wolverine from Michigan, Taylor Lewan, to add some much needed toughness and attitude to the front 5, but any of these three would be a welcome addition to the Bills.
What It Means: Taking a tackle, means that the Bills aren't completely sold on Manuel and his chemistry with the receiving core, so they need to give him as much time as possible for the routes to develop and for him to work through his progressions.
Wide Receiver: This would be a classic "Best Available" pick for the Bills, IF AND ONLY IF, Sammy Watkins is on the board, but in a draft that is very deep at the wide receiver position, another viable option can be taken in the later rounds. The Bills have 12, yes you read that correctly, 12 receivers on their roster, and the Top 4, Stevie Johnson, Mike Williams, Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods, seem to be the favorites going into camp. What would the Bills do with another 6-foot wideout? They already have one Clemson play maker on the team, that is a game breaker, so they don't necessarily have a 'need' at the receiver position.
What It Means: If the Bills were to take Watkins, or Mike Evans, they feel that both Watkins and Evans can be a viable threat, both Watkins deep and Evans for some jump balls or back shoulder throws, but it would raise some questions about the future of Stevie Johnson. With Johnson set to make nearly 9 million over 2015 and 2016, and with the Bills trying to decide what to do with Dareus and CJ Spiller in the upcoming years, signing Watkins might be a message to show Stevie the door....unfortunately.
Quarterback: Much has been made about the quarterbacks in the upcoming draft going to Houston, Oakland, Minnesota and possibly St. Louis, but if the Bills take a quarterback with the 9th pick, it would signal that their trust in EJ wasn't as evident as they made in their off-season comments. Now, does that mean that the Bills might draft one in the 3rd or 4th round? Not at all. We all were witness to the futility of Jeff Tuel, and when Thad Lewis played last year he showed his toughness to not only be a formidable backup, but to push EJ.
What It Means: With the 9th pick, grab a clipboard, EJ. With a later round pick, a Plan B or Plan C, if Manuel cannot stay healthy and Lewis proved ineffective.
So where will the Buffalo Bills go in the upcoming 2014 Draft? Well, depending on the position that they take with their first round selection, it could signal what not only the 2014 season has in store, but in the years to come.