by Paul Wanecski, Mario Granata and Ryan Lasal
Reruns are a mixed bag, depending on whom you talk to. In Buffalo, New York over the past 17 years, the same episode would play out. Bills hire a coach. Coach doesn’t win. Bills fire coach. Rinse and repeat. However, with the addition of Sean McDermott, there is something that is new in the air around One Bills Drive. It starts from the top down and it screams of accountability. While coaches have tried to implement their “system” McDermott is hell-bent on making sure he is the man, and if you look down the timeline of successful coaches, they were the final word in what happened with their team. McDermott seems poised to take that role. The question is, will it actually transfer to wins?
Head Coach: Sean McDermott
Career Record: 0-0
Offensive Coordinator (Rank): Greg Roman/Anthony Lynn (New: Rick Dennison)
16th YPG, 30th Pass, 1st Run
Defensive Coordinator (Rank): Dennis Thurman (New: Leslie Frazier)
14th YPG, 6th Pass, 29th Rush
Anyone who is living in the 716 couldn’t go get a cup of coffee this off season without talking about the contract of Tyrod Taylor. Will he restructure to stay with the team, will he leave, who can the Bills get to fill the dreaded quarterback position that has been the teams Achilles heel for the past decade and a half? Well, Taylor is on the books and the Bills will look to keep the momentum from 2016 at least in the running game, and will desperately need to improve their passing attack that was only better than the Rams and 49ers last season. LeSean McCoy enjoyed a productive season and will be the focal point (draft pending) in the Bills offense yet again in 2017, and while Sammy Watkins was hampered by injuries, he looks to have a season that a 4th overall pick is supposed to have. The Buffalo Bills have more question marks than victories over the past 17 years and Bills fans are hoping that McDermott has the answers for them.
Jerry Hughes - The Hughes contract has finally cleared of all guaranteed money. Unfortunately, $8.7m in signing bonus is still prorated over the remaining three years of his deal. Could the Bills free up a small amount of space (about $1.5m) by converting some of his base salary into bonus? Sure, but it makes him more expensive to release in later years. But it is simply not worth it at this time.
Tyrod Taylor - Clearly much was made about the restructure of Taylor’s contract, since the team pushed a lot of money for next season into a $6m roster bonus, so basically we will be repeating the same conversation as this most recent offseason regarding his price and future. For a detailed breakdown of Taylor's contract, see below:
Lorenzo Alexander - The Bills have resigned Alexander to add as a pass rushing weapon for 2017 and 2018. He will make $3m in 2017.
Ryan Groy - Groy was excellent anchoring the middle of the line for the Bills last season. Actually, his play was so good that it caused a brief stir discussing the future of Eric Wood. This is a very affordable deal for a guy who can play all interior positions.
Zach Brown - When a lot of Bills fans thought Zach Brown was going to be a hot commodity on the free agent market; screams to bring him back were very loud. Brown landed in Washington with the Bills moving to a 4-3, Preston Brown and potential of Reggie Ragland on the roster were really forcing him out.
Stephon Gilmore - The former 10th overall selection has moved to New England. The Bills ultimately had to make a choice between Quarterback or Cornerback, given the money that Gilmore was asking.
Robert Woods - The best thing for Todd Gurley in Los Angeles is not any of the offensive line signings made by the Rams; it is the signing of Robert Woods. He will be a very welcomed addition to one of the worst offenses in football. The Bills are going to miss his edge blocking.
Marquise Goodwin - How did his agent convince San Francisco to given Goodwin so much money? No, seriously, I want that guy negotiating my deals.
Justin Hunter - This waiver wire gem was really only useful in the red zone.
EJ Manuel - The Raiders really have nothing to lose here. You pray your season never hinges on your back-up Quarterback, which is exactly what happened to them last season. Plus, with Connor Cook on the roster, Manuel may not even make the 53-man.
Granata: It didn’t take a crystal ball to know that Rex Ryan was going to pick a player from Clemson last year in the first round, and elected to sign Shaq Lawson. The Bills will be transferring, yet again, to another defense, going from a 3-4 to a 4-3 with McDermott at the helm and Frazier calling the shots. Could Lawson be productive with his hand in the dirt 70-80 times a game? Time will tell.
The Bills hold the #10 pick, which is next to impossible to trade out of, so they will be targeting an offensive player with that pick. Could they target a Safety to hold up the back end of the defense? Sure, if they picked in the Top-5. Most if not all of the playmakers at the Safety position will be gone by the time the Bills are on the clock.
That leaves the offensive side of the ball. Now, maybe in some type of gamesmanship, Sean McDermott stated that the Bills #2 receiver is already on the roster. If that truly is the case, then the Bills might replicate their numbers on the offensive side of the ball from 2016. The Bills would be smart to pick either a Wide Receiver at #10 or a tackle. However, stepping outside the box has been something that I am accustomed to, and see the Bills taking a leap and drafting OJ Howard from Alabama. McDermott has seen how effective having a solid tight end is (with Greg Olsen) and probably is taking a page out of the Patriots playbook in having two solid receiving targets coming off the line. With Howard and Clay, Watkins on the outside, and McCoy out of the backfield, the Bills could still come out in their double tight package and have teams guessing if they will actually run the ball. More defenders in the box leave less to cover Watkins. All of this, however, hinges on the development of Taylor. If the Bills take Howard, by hook or crook, McDermott is going to make him look over the middle.
Wanecski: The 10th overall pick has only been traded once since the new CBA went into effect in 2011 (That player was Blaine Gabbert). Since then, 50% of the time, either the 11th or 12th pick is traded, since it carries a significantly cheaper fifth-year option. This year will be no exception as the Bills will not be able to trade down, although I wish they could. With that in mind, let’s examine our options:
Hasson Reddick (DE/OLB, Temple) will be associated with the Bills since he came into college as a Safety before going to Defensive End. He isn’t exactly built to play DE in the NFL but his speed and experience in coverage make him a logical 4-3 OLB. He, unfortunately, has a history of missing tackles which will not be tolerated with McDermott. While he has the tools, this isn’t your guy.
Rueben Foster (LB, Alabama) certainly comes to mind when you hear the Bills are still without a ton of depth at LB. If Doug Whaley knows how to do one thing, it is finding LB’s on the cheap. Foster is a great player but moving him into a starting role would mean that the LB group of Brown, Ragland and Foster would have a combined 3 years NFL experience. You could look at drafting Foster to replace Preston Brown; I doubt that is the logic here. His medical history could raise some eyebrows too. I would anticipate his slide past the 10th overall selection.
Zay Jones (WR, Eastern Carolina) He isn’t a first round pick for the Bills at 10th but he would be an excellent complement to Sammy Watkins.
Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State) Marshon Lattimore will be gone by now, so while the Bills signed a Safety this offseason, they won’t be able to turn down the potential of Hooker. He, again, doesn’t follow the mold of being a great tackler as he was only a one-year starter. He is the ultimately gambler at Safety and since the Bills are without a true weak side LB, why not try and flip the field with Hooker on the backend?
Sidney Jones (CB, Washington) His Achilles injury will force him to slide right out of the first round since he likely will not play this year. Jones is an outstanding player and the Bills can get real value if they feel the CB depth will push him to the 3rd round.
Kevin King (CB, Washington) Speaking of Washington cornerbacks, the Bills will need to add some size to the position. King will be around in rounds 3-4 and at 6’3”, he is tough to forget. He doesn’t punch great, but as a zone system, you can cover that up pretty well.
Ryan Ramczyk (T, Wisconsin) Now, the fact that not many tackles are talked about (unless you are from Alabama) doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a weak class for tackles. With the skill positions going fast through the top 9 picks, the Bills could take the best tackle in the draft. A lot has been made about Cam Robinson; however, you can’t go wrong with a good ole Wisconsin farmboy. Just ask Joe Thomas.
Lasal: There’s good and bad for the Bills drafting out of the 10 spot this year. The bad is that although many fans would prefer them to trade out of that spot, that rarely happens as Paul mentions above. The good is that this draft is not top heavy and has a lot of depth, meaning there will be good players available at 10 this year. There are quite a few options to look at.
First, I don’t think the team goes offense with this pick. Yes, Mike Williams and Corey Davis are attractive prospects at 10, and yes, the team needs a WR2 despite McDermott stating the opposite. However, there has to be awareness to the obvious limitations at the QB position. Over the past two seasons at QB, Tyrod Taylor has shown that he struggles throwing for volume. This is also a very deep draft at the WR position and there can be talent found in the later rounds. OJ Howard might be an option at 10, but with the limited use of Charles Clay since he signed his deal, I doubt they add another TE that will be underutilized. The offensive line is the weakest part of this draft, so if that position gets addressed, it should be in the later rounds.
The pick will be on the defensive side of the ball. The team is moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base and McDermott is a defensive guy. He will need to start bringing in players that fit his scheme. That puts a number of players on the table at 10 as this draft is deep on that side of the ball. The three most obvious positions of need heading into the draft are CB, S and LB, all of which should have talented players available at the 10 pick, so let’s look at each one.
At the safety position, Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams will probably be gone, so if the Bills hold at 10, I think safety is off the table. They may look at guys in the 2nd or 3rd round, which puts guys like Justin Evans from Texas A&M, Josh Harvey-Clemons from Louisville and Budda Baker from Washington on the radar. If they decide to roll with Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer at the safety positions and draft depth, Rudy Ford from Auburn and Tedric Thompson from Colorado are a couple of names to keep an eye on in the 5th round or later.
At the LB position, the Bills may have their pick of the litter come pick 10. It’s possible that Reuben Foster could be off the board, but he might be it. If Foster is there, he makes the most sense out of the positions of need. If Foster is gone, I think the Bills go another direction as many of the other LBs in this class are not worth the 10th overall. Look for guys in the second round like Zach Cunningham from Vanderbilt, Tyus Bowser from Houston or Rawkwon McMillian from Ohio State.
Cornerback might have the most potential options at pick 10. Marshon Lattimore from Ohio State, Teez Tabor from Florida, Tre’Davious White from LSU, and Marlon Humphrey from Alabama are all legitimate options at this pick.
At the end of the day, the Bills are in a nice position at 10. They may have their pick of players at need positions, or they may just decide to go with value. If they go value, Taco Charlton from Michigan is a guy that I really like. I more and more think the pick may be at the CB position because of the talent that should be available at ten.
Micah Hyde - When the Bills signed Hyde, they called him a Safety and that is exactly where he should play. While Hyde isn’t the fastest or biggest player in the secondary, he can slide down to cover a slot receiver when needed. He was great the final 8 games of last season, so while he can move around, the Bills are hoping that he can cement his performance once his role is more clearly defined.
Jordan Poyer - Jordan Poyer comes in as a safety and a special teams contributor. He will be given the opportunity to start, but with his time at Cleveland as a litmus test, he may find himself in a competition come Training Camp.
Steven Hauschka - A kicker who missed more extra points than his predecessor certainly doesn’t point to an improvement or even a guaranteed roster spot.
Patrick DiMarco – DiMarco is a true fullback. He was signed on the same day as Mike Tolbert, who is more of an option at RB3. DiMarco blocks very well and will be a welcome addition to the Bills backfield in the eyes of LeSean McCoy.
Andre Holmes - Andre Holmes is currently the WR2 for the Bills. However, he projects more as the 3rd option and a heavy special teams contributor. Holmes is arguably the best gunner in the NFL and will immediately make the kicking game better. Holmes works very well in the middle of the field and has the big frame (6’4”, 210 lbs) that the Bills need.
Vladimir Ducasse - A bit of an over-investment here. Ducasse isn’t particularly great at any one facet of the game. He was brought in for depth at Guard. He does not have the ability to slide to tackle.
Ryan Davis – Davis is a 6th year player who played his first 4 seasons in Jacksonville before spending last season in Dallas. He has a total of 11 sacks in his career with a season high of 6.5 in 2014. Davis will be a depth guy who has familiarity with Linebacker coach Bob Babich, who was the LB coach in Jacksonville during Davis’s tenure with the team.
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