by Mario Granata
Now that the dust has settled on the 2016 NFL Draft there are many questions that have been asked based on the players that were selected and which teams they went to, and no team has more excitement or confusion than the Buffalo Bills. During the first and second rounds, the Buffalo Bills addressed needs that they had at key positions to (hopefully) get back to the type of defense that they are accustomed to playing. However, when the weekend hit, the jubilation from Thursday and Friday were quickly met with a collective “What?” Perhaps the two men who have been the focus (along with Doug Whaley) are the result for the selections.
With the departed Mario Williams, there was a need for an edge rusher and when Shaq Lawson fell to the Bills at #19, it was almost as certain a pick as Goff and Wentz going 1 and 2. With his knowledge of Clemson, and the playmakers that are on that team, Rex Ryan filled a need on his defense with a player who combines speed, strength and a willingness to be coached in Lawson. Bills fans cheered, Bills teammates were happy, and the overall scope of the Bills defense was changed with one pick.
The Bills then moved up to select Reggie Ragland with the 41st overall pick. Although there was a need for the Bills at linebacker, with the success that Whaley had enjoyed stealing quality players at that position, Kiko Alonso (2nd round), Preston Brown (3rd) and Nigel Bradham (4th), Bills fans thought that they might adhere to that formula for this draft. However, when you look at the timeline for Rex Ryan and his successful defenses, they included Ray Lewis and/or Bart Scott. Now no one (outside Hashtag Sports and Erik Turner of Cover1.net) saw the Bills as looking for their centerpiece of the defense, especially that a player like Ragland would even be available (which is why they moved up after Myles Jack came off the board). They decided to take a shot and get a player who just doesn’t have the physical traits and a history of winning, but a player who inhabits a rare quality that you can’t coach or teach: leadership. Ragland will be asked to fill the role of a Lewis in Rex’s scheme and time will tell if he is up to the task.
Selecting Adophus Washington with their 3rd round pick makes sense. This team is built defensively, and for it to be successful, there has to be an inside presence other than Marcell Dareus. Kyle Williams is in the twilight of his career, and while Washington has to improve his run stopping ability, he comes into the Bills as a winner, and with a year under his belt before Williams’ departure, he can be the player who can generate a push and get double-teams off of Dareus.
The head scratcher comes when the draft hit the weekend. The Bills selected Cardale Jones, and if any of you were privileged to take an in depth look at the tapes, you will immediately say, “Why?” Here is a kid who had an infamous tweet saying that classes were pointless, and was later benched after winning a National Title. When you take a step back and see where Jones is going to go, you can see that there are two reasons why he was drafted: Roman’s Luck, and Ryan’s Ego.
Now, from a physicality standpoint, there is nothing bad to say about Jones. He is a freak of nature, there is no doubt about that. 6’5” 250 pounds and doesn’t shy away from defenders. A startling contrast to Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel (Taylor missed two games last season, and Manuel has had 3 knee surgeries since coming into the league.) Perhaps Roman and Ryan think that he has the build to take the pounding that a player in this type of offense has to take to be successful. I stress ‘this’ type of offense because it is unlike any other in the NFL. It is very quarterback friendly, limiting decisions and mistakes, but also limiting the ability to progress.
Think about the history of Roman for a moment. He runs a unique offense, but it is deeply rooted in the pro-style scheme. Colin Kaepernick was able to enjoy a lot of success in it, even having come from a spread system when he was in Nevada. Roman was able to catch lightning in a bottle when Kaep had the controls and transformed him into a winner, garnering him a 100 million dollar deal in the process.
Tyrod Taylor was a former 6th round pick and started his first full season last year producing impressive numbers. Numbers, when they are compared to Kaepernick’s first 14 starts are very similiar. (Check out Tyrod Taylor Chaos to see how close they really are.)
So looking at the history of Roman. He had a guy who played in a spread offense, who he was able to take to the Super Bowl, and a former 6th rounder who managed a 20-6 TD to Int ratio. Roman has been able to transform a quarterback who doesn’t seem ideally suited for the position and make him a star. Jones is completely raw, so Ryan and Roman probably thought that they could shape him in their image of what the quarterback of this offense is supposed to look like.
While at the current moment, there are more questions than answers for selecting Cardale Jones, one thing is for certain: if he progresses in his first year for the Bills and seems ready to start, the Buffalo Bills will have a bargaining chip when they start talks with Tyrod Taylor this offseason.