Friday, May 8, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: Buffalo Bills

The Bills, for once, were the center of attention this offseason. Not once, but twice. First they signed former Cowboys WR Terrell Owens, adding him to a young core of offensive playmakers. Then they traded a stud LT - which most definitely do not grow on trees - for an additional first round pick (plus a fourth and a sixth in 2010). The once proud franchise has not reached double-digit victories this century, last winning 10 or more games in 1999 when they won 11. The '99 season was also the last time Buffalo played meaningful games in January. You read that correctly, the Bills haven't been relevant for almost a decade now.

Who or what is to blame for the decade of inadequacy which stretched through last season? Many want to blame the the owner or coach. I'm not evaluating that part of it; just the players. How did they perform? Well they have a ways to go on offense, surprisingly. Perhaps T.O. and Dominic Rhodes will fix that? Anyway, the Bills scored an average of 21 points per game which ranked 23rd in The League. They passed for less than 200 yards per game and averaged just over 300 total yards per game, both of which put them in the bottom third of the league. They were rather decent on defense; slightly better than average for the most part. Buffalo ranked 14th in points and total yards allowed per game and were 13th in passing yards allowed per game. That lost one may had to do with the fact that they were closer to the bottom than the top in terms of stopping the run (22nd overall). Rectify that and you may be able to assure that close game losses become wins.

Dick Jauron is back as head coach for his fourth season. Jauron has only ever finished a season at 7-9 with the Bills. Unless they finish 2009 with a winning record, Jauron is most likely gone. His staff returns intact allowing some younger players to continue to develop. A strong draft class could turn that 7-9 record into 9-7 one. Not that that is amazing, but it's progress.

1/11/11 - Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB, Penn State
1/28/28 - Eric Wood, OC, Louisville
2/10/42 - Jairus Byrd, CB, Oregon
2/19/51 - Andy Levitre, OG, Oregon State
4/21/121 - Shawn Nelson, TE, Southern Miss
5/11/147 - Nic Harris, SS/OLB, Oklahoma
6/10/183 - Cary Harris, CB, USC
7/11/220 - Ellis Lankster, CB, West Virginia

  • OL - Check!
  • DL - Check!
  • TE - Check!
  • LB - Check!
  • RB - Try again.
  • WR - Try again.
The Bills came armed with two first round selections, which they ended up keeping and using for themselves rather than moving up in the draft. With just those picks they filled needs along the offensive and defensive lines. Later they added more OL help as well as stocked their secondary and added one of the elite players in the deep TE class. They didn't grab any OT the entire draft which was interesting since they traded their LT to the Eagles. There was no RB or WR help either, but did they really need it? They added some solid players but really missed when choosing multiple DBs over any OTs.

GRADE: 80/100

Pick 1 - I like Aaron Maybin. Being a Penn State grad do you expect anything less from me? But I just don't know if he was the best choice here. The Bills traded Peters and needed someone to groom at LT. Why not take Oher? Langston Walker is your starting LT now. Even though Oher lasted until the 23rd pick, that doesn't mean he wouldn't have been a good selection at 11. This really has less to do with Maybin than it does with filling needs with good players. To me OT was more important than DE. Grade: 7

Pick 2 - This pick I can get behind. They needed offensive linemen - not just tackles. Wood was in a fight to be the first center taken. Though he lost he was still a first round pick. Geoff Hangartner is listed as the starter now but I'd be surprised to see anyone but Wood snapping the ball in game one. Grade: 9

Pick 3 - Where was the urgent need for a DB, whether a corner or a safety? McGee, Youboty, McKelvin, Corner, Simpson, Whitner, Wilson, and Scott were already on the roster. I can see them adding a player sometime during the draft but so early in the second round? And Byrd over some other players like DE Everette Brown, OLB Clint Sintim, OC/OG Max Unger, or DE Paul Kruger? Looking at the players available makes me think the Maybin pick was even worse. Grade: 5

Pick 4 - Making up for passing on Unger the team selects Levitre. Good move. They now have a new center and a new guard that may start from Day 1. Levitre actually has the versatility to move out to tackle but he'd be best at guard. This is a good pick. Grade: 8

Pick 5 - Another value pick here. Shawn Nelson was one of the many TEs in the 2009 class, a class considered quite deep. The Bills only had two Derek's - Shcouman and Fine - at the position prior to the draft. Nelson can challenge them right away. Good pick. Grade: 8

Pick 6 - Nic Harris is making the conversion from SS to OLB. He'll need time to refine his skills. He is basically a poor man's Thomas Davis, the Panthers LB they converted from safety. They were looking for some depth at OLB, though an immediate starter would have been nice. Based on needs and player availability this wasn't a terrible pick. However Jamon Meredith was available and would have been a steal this late. Grade: 7

Pick 7 - Since the Bills are converting Jairus Byrd to FS they felt the need to add another DB, this time at corner. This actually wasn't a bad pick. Harris was arguably the best value available and could be a guy looked to start in 2010 if McGee leaves. Harris and McKelvin could be the 2010 starters. This pick hopefully came down to Harris or RB Cedric Peerman. Either way it was a good one. Grade: 8

Pick 8 - OK, another DB? Ellis Lankster isn't a terrible choice but knowing they already drafted Byrd and C. Harris makes this look a little less smart. Someone like Lydon Murtha or Rashad Jennings would have been wiser. Grade: 5

GRADE: 57/80


Pass rushing DE? Check. Find a new TE? Check. Go overboard with DBs? Check. Upgrade the o-line? For the most part. Adding a tackle would have done wonders for this class. I still think it's pretty solid but I just don't like the triple-dipping in the defensive backfield in lie of grabbing an OT. And Maybin - who could develop into a premiere pass rusher - needs a year or two to develop into an every down player. That's not what the goal is for a first rounder in the Top 15.


WHY: I was ready to give Buffalo a B- but settled for the C+ because of the massive oversight of not taking any OTs. They definitely sured up the o-line with Wood and Levitre (ha!) and if they would have added a tackle somewhere - like Meredith or Murtha - then the line could be set for a number of years. They don't have to worry about the secondary, that's for sure.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: Wood
Worst Pick: Maybin
Sleeper: Cary Harris
Instant Impact: Wood/Levitre
Developmental: Nic Harris

CBS Sports (Prisco): B-
CBS Sports (Rang): B
ESPN (Kiper): B+ (Brooks): B+ (Fan's): B
Walter: C-


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