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NFL – Bills’ Season Review – Part 4

10 Jan

The fourth and final section of the Buffalo Bills’ 2013 season review takes a look at the needs the team’s management has to try to fill for 2014, and some ideas on how they can fill those needs, through the draft, trades and free agency. Last year, I mentioned that their biggest priority needed to be re-signing their own potential free agents – Andy Levitre and Jairus Byrd. They didn’t manage to get either one signed, losing Levitre and putting the franchise tag on Byrd. Now they still have to try to keep Byrd in the fold, while their most important player to retain from this year’s free agents is probably kicker Dan Carpenter, who had a great year. Here is a look at the positions of greatest need that the Bills have, and what options they have to fill those needs:

Offensive Line

The Bills were extremely lucky not to have any major injuries on the line in 2013, but they can’t expect to be that lucky next season, so they definitely need to address the depth issue here. If they should happen to decide to dive into the free agent market for O-line help, one of the most interesting prospects is center Alex Mack of Cleveland. He has comparable abilities to Buffalo’s Eric Wood, and if they were to sign Mack, one of the two would be facing a position change to guard. Maybe neither of them would be thrilled to do that, but it would certainly upgrade the Bills’ line. If the team decides to draft a lineman with their first round pick (ninth overall), a top prospect is Texas A&M guard Jake Matthews, son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews. He played alongside Luke Joeckel, a first round choice last year, and supposedly when  5 NFL scouts were asked last year who was the better player, 2 of the 5 picked Matthews. If they choose to wait until the second round to address the line, a couple of good players who should be available are  Cyril Richardson, a guard from Baylor (although some scouts feel he is overrated)  and Gabe Jackson, a guard from Mississippi State who some regard as the best offensive lineman in the SEC.

Tight End

Coach Doug Marrone hasn’t said as much, but signs point to the club looking to upgrade this position. If the Bills decide to use the ninth pick on a tight end, the best available is Eric Ebron from North Carolina, a stud who is projected to be the first at his position to be drafted in 2014. His upside is his tremendous athletic ability – he made some unbelievable catches in his college career. His downside is he isn’t always consistent and has shown a penchant for dropping balls. A better option may be to wait a couple rounds and pick Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro. The best free agent TE available is New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, a Pro Bowler. It’s hard to imagine the Saints not getting him re-signed, but they do have salary cap issues. It’s also hard to imagine him signing with the Bills, but then again no one ever expected Mario Williams to sign here either.

Receivers

With possibly 5 of the top 8 teams picking in the draft looking for quarterbacks, the Bills could have an outstanding wide receiver prospect drop into their lap at pick number nine. Sammy Watkins of Clemson is the best athlete of the receivers, and could develop into the top playmaker of this year’s available crop of receivers.  Mike Evans, who caught passes from Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, is a big (6’5) receiver who would fit the team’s need for a red zone playmaker. Robert Woods’ old teammate at USC, Marquise Lee, could also be available, as well as another big receiver who just declared for the draft, 6’5 Kelvin Benjamin from national champion Florida State. There aren’t really any veteran free agent receivers available who would be an improvement over the players already on the Buffalo roster.

Linebacker

  If there is one veteran free agent linebacker out there who would be a good fit for the Bills’ defense, it’s  Darryl Smith of the Baltimore Ravens, an inside backer who signed on with the Ravens last year from Jacksonville, for one year only, and wound up doing an admirable job replacing Ray Lewis after he retired. Among draft prospects, UCLA’s Anthony Barr is a great prospect with NFL bloodlines (his father and 2 uncles played in the league). To me, an intriguing prospect who should be available at number nine is local product Khalil Mack from the University of Buffalo. He is much more than just a local favorite, as he has been rated a top ten prospect in the draft by some scouts. He is tall and rangy and great in pass coverage, pass rushing as an outside backer and a strong run defender. His skill set is a lot like current Buffalo rookie Kiko Alonso, and pairing those two against opposing offenses that in today’s game feature mobile quarterbacks, slot receivers and tight ends that run like wide receivers would vastly improve the team on that side of the ball. The defenses that ultimately challenge the modern-day offenses will have to feature quick, rangy players at linebacker who can cover and also aren’t afraid to stick their noses into the action against the run. Alonso is that type of player, and Mack should develop into the same type of player.

 
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  1. louise

    January 10, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Bills could definitely use an upgrade at offensive line. Losing Andy Levitre proved to be a bigger loss than first expected. Defense shaping up nicely but another good linebacker would be a big plus. Agree UB’s Khalil Mack would be a great addition. Need some good run-stoppers. That was a big problem with the defense this past season.