The Buffalo Bills finished up the 2013 regular season with a record of 6-10, but it wasn’t a huge surprise to see Buffalo struggle with rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel No. 1 on the depth chart. It didn’t help matters that Manuel was injured early and would miss six games.
With a healthy and more experienced signal caller, Buffalo should see some improvements in 2014. However, I don’t know if it will be enough to end their playoff drought. The Bills haven’t been to the postseason since 1999 and have posted just one winning record during this stretch.
Buffalo has been relatively quiet this offseason. The Bills two biggest free agent signings were both on the defensive side of the ball, as they signed corner Corey Graham (Ravens) and inside linebacker Brandon Spikes (Patriots). Other notable additions include guard Chris Williams (Rams), linebacker Keith Rivers (Giants) and running back Anthony Dixon (49ers). Buffalo also traded a 6th round pick to Tampa Bay for wide out Mike Williams.
The Bills defense took a big hit, as star safety Jairus Byrd signed a 6-year deal with the Saints. Buffalo also parted ways with defensive lineman Alex Carrington, linebacker Arthur Moats, safety Jim Leonhard, and backup quarterback Kevin Kolb.
The focus for Buffalo now shifts to the NFL Draft, where the Bills will have to make due with just six selections. It’s going to be important for them to hit on their early selections, especially when they are on the clock with No. 9 overall pick. Here’s a quick look at the five positions Buffalo needs to target the May.
Not having Byrd in the defensive backfield, is a huge loss for the Bills. While Byrd was limited last year to just 11 games because of injuries, he’s an elite talent that will be difficult to replace. If Buffalo doesn’t draft a replacement, the job will come down to Da’Norris Searcy and Duke Williams. I don’t feel either of those is an ideal fit for new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, which is why I could see the Bills going after one of the top two safeties with their first round pick.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Adding in Williams to team up with Stevie Johnson and promising second-year wide out Robert Woods is a solid step in the right direction, but all three of those guys are better suited as the second or third option. I strongly feel the Bills need to go after an elite big -play weapon. It could be a true No. 1 wide out or top level tight end. They figure to have an opportunity to do just that with their first round pick. Both Texas A&M wide out Mike Evans and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron both figure to be available.
The addition of Williams gives the Bills a fall back option at left guard if they aren’t able to find a better fit in the draft. Either way I feel like it’s a position they need to try an improve in the 3rd or 4th round. Buffalo could also use an upgrade at right tackle. I have seen some mock draft that have the Bills using their first round pick on a tackle, but I think that’s way to early to address the right tackle spot.
Buffalo is probably fine at the linebacker position with the additions of Spikes and Rivers, but it wouldn’t hurt to add in some more depth. They struck gold with their 3rd round selection of Kiki Alonso in last year’s draft. The Bills have too much talent up front on the defensive line to let it go to waste because of poor play at linebacker.
I know the Bills just used a first round pick on Manuel, but the fact that he missed 6 games in his first season is a bit troublesome. I’m not suggesting using an early pick at quarterback, but they need a better scenario than to have send out Thad Lewis or Jeff Tuel if something were to happen to Manuel.
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