Estimated reading time: 8 minute(s)
With only two days until the clock actually starts ticking on the Buffalo Bills 2009 draft, I wanted to take a look position by position at who the 2009 Bills are shaping up to be. We have all heard the experts predicting whom they believe the Buffalo Bills will select in the draft, what holes they need to fill, and even possible trades. And they could be right. But let’s look through the roster and see just where the Bills may be looking to improve.
Let’s get this out of the way first. There are a few players whose names are being mentioned as possible draft day trade fodder. Roscoe Parrish is a big one. When Terrell Owens joined the club, there was a possibility that Parrish was on the outside of the bubble looking in. While he is incredibly productive on special teams (league-leader in punt return average in 2007, second in 2008) and consistently provides good field position for the offense, his production on offense hasn’t been what the Bills had hoped. (It’s interesting to note, by the way, that #1 on the list for average yards per punt return was Buffalo’s Fred Jackson with 16.6 yards/return as compared to Roscoe’s 15.3/return. He did that on only a third of the returns that Parrish had, however.)
So, the Bills could potentially move Parrish, but I would think if they did it would be for a pretty good price. He may be near the edge of the bubble as a WR for this team, but I recall a Wall of Fame Buffalo Bill WR who consistently made the team for his contributions on special teams, despite being at the edge of the bubble for his offensive production…
Another player named in possible trades is Ko Simpson, who has lost his starting FS job to the recently-shifted SS Donte Whitner. Simpson is a good player, but was a bit small for the defensive scheme the Bills want to run.
And of course, we all know that Buffalo’s prima donna OT, Jason Peters, was traded for three draft picks from the Philadelphia Eagles. The picks were not as high as I thought they might get for a “two-time Pro Bowler”, but in my estimation, it’s a good move. The Bills can use the two picks this year to add depth, or potentially package them to make a move on draft day.
It might be an interesting weekend just in the wheeling and dealing alone!
J.P. Losman is finally not part of the equation at QB for the Bills, so they went out and signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bengals’ starter last season (when Carson Palmer was injured most of the season). Interesting move, but perhaps Fitzpatrick is a similar player to Edwards, so there is consistency there should Edwards go down with an injury. I had thought they would add a QB with more experience, as there were many out there, but Fitzpatrick it is.
Gibran Hamdan will be returning, and Matt Baker is still on the roster somewhere. Will the Bills pursue a QB in the draft? Probably not. But I do still like Drew Willy, quarterback of the University at Buffalo Bulls in 2008. Would be a cool local story, and he definitely has skills. The Bills wouldn’t take him till very late, and I’d imagine he’d be gone before that.
Marshawn Lynch is apparently appealing his three-week suspension, but the Bills are counting on not having their star running back for the first part of the season. They made a move to ensure some stability there by finally signing the veteran RB they have been seeking since the start of Free Agency. Being turned down by Fred Taylor and Kevin Jones (likely among other candidates) they finally were able to procure the services of Dominic Rhodes. Rhodes will probably occupy the third spot on the depth chart, but will get lots more playing time in the absence of Lynch to start the season.
Fred Jackson is also a bit of a question as he is unhappy with his contract negotiations. He is restricted free agent, I believe, and they are still crunching numbers to get him a new contract. The Bills need to pay the man. He has turned into a super reliable compliment to Lynch, and well, they just need to pay their players!
Assuming Jackson is signed and happy, the Bills are really strong at RB. Marshawn Lynch (Pro Bowler last season, actually, leading rusher in the Pro Bowl, too!) and Fred Jackson, and now Dominic Rhodes… that’s a pretty good trio. Add the potential Xavier Omon has (but has not shown at the NFL level as of yet) and they even have the hard working Bruce Hall on their roster. I’d be surprised to see the Bills select a RB in the draft at all, but if they did, it would be late.
As I mentioned above, the Bills are chock full at this position. Lee Evans signed a big contract extension last year. Terrell Owens, while only here for a year, well, we know what he is capable of. That’s quite a tandem already. Add in Josh Reed back in the slot where he belongs, and he’s likely even better at being “Mr. First Down”, as we like to call him.
Then you have the aforementioned Roscoe Parrish, with his explosive possibilities, and I haven’t even mentioned James Hardy and Steve Johnson! Hardy, the Bills second-round pick in 2008, is returning from an injury and with a year of NFL experience—he has the tools—should be a contributor on this team. Johnson actually produced more than Hardy last year, so don’t count him out of the mix.
The Bills also have Justin Jenkins, Felton Huggins and CJ Hawthorne on the roster. Jenkins and Huggins are big contributors on special teams coverage units, and decent WRs.
Obviously, not all of these guys will be here when the roster is trimmed down to the final 53. You can’t keep nine receivers on a team. The likely candidates would seem to be the last two I mentioned, but Bobby April may say otherwise. That really lends credence to the Parrish trade rumors.
It will be shocking if the Bills add a WR on draft weekend. I’ll go ahead and say right now… they will not!
For a few years now, Bills fans have been complaining about the tight end position on their team. Perhaps the last player we had at this position that really made any impact was Jay Riemersma, and he played with Doug Flutie… so it’s been a while.
The Bills released last year’s starting TE Robert Royal just as the free agency period opened, so that leaves three TEs on the roster: Derek Schouman, Derek Fine, and (Derek) Jonathan Stupar. (He should be named Derek, apparently…) Fine showed some promise last year, and Shouman is a “fine” special teamer, so those guys will make the roster, but are they impact players? Do they make a difference to this offense?
I don’t know anything about Stupar, so we’ll just assume he’s roster depth at this point, that may not even make the team?
The Bills reportedly tried to make a deal for future Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez, but that fell through, with reports saying he just didn’t want to come to Buffalo. His loss.
Now that they have also signed T.O. – who is a bigger WR – do they really need a big play-making TE? Some argue that T.O. was more successful in Dallas because of the great play of Dallas TE Jason Whitten. Another great player can’t hurt, but who’s to say that by adding T.O. to the offensive mix, you don’t automatically free up one of the Dereks to make chain-moving plays across the middle? Defenses have to already cover Evans, Owens, Reed, Lynch, Jackson… that may leave these TEs more open than they have been in the past?
Still, I would not be surprised to see the Bills take a TE in this year’s draft. I don’t think it’s as big a need as some (who think we should spend our #11 pick on a TE) but it couldn’t hurt.
This is probably the biggest question mark on the team. Most people are now focusing on the trade of Peters, and the hole that leaves at what is considered the most important spot on the line, LT. But don’t forget, the Bills released last year’s starting LG, Derrick Dockery, just before free agency began, and they have not attempted to re-sign either of their centers from last year, Melvin Fowler and Duke Preston. That means the entire left side of the line will be different at the start of the 2009 season.
The Bills did re-sign OT Kirk Chambers. They also brought in C Geoff Hangartner from Carolina, and OL Seth McKinney from Cleveland. Not the most sought-after guys, but the Bills are happy with Hangartner for sure.
What does that mean for the whole O-line? At the end of last season, the line left to right was: Jason Peters, Derrick Dockery, Duke Preston, Brad Butler, Langston Walker. Now it looks as though it might be: Langston Walker/Kirk Chambers, Kirk Chambers/Demetrius Bell, Geoff Hangartner, Brad Butler, Demetrius Bell/Kirk Chambers. The only player who remains the same is RG Brad Butler. Every other position has a new player in it. Every one.
That’s not good. There is no doubt the Bills need a larger pool of guys to select from not only for the starters on this unit, but also depth players. This is definitely a position the Bills will address in the draft, and maybe even with the top pick at #11. There are some great players available. Michael Oher, Andre Smith (No, not Big Dre from the BBR!) are two names at the top. But so far every player who has greatness also seems to have some “baggage”.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bills go after one of the “big name” OLs, but I’d look for them to add up to 3 guys with their middle to high round picks. They need lots of help at this position, so it may be a “boring” draft of just picking the big, no-name guys. (Who you really need on your team if you want to win!)
That covers the offensive side of the ball, but there’s a whole other side of the team that the Bills will definitely be addressing. In fact, I’d say we’ll see more defensive players selected (other than offensive linemen, really) in the 2009 draft than offensive players.
Will post the remainder of the article tomorrow, the state of the Bills defense.