Path to the Draft: How Much Confidence Do You Have in the Bills on Draft Day?

Let me take you back almost a year ago.  It was the night of the first round of the 2010 draft and the Oakland Raiders just selected Alabama LB Rolando McClain.   The Bills were on the clock.  Jimmy Clausen was available, as were a pair of tackles Anthony Davis and Bryan Bulaga.  I was sure the Bills weren’t going to disappoint again.  They desperately needed help at tackle, their quarterback problems had been well documented.  It took Buffalo all of about 45 seconds to make their selection.  It came so fast, I remember standing up out the chair, readying myself for the pick.  My dad (who is an Eagles fan), said, “Well that didn’t take very long, they must’ve got the guy they wanted”, to which I responded, “if they’re making this pick this fast, it’s gotta be Clausen.”

As you’re well aware, the pick wasn’t Clausen nor was it Davis or Bulaga; it was C.J. Spiller, running back from Clemson.  In past Bills’ selection, I’ve been pissed and disappointed.  This was just total shock.  They passed up a quarterback and help on the offensive line for a running back when they already had Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson.  I might have been able to understand the selection had Lynch been traded prior to the draft, but that wasn’t the case.  In fact, Lynch wasn’t traded until after the first month of the season.  Spiller’s rookie season was a huge disappointment.  He ran for fewer than 300 yards, had just 157 yards receiving and no rushing touchdowns.

I find that I have to keep reminding myself to give GM Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey a pass in their first season in Buffalo.  After all, they inherited a mess of a roster and an unstable front office.  It was foolish to believe that in one draft and one free agency period all of Buffalo’s ills would be cured.  But the fact remains that Nix’s first draft a year ago was huge.   Sure they had needs and they still do.  What they needed more than anything was players, guys who could  come in, start and contribute right away.  That didn’t happen.  Linebacker Arthur Moats was probably the Bills’ best player from their draft class….and he was a sixth round selection.

So, as Nix and Gailey enter their second draft, and the Bills continue to produce losing seasons and very few signs of hope, my question to everyone out there is how much confidence do the Bills inpsire come draft day?

I can give you six names just off the top of my head without having to go back and search previous drafts on players the Bills passed up who have become studs, house hold names or impact players:  Haloti Ngata, Darelle Revis, DeMeco Ryans, Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, and Brian Orakpo.  Just as bonus, here’s another name: Michael Oher.   For kickers, you can feel free to throw Jay Cutler’s name in there if you please.  As we speak, two more names just came to mind: David Harris and LaMarr Woodley.  See how easy this is.  That’s almost a name per second I just ran off.

And that’s just a small sampling of the kind of talent the Bills have left on the board on draft day.   Keeping those names in mind, here’s some of the players the Bills have taken over those guys:  Donte Whitner, Marshawn Lynch, Paul Posluszny, John McCargo, and Aaron Maybin.  You can include the selection of James Hardy over DeSean Jackson in 2008 (that wasn’t from memory, I had to look that one up).  So it comes as a shock to no one that the Bills haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999 and have just one winning season since then.  Should be surprising then that given their draft prowess, the Bills have six consecutive losing seasons and counting?  What does it say about the Bills’ draft evaluators and talent scouts?  What does it say about their thought process?  What did like so much about Maybin they didn’t like about Orakpo or Matthews?  What did they see in Whitner that they didn’t see in a player like Ngata?

To be fair, those names weren’t Nix and Gailey’s “guys, rather they were inherited.  In Whitner’s case, that was Marv Levy’s big blunder.  It’s not to say that Whitner isn’t a player.  He’s been a solid, steady safety for the Bills.  But when you take a safety at No.8, the idea is for him to be a game changer, a defensive stalwart and a player who is going to keep offensive coordinators awake at night.  That’s never been the case concerning Whitner and the Bills’ defense scares no one.  In Poz’s case, muc like Whitner, he’s been steady and solid when healthy.  He appears to be the Bills’ best linebacker, and I’d argue that’s the case because have a collection of marginal linebackers.   There is no Ray Lewis, no Patrick Willis or even LaMarr Woodley.

It’s almost as if he Bills have this sort of delusion where they can afford to draft based on potential down the road rather than drafting players who can step in and help immediately.  That wasn’t the case with Maybin, nor was it the case with Spiller a season ago.  Seasoned teams like Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New England can afford to take a chance on a player or two that might take a few years to develop into something special.  But when you’re a team stuck treading water at the bottom of the barrell, the last thing you need and the last thing the fans want is a player who isn’t quite ready to make and impact in year one.  It’s a very difficult sell to the fans, to tell them to “wait a few years” and down the line, a player will be ready to be great.  It doesn’t work like that when you have strung together a decaded worth of losses.

So here we are again, a little more than three weeks away from the draft.  The Bills find themselves sitting there with third overall selection and find themselves with a multitude of needs.  But most of all what they need is to break this vicious cycle of getting things constantly wrong. 

How confident are you that this draft day will be any different from the others?

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3 Responses to “Path to the Draft: How Much Confidence Do You Have in the Bills on Draft Day?”

  1. Mike C says:

    When I stop to think about it, no confidence at all. The Bills haven’t really had a good draft in many, many years. Each year I get excited at draft time, and each year I wind up disappointed. The last few drafts have been particularly hard to bear.

  2. Frank M says:

    Hey Mike, tbanks for the comment. Believe me, I’ll find difficult if you’re the only person out there as a Bills fans that has absolutely no faith in this team’s drafting, their methods or their scouting department. I, for one, am right there with you as tough as it is to admit that I just don’t have a lot of faith in them. There’s too much poor draft history over the last decade, especially within the last six or seven years. I mean, Clay Matthews or LaMarr Woodley or Brian Cushing or Haloti Ngata…they couldn’t have drafted at least one of these guys??? Sadly, the Bills are a mysterious, yet interesting dynamic on draft day; many people wait and see just how badly they’re going to screw their picks up each year. I hope I’m wrong this year. Only time will tell. I think it comes down to four players: Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Patrick Peterson and Von Miller. I’m assuming Marcell Dareus won’t fall past Denver and my guess is Carolina is going with one of the quarterbacks so whichever is still there at No.3 that’s who the Bills will be selecting

  3. Mike C says:

    Thanks Frank!

    I don’t watch much college football. All I know is what I read prior to the draft. I have my own ideas about where the Bills need help too. Yet year after year, at least in the first round, it seems like I (and just about everyone else) can outguess the Bills professional brain trust. Funny you mentioned Ngata, I was certain they’d pick him! Last year I figured they’d take Bulaga.

    I’d be happy with Von Miller, Dareus, Fairley or Peterson. We NEED to get a difference maker in the first round. I don’t believe the Bills have picked anyone who ended up a pro bowler in the first round since the mid nineties. I don’t know about Newton or Gabbert, but a lot of QBs picked in the first round bust. I don’t see Fitz as the second coming of Johnny U, but he’s not bad. Why not go after a QB when the team (especially the O-line) is a little better?

    Based on recent performance, my guess is they’ll probably draft Newton. He’ll turn out disturbingly Maybinesque, but with a longer holdout and bigger contract.

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