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The Stampede to the Draft: Part Two

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The Stampede to the Draft: Part Two

First seen on wnysportstalk.com, your source for Western New York sports talk.

In Part One of this series, I highlighted one of the Buffalo Bills’ most pressing needs, the upgrading of its abysmal pass rush. Now in round two, I want a receiving threat at the tight-end position.

However, the type of tight end the Bills should select is a topic of heavy debate, and rightfully so. Should they look for another lineman in a tight end’s body, or should they look for a pass-catching threat?

I am a proponent of the latter for one reason.

The more weapons an offense has, the better that offense will be. The defense is forced to spread out and cover multiple threats at once, rather than keying in on one or two players.

Over the past few years, the Bills offense has had only two real threats and defenses have reacted accordingly.

The first threat is wide receiver Lee Evans. He has shown the ability to score touchdowns from anywhere on the field. He has scored the most touchdowns covering 70-plus yards since 2000, and he was drafted in 2004. This is not to say he is only useful from the Bills own side of the field.

For evidence, look at the San Diego Chargers game from last season. The David Tyree-esque catch should be more than enough to dissuade anyone of Evans’ ability to hurt a defense from anywhere on the field.

The other threat has been the run game. Due to the ongoing search for Jim Kelly’s replacement (which hopefully is over), the run game has had to pick up much of the slack on the offensive side of the ball.

Over the past few years, the run game has been quite solid, if sometimes unspectacular.

Defenses have reacted accordingly by double covering Evans and bringing eight men into the box to provide run coverage. Other offenses in the league have the ability to exploit single coverage with their second wide receiver, but the Bills have also been looking for a compliment in the passing game to Evans since Eric Moulds left the Bills.

Thankfully that search appears to be over, at least for this season. Shortly after Terrell Owens was cut from the Dallas Cowboys, he was signed by the Buffalo Bills to a one-year, $6.5 million deal.

Since T.O. historically has been on his best behavior the first year he is with a new team, this should work out to the Bills’ benefit.

Also, aside from the potential headaches involved with T.O., it is hard to imagine that there is another wide receiver in the league that is better to learn how to play the game from for a young wide receiver.

T.O.’s presence should have a long-term effect on James Hardy and Steve Johnson, hopefully bringing them along to both become good compliments to Evans in the future.

With the addition of T.O., the effect on a defense’s pass coverage is huge. No longer can a defense afford to double cover Evans and put eight men in the box. The situation forces defenses to play a much more cover-based scheme predicated on defending against the big pass play.

That should open up holes for the run game.

So now the Bills have two legitimate receiving threats. What would happen if they had another in the form of a pass-catching tight end who has the ability to exploit linebacker coverage? Even more issues in the run game and even more headaches for defensive coordinators. Remember, more offensive weapons equals better offense.

We all know how bad the Bills offense has been the past few years, especially in passing categories. T.O. is going to have a very nice impact on that, but a receiving threat at the tight end position is going to be another shot in the arm for this offense, and it should be a long-lasting shot as well.

The Bills have lacked a tight end that could make consistent positive plays in the passing game (I’m looking at you, Robert Royal) since Jay Riemersma. They have lacked tight ends who can make big plays since the days of the K-Gun offense in the early 1990s.

Everyone remembers Andre Reed, James Lofton, Don Beebe, Jim Kelly, and Thurman Thomas.

However, just as equally important are two tight ends who played wonderful counterparts in the early 90s, Keith McKeller and Pete Metzelaars. They were just as important as anyone else in that offense due to their ability to make plays underneath the coverage and especially in the red zone.

The Bills’ woes on offense stem around their inability to punch the ball into the end zone when they reach said red zone. A big pass-catching tight end like the Bills used to have would be great.

So who are the candidates possibly available in the second round that would be a boost in the passing game? There are four Bills fans should become familiar with if they are not already.

My personal favorite is Missouri tight end Chase Coffman. He has been one of the most consistent and productive tight ends in college over the past few years. He’s tall and has great hands.

Sounds like an excellent red-zone target. He is not known for his blocking ability since he was the main compliment to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and therefore was running pass patterns all day, but we are more concerned about catching than blocking.

He is not the fastest tight end, but he is very athletic and can get yards after the catch as well. Some experts have him coming in anywhere from mid-second round to the fourth round, so there is the possibility of him being available in the third if the Bills do not take him here.

However, I consider him to be a very good talent and would not pass on him here.

Another tight end to keep an eye on is Shawn Nelson from Southern Mississippi. He is more rounded than Coffman, especially after the performance he put on at the Senior Bowl. However, to say he is an adept pass catcher would be an understatement.

He is more of a vertical threat than Coffman in terms of pure speed so he would help stretch the field even more on offense.

The other two I think are less likely, but should be considered if the situation arises that Coffman and Nelson are both off the board. The first is James Casey from Rice. He also has very good hands and is extremely athletic, even taking snaps from under center in the Wildcat formation.

Good route runner and has the ability to make plays after the catch. The other is South Carolina’s Jared Cook. He is probably one of the most talented and physically gifted tight ends in the draft.

He simply does not have the production that the others do. There is some speculation that he might not be as passionate as the others, but good coaching can help that.

So there you have it, why the Buffalo Bills should look at tight end in the second round of the NFL draft and who they should be looking at. Stay tuned for Part Three, profiling interior offensive linemen.

Go Bills, and getcha popcorn ready!

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