It’s no secret the Buffalo Bills are searching for a wide receiver to complement Lee Evans and bolster a lackluster passing attack.
After a failed courtship with free agent Bryant Johnson, who eventually ended up in San Francisco, attention now turns to the upcoming 2008 draft class to fill the vacancy.
If the Bills are going to make the jump out of the offensive cellar, it would be wise to examine similarities among the top rated passing attacks in the NFL last year.
Last year, New England, Green Bay, New Orleans, Dallas and Arizona ranked first to fifth, respectively, in passing yards per game. Look at passing touchdowns per game, and you have four of the same five teams, just switch out Pittsburgh for New Orleans, which was still highly ranked at number nine overall.
One of the common factors all these teams shared was at least one of their two starting wide receivers was over six feet tall. New England, New Orleans, Dallas and Arizona all had starting receivers at six foot three or above. Then again, San Francisco and Tennessee had a multiple receivers on their rosters over six feet tall and were statistically among the worst passing teams in the NFL last year.
Now of course, there are multiple factors involved in putting together a potent passing attack: solid pass protection from the offensive line, an effective running game, smart play calling from the coaching staff paired with a capable and competent quarterback who can make the necessary throws.
From the decrease in quarterback sacks, down from 47 in 2006 to 26 in 2007, to the solid running back tandem of Marshawn Lynch and projected number two Fred Jackson, the Bills appear to heading in the right direction offensively, even if they lack a playmaking tight end. New offensive coordinator Turk Schonert has indicated during this offseason that he wants a more aggressive aerial attack, and more responsibility to fall on presumed starter Trent Edwards, who was denied the ability to audible by former offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild.
That leaves the receiving corps.
Lee Evans and Josh Reed are 5'10", and Roscoe Parrish is an inch shorter. Justin Jenkins and Felton Huggins, both first year undrafted free agents, are on the roster, but have yet to catch a pass in the NFL. With many of the offensive pieces in place, this leaves a tall, big-bodied wide receiver in the mold of Marques Colston or Larry Fitzgerald as the missing component.
Currently Buffalo is slotted to pick at No. 11 and No. 41 on day one. While there are needs at various positions, in order for the offense to improve, they must come out of this draft with a starting wide receiver to pair opposite Lee Evans. Based on the height requirements outlined above, that rules out Cal’s DeSean Jackson, LSU’s Early Doucet and Michigan’s Mario Manningham from consideration.
Here are my top five prospects at wide receiver for the Bills in 2008, with measurables from NFL.com and ESPN.com...
1. Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma
6’ 3 3/4”
2. Limas Sweed, Texas
6’ 3 7/8”
3. James Hardy, Indiana
6’ 5 3/8”
4. Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State
6’ 2 7/8”
5. Jordy Nelson, Kansas State
6’ 2 5/8”
Any of these receivers would make an excellent complement to Evans, give Trent Edwards an important weapon in the passing game, and allow Buffalo to take the next step to improve the passing game.