E.J. Manuel is all smiles as first QB off the board in 2013 draft.
The Buffalo Bills turned out to be one of the surprise teams of the first round of the 2013 NFL draft on Thursday night.
Buffalo GM Buddy Nix decided to break from his policy of staying put in the draft and traded down in the first round. Buffalo traded the No. 8 overall pick to the St. Louis Rams and picked up extra picks in the second round (No. 46) and in the seventh round (No. 222). The teams also swapped their third-round picks, with Buffalo receiving the No. 78 pick and giving the No. 71 pick to St. Louis.
The move was met with some applause and some criticism depending on whose opinion you value. Just prior to the Bills' pick was announced, draft analyst Mike Mayock of NFL Network felt that E.J. Manuel was the dark-horse selection with the most upside of any quarterback in the draft. Over at ESPN, AFC East blogger James Walker panned the pick as he felt that the Doug Marrone era will forever be hitched to the wagon of E.J. Manuel.
Say what you want to about the selection, but one thing to keep in mind is that the Bills now control Manuel for the next five years due to the new collective bargaining agreement, while the teams drafting a QB in Round 2 will only have them for the first four years of their career. That is an important factor to consider in the grand scheme of things.
In this presentation, we will analyze the Manuel pick and the ramifications of the Bills trade with St. Louis and set up the three draft choices Buffalo will make on Friday in Rounds 2 and 3.
Bills passed over Tavon Austin to secure more draft picks.
As we contemplate the ramifications of the trade from Thursday night, Bills fans ponder all of the what-if scenarios.
One thing that didn't escape me is the predictability of Buddy Nix draft picks. Coming into the 2013 draft, 12 of the top-13 picks over the last two years came out of the SEC or ACC conferences. Is it any wonder that the QB selected by Nix came out of the ACC or SEC? Expect both conferences to be in play on Friday again for Buffalo.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?
Like any Monday-morning quarterback, we reflect on how things played out in the first round and ask some tough questions
In retrospect, no other quarterback was drafted in the first round.
Should Buddy Nix have pulled off the same trade that Jerry Jones executed two picks later (with the pick at No. 18) with San Francisco?
That would have obviously been a gamble to drop down to No. 31 and pick up an extra third-round pick (No. 74). As it turned out, the Bills could have still drafted Manuel at 31 and picked up the pick at No. 74 for their troubles, but Nix would have been sweating it out the whole way.
In the press conference held at One Bills Drive after the first round ended, Nix admitted that he received phone calls from teams wanting to trade up to the No. 16 slot. We can only imagine that if the 49ers found a willing partner at No. 18 with Dallas, they also tried to do the same thing with Nix at No. 16.
The Bills passed over some very talented players by deciding to draft Manuel.
The one player who stood out at the time was Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. I had a sneaky suspicion that the Bills would draft Eifert and then trade back into the first round with their extra picks to draft their quarterback. Obviously that didn't happen, but with the importance of the tight end in the NFL, it made sense to consider selecting the best tight end in the draft class.
If the Bills had taken any player besides a quarterback at No. 16, they still would have had two second-round draft picks to secure a QB. As things unfold on Friday, we will learn firsthand how many quarterbacks go off the big board by the time the Bills pick at No. 41. If Jacksonville follows through and takes Ryan Nassib at No. 33, Nix probably made a wise choice.
Buddy Nix has a less-than-stellar track record when it comes to evaluating quarterbacks.
Did the actions on Thursday night continue to add more ammunition to that assessment, or did Nix finally get one right?
There was plenty of speculation that teams in need of a quarterback were prepared to give up a first-round pick in 2014 in order to trade back into the bottom half of the first round to draft Matt Barkley, Geno Smith or Ryan Nassib.
However, cooler heads prevailed, and all of those teams kept their first-round draft picks intact for next year. We applaud Nix for having the courage to do something he wasn't comfortable with. Nix gambled that Manuel would still be there later and picked up a valuable extra second-round pick, which could turn into another starter for the Bills.
Who will be the better NFL player: Tavon Austin, Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib or E.J. Manuel?
As these players embark on their NFL careers, we can only ponder the what-ifs. Some will turn out to be stars, while others might fall by the wayside. Bills fans can only hope that Manuel will become a star and a true franchise quarterback.
E.J. Manuel is excited to enter the competition for starting QB.
With Manuel being drafted in the first round, Bills fans will want to know when they can expect to see him on the field. Right now that is a difficult question to answer on many fronts.
Let's start with some of the intangibles.
Buffalo decided that Manuel was the best fit for a variety of reasons. The Bills felt that Manuel has a huge arm, is very smart, is an excellent leader, displays great work ethic and is a winner. He is big and athletic and is an accurate passer. When you consider all of those qualities, he seems like the complete package.
But every quarterback in the 2013 class has flaws. In Manuel's case, he doesn't go through all of his reads or progressions. When pressured, he can be forced to make some poor decisions with the ball. If those flaws sound like Ryan Fitzpatrick reincarnated, that is because they share the same deficiencies.
Between head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, the Bills will have to coach Manuel to improve those aspects of his game before he can be ready to serve as the starting quarterback.
The recent trend around the NFL has been to throw rookies directly into the fire. But that has resulted in some mixed reviews, if you look at how Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Brandon Weeden performed as rookies.
We still don't have a lot of knowledge about the offensive scheme or plans that Coach Marrone and Hackett want to install in Buffalo. Depending on how quickly the quarterback will need to make decisions on where to go with the football, it might be in Manuel's best interests to get used to the speed of the pro game from the sidelines initially.
Manuel will enter into the starting quarterback competition with Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson. If Kolb emerges as the Week 1 starter, that is probably for the best.
Let Kolb try to work out the bugs of the offensive scheme. If the plan of attack exposes the quarterback to a number of big hits and Kolb gets injured as a result (which is a possibility), Manuel will then be ready with his eyes open and won't be overwhelmed. The last thing the team wants is for him to question his self-confidence.
Justin Hunter will fly off the big board in round two today.
With the Day 2 picks, Buffalo will be looking to find some potential starters for 2013.
The positions that the Bills hope to address are wide receiver, tight end, linebacker, corner and guard. In addition, Buffalo could add another pass-rusher and some depth to the safety position.
With its three picks on Friday, Buffalo can only address three of those positions, so it will likely come down to the grades assigned by the scouting department and who is left on the big board.
The beauty of the 2013 draft class is the depth in offensive linemen, wide receivers and defensive backs. That depth will be put to the test as we wind through the selections from No. 33 to No. 97.
Some of Buffalo's need will have to wait until Day 3 to be addressed.
To give you an idea of the prospects that will be in play on Friday, here are a couple resources to research:
This is NFL Network's Mike Mayock's top-100 big board. Former NFL GM Gil Brandt also put together a similar list. And here is the final big board rankings from Bleacher Report lead NFL writer Matt Miller.
In reviewing the renewed projections at Drafttek.com, the Bills currently are mocked to draft Tennessee WR Justin Hunter at No. 41, Mississippi State corner Johnthan Banks at No. 46 and Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene at No. 78.
Personally, I would like to see the Bills draft either Hunter or Robert Woods at wide receiver, take the best linebacker on their big board at No. 46 and draft ultra-flexible offensive lineman Barrett Jones from Alabama at No. 78.
Jones literally played all five offensive line spots during his career at Alabama. He would be worth his weight in gold to Buffalo.
Robert Woods is still available in Round 2
In the previous slide, we mentioned the big boards compiled by Mike Mayock and Gil Brandt. Here is a grouping of the best available players listed by position that should be addressed by Buffalo on Friday:
Justin Hunter (Tennessee), Robert Woods (USC), Keenan Allen (California), Terrance Williams (Baylor), Aaron Dobson (Marshall), Markus Wheaton (Oregon State), Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech), Stedman Bailey (West Virginia) and Marquise Goodwin (Texas).
Other wide receivers who don't appear in the top-prospect lists but were brought in for pre-draft visits to Buffalo include Ryan Swope (Texas A&M), Da'Rick Rogers (Tennessee Tech), Zach Rogers (Tennessee) and Russell Shepard (LSU).
Zach Ertz (Stanford), Gavin Escobar (San Diego State), Travis Kelce (Cincinnati) and Vance McDonald (Rice).
T Menelik Watson (Florida State), G Larry Warford (Kentucky), T Terron Armstead (Arkansas Pine-Bluff), C Brian Schwenke (California), G Brian Winters (Kent State), T Dallas Thomas (Tennessee), T David Bakhtiari (Colorado) and G Barrett Jones (Alabama).
Viewing the above groups, few tight ends are deemed to be pro-ready, so if the Bills want to add a good one, they will have to act in the second round. The depth of wide receivers and offensive linemen could come into play in the third round.
Could Manti Te'o drop to the Bills at 41 or 46?
Continuing with the theme from the last slide, we have compiled the top prospects from Mike Mayock and Gil Brandt's lists to form a group of players available at key positions of need for the Bills on defense.
Damontre Moore (Texas A&M), Margus Hunt (SMU), Tank Carradine (Florida State), William Gholston (Michigan State), Alex Okafor (Texas), Sam Montgomery (LSU) and Corey Lemonier (Auburn).
Manti Te'o (Notre Dame), Kevin Minter (LSU), Arthur Brown (Kansas State), Jamie Collins (Southern Mississippi), Cornelius Washington (Georgia), Sio Moore (U Conn), Jon Bostic (Florida), Khaseem Greene (Rutgers), Kiko Alonso (Oregon), A.J. Klein (Iowa State), Chase Thomas (Stanford) and Kevin Riddick (North Carolina).
Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State), Jamar Taylor (Boise State), Darius Slay (Mississippi State), Blidi Wreh-Wilson (U Conn), B.W. Webb (William & Mary), Doug Gratz (U Conn), Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana). Jordan Poyer (Oregon State), David Amerson (North Carolina State), Tyrann Mathieu (LSU), Leon McFadden (San Diego State) and Tharold Simon (LSU).
Jonathan Cyprien (Florida International), D.J. Swearinger (South Carolina), J.J. Wilcox (Georgia Southern), Shamarko Thomas (Syracuse), Bacarri Rambo (Georgia), T.J. McDonald (USC) and Phillip Thomas (Fresno State).
There is reasonable depth for all of these positions, but it is a bit lighter with strong pass-rushers from the defensive ends and the depth at inside linebacker is another questionable area. That could factor into the Bills' decision on which positions to address first.
Marcus Lattimore has worked hard to rehab his knee.
Coming into the 2013 draft, the hope was that the Bills draft class would include three starters. Now, because of the trade with St. Louis, that number needs to get bumped up to four starters.
The owners of three draft picks right now for Day 2 (No. 41, 46 and 78), Buffalo should walk away with three more starters for 2013. That would be the ideal scenario. However, depending on how Buffalo graded certain players or the possibility of having a trick up its sleeve, there are a couple of scenarios where it might be acceptable to draft a player who wouldn't be an immediate starter in 2013.
Everybody saw the dividends last year of what happened when the Washington Redskins drafted both Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins in the same draft. When RG3 went down with his various injuries, Cousins that stepped up and led Washington to some key victories.
What would prevent the Bills from employing that same strategy? If the Bills draft another quarterback, then they would probably only keep one veteran between Kolb and Jackson.
This strategy would come into play if a quarterback with a strong grade fell to the Bills in the later rounds. Perhaps the pick at No. 78 or 105 might be a place where this might happen.
The other exception is for an outstanding talent like South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore. Due to his severe knee injury last year, Lattimore is projected to go in the third round. He has done a great job of rehabbing his knee, but it would probably be in his best long-term career interests for a team to place him on injured reserve for the 2013 season.
If the Bills draft him, Lattimore could be ready to back up C.J. Spiller in 2014. Bills fan can only hope that Fred Jackson is still able to perform, but age might be catching up with him. Drafting Lattimore is no doubt a forward-thinking move, but having two dynamic running backs in Marrone's offense is worth considering.
So, Bills fans, what do you think the Bills will do in Day 2 of the draft, and what do you want to see them accomplish?
Thanks for checking out the presentation. Follow me on Twitter: @DanVanWie