Bills are hopeful that E.J. Manuel will be their franchise QB.
The Buffalo Bills scouting department has now completed their portion of contributing talent to the 2013 roster, by adding eight draft picks and then signing 16 undrafted rookie free agents. Now, it is up to Doug Marrone and the rest of his coaching staff to take this crop of players and mold them into a competitive team.
Now that the dust is starting to settle from the sometimes crazy and truly unpredictable NFL draft, what is the state of the Buffalo Bills roster? Have they addressed enough of their needs, and have they brought in enough depth across the board to withstand the rigors of a long and grueling season?
The front office will be scanning the waiver wire in addition to determining if there are any remaining free agents that could bolster their depth at a certain position that is looking thin, but the majority of the roster is pretty much set for next season.
Going forward, the Bills will be bringing in all of their rookies for a mini-camp on May 10. Then the rest of the team will come in to join them for the first set of OTA's on May 13. That is when the front office and the coaching staff will have a better idea of exactly what type of team they have on their hands.
All players listed currently appear on the roster found at BuffaloBills.com. Please note that the players are listed alphabetically on the depth charts by position. The rookies and undrafted rookie free agents will appear in italics.
Did the Bills find the successor to Jim Kelly with EJ Manuel?
We all realize that it isn't fair to judge the Buffalo Bills 2013 draft class until three years have come and gone in order to see how well they have produced in regular season games. From a gut feel perspective, you would have to say that this appears to be a solid effort by Buddy Nix and his staff, though.
The trade down from No. 8 to No. 16 in the first round turned out to be a solid move, and it allowed the Bills not only to add two more players, but it also gave Nix the freedom and flexibility to draft the best players available throughout the rest of the draft.
The most controversial draft pick will undoubtedly be Florida State QB EJ Manuel. Down the road, we will find out if he can live up to the expectations of a franchise quarterback or not. If the jury is still out, it could mean that the Bills could invest another high draft pick on a quarterback in 2014. The Bills won't know what they have unless Manuel sees some playing time this year.
There was a very interesting article by Peter King of Sports Illustrated, that talked about the decisions Doug Marrone faced with drafting Ryan Nassib or going with a different quarterback instead. It is well worth the read.
Picking up two wide receivers with upside in Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin certainly helps to boost the potential of the wide receiving corps. The post-draft addition of Da'Rick Rogers is another interesting move, and he has a strong chance to make the team. Rogers will probably pose a direct threat to Marcus Easley's ability to remain with the Bills.
Kiko Alonzo will be an exciting addition to the defense, as the Oregon linebacker is known to fly around the field from one sideline to the other.
Alonzo did have some off-the-field issues, in addition to Rogers and Duke Williams, which is an interesting change in Nix's drafting philosophy on focusing on clean players. Perhaps with the knowledge that Doug Marrone is the new head coach, players will realize they have to stay on the straight and narrow or they will be gone. Marrone has a clear no-nonsense approach to his coaching style.
The back-to-back draft picks of safeties Williams and Jonathan Meeks is an insurance plan that the ensures that the Bills will be covered if they can't come to a long-term contract agreement with Jarius Byrd. But it also serves as a contingency plan in the event that converting Aaron Williams from corner to safety doesn't work out. Both are hard hitters and will challenge Da'Norris Searcy for a starting job.
Dustin Hopkins is exceptionally strong for a kicker. He put up 20 reps at the NFL Scouting Combine, which is more than a wide number of position players did. Hopkins joins fellow Florida State special teams members punter Shawn Powell and long-snapper Garrison Sanborn in Buffalo. When will the Bills hire the Seminoles special teams coach to handle his own players?
The final draft was a nice pick for Buffalo in Arkansas tght end Chris Gragg. Gragg is another player that tested very well at the Combine. He was overcoming some injuries, which contributed to his late slide, but he was a solid value pick, and he will allow the Bills to offer some different personnel looks on offense.
If any of you happened to catch the live video stream of the NFL draft on either Bleacher Report or CNN.com, I was asked to give a grade on the Bills draft class as the sixth-round pick of Hopkins was being announced. Here is the video feed link for the Bleacher Report coverage. I responded with a "B" grade. Now that I know more about Hopkins and his career achievements, as well as the great value pick of Gragg, that grade is being changed to a "B +."
The only reason it can't be an "A" is because Nix got too nervous about Manuel, and his nerves got the best of him. By taking Manuel at No. 16 overall, Nix had the ability to trade down again, but passed on the opportunity. He could have added another great player in the first round and think about the great draft pick(s) that he could have added to the current haul. All in all though, I was happy that Nix traded down once, as it proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Guard Zack Chibane was the only Syracuse player that Buffalo added.
Buddy Nix continued to show his love for the ACC and the SEC conferences by investing half of his eight picks in players from those schools. What was a bigger surprise and even more telling was that Doug Marrone only wound up with one Syracuse player—undrafted rookie free agent guard Zack Chibane. Marrone had opportunities to draft some of his former Orange players throughout the draft, but went in a different direction.
Perhaps it was easier for Marrone not to bring any prior personal relationships that he had with his old players into the new situation in Buffalo. Deciding who to start, who to cut and who to tell them that they should try a new career choice is easier to deal with when there isn't any personal attachment involved.
For that matter, new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine didn't have any of his 2012 starters that were released by the Jets follow him to Buffalo either, so this seems like the entire coaching staff has cut ties with their past players and are collectively are moving ahead with new relationships. It will be a fresh start for everybody involved with the Bills coaching staff.
The Bills addressed both sides of the ball in the draft. Quarterback EJ Manuel will no doubt garner the most attention, as Bills fans are hopeful that he can emerge to become the franchise quarterback they have been patiently waiting for since Jim Kelly. When Buddy Nix traded down from No. 8 to No. 16, the Bills eliminated a portion of the risk or reach involved with Manuel. They will also be able to sign him for a smaller overall contract, and they will be able to control him for five years due to him being a first-round draft pick.
The two extra draft picks that Nix picked up in the trade with St. Louis turned out to be linebacker Kiko Alonso and tight end Chris Gragg. It will be interesting in about three years from now to see who got the best end of this trade. In total, Buffalo got Manuel, Alonso, Gragg and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin with the picks they acquired from St. Louis. On the other hand, the Rams selected wide receiver Tavon Austin and safety T.J. McDonald with the picks they got from Buffalo.
This deal will go down as one of the biggest trades during Nix's tenure in Buffalo, so we can only hope that it will mark a turning point in the franchise's fortunes.
The Bills were able to add a number of overall weapons to the offense, which should make quarterbacks EJ Manuel, Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson happy.
The Bills turned one of their biggest pre-draft weaknesses (wide receiver) into a potential strength with the addition of the talented Robert Woods from USC, speedster Marquise Goodwin from Texas and undrafted rookie free agent Da'Rick Rogers from Tennessee Tech. In addition, the Bills added tight end Chris Gragg with their final selection, who gives the Bills a vertical threat down the seams.
Of course, it will take time for these receivers to make the necessary adjustments to learn what they need to do in order to excel in the pros. It won't happen overnight, but we should see at least one of the three rookie receivers emerge to wind up with better stats than T.J. Graham produced as a rookie in 2012.
One area on offense that took a hit in regards to depth was the guard position, due to the departures of Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart this offseason. Personally, I was rooting for the Bills to draft Barrett Jones from Alabama, but he was eventually gobbled up by St. Louis with the No. 113 overall pick. The Bills instead opted for defensive back Duke Williams, so we will see which player winds up with the better career.
As for the defensive side of the ball, the Bills invested three picks to bring some additional talent for coordinator Mike Pettine to employ. The most significant addition was Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonzo, who will be seen flying from one sideline to the other. Alonzo should be able to step in as a Week 1 starter.
The Bills paved the way for Alonzo, by trading away 2012 starting linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to the Indianapolis Colts after the draft was over. The Bills acquired former first-round pick Jerry Hughes from the Colts, and Hughes will focus on situational snaps to assist with the pass-rush.
In addition to Alonso and Williams, the Bills added safety Jonathan Meeks from Clemson. The safety position now has plenty of depth, with or without Jairus Byrd, who still remains away from the team as he has not yet signed his franchise tag offer.
Finally, the Bills addressed their special teams by drafting Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins. Hopkins will probably be viewed as the best bet for kickoffs, but he will also have the chance to unseat veteran Rian Lindell to become the Bills field goal kicker. Coach Marrone is open to the prospect of carrying two kickers, but he will cross that bridge as we get closer to final roster cuts in training camp.
The Bills signed 16 undrafted rookie free agents, as was originally reported by BuffaloBills.com.
The additions on offense include:
Syracuse guard Zack Chibane, Richmond FB Kendall Gaskins, Eastern Washington WR Brandon Kaufman, Stony Brook WR Kevin Norrell, Tennessee Tech WR Da'Rick Rogers, Albany FB/RB Drew Smith, Washington State QB Jeff Tuel and Pittsburgh C Ryan Turnley.
The additions on defense include:
Georgia Tech DE Izaan Cross, Towson S Jordan Dangerfield, Missouri CB Kip Edwards, Lane CB Vernon Kearney, Howard LB Keith Pough, USC CB Nickell Robey, Catawba CB Jumal Rolle and California DT Aaron Tipoti.
The biggest surprise of this group is Rogers. Since he was an undrafted rookie free agent, he had his choice of any NFL team to sign with. He chose Buffalo because he probably figures that this is the best opportunity that he has to make an opening day roster. He could very well be right if he can avoid any off-the-field issues between now and final roster cuts.
His signing was announced via Twitter by Mike Garafolo:
WR Da'Rick Rogers to the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 28, 2013
Other positions or areas that could use a little more depth or added competition include running back (someone to compete with Tashard Choice for the third running back job), offensive line, linebacker and defensive end. The team has reasonably solid depth everywhere else.
Jerry Hughes will be asked to do some situational pass-rushing.
The trade that Buddy Nix conducted this past week to send Kelvin Sheppard to the Indianapolis Colts for veteran Jerry Hughes could be viewed as a case of two teams swapping linebackers that were an overall disappointment for their former teams. While that might be true, it also provides a fresh start for each player and a chance to resurrect their careers.
Hughes is now added to the mix of veteran defensive help, along with defensive tackle Alan Branch and linebacker Many Lawson, that the Bills have targeted during the 2012 offseason. After the draft Buddy Nix was asked about the prospects of still signing ex-Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby, who had visited the Bills prior to the draft. Nix said the selection of Kiko Alonzo probably nullified the need for Dansby, but they would continue to communicate with him.
The key to these defensive additions is that these players can play in multiple positions and their flexibility was one of the key factors in Buffalo deciding to add them to the team.
To keep their roster at the NFL allowed maximum of 90 players, the Bills had to waive four players this week. They released quarterback Aaron Corp, offensive tackle Adam Grant, kicker Chris Koepplin and tight end Joe Sawyer. These were basically camp bodies, and if the Bills sign any other free agents, URFAs, or if make any waiver wire claims, they will have other camp bodies that they are prepared to cut.
Now it is time to start analyzing the Bills roster, position by position.
Bills added URFA QB Jeff Tuel from Washington State.
Quarterback Depth Chart -- (listed alphabetically) Tarvaris Jackson, Kevin Kolb, EJ Manuel, Brad Smith and Jeff Tuel
Quarterback Analysis: Rookie EJ Manuel will be asked to compete in training camp with Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson. If you recall the plight of other recent rookie quarterbacks that were drafted in the first round, there is no guarantee that Manuel will be a starter in Week 1. Case in point is Jake Locker (Tennessee) and Christian Ponder (Minnesota). As of today, I expect Manuel to fall in line with that group.
Therefore, we expect Kolb will emerge as the starter to open the season against New England. Since Kolb has a nasty habit of holding onto the football too long, that bad habit could result in him getting hurt again in 2013. If that happens, it will be up to Marrone and coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to determine who is in the best position to allow the Bills to win, Jackson or Manuel. The answer will also be determined by how early or late it is in the season, as Manuel needs time to be coached up before he plays in the NFL.
If Kolb somehow stays healthy the whole year, the only way I see him starting every week is if he can turn the Bills into a winning team. The Bills can use the bye week, which will be Week 12, to assess how far Manuel has developed. If Kolb is still starting by then, but the Bills don't appear to be in contention for the playoffs, the bye week would serve as a great time to make the change to Manuel.
They should give Manuel at least two weeks to work with the starters prior to the Week 13 contest in Toronto against the Atlanta Falcons. He would then have the five games in December to get his feet wet in the NFL and be ready to roll for the 2014 season.
The practice squad spot looks like it will go to Tuel, giving the Bills another quarterback to develop for future needs.
It is still too early, though, to know about the plans and twists for the Bills offense and how often they may call upon Brad Smith to run the Wildcat offense, if ever, under Marrone and Hackett.
Robert Woods and Marquise Lee formed a dynamic duo at USC.
Wide Receiver Depth Chart: Marcus Easley, Kevin Elliott, Marquise Goodwin, T.J. Graham, Chris Hogan, Stevie Johnson, Brandon Kaufman, Kevin Norrell, Da'Rick Rogers, Brad Smith and Robert Woods
Wide Receiver Analysis: The Bills now have some strong competition at the wide receiver position. The battle at training camp should be intense as the Bills try to determine who will be the final receiver to make the team. The late addition of Rogers might spell trouble for the chances of Easley making the team. If the Bills attempted to put Rogers on their practice squad, some other NFL team would steal him away.
Buffalo would ideally like to move Johnson into the slot this year, which will give him more freedom to move around according to how the defense is shading him. Who is best slotted to start on the outside, though?
From a height perspective, here is how the receivers stack up, shortest to tallest:
Goodwin (5'8"), Norrell (5'10"), Graham (6'0"), Hogan (6'1"), Easley (6'2"), Johnson (6'2"), Rogers (6'2"), Smith (6'2"), Woods (6'2"), Elliott (6'3") and Kaufman (6'5").
Woods projects to be a starter along with Johnson. When the Bills go to either a three or four-receiver set, that is where Graham, Goodwin, Rogers and Easley can make their impact. The Bills will have to see how many wide receivers they can afford to carry.
Smith's roster spot is spread out between quarterback, wide receiver and special teams returner.
There is still quite a bit we don't know about the Bills offensive plans for 2013. One thing we can pass on is that Syracuse ran the ball more than they threw it, so the blocking skills of this receiver group could wind up being the final deciding factor on who makes the team and who doesn't.
Chris Gragg was impressive at NFL Scouting Combines.
Tight Ends Depth Chart: Mike Caussin, Scott Chandler, Dorin Dickerson, Chris Gragg and Lee Smith
Tight End Analysis: The Bills selection of Chris Gragg with the No. 222 overall pick was a great value draft choice. Gragg will bring some youth, athleticism and speed to the position. Depending on when Scott Chandler is able to return from a torn ACL, Gragg's presence will allow the Bills to roll out some two tight end formations.
When Chandler is healthy enough to return, he will be the Bills starter. The Bills had chances to draft solid tight ends in the draft, but passed on Tyler Eifert at No. 16, Gavin Escobar or Vance McDonald at No. 41 and No. 46, Jordan Reed and Dion Sims at No. 78, etc.
Lining up Chandler and Gragg, who is 6'3", together in the red zone should provide defenses with some tough choices, just like when New England sends out Gronkowski and Hernandez.
Gragg is purely a receiving tight end, so he will have to work on his blocking, or else he will be an obvious tell to defenses on what kind of a play is coming next.
Dickerson exhibited a few flashes in 2012, but he will have to step up in 2013 if he wants to become a regular contributor to the offense.
Smith has been primarily a blocking tight end, and he is a rare target in the passing game. Caussin hasn't been playing due to injury, so we are still waiting to see what kind of an impact he will make, if any.
C.J. Spiller should see a career high in touches in 2013.
Running Backs Depth Chart: Zach Brown, Tashard Choice, Kendall Gaskins, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The Bills also have two rookie fullbacks on the roster, Drew Smith and Frank Summers.
Running Backs Analysis: It seems unlikely that the Bills will be bringing back Corey McIntyre, who still remains a free agent.
The running back position is one of the positions that the Bills ignored during the draft. Personally, I was hoping that Buffalo would consider drafting Marcus Lattimore and stash him on the bench in 2013. That plan worked when Buffalo drafted Willis McGahee, but the San Francisco 49ers had more draft picks to pull off that move than the Bills did. In addition, the 49ers had less team needs or holes, which also was a big factor in their decision to take Lattimore.
The Bills offense in 2013 should feature a fairly heavy ground attack, as Marrone and Hackett have a history of controlling the ball via the rush. They aren't afraid to throw the ball, but if you have two proven commodities in Spiller and Jackson, then why not put them to work?
2013 should finally be the season that we see Spiller take on the biggest workload of his career to date. Jackson's game was hampered by some leg injuries in 2012, but it could also be that his advanced age and wear and tear is starting to catch up to him.
Spiller will be looking to top at least 1,500 yards this year, and if the Bills offensive line can turn into a cohesive unit and stay healthy, then the sky is the limit.
The Bills are hoping that Cordy Glenn takes a step up in 2013.
Offensive Line Depth Chart: Colin Brown, Zack Chibane, Hutch Eckerson, Cordy Glenn, Chris Hairston, Erik Pears, Zebrie Sanders, Chris Scott, David Snow, Ryan Turnley, Kraig Urbik, Thomas Welch, Keith Williams, Eric Wood and Sam Young
Offensive Line Analysis: Most NFL draft analysts were projecting that the Bills would take at least one offensive lineman in the 2013 draft. The mock draft community thought the Bills would take one of the two premier guards, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper, with the pick at No. 8 overall. The three vaunted left tackles were figured to be long gone, which was exactly the case.
Not only did the Bills pass on linemen with their first pick, but they did it repeatedly throughout the entire draft. Doug Marrone did mention in the press conference held after the draft ended that he thought the team would sign a few offensive lineman that were undrafted free agents. The last time the Bills had one of those work out was Jason Peters, but the odds of them sticking around are rare. If anybody knows how good Zack Chibane, the free agent out of Syracuse, is, it would be Marrone.
As for the 2013 starters, the Bills will be heading into OTAs and training camp with some unresolved issues. The Bills know that they have two starting jobs nailed down with Eric Wood at center and Kraig Urbik at right guard. After that, everything else is up in the air. The Bills are hoping that between Glenn, Hairston, Pears, Brown and Sanders, this group can successfully fill the final three starting jobs.
We know that Glenn will be a starter but is he better at left tackle or left guard? Is Hairston better at right tackle than Pears? Can Sanders assume the left guard position after not playing at all as a rookie? These are all viable questions that need to be answered during the offseason.
There is no guarantee that whoever is asked to slide in at left guard will be able to do the job as well as Levitre did. Any amount of drop-off, though, especially in pass protection, could spell trouble for Kevin Kolb.
Buddy Nix suggested that the Bills already have enough guards in house, and don't need to add anybody else—that remains to be seen. If the various team meetings prove that Nix was wrong in his assessment—which wouldn't be the first time that Nix had made an error in judgement—the team would have little time left to find anybody in free agency.
Other NFL teams are visiting with the remaining free agents this week, like Ryan Clabo, Eric Winston, Bryant McKinney and Winston Justice. Then there is the Branden Albert mess in Kansas City that needs to be resolved.
Alan Branch is looking to make an impact on the defensive line.
Defensive Tackles Depth Chart: Alan Branch, Corbin Bryant, Alex Carrington, Marcell Dareus, Jarron Gilbert, Jay Ross, Aaron Tipoti, Torell Troup and Kyle Williams
Defensive Tackle Analysis: The Bills have four solid defensive tackles in Carrington, Dareus, Williams and Branch. The big question mark this year is what kind of shape Troup will be in, as he has mainly been an enigma during his career so far in Buffalo.
If Troup emerges to be the player that the Bills envisioned when he was drafted, that would go a long way towards keeping the defensive line rotated and fresh throughout the game. The defensive tackles also have to do a better job of penetrating the pocket to disrupt the quarterback, and also in tying up opposing offensive lineman to free up the linebackers to make plays on the ball as close to the line of scrimmage as possible.
The more gaps that they can shoot and the more double-teams that they command, the better off the next wave of defenders can then execute their jobs.
Dareus has now been around the block long enough that he needs to step up his game in his third year with Buffalo and play like the No. 3 overall draft pick in his class should play. So far, Von Miller has outperformed him by a wide margin.
If Kyle Williams can stay healthy for the majority of the season, that would be a huge benefit for the defense. The Bills are still keeping their scheme plans under wraps, so we don't know yet how often they will go with a 3-4 look or a 4-3 scheme, but know that they want to be versatile and flexible in their approach to confuse offenses.
The Bills are expecting big things from Mario Williams in 2013.
Defensive Ends Depth Chart: Mark Anderson, Jamie Blatnick, Izaan Cross and Mario Williams
Defensive Ends Analysis: According to the roster on BuffaloBills.com, the Bills are only listing four defensive ends on the team, and that includes the undrafted rookie free agent Cross. The Bills may be using some defensive tackles to line up at the defensive end position at times. In some looks, Mike Pettine may have outside linebackers lining up as defensive ends, with Mario Williams moving all around the defense to make the offensive line guess where he will be attacking from.
Due to how thin this position is, it is a little surprising that the Bills didn't either draft a defensive end or pick up another one in free agency. Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman have retired, and the Bills opted not to make an offer to sign free agent Kyle Moore, who exhibited some promise last year. Still, the Bills opted not to bring in any other veterans to address the position.
With Pettine's defensive schemes, you know that the Bills will be offering different looks from one week to the next, as well as from one drive to another.
The Bills will need Mark Anderson to step up and earn some of the money he already received last year, as his 2012 season was wrecked due to injury. If he can stay healthy and provide a steady pass-rush opposite of Williams, that would be a huge asset to the defense.
Speaking of staying healthy, we all saw how much different of a player Williams became after he had the minor surgery on his wrist. He looked like a completely different player. So, if Williams can play to that level all year, that will automatically give the Bills defense a greater pass-rush and a chance to make plays in the backfield.
Linebackers Depth Chart: Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham, Kourtnei Brown, Marcus Dowtin, Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, Greg Lloyd, Arthur Moats, Keith Pough, Bryan Scott, Brian Smith and Chris White
Linebackers Analysis: The Bills have an interesting mixture of veterans (Lawson, Hughes, Moats and Scott) to go along with their talented youngsters (Alonso and Bradham). These six figure to see the majority of snaps as the Bills trot out different personnel packages based on down and distance.
If the defense can generate some more sacks from the linebackers this year—which is a distinct possibility from a Mike Pettine defense—that would provide a huge lift to the entire defense.
The run defense, which was ranked No. 31 in the NFL last year, gave up an alarming 5.0 yards per rush. That number will have to come down this year under Pettine, and it should, if the Bills are going to be more competitive in 2013.
The player to watch in training camp will be Alonso, who should be providing plenty of highlights with his athleticism and willingness to hit. If you check out the video above, you will see that Alonso is a playmaker and has great hands for a linebacker. That makes him a very welcomed addition to the Bills defense.
The Bills are hoping Gilmore will make more plays on the ball in 2013.
Cornerbacks Depth Chart: Ron Brooks, Crezdon Butler, Jordan Dangerfield, Kip Edwards, Stephon Gilmore, T.J. Heath, Vernon Kearney, Leodis McKelvin, Nickell Robey, Justin Rogers, Jumal Rolle and Mana Silva
Cornerbacks Analysis: If you are wondering, we are going to be listing Duke Williams with the safeties, even though it has been rumored that he could be asked to play at corner. Ex-corner Aaron Williams has also been moved to safety.
With 12 corners currently on the roster, this is one of the areas that the Bills will be trimming from the roster by the time final cuts are announced.
The Bills didn't draft a true corner for the first time in the Buddy Nix era, but they made up for it by signing four corners that were undrafted rookie free agents.
There should be plenty of competition for the starting job opposite of Gilmore. McKelvin was brought back, and he will be challenged by Brooks and Rogers for the right to be a starter. Buffalo is hopeful that one of the undrafted kids can emerge to add a little more depth to the position.
Veteran Terrence McGee was released in the offseason, and he still hasn't found a home yet. McGee was hoping that the Bills would still bring him back. That seems doubtful, though, unless the Bills suffer an injury during the preseason.
You can bet there will be at least one corner from this group thatwill make the practice squad.
Can Aaron Williams make the transition to safety?
Safeties Depth Chart: Jairus Byrd, Jonathan Meeks, Da'Norris Searcy, Aaron Williams and Duke Williams
Safeties Analysis: Bills fans are still wondering what will happen with Jairus Byrd, their All-Pro safety. Byrd received the franchise tag this offseason and would like to sign a long-term deal to remain in Buffalo, but his salary demands are anything but cheap.
Byrd and the Bills are apparently far apart on contract talks, so how this whole situation plays out is still unknown. He could wind up being signed to a long-term deal like Stevie Johnson was, or he could find his way out the door in 2014 like Andy Levitre. Bills fans have seen far too many promising secondary members flee Buffalo after their rookie contract expired, so it would be a refreshing change to see the Bills come to terms with Byrd for more than a one-year deal.
To play it safe, Nix drafted two safeties in this year's draft, Jonathan Meeks and Duke Williams. Williams is a hard hitter, but he also had some off-field issues during college, like Kiko Alonso and Da'Rick Rogers. If Byrd is gone after this year, the Bills can turn to Searcy and either of the Williams kids to take over as the starters.
With the conversion of Aaron Williams to safety from corner, the Bills are especially deep at the safety position right now. It wouldn't be a surprise if Meeks doesn't make the final roster and winds up being on the practice squad.
Dustin Hopkins kicked for the Senior Bowl team this year.
Special Teams Depth Chart: Kicker Dustin Hopkins, kicker Rian Lindell, punter Shaun Powell, long snapper Garrison Sanborn and punter Brian Stahovich
Special Teams Analysis: The Bills will more than likely stick with Powell as their punter, but whoever winds up kicking field goals this year in Buffalo is anything but a given.
There will be a spirited competition in camp as Lindell attempts to hold off the rookie Hopkins. Hopkins raised some eyebrows at the NFL Scouting Combine when he managed to do 20 repetitions on the bench press. That is impressive for a kicker. He has a strong leg, and the combination of making long kicks and booming the ball into the end zone on kickoffs might be enough to beat out Lindell.
Sanborn is entrenched as the long snapper. It is also rather funny that the combination of Hopkins, Powell and Sanborn are all from Florida State. At least the three of them should all work well together.
Thanks for checking out the presentation. Follow me on Twitter: @DanVanWie