Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
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.