The Buffalo Bills are in a playoff or bust mode this season, and for good reason.
For once, they understand that the fans can only take so much. The Bills brass realizes that anything short of the playoffs is unacceptable, and their are jobs on the line.
Head coach Dick Jauron will certainly be looking for a new job next year if the Bills don't reach the postseason, while Tom Modrak (assistant GM) and Russ Brandon (GM/COO) also are on the hot seat.
The Bills realized that they have big holes on both sides of the football. A pass-rushing defensive end, linebacker, tight end, and offensive guard/tackle were all gaping holes on the roster and that needed to be filled coming into this season.
They addressed some of those needs with four picks on day one of the NFL draft, adding two solid offensive line prospects while also adding two play-makers on the defensive side of the ball as well (although one pick was surprising).
Round 1, Pick 11: Buffalo Selects DE Aaron Maybin
Rumors came out the night before the draft began that the Bills were very interested in trading up in the draft to pick up OT Andre Smith (who ended up going to the Cincinnati Bengals at pick No. 6), however, the price was just too high, so the Bills stayed put at No. 11 and selected play-making defensive end Aaron Maybin.
Maybin will certainly help out a team that had just 24 sacks last season, which was 28th in the NFL. He is an explosive pass rusher who totaled 12 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in his sophomore season.
He falls into the category of a speed rusher and is highly athletic. He has good burst off of the line and can change directions quickly and smoothly, creating headaches for slower offensive lineman.
He has the quickest first step in the draft this year. Maybin is definitely a high motor guy who pursues like no other. Backside pressure is relentless, as he goes hard after the ball carrier. He is a very aggressive player who plays with outstanding passion and effort.
His long arms will help bat down passes, while also creating fumbles by stripping the ball from the quarterback (three forced fumbles for Penn State this season). Maybin also has played both sides of the D-line, while also having some experience in dropping back into coverage (something that will help a zone blitzing scheme that the Bills use time to time).
He can not only get after the quarterback, but will also help out in the running game. He is still very young (only 21 years old) and still has tons of potential. He has added 20 pounds of muscle mass this offseason already (listed at 249 lbs. now). His height is also a plus (listed at 6-4 3/4). The sky is the limit for this kid.
Maybin only played in two seasons in college after being red-shirted his freshman year. He is defined by some as being a one-year wonder. He is still a little undersized in terms of weight, which could cause him to get pushed around, and could also cause him to struggle to get off of blocks against NFL talent. Not a great timed-runner. Doesn't play with much discipline at times, although effort and pure athletic ability can help him recover. Needs to gain awareness and is still a little immature.
The Bills currently have six defensive ends with Maybin being added to the roster. Aaron Schobel is returning after two injury plagued seasons, but the Bills are hoping he can return to his Pro Bowl form, in which he can be a game changer. Remember, Schobel is a guy who registered 14 sacks just a mere two seasons ago. He will be the starter on the right side of the line.
Ryan Denney and Chris Kelsay will have to battle with Maybin at the left DE position. Denney and Kelsay are both guys who are great at stopping the run, however they struggle to generate pressure off of the edge and can disappear at times.
Kelsay is reportedly being shopped around by the Bills, which is understandable, especially with the pick-up of Maybin. Seeing as Kelsay and Denney both have similar skill sets, and both are highly overpaid (although Denney is the cheaper of the two), the Bills really need only one of them.
Maybin along with Denney/Kelsay will most likely be the rotation on the left side of the defensive line. Kelsay should be traded for whatever the Bills can get, while Denney and Maybin have a rotation on the left side, giving the Bills a good run-stopper along with a solid speed-rusher.
Copeland Bryan and Chirs Ellis are also still on the roster. Ellis was the Bills third-round selection in last year's draft, and has the same skill set as Maybin as a speed pass-rusher. Ellis played in a few games at the end of the year for the Bills and didn't look like he belonged. He is still a work in progress and too big of a question mark for the Bills.
Bryan on the other hand is a guy with little upside. He shouldn't be anything more than a fringe player looking to sub in a few times a game when others get tired. Other than that, he should stick to special teams.
Maybin has the potentia,l but for the near feature, he looks to be a situational pass-rusher and not an every-down player. The thing is, that is just what the Bills need. With Schobel on the right side and Maybin and Denney rotating on the left side, it gives the Bills a solid pass rush, along with guys who can help out in the running game.
Bills fans have to be patient with Maybin, as he will not be a force on day one of the season, but will improve as the season goes on. For this year, he is a pass-rusher that the Bills greatly need, but has all the tools to be an every-down player in the feature for the Bills.
Round 1, Pick 28: Buffalo Selects OL Eric Wood
In the pick that the Bills received for the trade of Jason Peters, Buffalo selected Wood to help out the middle of their line and to help protect young QB Trent Edwards.
Wood has great size (6-4, 310 lbs.) and excellent strength (30 reps at the combine). He plays to the whistle on every play and has a nasty demeanor, because of this he is also very physical and tough.
He is a very smart player with great footwork and is pretty light on his feet in comparison to his size. He is also quick and can pull on running plays, something that the Bills love to do when trying to run outside.
He is very intense while playing and is a hard worker off the field. He studies the game and has a great football IQ. He also brings a lot of experience with him, as he has started 49 straight games at the center position in college.
Considered one of the best centers in college football coming out this year, he can play other positions on the offensive line too. He is also a leader and loves contact.
Can sometimes get pushed back in pass coverage, and can get overpowered sometimes. He has trouble with big nose tackles, something the AFC East has plenty of. He is not a dominating run blocker, so he needs to add a little bit more strength. He can also struggle with leverage and balance at times.
Wood is expected to start at the offensive guard position, where the Bills currently have Brad Butler and Kirk Chambers penciled in.
Both Butler and Chambers are good players to have, and with Wood added to the mix, the depth at the position is pretty good. Chambers could also move out to right tackle.
Wood could also get some look at center, along with newcomer Geoff Hangartner, who the Bills signed this offseason.
On paper, the Bills line has Langston Walker at LT, Wood at LG, Hangartner at center, Butler at RG and Kirk Chambers at RT.
However, with Demetrius Bell, and another first day pick, OG Andy Levitre (we will get to him in a little bit), the Bills have plenty of talent and depth on the offensive line. A line that looked to be in trouble after the Peters trade was re-done with two early picks to make it a position in which you don't have to worry about too much.
Wood is a player with great size and intelligence and should be starting for the Bills this season. His experience will certainly help him out, as he will be quick to learn the Bills offensive. He is a student of the game and will study his opponents strongly before each game. Overall, Wood was a great pick and will greatly help out the middle of the line.
Round 2, Pick 42: Buffalo Selects DB Jairus Byrd
This is the pick that surprised me most, as the Bills selected Jarius Byrd with their second-round pick. Byrd is certainly a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball, but he plays a position that the Bills already have great depth at. The only reason I see the Bills taking Byrd so high is the fact that he will be playing safety in the NFL.
Has good size, standing at 5' 10" and 207 lbs...Is a ball-hawk with soft hands and the ability to get his hands on a lot of passes (17 career interceptions in college career)...Has good closing speed when ball is in the air...Can jam wide receivers at the line of scrimmage while also having the ability to open up his hips and run one-on-one with wide receivers...Good in rush defense and can blitz when called upon to do so...Physical, fights to get off of blocks and plays with a mean streak...Good route recognition as he can tell what wide receivers are running...Helps him break up passes and picks off passes. Good athlete...Good vision and a natural playmaker...Can also punt return.
One of Byrd's biggest concerns coming into the draft was his slow timed runs...May lack the speed to play a true man-to-man defense, better suited for zone coverage...Loves to play phyiscal down the field, and messes up wide receiver's routes but that may lead to penalties in the NFL...By no means a big hitter...At Oregon, he was assisted by an aggressive pass rush and a veteran secondary, leading to poor QB throws/decision making, giving him more chances to make plays.
The pick was a surprise to most fans based on the depth of the Bills cornerbacks. While Leodis McKelvin and Terrence McGee will both start next year, the Bills already have good slot men in Ashton Youboty and free agent signee Drayton Florence.
You can't forgot about Reggie Corner either; a fourth-round selection from last season. He made great strides in his rookie campaign and might be the starter of the future at the cornerback position. Even if the Bills are not going to resign McGee next season (he is only signed for one more year and will fetch a big asking price in free agency), McKelvin and Corner are here long-term. Byrd would have to leap from multiple players in order to start two years from now.
Byrd was expected to make a move to safety though, which makes senses for the Bills to address, just not this early. The Bills have Donte Whitner, who can play either safety position and was expected to start at free safety this up-coming season while Bryan Scott took over the strong safety role.
Scott is a good player who plays very physical, but with the pick of Byrd, he might not be viewed as high as far as the team sees it. Whitner might now stay at the strong safety position with Byrd starting at free.
Others at free safety are Ko Simpson and George Wilson. Simpson was linked to trade rumors and hasn't done much in his time with the Bills so far (although injuries haven't helped).
George Wilson is a good backup, but is more of a special teams player (in that role, he was named a team captain last season). Byrd could start over both though if he can learn the position quickly and perform well in the pre-season. I would pencil him in the FS spot and Whitner back at SS.
Bryd is another great play-maker that the Bills added to their defense. While there were more pressing needs (a linebacker and tight end come to mind) the Bills like him enough to pull the trigger.
He could easily be an upgrade over Simpson at FS and could help out in forcing turnovers. He is a player with all the skills to play in the league, but he will need a little work. Most likely a starter for the Bills for at least the next few years at safety, while also providing depth at corner.
Round 2, Pick 51 OL Andy Levitre
The Bills weren't done shoring up the middle of their offensive line, as they give up their third-round pick and one of their two fourth-round selections to move up to get OL Andy Levitre.
Levitre is very strong and powerful...Is another player who is very tough and plays with a nasty demeanor (a thing the Bills looked for in a player this year, someone who loves to play football)...Very versatile and can play multiple positions on the line...He is also very intelligent and has great awareness...A very technical player, who, like Bills C Geoff Hangartner, uses positioning and angles to block and also has good hands...He also gets a good push in the running game...Very experienced and a former team captain...Can be a leader.
His height (6'-2") and short arms are concerns...He also isn't a great athlete and isn't very quick...He can sometimes struggle in space and doesn't always use good levarage...He will have to learn a new position to play in the pros.
Levitre is a player who will get a good look at tackle and might be in a starting spot when the season comes along. He will have to overtake veteran Brad Butler, which is possible. Like I stated earlier, on paper, the Bills line has Langston Walker at LT, Wood at LG, Hangartner at center, Butler at RG and Kirk Chambers at RT. Demetrius Bell could also give Levitre a run for his money.
The Bills did a very good jump trying to retool their offensive line, not only for this season, but for many years to come. They got two players in Wood and Levitre who are very smart and will turn into leaders on the O-line. They also will be on small contracts, which is good for the Bills financially, compared to going out and trying to get a high-priced free agent. The good lines in the NFL are built through the draft, and the Bills took a step in the right direction on day one.
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