Buffalo Bills 2014 Draft: Aggregating Report Card Grades from Around the Web
Is it just me, or does Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley (left) look extremely proud of himself?
Maybe Whaley should be, as he managed to land Sammy Watkins, arguably the draft's best playmaker, at No. 4 overall. It was a contentious move considering Whaley had to give the Cleveland Browns the No. 9 pick as well as first- and fourth-round picks in next year's draft.
Whaley also brought in three massive offensive linemen in Cyrus Kouandjio (Round 2), Cyril Richardson (Round 5) and Seantrel Henderson (Round 7). Rounding out the draft class for the Bills are linebacker Preston Brown (Round 3), defensive back Ross Cockrell (Round 4) and linebacker Randell Johnson (Round 7).
Considering the arduous lead-up to the draft, the seven rounds went by in a blur. Everyone wants to know how his team did, so the next step is to look at draft grades. We've taken the liberty of compiling all of the Bills' draft report cards into one convenient slideshow.
Did the Bills ace the test, or do they need to stay after class? Read on to find out what the experts think.
Joe Buscaglia, WGR
To kick things off, we'll start with a simple and to-the-point take on the Bills' draft results from Bills beat reporter Joe Buscaglia of WGR.
Although it goes against the spirit of the question, Buscaglia does have a point. Every team only drafted prospects, and while some are more surefire bets than others, no player is guaranteed to pan out.
It's hard to give any team a grade until a few years down the line, so all we can do now is consider the potential.
With that said, the Bills did get some good value with their later picks.
Richardson was projected to be a third- or fourth-rounder by NFL.com, and the Bills landed him in the fifth frame. He blocked for Robert Griffin III in his time at Baylor and last season was part of one of the nation's best offenses. At 6'5" and 329 pounds, he has the size the Bills want in their offensive line. If he can keep his weight under control, Richardson will compete right away for a starting job.
Another intriguing selection was that of Seantrel Henderson in the seventh round. Mike Mayock of NFL.com said Henderson had the talent to be a first-round pick, but his off-the-field issues pushed him back to the seventh round.
Henderson admitted to the Miami Herald (via ESPN.com) that the reason for his suspensions at Miami were related to marijuana use, but it was all behind him. He proceeded to test positive for marijuana at the NFL combine, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Henderson knows he has to make the most of his opportunity. Mike Rodak of ESPN.com said Whaley told Henderson he "has one shot," so if he steps even one toe out of line, he will probably be looking for work. But if Henderson lives up to his potential, he can be a formidable cog in Buffalo's offensive line.
Mel Kiper, ESPN
After taking a philosophical look at the Bills' draft report card, let's check some actual grades.
Draft guru Mel Kiper wasn't impressed with Doug Whaley's draft strategy. Via Rodak, Kiper gave the Bills a C-minus, the second-lowest grade of any team:
Sammy Watkins isn't just going to be a really good player, he already is one. He was my No. 2 prospect in the entire draft. EJ Manuel has a weapon, a player who can turn simple throws into big gains, and that matters because I still don't know how effective a downfield thrower Manuel is. My issue is that this draft is loaded with wide receivers...and the Bills paid a significant price to get Watkins. A future first-round pick is always a heavy price, but they threw in a fourth as well. Think about this: the Jags took a QB one slot ahead of Watkins, but still managed to get Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in Round 2.
Kiper also mentioned the Bills didn't take a tight end or a safety, which were on his list of needs for them. But the reason they didn't go for a tight end is because they went all in on the Watkins move. Whaley just wanted a weapon for Manuel, and after he got one, he looked to address other areas.
With regard to the cost of moving up for Watkins, a first-round pick is always a heavy price to pay. But Whaley and the Bills are clearly in a win-now mentality. The ownership status is up in the air, which one would think leaves Whaley's long-term job security in question as well. He wanted to make a bold move, and he showed he believes Manuel can be the one to lead the team.
If the risk pays off, that first-round pick could end up somewhere in the 20s next year.
Alessandro Miglio, Bleacher Report
Bleacher Report's Alessandro Miglio was a bit more kind to the Bills than Kiper. Miglio gave Whaley a B for his work over the weekend:
The second round saw Whaley address the right-tackle position with Cyrus Kouandjio out of Alabama, and the Bills took a quality middle linebacker in Louisville's Preston Brown to understudy behind Brandon Spikes.
Whaley might have gotten one of the steals of the draft by gambling on offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson out of Miami, a first-round talent with an undrafted-free-agent mentality. If he can get his head screwed on straight, Henderson could be better than Kouandjio.
Miglio was also sure to cite the high cost of acquiring Watkins.
Preston Brown may not make an impact right away, but he could become a valuable contributor down the road. He will spend this year learning from Brandon Spikes, who is only on a one-year deal in Buffalo. Brown is the same type of run-stuffing linebacker as Spikes, so if Spikes doesn't stick in Buffalo, Brown can fill his role in the future.
Henderson remains the name to watch as the season approaches. Henderson is a massive lineman at 6'7" and 331 pounds. He has the physical gifts to be a starting tackle in the NFL, and if he makes the most of his opportunity, he could find himself in the starting lineup by season's end.
Rob Rang, CBSSports.com
The focus comes back to the cost of Watkins in Rob Rang's breakdown on CBSSports.com. Rang gave the Bills a C in his draft report card:
Wideout Sammy Watkins may very well be the difference-maker that Buffalo is looking for to help take the pressure off of 2013 surprise first round quarterback EJ Manuel but the Bills gave up two first round picks to get him, which I believe will prove too much. I do like the focus on blockers with second rounder Cyrus Kouandjio, fifth rounder Cyril Richardson and the late gamble on the talented but troubled Seantrel Henderson. Defensive back Ross Cockrell could surprise and I like Preston Brown's physicality in the middle.
So again, all of the attention is on Whaley doing what it took to get the highest-rated player on his draft board. What doesn't seem to have been mentioned much is that Whaley moved up for Watkins without having to give up any picks in this year's draft. The class in 2014 was deep, and managing to move up for Watkins and retain the ability to pick from this year's deep pool was a coup.
Bills backup quarterback Thad Lewis heaped plenty of praise on Cockrell, as the two were teammates during Lewis' senior year at Duke. Lewis said Cockrell matured into a leader of the secondary at Duke, and he even went against Mike Evans in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and held him to four catches for 72 yards.
Cockrell could give the Bills some more depth at corner. In today's NFL, there is no such thing as too many cornerbacks.
Bryan Fischer, NFL.com
Bryan Fischer of NFL.com put a bit of a spin on his draft grades.
Fischer had the Bills in the "Good Pick, Good Fit" category, which was the fourth out of five sections in his draft breakdown.
Cockrell is a speedy corner who should fit right in, given the division they play in. Richardson slipped in the draft but has the size and ability to turn into a starting guard. There are red flags with Henderson, but a taking a flyer on him is not a bad move in the seventh round.
I went ahead and spared you Fischer's version of the Bills overpaying for Watkins. Despite the cost, Watkins gives the Bills a receiving threat the likes of which they haven't had since the days of Eric Moulds. Manuel now has all of the tools he needs to succeed.
And with Doug Marrone's offensive line background, he should be able to get the most of out Kouandjio, Richardson and Henderson. If Henderson doesn't pan out, all it cost the Bills was a seventh-round choice. Only time will tell, but right now, it seems like Whaley succeeded again in improving the Bills through the draft.
What are your thoughts on the Bills' draft? Sound off in the comments below and follow Justin on Twitter @JustinNeuman10 to continue the discussion.