Ranking Buffalo Bills' Top Offseason Moves Following 2014 NFL Draft
Doug Whaley and the Buffalo Bills' front office had a daunting task ahead of them this offseason, as they tried to acquire enough talent to break a streak of three consecutive seasons finishing 6-10. That’s not the only streak the Bills hope will end this year, as they try to make the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.
At this point in the season, the Bills' key moves included five free-agent signings, acquiring two players via trade and adding another seven players in the NFL draft.
The following rankings will break down the top five moves that will have the most impact on the Bills' 2014 season.
5. Addressing Special Teams
The fifth move on this list is not necessarily one singular move, but rather it's a collection of smaller moves that should pay dividends in 2014. Last season the special teams was awful, and that may be an understatement.
Instead of looking to replace special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, the Bills went out and found special team aces. In free agency the Bills signed running back Anthony Dixon, formerly with the San Francisco 49ers, and cornerback Corey Graham, formerly with the Baltimore Ravens, who have contributed extensively on their respective special team units.
The team didn't stop there as they also targeted Duke's Ross Cockrell, who has experience, per NFL.com, as a jammer in college, and Louisville's Preston Brown. Both of these players will most likely earn most of their first-year paycheck contributing to special teams.
These four players will join Marcus Easley, who was one of the few bright spots from special teams, with the hope that this unit vastly improves.
4. Acquiring Mike Williams
Buffalo took a bit of a gamble with the acquisition of Mike Williams however it was a “low-risk, high-reward” type move. The Bills were in desperate need of finding a wide receiver with size to play on the outside. It was clear at times last year, particularly around the end zone, that their current group of wide receivers were not able to provide the target necessary for EJ Manuel.
At one point, Mike Williams was thought of as a wide receiver on the rise, averaging 64.3 receptions, 910.3 yards and 7.7 touchdowns per season over his first three years.
His production dropped off last season, and he ended up on the disabled list after only six games due to hamstring problems. It did not get much better in the offseason when he was allegedly stabbed in the leg by his brother.
The Bucs felt it was time to move on, and Buffalo was willing to take the gamble, with it only costing the team a sixth-round pick. If the team is able to get Williams back to the wide receiver he was his first three years, this trade could be a steal for them.
3. Drafting Cyrus Kouandjio
In a continued effort to help the team’s running game, the Bills used their second-round pick on Cyrus Kouandjio. The former Alabama tackle has the potential to be the starter at right tackle from day one, and for the Bills sake, he will hopefully play up to that potential.
Generally, the right side of the offensive line is viewed as the power side and where teams should be running the ball. However, the Bills were not able to get much of a push from that side of the ball, as starter Erik Pears struggled in this area. This is one of the reasons the Bills finished second in rushing yards but only ranked 14th in rushing yards per attempt.
Kouandjio is an excellent run-blocker, and at 6'6" and 332 pounds, he shouldn't have a problem clearing a path for Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. In an article by Chris Brown on BuffaloBills.com, Kouandjio said, “I take pride in running the football and I take pride in run blocking and taking a man against his will in a direction that he does not choose.”
This is exactly the kind of lineman the Bills need for the run game.
2. Signing Brandon Spikes
The Bills knew their run defense struggled, and with the plan to move Kiko Alonso to weak-side linebacker, the team needed a ‘backer who excelled at stopping the run. There is no one better in the NFL right now than Brandon Spikes.
Over the past two seasons, Spikes has collected 178 tackles and was even rated as the best inside linebacker last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). The addition of Spikes should help the defense which finished 28th in rushing defense, giving up an average of 128.9 yards per game.
The other benefit of the addition of Spikes is now Alonso is able to slide over to a position that he is much more suited for. The Bills will be able to use Spikes more to take on blockers which should free up Alonso to make more plays and not take as much of a beating.
1. Drafting Sammy Watkins
The Bills' trade for Sammy Watkins will be debated for some time; however, there isn't much questioning regarding the impact the wide receiver will have in 2014. The Bills' passing game last year was atrocious, finishing 28th in the league, and they needed more targets for Manuel.
The addition of Williams should help, but Watkins is the type of player who can change an offense.
The team now has a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver, and as long as Manuel stays healthy, Watkins should really help his development this season. There isn't much Watkins can't do on the field, and he can turn short and intermediate routes into explosive plays because of his speed.
Watkins' presence should help the run game, too, because the Bills now have a player whom opposing defensive coordinators will have to account for every play. This should open up better running lanes for C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson because team’s no longer can stack the box. They will have to respect the pass.
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