In recent years, the Buffalo Bills have gone into the NFL Draft with very similar drafting strategies.
Some of these trends even extend further back than Buddy Nix's tenure as general manager. The trends are very concerning for me, and they seem to signal a hesitancy to think outside-the-box and grab players that can make the most impact.
These trends have implications that are very concerning, I believe they are a major reason why the Bills' record has been so bad.
Trend One: Drafting Players from the South
In the past two years, only three of Buffalo's draftees have gone to school above the Mason-Dixon Line. Of those three, exactly zero were drafted this year.
I'm sure the prime reason for this is because the Bills' front office is more familiar with the South. Chan Gailey and the rest of the staff coached the South team at the Senior Bowl this year and drafted several players on that roster. Buddy Nix came up through the ranks in the South. He coached college football in Tennessee and was a scout for years in the SEC.
But seriously, do the Bills have any scouts covering the Northern part of our country? The fact that every single player in this year's draft came out of the South is just bizarre to me.
I refuse to believe that there were no players in the North better than the players we drafted. This is a huge blind-spot for an organization to have.
This trend becomes even more ridiculous when you consider the fact that Buffalo is a Northern team. The Bills should be even more familiar with schools in its own backyard.
Going beyond familiarity, wouldn't it make more sense to draft players with experience playing in the the cold and in the snow? As we all know, these weather issues are an important part of playing football in Buffalo. Footballs do funny things in the cold, in the wind, and in the snow. Buffalo just made the learning curve that much steeper for their rookies.
Trend Two: Obsession with Running Backs and Defensive Backs
In the past five years, Buffalo has drafted five running backs and ten defensive backs. In other words, the Bills have drafted enough players at these positions to completely fill out the depth chart.
I'm not bad-mouthing any of the prospects that we drafted this year. They look like they have a lot of potential. I am very hopeful regarding Aaron Williams and Da'Norris Searcy. But Justin Rogers? He will be buried in the depth chart behind at least four cornerbacks (McGee, McKelvin, Corner, and Williams).
The perfect example of this for the running backs was last year's selection of C.J. Spiller. The Spiller selection didn't even come close to covering an area of need. The tandem of Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch was more than capable of carrying the load at running back for the Bills. Spiller was a major disappointment in his rookie year. He was far from the electrifying player we were expecting. He averaged half a yard less per carry than Fred Jackson last year. Instead of Spiller, Buffalo could have shored up their offensive line and gotten Bryan Bulaga, who started at right tackle for the Super Bowl-winning Green Bay Packers.
At some point, the Buffalo Bills need to stop drafting players at positions of strength if they expect to compete in the NFL.
Trend Three: Waiting on Offensive Tackles
Partially because of the trend I just discussed, Buffalo has not drafted an offensive tackle higher than the fourth round since Mike Williams in 2002.
The offensive line has been one of the weaker parts of the team over the last few years. Demetrius Bell showed last season that he can develop into a solid left tackle. However, the options at right tackle don't exactly inspire me with confidence. Erik Pears is adequate, at best. Mansfield Wrotto is probably better suited at guard while Ed Wang and Chris Hairston are still developmental prospects.
It was even worse last year. Offensive tackle was one of the biggest needs going into the 2010 Draft and yet the position wasn't addressed until the fifth round. We didn't know if Bell was going to make progress in his development and the right tackle position was up for grabs. Thankfully, Bell did develop and Pears stepped up to become a capable starter.
The tackle position is still a major question mark. It became this way because the front office refuses to take one in the early rounds.
We all know that the Bills' drafting record has not been the best over the past few years. I hope this article helps illuminate why this is.
Buddy Nix and the rest of the front office need to break out of their rut. They need to devote at least some resources to cover the Northern half of this country and they need to stop drafting the same positions over and over again.
With a little luck and prudent drafting, the Buffalo Bills franchise can rise again.