One glance back in time to when the Bills were at the bottom of the league (1983 – 1988) and you will discover the roots to the Super Bowl years. Free agency was just beginning towards the end of that time span and the draft was how a winner was built. Sound like something you have heard from the current Bills brass?
Flipping through the names of the personnel drafted from those years reveals some pretty incredible names: Jim Kelly, Darryl Talley, John Kidd, Bruce Smith, Frank Reich, Will Wolford, Shane Conlan, Nate Odomes, Jamie Mueller, Howard Ballard, Thurman Thomas and Jeff Wright. One word: wow.
Therein lies our hope for the future. This is a template to follow and Buddy Nix appears to be on board with following the template. Allow young, up-and-comers to gel together and form their own chemistry. It makes sense then and it makes sense now.
The kicker is who is making the picks. At that time it was Bill Polian. He’s managed to create a couple of strong teams in his day. With Tom Modrak still in the mix in Buffalo it gives many fans pause. The hope is that other minds working on the choices will yield more positive results. Clearly this has been the Bills achilles heel. Nix pulled a shocker in 2010 with the C.J. Spiller pick. The jury is still out on Spiller but with improvement at OT and TE, it will, hopefully, make more sense in the future.
The gamble of taking a quarterback with the first pick is incredible. There are too many names to list here that have flopped. Finding that player who can slow the speed of the pro game down in his mind, gel with his new team, be a leader, own the huddle, etc. is difficult to see from college film alone. At this point, it is certainly looking like Andrew Luck is that guy…but will he enter the draft? If not, does Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker fit the bill or does it make sense to move to other necessities? I, for one, vote for the latter.
On offense, the tackle positions have to come next. While Cordaro Howard and Mansfield Wrotto have shown promise (with some glaring errors), the Bills have to shore this position up posthaste. Anthony Costanzo, Nate Solder or Gabe Carimi is a nice group to choose from.
On the defensive side of the ball the Bills need help almost everywhere. The line, other than Kyle Williams, needs to be revamped. Doing so will, inevitably, help the secondary. When was the last time you saw Marcus Stroud in on a big defensive stop? Spencer Johnson? John McCargo is another first round bust. Not what the Bills need. With the 2011 draft being so stocked with defensive lineman, this is where the Bills should look in the event Luck chooses to stay at Stanford. They could go with Robert Quinn out of UNC, Marcell Dareus from Alabama or Adrian Clayborn from Iowa. Each would be a radical upgrade.
Next in line is the linebacking corps. In as few words as possible, Shawne Merriman doesn’t appear to be the answer. After one practice, he was scratched for the Lions game at a minimum. It was a calculated gamble picking him up and as of right now, it appears to not be an answer. Justin Houston from Georgia would be a great pick up here…and I won’t even mention Aaron Maybin or Chris Kelsay as it’s just too painful.