Pick up a draft magazine or read an article online about the Bills draft needs, and you’re bound to see “TE” listed in Buffalo’s “team needs” section. There’s good reason for this: Buffalo’s tight ends were very unproductive in the passing game in 2010, with the trio of Jonathan Stupar, David Martin, and Shawn Nelson combining for just 22 catches, 179 yards, and a single touchdown.
Nelson in particular had a brutal season, with injury and suspension robbing him of most of the 2010 campaign. Nelson made just three catches for 25 yards in five games played, and had a crucial lost fumble in overtime in a Week 7 contest at Baltimore.
So there’s no question tight end is a huge weakness for the Bills at the moment. In mock drafts, such as the one our friend Jesse Bartolis did at nflmocks.com recently, you’ll often see the Bills taking a tight end in the first three or four rounds. Jesse has Buffalo taking Luke Stocker of Tennessee in the third round.
I’d argue that’d be a huge mistake.Here’s the thing: some positions in the NFL are more important than others. Tight end, especially in Chan Gailey’s offense, simply does not mean as much as a quarterback or offensive tackle. Coincidentally, the Bills have needs at both of these positions as well. It would certainly be nice to see the Bills select a tackle before the fifth round for once. (True story: the Bills have not taken a tackle before the fifth round since Mike Williams in 2002. Gee Tom Mordak, I wonder why we’re weak at that position.)
So the Bills have a need a QB and OT, the two most positions on offense. There’s also an across the board need on defense. We all know the story with Buffalo’s run defense – last in the league by far, giving up 169 yards a game on the ground. Buffalo’s linebackers are a complete mess, with Paul Posluszny being only one who even approaches being adequate against the run. (Every time I see Chris Kelsay get juked out of his shoes by a running back, I die a little inside.) The defensive line situation isn’t much better. There’s Kyle Williams, and Dwan Edwards is okay…and not much else that’s at all proven.
If the Bills are ever going to make some noise in the AFC East, it’s going to take three things: 1) A franchise QB to emerge, 2) Better play from the tackles, 3) Vastly improved run defense. To accomplish these things, the Bills need to stock up on quality athletes at the required positions early in the draft. Tight end is a luxury pick, and Buffalo simply can’t afford to waste a pick early in this year’s draft on one. If they want to take a late-round flyer on someone, that’d be fine.
If Shawn Nelson can pull it together in 2011, the Bills will get enough production out that spot for now. Hopefully, when 2012 rolls around, Buffalo will be a much better place talent-wise at the core positions. At that point, upgrades at tight end can be a priority.