Who Are The Top Five Buffalo Bills Players?
Sam Monson from Pro Football Focus recently did an article for ESPN where he ranked the Buffalo Bills as having the 14th best roster in the NFL heading in 2016. Part of the article ranked the top five Bills players for this upcoming season.
They do great work on that site but their list for the Bills is just awful. It’s based too much on the past two years performance and not a more comprehensive look at the career trajectory of these players.
The good news is a few years back any top five list of Bills players would have probably included their punter Brian Moorman. The Bills roster is now talented enough where despite having one of the better punters in the league in Colton Schmidt, they don’t have to worry about their punter being one of the best players on their roster anymore.
When thinking about the players who should make the list the names that come to mind are Sammy Watkins, LeSean McCoy, Jerry Hughes, Marcell Dareus, Richie Incognito, Cordy Glenn, Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore. There is also Tyrod Taylor, Kyle Williams, and Aaron Williams but they are a step below the prior eight players mentioned.
So which five did Pro Football Focus choose? The list they came up with was Ronald Darby, Richie Incognito, Marcell Dareus, Cordy Glenn and Jerry Hughes. All great players and all on my top eight list. However, I still disagree with three of the players they selected although one was very, very close.
PFF and I can both agree that Marcell Dareus, a.k.a. “Mr. Big Stuff”, should definitely be one of those players. Dareus is young, talented and will anchor the center of the Bills defensive line for years to come. There is a reason he has the most guaranteed money and the second highest average base salary for a defensive tackle according to Spotrac.com.
The other player PFF got right is Cordy Glenn who recently signed a long-term deal with the Bills this offseason. He is 26 years old, entering the prime of his career, and is one of the top ten left tackles in all of the league. With a little more improvement he could become one of the top five left tackles. Tyrod Taylor should not have to worry about his blindside as long as Glenn stays healthy.
The first player I would remove from PFF’s rankings is Richie Incognito. Yes, he had a Pro Bowl year last year, but he is getting up there in age and it’s hard to fathom him having a better year this season at age 33. He is a better run blocker than pass blocker and if the Bills want to make the playoffs this year they need to pass more. He is still a very important player for the Bills but his age knocked him out of the top five for me.
In place of Incognito, I would put in Sammy Watkins. While his numbers might not represent a top five or ten wideout in the league, his ability does. Anyone who watched Watkins haul in deep bomb after deep bomb from Tyrod Taylor last year knows what I’m talking about.
He won contested balls with ease and as he continues to develop his chemistry with Tyrod, his numbers will only get better. The only thing that could set him back would be an injury to Taylor or if his own injured foot does not heal well.
The next player I would remove from PFF’s list is Jerry Hughes. Jerry is coming off a bad year, but he had two great seasons for the Bills prior to that and is still young. Part of the reason for his stats dropping off last year, was probably because teams focused on him more knowing that Mario Williams was not giving it 100 percent on the other side of the line.
Having Kyle Williams out of the lineup hurt as well. However, a top five player on a team should not need to rely on the other members of the line to take pressure off of them and that’s why Jerry didn’t make the cut.
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Instead of Jerry, I would include LeSean McCoy. Say what you will about his all women parties, his altercation with the police, or his desire to shake hands with Chip Kelly but there is no denying that McCoy still remains one of the most dynamic talents in all of the league at running back.
When healthy, Shady looked incredible for the Bills last season and it makes you wonder what the Eagles were thinking trading one of the best players in the league at his position to the Bills for a linebacker coming off of a serious injury. What’s done is done though and the Bills made the trade and Shady is definitely one of their five most talented players.
The last switch I would make is hard to fault PFF for. It’s basically a tie, and in my rule book tie goes to the veteran but I can completely understand how they could prefer the younger player with more upside. They chose cornerback Ronald Darby who was ranked as the number four overall corner in the league last year on their website.
I would instead replace him with his counterpart Stephon Gilmore who PFF ranked as the 9th best CB in the league last year. Darby and Gilmore are virtually a tie, but Gilmore has a little more experience which should mean he is more likely to make a few less mental mistakes. It’s hard to fault them for this one though as both players are tremendous.
So why did I have such a big issue with PFF’s rankings? Well if you looked up and down the Bills roster, which two players would jump out to you as the “most talented”? I would say Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy without a doubt.
Maybe that’s just the fantasy football manager in me thinking about the skill position players who get you points in fantasy whereas the defensive players and lineman are generally not a part of fantasy stats. Regardless of that, it’s very hard to look at a list of top Bills players and not see their two most dynamic offensive talents on the list.
The good news for Bills fans is that they have a talented enough roster where you can argue various players are good enough to be in the top five for the team. The bad news for the team is at many positions they lack the proper depth should anything happen to these talented starters.
We’ll see who ends up being the top five Bills players in 2016 but I’m confident my list is a more accurate depiction of the Bills best players compared to the one by Pro Football Focus.