The Buffalo Bills entered the 2013 NFL draft with four glaring weaknesses: quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and a lack of depth in the secondary. For the first time in Nix’s tenure as General Manager of the franchise, fans have agreed that he got great value while filling needs at the same time.
So how did the team fare? Here at BillsMafia.com, we decided to break down each pick and give analysis on the selection.
Round One, Pick No. 16 Overall (Via Trade With Rams)- FSU QB E.J. Manuel
The Bills shocked fans when they selected Florida State signal caller E.J. Manuel over Ryan Nassib and Matt Barkley after trading down out of the No. 8 overall pick to acquire the St. Louis Rams’ 1st, 2nd and 7th round pick.
Manuel has the most upside of any quarterback in the draft class, standing 6’5” and weighing 240 pounds. He’s got a strong arm and can make plays with his feet, a combination of skills the team hasn’t had since Doug Flutie was under center.
Manuel was a two-year starter for the Seminoles, but played some backup duty for current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder as a freshman and sophomore. In his career Manuel completed 66.7% of his passes for 7,741 yards, tossing 47 touchdowns with 28 interceptions. He added another 827 yards on the ground, finding the endzone 11 times.
Manuel was viewed as a developmental project, but with no sure thing between Kevin Kolb or Tarvaris Jackson at the quarterback position, there’s a strong chance Manuel could be the day one starter against the New England Patriots.
Round Two, Pick No. 41 Overall- USC WR Robert Woods
Arguably the most complete receiver in the draft, Robert Woods had an extremely productive career with the Trojans, catching 250 passes for 2,933 yards and 32 touchdowns during his three seasons with the team.
Woods became overshadowed due to freshman wideout Marqise Lee, a projected Top 10 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, but still managed to grab 74 passes as a Junior. The 6’0” 200 lb receiver ran a 4.5 40-yard dash at the combine and was the best route runner in college football.
Woods plays faster than his timed speed, and has proven that he can produce against top competition. (as a freshman, Woods caught 12 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns while facing Richard Sherman, a senior at the time)
Woods is a true outside receiver that will allow Stevie Johnson to move between the X, Y and Z receiver roles.
Round Two, Pick No. 46 Overall- Oregon LB Kiko Alonso
While many fans thought Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown could be the linebacker selection for the Bills at this slot, the team opted for a fiery, wild linebacker in Oregon’s Kiko Alonso.
Alonso, a two year starter for the Oregon Ducks recorded 144 tackles, 21 of which came for a loss, 3.5 sacks, six interceptions and forced three fumbles. Alonso only started for two years due to being suspended for the entire 2010 season following a DUI arrest (when he was rehabbing a torn ACL), but is a ferocious, attacking linebacker that has the versatility to play multiple spots in Mike Pettine’s defense.
In 3-4 looks, Alonso will likely hold down an inside linebacker spot alongside Nigel Bradham, and in 4-3 looks he’d likely line up at the weakside outside linebacker position, essentially replacing Nick Barnett.
If Alonso can keep his head on straight, he’ll be an impact player for the Bills’ defense for years to come.
Round Three, Pick No. 78 Overall- Texas WR Marquise Goodwin
Marquise Goodwin was the fastest wide receiver at the combine, as the Olympic track star posted a blazing 4.27 40-yard dash. Goodwin played four years with the Longhorns, recording 120 receptions for 1,364 yards and seven scores, while adding another 416 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Goodwin is a raw prospect, but many scouts noted that he was criminally misused at Texas. USA Today had this to say about Goodwin:
“His speed was evident during drills. He consistently outran passes delivered by the strongest-armed quarterbacks. Proving to be more than a straight-line sprinter, he ran terrific routes and caught the ball well in the short field. Goodwin continues to build on the momentum he started at the Senior Bowl last month and further elevated his draft grade with his combine performance.”
Goodwin also offers special teams help, and will likely line up opposite Leodis McKelvin, as he averaged 22.4 yard per return on 44 kick returns at Texas.
Round Four, Pick No. 105 Overall- Nevada S Duke Williams
Despite moving Aaron Williams to safety, the team needed depth there, as Coach Pettine loves using exotic looks in the secondary. At times, Pettine uses up to seven defensive backs at once, and Duke Williams is another defender that brings a nasty attitude to the defense.
At Nevada, Williams racked up 292 tackles, 14.5 of which came for a loss. He defended 22 passes, while intercepting four and forced five fumbles.
Projected as a strong safety, Williams has the athleticism and range to play free safety as well, while displaying the physicality to be a strong, in-the-box, run defender as well.
Williams was an underrated prospect that will be an instant improvement to the Bills’ lackluster run defense, while adding some tenacity in the backend of the secondary.
Round Five, Pick No. 143 Overall- Clemson S Jonathan Meeks
The Bills decided to double dip at the safety position, selecting Jonathan Meeks, a big, hard-hitting free safety out of Clemson. Meeks was an Honorable Mention of the 2012 All-ACC team, after recording 159 tackles and seven interceptions in his career with the Tigers.
Meeks was asked to play a lot of centerfield (deep, single high coverage) at Clemson, so his stats don’t really reflect the player, but he provides much-needed depth in the Bills’ secondary.
Prior to the draft, the only safeties on the roster with NFL playing experience at the position were Jairus Byrd, who’s contract status doesn’t seem too great and Da’Norris Searcy. In essence, the Bills turned an area of weakness into a position of strength.
Round Six, Pick No. 177 Overall, Florida State K Dustin Hopkins
It was obvious that Rian Lindell was on the decline last year, as fans watched in horror as former head coach Chan Gailey routinely opted to punt outside the 35-yard line.
The Bills filled another hole by selecting the best kicker in the country, Dustin Hopkins.
Hopkins has a powerful leg, and has made nine field goals of 50+ yards over his four years with the Florida State Seminoles. He connected on 88-of-112 field goals in his career, but he posted an 82.4% success rate over his final two years.
Round Seven, Pick No. 222 Overall (Via Trade With St. Louis Rams) Arkansas TE Chris Gragg
Another great value pick, the Bills addressed a major need at the tight end position snagging Arkansas’ Chris Gragg in the seventh round.
At 6’3” 244 pounds, Gragg fits the “H-Back” mold that many offenses are utilizing. He’s not an effective blocker, but displays great hands and ball skills as a receiver.
The fastest tight end at the combine, running a 4.5 40-yard dash, Gragg is just another example of how different the Bills’ offense will look this year.
Gragg dealt with lingering knee and ankle injuries, which caused him to only appear in five games as a senior, but in his two years as a starter he recorded 72 receptions for 1,003 yards and seven scores.
Follow me on Twitter @RQUINN619 and let me know how you think the Bills’ draft went!