Buffalo’s Draft Strategy is Based on Statistics

I’ve taken a few looks at the 2014 NFL Draft; both the prospects and the needs of the Bills have been discussed. From wide receivers to offensive linemen, I thought I covered all the positions of need. Then I looked at some of the Bills’ statistical rankings from 2013 and I was reminded of something that frustrated me all season long, the run defense.

The Bills ranked 28th overall against the run last year, ahead of only Jacksonville, New England, Atlanta and Chicago. Out of those four teams, two are picking in the top-10 in the draft. The two exceptions, the Patriots and Bears, were both top-10 in passing and had enough offensive capabilities for quick touchdowns to make up for their run defense problems.

Looking at those numbers is when I realized a simple truth. Buffalo’s draft strategy is based on statistics. Despite the Bills having a top-10 defense overall in 2013, their run defense needs to be improved upon or else they’ll be picking in the top-10 of the 2015 NFL Draft as well. On offense, the same can be said about Buffalo’s pass efficiency.

In addition to all of the players that play in positions of need or those being linked to the Bills in mock drafts, I think the team’s off-season moves are an even bigger testament to the fact that the Bills’ draft strategy is based on statistics. Look no further than the Brandon Spikes signing, as he is one of the best linebackers in the NFL when it comes to stopping the run. Additionally, with Keith Rivers coming in and Kiko Alonso moving to the outside, the Bills really should have the linebacker corps to be solid against the run.

That means the Bills are even more likely to address their passing woes. A full season with a healthy EJ Manuel will be a great start, but it’s likely not enough. So what is the best way to help a second-year QB?

Do they go with a dynamic tight end in Eric Ebron to provide Manuel with a safety net? He’s a player that many liken to Vernon Davis in terms of athleticism and ability.

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
It’s unlikely that the Bills trade up for Sammy Watkins, but he’d certainly help Buffalo improve in pass efficiency. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Do they trade up to land one of the two elite WRs in Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans? Both have the potential to be true number one receivers.

Or do the Bills play it safe and draft the “sure-thing” on the offensive line in Jake Matthews? These are the types of questions Bills management have to answer by May 8th.

My Slant: The Bills will go with Matthews. It’s not the sexy pick I’d love to see as a fan, but adding a potential Pro Bowler to an offensive line that already helped the Bills rank 2nd in the NFL in rushing last year will do nothing but good. He’d also help in pass protection. The less Manuel is being hurried, the more he can concentrate on making beautiful passes like this game winner.

About John Samuelson

+John Samuelson is not your typical Bills fan, raised in Generation Drought, he brings a realistically optimistic viewpoint to the #BillsMafia. Enjoy the "Samuelson Slant" - his personal spin on all things Buffalo Bills.

5 Replies to “Buffalo’s Draft Strategy is Based on Statistics”

  1. Interesting article, but it misses the mark. You don’t provide any evidence to support your premise that the Bills are using statistics to drive the draft process, or your conclusions, based on these statistics, which you don’t provide, they should take Jake Mathews.

    Additionally, you use the flawed premise that the Bills rushing defense needs to improve otherwise they’ll be picking in the top 10 again, noting that they finished 28th in the NFL last year in rushing yards against. Technically true, pointing to 2 teams that finished worst than Buffalo picking in the top 10. This ignores, however, that the Pats made it to the AFC Championship game despite having a worse run D It falls apart even more when you consider YPC, at least better measure of run D, since the total yards is affected by number of carries. Buffalo gave up 4.4 yards per carry last year, 10th highest. Not good, but of the other 9 teams which gave up more per carry, 6 of them made the playoffs, and 2 others finished at .500. Only one other team, Atlanta, will be picking in the top 10. Being among the worst at run defense doesn’t have to lead to a top 10 pick.

    For another thing, there’s no statistical evidence that EJ Manual needed more time to throw, therefore the Bills could use a RT. In fact, quite the opposite. Using ProFootballFocus’s Signature Stats, “Quarterbacks Passing Under Pressure”, EJ actually had one of the lowest pressure rates as a percentage of his dropbacks. 36th out of 41 QBs that took at least 25% of their team’s snaps. He was, however, 5th in sack percentage out of the time he was actually pressured (23.5% of that time), indicating an inability to feel pressure and get rid of the football.

    Probably the best case for Jake Mathews at #9 (which I personally don’t think would be the best pick) is the statistic that you likely inadvertently mischaracterized when you called the Bills rushing offense #2 in the NFL. This is partially true. They had the 2nd most rushing yards total in the NFL last year, but that has more to do with volume given that they ran 37 more times than any other team, despite finishing 6-10. Clearly, running more doesn’t lead to more wins. Again, the true measure of the Bills rushing effectiveness is their YPC, which at 4.2, was 14th overall. That’s the true indicator of how good the Bills were rushing the football last year.

    In truth, when you consider all the offensive statistics associated with the Bills offense, it leads you to the conclusion that the Bills really just need to get better at QB to win. Knowing they won’t draft another QB in the 1st round this year, why not get a guy that can improve the passing offense, rushing offense, and pass protection (which wasn’t as bad as some people believe)? That’s Eric Ebron, the tight end. That’s where you get with the statistics.

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  3. Well said Erik. They should switch places and make your comment the actual article, lol.

  4. The Bills need to trade down and try to pick up one or two extra picks.
    With the extra picks we will be able to fill in some weak spots. Buffalo was 6-10 last year. The top athletes available at the ninth pick will not help address the Buffalo’s needs as much as a later pick and an extra second round pick.
    I would like to trade down and try to pick up 2 extra draft picks. We need a tackle, guard, tight end, line backer, defensive lineman, safety, wide receiver and corner back. We can fill these needs with the 2 extra picks.