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.
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.