NFL Draft five year review: Buffalo Bills

BUFFALO BILLS (2010 record: 4-12; finished 4th in the AFC East)

5-Year NFL Draft Review: The Buffalo Bills drafting process has been an exercise in futility over the past five years. Prior to the hiring of Buddy Nix in 2010, the team lacked a legitimate general manager for the better part of a decade. In recent years, the team has relied on two separate entities in their draft day decision-making process. The first being a legendary 80 year-old head coach who in-turn deferred his draft day decisions to his 60 year-old head coach who was eventually chased out of town by an outspoken and enraged fan base. The second being a marketing guru who by his own admission had little football scouting and technical knowledge and relied on a heavily flawed scouting department. The Bills, who haven’t reached the postseason since 2000, can attribute their lack of success to draft day reaches and failures that have left the team depleted in depth and talent. The jury is still out on Nix’s first draft class but one thing is for certain, Buffalo’s front office has to hit a home run in its 2011 selection process.

2010- C.J. Spiller-RB-Clemson: Going into the 2010 draft the last thing on Bills fans’ minds in terms of team needs was running back. The team had Fred Jackson coming off a career year that landed him in the NFL record books for most total all-purpose yards in a season and Marshawn Lynch who seemed primed to bounce back from a disappointing 2009 campaign. Going for the shock-and-awe factor, Nix and head coach Chan Gailey selected Spiller to be their showstopper. Spiller did not meet expectations in his rookie campaign due in part to a lingering hamstring injury, lack of playing time and Gailey’s pass-happy offense. Spiller showed flashes of brilliance when he was able to get into the open field and will benefit greatly from more playing time going forward. A healthy Spiller and Jackson should give the Bills a formidable two-pronged rushing and receiving attack out of the backfield for years to come.

2009- Aaron Maybin-DE/OLB-Penn State: It’s difficult to judge a player with just two years of experience in the NFL but the book is out on Maybin and he is widely being proclaimed as a monumental bust. Maybin has been a ghost in his brief two-year stint as a Bill. He’s dressed for a total of 27 games, totaling a laughable 24 tackles and zero sacks. He couldn’t break a linebacking corps that featured a "who’s who" of journeymen and late-round draft picks last season, and was a healthy scratch for five consecutive weeks. Maybin will be hard-pressed to even make the roster in 2011.

2009- Eric Wood-G/C-Louisville: Wood has been a force on the Bills’ interior offensive line in his two years with the team. Drafted to be the team’s right guard, he actually made the shift to center last season when Geoff Hangartner went down with a knee injury late in the year. Wood, who played the position all four years at Louisville, is projected to be the team’s center going forward and should combine with left guard Andy Levitre to fortify the Bills’ interior line for years to come.

2008- Leodis McKelvin-CB-Troy: Selected 11th overall in the ’08 draft, McKelvin was projected to be the lock-down corner the Bills so desperately needed to replace the likes of Nate Clements and eventually Jabari Greer who both left for big pay days. Although he’s shown big play ability on kick returns, McKelvin has been anything but a shut-down corner. He has totaled only four interceptions in his three year career (only played in 3 games in ’09 because of injury) and at times has been targeted by opposing quarterbacks. The low moment of his young career might have been when Vikings’ QB Tavaris Jackson tore him apart in a 38-14 week 13 loss in Minnesota. McKelvin gave up a 31-touchdown pass to Sidney Rice, fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, and took a costly pass interference penalty which led to another touchdown in consecutive plays. McKelvin is entering a make or break year in 2011 and still has much to prove to hold on to a starting spot.  

2007- Marshawn Lynch-RB-CAL: Lynch and his "Beast Mode" mentality took Buffalo by storm during his first few seasons with the team. His hard-nosed running style and outgoing demeanor rejuvenated hope in Bills fans and he earned a Pro Bowl selection in his second year with the team. His off the field issues including a hit and run incident where he struck a pedestrian in downtown Buffalo and an arrest for suspicion of marijuana and possession of a loaded weapon earned him a three game suspension to start the ’09 season. His legal issues and off-field problems led him to fall out of favor in Buffalo and he was traded to the Seahawks on October 5th for a pair of draft picks.

2006-Donte Whitner-SS-Ohio State: The first pick of the Marv Levy regime may have been the biggest reach of them all. When the Bills drafted Donte Whitner with the eighth overall pick in the ’06 draft a collective sigh of "WHO" rang across Bills nation. Going into the draft it was projected that the Bills would use their first pick to solidify their defensive front, either settling on Brodrick Bunkley or Haloti Ngata. Instead Levy reached for a player he probably could’ve gotten at the end of the first round. Whitner, although noted for his hard-hitting ability, has never shown a propensity for making plays. In his five years with the team Whitner has managed just five interceptions and three forced fumbles and 2010 was the first time he’s completed a full season without significant injury. Depending on what happens with the CBA, Whitner is scheduled to become a free agent and with his contract demands reported around seven million a year, he’s probably played his last game in a Bills uniform.

2006-John McCargo-DT-NC State: Is McCargo even worth mentioning? In his five years as a Buffalo Bill McCargo has managed to play in just half of the 80 possible games. He’s totaled a meager 47 total tackles and 2.5 sacks (all in ’07.) In 2010 he was benched for all but one game. He was forced to play against the Vikings in week 13 because of injuries and managed just one assisted tackle. McCargo’s low point in his NFL career was when he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts before the 2008 trade deadline and returned back to the Bills after he failed a physical. It would be shocking to see McCargo in a Bills uniform when/if the 2011 season begins.

Future Outlook: If this doesn’t paint a picture of why the Buffalo Bills haven’t made the playoffs since the Clinton administration, I don’t know what else would. Surprisingly enough, the current Bills roster isn’t as far away from contending as their 4-12 record might indicate. Don’t get me wrong they are still two or three years away from legitimately challenging for a playoff spot but a solid 2011 draft would go a long way in speeding up the rebuilding process. Although the Bills brass has consistently failed at finding talent early in the draft they have shown an ability to find hidden gems in late rounds.  Kyle Williams, Steve Johnson, Demetrious Bell, and David Nelson were all key contributors on the Bills 2010 squad and they were all either drafted in the fifth round or later (Nelson was an undrafted free agent.) Going into the 2011 draft there’s no doubt that the Bills need to focus heavily on defense. The Bills have finished at the bottom of the league the last two years against the run and have needs on all three levels of their defense. The Bills hold the third overall pick in next month’s draft and have nine total selections. They have needs at both inside and outside linebacker, defensive end, and corner. They also need to find a quarterback of the future. Although it may be tempting to draft either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert with that third overall selection they should probably focus on addressing their front seven. Some names Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey should keep in mind at the end of April are OLB Von Miller, DE/DT Marcell Dareus, CB Patrick Peterson, MLB Mason Foster, MLB Martez Wilson, OLB Bruce Carter, DE/OLB Jabaal Sheard, QB Christian Ponder, DT/DE Kenrick Ellis, MLB Kelvin Sheppard, OLB Dontay Moch, OT James Carpenter and OT Joseph Barksdale. 

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