Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential solutions in May's draft.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
No. 1 Team Need: Offensive Tackle
The Bills seem to believe they shored up left guard by handing Chris Williams a four-year, $13.5 million free agent deal. Buffalo is set at three other O-Line positions with Cordy Glenn at left tackle, Eric Wood at center, and Kraig Urbik at right guard. Right tackle remains a weakness as incumbent Erik Pears is coming of an awful year, while Chris Hairston's health has all but rendered him a non-factor. Second-year coach Doug Marrone is a former offensive line coach and strong believer in the run game, so expect Buffalo to target proficient run blockers.
First day option: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M - I would say this is Matthews’ floor, but still a strong possibility. Perhaps it is due to everyone gushing over Greg Robinson, but Matthews has been lost in the shuffle a bit, with some teams reportedly even considering him at guard and center. He offers great technique and consistency, using his length and good extension to keep defenders at a distance. His experience at right tackle could only help his success early on, since that is something Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher lacked last season.
Second day possibility: Billy Turner, North Dakota State - Turner reminds me a bit of Cordy Glenn when he came out of Georgia, although Glenn was a more flexible and better prospect. Neither has great technique, but Turner’s functional strength means he can win in tight spaces. Offensive line coaches will get frustrated with Turner’s unique style and poor posture, however, he can be a real mauler and bully on the field. He has the positional versatility to play inside as well, which is something teams have coveted as of late.
Third day flier: James Hurst, UNC - Hurst was frequently mentioned as a top prospect at the position, something I never agreed with, but a late season injury (fractured fibula) will likely impact his draft position and place him in the later rounds. Hurst has a narrow base, which causes some issues when mirroring and handling edge rushers who can convert speed to power. A fourth- or fifth-round selection seems appropriate.
No. 2 Team Need: Safety
The Bills have fewer glaring needs that it may seem. They're pretty well loaded on defense, but may turn to the draft to replace $54 million free agency departure Jairus Byrd. Da'Norris Searcy and sophomore Duke Williams are in place to compete opposite SS Aaron Williams, though Searcy is better suited to a third safety role and Duke Williams is best on special teams. New DC Jim Schwartz likes his safeties to be interchangeable and aggressive tacklers.
First day option: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama - My top safety in this class, Clinton-Dix is a legitimate top 10 option. He has plenty of range in the deeper portions of the field, consistently obtaining backfield vision while identifying receivers at multiple sections of the field. His timing on pass breakups is a positive. Can be used closer to the box on occasion if alignments and scheme call for it.
Second day possibility: Dontae Johnson, NC State - An imposing defensive back at 6’2/200 pounds with legit 4.45 speed, Johnson has experience all over the defensive backfield after starting multiple games at corner, safety and even linebacker in a 4-2-5 set. He tended to play off coverage as a corner and lacks ball skills in terms of locating the pass. With that said, expect him to generate more buzz in the days leading up to the draft.
Third day flier: Avery Patterson, Oregon - Another versatile defensive back prospect, Patterson has played corner and safety during his time with the Ducks. His glaring weakness in the open field is tackling, but that is a skill that has been learned by multiple safety prospects in recent years. He has range, speed to close and looks comfortable in space.
No. 3 Team Need: Quarterback
E.J. Manuel's performance when healthy disappointed as a rookie, and along the way he incurred three separate knee injuries, two requiring surgery. As far as backup QBs go, Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel are among the league's most pedestrian. GM Doug Whaley shouldn't stop supplementing the position. 2013 first-round pick Manuel has an awfully long way to go.
First day option: It is very unlikely that the Bills spend back to back first-round picks on the quarterback position.
Second day possibility: AJ McCarron, Alabama - The Bills led the league in rushing attempts. It seems as though Doug Marrone wants his quarterback to specialize in high percentage throws with the foundation of the offense being the running game. McCarron can be an extension of the coach on the field in terms of working within a gameplan. He might not be able to completely take advantage of the speed at wide out, since McCarron repeatedly underthrew Alabama receivers downfield. Ball placement on intermediate routes needs to improve as well.
Third day flier: David Fales, San Jose State - I, personally, prefer Fales over McCarron, but I doubt many NFL teams feel the same way. Fales is not afraid to work through his progressions and displays sound pocket movement. Many have questioned his downfield velocity and I conclude he has just enough to keep defenses honest in tight windows. Most of all, Fales has placement and timing with positive eye level.
Bills 2014 Draft Picks (7)
First Round (No. 9)
Second Round (No. 41)
Third Round (No. 73)
Fourth Round (No. 109)
Fifth Round (No. 149)
Sixth Round (No. 185)
Seventh Round (No. 224)
Bills Current First-Team Offense
QB: E.J. Manuel
RB: C.J. Spiller
WR: Stevie Johnson
WR: Robert Woods
WR: Marquise Goodwin
TE: Scott Chandler
LT: Cordy Glenn
LG: Chris Williams
C: Eric Wood
RG: Kraig Urbik
RT: Erik Pears
Bills Current First-Team Defense
LE: Mario Williams
RE: Jerry Hughes
NT: Kyle Williams
DT: Marcell Dareus
MLB: Brandon Spikes
WLB: Kiko Alonso
SLB: Keith Rivers
RCB: Stephon Gilmore
LCB: Leodis McKelvin
FS: Da'Norris Searcy
SS: Aaron Williams