Originally posted on Buffalo Wins  |  Last updated 5/2/13
The Buffalo Bills had two priorities in last week’s NFL Draft. First, draft a quarterback of the future. Second, acquire playmakers. In my humble opinion, they knocked the ball out of the park. The potential talent that the Bills acquired on this draft is exciting and has been and will continue to be judged over and over. However, it can’t be properly judged for a few years once the players have had a chance to become NFL regulars. But we can set some targets which we hope these players to hit. How about some prop bets for the new Bills rookies! EJ Manuel: 6 starts and plays well enough to win 3 games, as measured by ESPN’s Total QBR. Some fans are hoping Manuel is the starter on Week One against the Patriots. Coach Doug Marrone is on the record saying Manuel will enter camp in a competition with Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson, with the best player emerging as the starter. Either way, Manuel is not the anointed starter for the 2013 Bills. ESPN (with the help of Football Outsiders) developed their own spin on quarterback ratings, explained here. While it’s an imperfect measurement of a quarterback’s performance, it’s somewhat better than the standard quarterback rating. Winning quarterbacks in 2012 had an average QBR of 69.97, so let’s use that benchmark for this wager. The graph below compares the average QBR for winning quarterbacks, losing quarterbacks, Buffalo quarterbacks, and Kevin Kolb in 2012. Robert Woods: 500 receiving yards Woods had averaged 11.7 yards per reception for 2933 total yards in his three seasons at USC. He has a great opportunity to become the second receiving option in the Bills offense this season, and could capitalize on his experience in west coast offensive schemes. Buffalo’s second and third receivers (Donald Jones and TJ Graham) gained 443 and 322 yards, respectively last season. Kiko Alonso: 50 total tackles Alonso is a big, rangy linebacker who has the ability to cover tight ends and receivers and stuff running backs behind the line of scrimmage. He is the prototypical linebacker of the future on which Mike Pettine’s defense is based. With Kelvin Sheppard out of the mix at linebacker, the Alonso has suddenly rushed to the top on the 3-4 ILB depth chart alongside Nigel Bradham, a rookie from last season. Alonso tallied 81 total tackles last season for Oregon. Bradham had a total of 49 tackles (solo and assists) last season when he was on the field for only 36% of the team’s defensive snaps. A lack of positional depth coupled with Alonso’s range should put him above the 50 tackles mark. Marquise Goodwin: 20 total touches, receptions and rush attempts. Goodwin is a bit of a wild card here. He could be lightning in a bottle or he could take some time to adapt to the NFL. Aside from injury troubles or a complete inability to adapt to the NFL, the Bills will find role for him on this offense thanks to his speed. We’re just not quite sure how he will be used. In his final two seasons at Texas, Goodwin had a total of 34 rushing attempts and 59 receptions. He was the third receiving option in that offense, but was an explosive weapon running the ball. The Bills could try to use him in a similar way that the Packers use Randall Cobb, but the number of offensive playmakers on the Buffalo offense might limit Goodwin’s opportunities. Duke Williams: 40 tackles and 1.5 forced fumbles The hard hitting Nevada safety will be in direct competition with Da’Norris Searcy and Aaron Williams to fill the George Wilson void.  New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine heavily relies on his safeties, so that position was put at a premium at the draft. Duke, Da’Norris, and Aaron will probably all split some time at safety this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see two of them on the field at the same time. Duke will most likely play quite a bit on special teams as well, giving him the opportunity to collect more tackles. He had 106 tackles at Nevada last season and forced three fumbles (watch his highlight video here, I think he knocked a guy out around the twenty second mark). His big hitting ability will translate directly into the NFL as long as his aggressive nature doesn’t run him out of plays. Jonathan Meeks: 10 special teams tackles Meeks was the head-scratcher of the Bills’ draft. He was projected to be a seventh round pick but Buffalo selected him in the fifth round. The Clemson safety has great speed but he showed lapses in his fundamental football skills and awareness. He currently projects to be a depth player at his position and a contributor to special teams. Ten special teams tackles is a lot in a season. Only two players in the entire league had twenty or more and Brad Smith led all Bills with twelve. That said, Meeks has the speed and athleticism to quickly cover kickoffs and punts where his weakness in awareness won’t be exploited as much as in pass coverage. Dustin Hopkins: Make 8 field goals from 30+ yards Since Rian Lindell came to Buffalo in 2003, the Bills have punted 134 times inside their opponent’s fifty yard line. They did it eleven times last season. They punted from the Colts’ 34 yard line when they were fighting for their playoff hopes! (Aaahhhhhh, I just got really angry remembering that!!!) The Hopkins draft pick likely means Lindell’s days as a Bill are over, barring a horrible performance by the rookie in training camp. Hopkins was a reliable kicker for Florida State, making 79% of his attempts in his four year career. He made 71% of his 82 attempts from over thirty yards. Hopefully his range and the new Bills’ philosophy reduces the number of punts on the opponent’s side of the field. Chris Gragg: 15 receptions and 2 touchdowns Gragg is an amazing athlete with great speed and explosiveness. Depending on Scott Chandler’s return from ACL surgery and Dorin Dickerson’s role on the team, Gragg could get a lot of playing time. Tight end was a very thin position last season, as Lee Smith (“who else??!!”) caught two touchdowns. The Arkansas tight end caught 63 passes and five touchdowns in his final two seasons in college. At Syracuse, Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett’s tight ends caught 17% of the team’s total receptions in 2012. Assuming that same proportion of receptions to tight ends this upcoming season in Buffalo, the tight ends will share approximately 53 catches combined. Are we having fun yet? Let’s throw a couple more props in for the undrafted class. Da’Rick Rogers: One reception for more than 35 yards Rogers is a wild card. His off-field issues sent him from Tennessee to Tennessee Tech and his draft stock fell from a day two pick (second or third rounds) to an undrafted free agent. The Bills are taking a gamble on Rogers, but he has as much upside as any other receiver in this class. Rogers’ averaged 15.5 yards per catch at Tennessee and then had a reception longer than 35 yards in six of his ten games at Tennessee Tech. The graph below shows his increasing big play ability throughout his college career through the five-game trailing average of long receptions per game. Buffalo’s newly found receiver depth will make it difficult for Rogers to get consistent playing time. If he is patient and continues to stay out of trouble, he could be an explosive, big play contributor to the Buffalo offense. Jeff Tuel: On the roster after August 30th (final cut down day) Tuel played quarterback at Washington State in a spread offense. He has a quick delivery and good size for a quarterback. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, however, and his 1:1 touchdown to interception rate last season isn’t very good. Aaron Corp was cut with the wave of undrafted free agent signings, and it seems as if Tuel has taken his spot. Tuel could impress this summer and force the Bills to end the Tarvaris Jackson experiment. He could also just be an inexpensive camp body. His chances of making the 53 man roster are pretty low. What are your picks? The new-look Buffalo Bills seem to be betting on a lot of question marks on their roster. The upside is tremendous, as their offense could potentially have problems sharing the ball with all of their playmakers and the defense could be fast and confusing enough to disrupt even the most potent offenses. But the downside could be terribly disappointing. Manuel is no lock to start or even be good. The explosive receivers might not be able to adjust to the nuances of the NFL. The young defense could struggle with their awareness and confidence. The current way too early estimate for total Bills wins in 2013 is 6.5 games (OutkickTheCoverage.com). I’m currently at the point where I could get talked into either side of that bet, but I want to say over. This draft class looks great on paper. Hopefully they can live up to expectations.
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