Buffalo Bills fans have to be proud of the front office in Orchard Park as of late. The Bills finished at the bottom of the AFC East once again with a 6-10 record, forcing General Manager, Buddy Nix, to make some desperate moves. Those moves included the Bills to sign free agent defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, after years of desperately needing to upgrade their pass rush. With this time being the slow period between minicamp and training camp, lets take a look at the five best players on the Buffalo Bills right now.
5. Andy Levitre
Andy Levitre is arguably the best and most consistent offensive linemen on the Buffalo Bills’ roster. He has appeared in all 48 games of his career since being drafted in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft out of Oregon State.
Last season, Levitre was asked to play center, guard, and left tackle, performing fairly well. ProFootballFocus.com has high praise for Levitre, explaining
The versatility and quality of play of our first Secret Superstar for 2012, Andy Levitre, made him a crucial cog in this offensive line; a line that overcame a rash of injuries to provide a solid base for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills’ offense all season long.
Levitre’s play is clearly going only one direction and if the Bills can provide him with some stability in where he lines up (though he proved himself adept at providing cover when needed) then there is no reason to believe that the Bills won’t have one of the league’s best left guard’s on their hands. His +14.5 overall grade through those first six weeks was better than players like Evan Mathis, Carl Nicks, Marshal Yanda, and Josh Sitton … the only players who ranked higher than Levitre at guard for the full season.
Levitre’s ability in pass protection at both guard and tackle cannot be questioned. Over the last two seasons whether you look at our grades (+15.1) or the stats (35 total pressures allowed), he is amongst the elite pass protectors at guard. Combined with clear improvements in his in-line run blocking, and his consistent quality blocking in space, Levitre is ready to use the 2012 season to break into the NFL’s upper echelon of guards.
Levitre is entering his fourth and final year of his rookie contract, and if he can continue to improve on his overall knowledge of the Bills’ offensive line scheme, he will be in for a major payday.
4. DT Kyle Williams
Bills’ defensive tackle, Kyle Williams, is one of the most underrated players in the National Football League. A fifth round draft pick out of Louisiana State, Williams has spent his six-year career with the Bills. In that time, he has racked up 301 tackles and 13.5 sacks. When the Bills transitioned to the 3-4 defense, the team drafted a prototypical nose tackle in Torell Troup, with the hopes of grooming him into a starting role. But the undersized Williams persevered, finishing the year with 5.5 sacks.
Now with the Bills going back to the 4-3 defensive front, Williams can use his penetration ability even more effectively alongside fellow defensive tackle, Marcell Dareus.
3. FS Jairus Byrd
Jairus Byrd has had a steady career since being drafted in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft. Byrd made the Pro Bowl as a rookie after recording nine interceptions, but his overall play has consistently gotten better.
According to the folks atProFootballFocus.com,
Third in our rankings in 2011, Byrd has the kind of athleticism to play the single high safety role while at the same time making his presence felt in the run game.
This was the year where Byrd established himself as one of the league’s top safeties, with a season that earned him our third-highest grade of all his peers (+13.0). He broke up seven passes to go with his three interceptions, while only allowing 51.5% of passes into coverage to be completed. What’s more, for a player who spends most of his time playing deep (84.1% of all snaps), he notched up 35 tackles in run defense, good for 16th of all safeties. He’s a rare beast; a free safety who is active on every play.
Byrd is also entering a contract year, and General Manager, Buddy Nix has already stated that he’d like to keep Byrd, along with guards Andy Levitre and Kraig Urbik, explaining to BuffaloBills.com
“We definitely want those guys back,” Nix told Buffalobills.com. ’I’ve told them. They know that. As far as us working on contracts we’ve been kind of busy. I think they want to be back and we want them back and when the time comes we’ll get started on it.”
2. RB Fred Jackson
Fred Jackson is not only a great player, but a great story. Coming out of small Coe College, a division-III school, he was rejected by the NFL. He joined the Sioux City Bandits, an indoor football league, before being recognized by NFL Europe. In 2006, he finally got his shot at the National Football League, and he has finally emerged as one of the best running backs in the game.
Jackson has averaged 4.6 yards per carry, gaining 3,794 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground, adding another 175 receptions for 1,535 yards and four scores over his career.
Last season, he was on pace for roughly 2,000 all-purpose yards before breaking his fibula. He is reportedly healthy, according to an interview on BuffaloBills.com, and should be a major weapon on the Bills’ offense if he is back to 100 percent.
1. DE Mario Williams
Without playing a snap for the Buffalo Bills, newly acquired defensive end, Mario Williams instantly became the best player on the roster. The team has had a dire need for a pass rusher ever since Bruce Smith retired, and they found one in Williams, who is signed to a six-year, $96 million dollar contract.
Since being drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, Williams has recorded 244 tackles, 53 sacks, and 11 forced fumbles. He played in all of his first 48 games of his career, but missed 11 games last season due to a torn pectoral muscle. With the Bills’ depth on the defensive line in addition to lining up next to Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, Williams is definitely slated for a double-digit sack year.
NO ROOM FOR STEVIE?!?!
I love Stevie Johnson and pretty much all Bills fans do as well. However, while trying to remain unbiased, it was extremely difficult to decide between Andy Levitre and Stevie Johnson.
Johnson has been the Bills’ best receiver over the past two years, and became the first Buffalo Bills’ wideout to record consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.
However, his inconsistencies on the field in critical situations is what brought him to No. 6 on this list. Andy Levitre is the core of the offensive line that allowed the least sacks in the league.