Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 3/26/12

Buffalo has one of the most dedicated and ravenous fan bases in all the NFL.  The off season has been very kind to their patience and dedication with the signing of Mario Williams, the biggest free agent on the market not named Peyton Manning.

Add to that the resigning of Stevie Johnson, the pairing of Williams with free agent pass rusher Mark Anderson for a very friendly cap number, the most he can earn is $27 million over 4 years, and only $8 million is guaranteed, is great for a guy that should be single covered on every play.

Yet teams aren’t built through free agency, and the Bills yet again have a top 10 draft pick for a reason.  While I expect their off season acquisitions to improve the team, they still need to address some very pressing needs, and that will happen in the draft, which hasn’t exactly been kind to them over the years.

Let’s take a look at the 2012 Buffalo Bills off season review.

2007 Buffalo Bills Draft Results

12 Marshawn Lynch, RB Cal
34 Paul Posluszny, LB Penn St
92 Trent Edwards, QB Stanford
111 Dwayne Wright, RB Fresno St
184 John Wendling, DB Wyoming
222 Derek Schouman, TE Boise St
239 C.J Ah You, DE Oklahoma

If I told you that a team had a draft that yielded 2 solid starters and two active special teamers and back up players you would say they had a good draft, and would hand it a high C to a B grade without hesitation.

If I told you that team also had none of the players on their roster still you would look at me with a puzzled face and say, “huh?”  That is exactly what has happened with this 2007 Bills draft, which makes it so damn hard to grade.

They made the right and necessary pick in Lynch at 12, as they had a gaping hole at RB, remember this is Fred Jackson’s rookie season as well in the NFL despite being around the block in the indoor league circuit, so they had absolutely no RB on the roster.

Posluszny was a steal of a pick at 34, and Edwards was highly thought of as a potential Matt Schaub type starter down the road.

So what happened?  Lynch was solid if unspectacular his first two seasons in Buffalo and then his down fall in Buffalo began.  He was suspended for 3 games for violating the league’s conduct policy, was replaced by Jackson as the starter and never fully gained control back of that job, starting off and on until being jettisoned to Seattle for only a 4th and 5th round pick.

Posluszny on the other hand couldn’t stay healthy, despite being a productive linebacker for the Bills.  He broke his arm twice in the span of his first three seasons with the Bills and when the Jaguars made him a big offer in free agency the Bills chose not to come close to the offer the Jags made, even if I agree with the decision by the Bills.

The rest of the draft results ranged from unexpected starter, Derek Schouman, to disappointing flameout, and again left the Bills with NO PLAYERS on their roster.

Experts Grades:

Mel Kiper: B
Pete Prisco: C
Actual Grade: D

It was a good draft, until it wasn’t.  This is the type of team building draft that is needed, and if the Bills would have been able to get the most out of Lynch and hold onto Posluszny the grade would be higher, but getting little out of the results wise, the Bills averaged 6 wins a season in their uneventful four years with the team.

2008 Buffalo Bills Draft Results

11 Leodis McKelvin, CB Troy
41 James Hardy, WR Indiana
72 Chris Ellis, DE Virginia Tech
114 Reggie Corner, DB Akron
132 Derek Fine, TE Kansas
147 Alvin Bowen, OLB Iowa St
179 Xavier Odom, RB Norwest Missouri St
219 Demetrius Bell, LT Northwestern St
224 Steve Johnson, WR Kentucky
251 Kennard Cox, CB Pittsburgh

Is it a bad thing when your best selections both come out of the seventh round?

Here is why the draft is highly entertaining for people like me and frustrating for fans, because you have a draft class where you had 10 draft picks, five of them are still in the league, and three of those players were chosen in the seventh round.

McKelvin has battled injuries and inconsistencies to become, well a below average CB in the NFL that is fighting for a starting position.

Hardy was a bust, and it wasn’t that surprising.  Ellis, Fine, Bowen, Odom are all out of the league.

That leaves backups Corner and Cox.  Corner has seen some spot starts, and is a very solid special teamer and extra defensive back, but isn’t a starting quality CB in this league.

Cox meanwhile has moved onto Seattle, and was never actually on the Bills roster, but they do get some credit for noticing the potential and making a play on him, even if he never made it with them.

On the other hand the drafting of Bell and Johnson should be lauded.

Bell has turned into a top 12 LT in the league when healthy, and Johnson is a tremendous weapon for Ryan Fitzpatrick, having gone over the 1000 yard mark receiving the last two seasons.

Here is where things get hard to put a definitive grade on this class, what happens with Bell?  There are reportedly seven teams still in on Bell in free agency: Bills, Raiders, Cardinals (please), Bucs, Jets, Dolphins and Redskins.

If the Bills lose Bell, this class can fall a letter grade.

Expert Grades:

Mel Kiper: C+
Pete Prisco: B-
Actual Grade: B (contingent on Bell resigning C w/o him)

As I said earlier, this class is what makes the draft fun for people like me, and is the reason I enjoy researching, writing and learning about the players and teams.  You have a team that had 6 picks in the top 150, and ended up getting two every down starters… IN THE SEVENTH ROUND.

2009 Buffalo Bills Draft Results

11 Aaron Maybin, DE Penn St
28 Eric Wood, C Louisville
42 Jarius Byrd, DB Oregon
51 Andy Levitre, G Oregon St
121 Shawn Nelson, TE Southern Mississippi
147 Nic Harris, LB Oklahoma
183 Cary Harris, DB USC
220 Ellis Lankaster, DB West Virginia

And we come to the draft that should have been a turning point for the Bills, and with three of their picks continuing to get better it still could, but Aaron Maybin really hurt the Bills in this draft and I’ll get to him in a second.

Eric Wood is an excellent C, when healthy, and a good signal caller for the line and Andy Levitre is approaching elite play at the G position, when he isn’t forced to play LT.

Jarius Byrd meanwhile is one of the better ball hawking free safeties in the NFL, and an emerging star at the position.

I am not trying to over exaggerate this, but it is possible the Bills landed 3 All Pro players in one draft with the picks of Wood, Levitre and Byrd.

The rest of the draft resulted in players that have been in and out of the league, even Nelson who started 12 games his rookie season, is struggling to stay in the league.

And then there is Aaron Maybin.  He of the zero career sacks in his 27 games played in Buffalo.  Was he the right choice at the time?  I didn’t think so, but a lot of others seemed to, so revisionist history is always fun, let’s take a look back at 2009.  The Bills were in need of a pass rusher, and they had their choice sitting at 11.  With Brian Orakpo staring them in the face the Bills decided to go with Maybin, and obviously with the way things have gone, they could have also taken Clay Matthews, but that wasn’t as likely.

Passing on Orakpo, the dominant pass rusher for the Redskins, could be a good thing though, but first, let’s grade this draft.

Expert Grades:

Mel Kiper: B+
Pete Prisco: B-
Actual Grade: A-

This is an A draft all day with three potential All Pro’s sitting on the roster.  The difference between this being one of the better drafts of the last decade, and just another very good draft was the Maybin selection.

Off Season:  As we reviewed in the intro, the Bills have had themselves a very good off season, signing Williams and Anderson, and resigning Johnson.  The key now becomes signing Bell, or a viable replacement, so they can go into the draft with their options open, and don’t feel the need to make a reach, and I’ll get to this at another day, for Riley Reiff.

It’s funny though, the Bills will continue to get mocked for their selection of Aaron Maybin, and rightfully so, but in reality if they draft Orakpo or Matthews, they don’t sign Mario Williams, because they probably are still playing in a 34, and trying to make it work. Funny how those things work out.


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