Buffalo Bills' Top Needs & Fits in the 2014 NFL Draft
The NFL draft in two months presents the Buffalo Bills with a great opportunity to add quality players and help fix areas they struggled in. The team could correct some of these areas in free agency depending on what moves they make that would provide them more flexibility in the draft.
If the Bills hope to improve on their 6-10 record from last season, the front office should focus on strengthening the run defense and adding pieces for the passing game to complement their strong run game.
These are the top five positions the Bills should address in the NFL draft and which players would be the best fits. Based on CBS Sports' draft projections, the Bills could potentially select most, if not all, of these players in the upcoming draft.
Erik Pears struggled at right tackle last year for Buffalo, particularly against the run. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Pears was the second-worst right tackle in run blocking with a grade of minus-15.2. The Bills could quickly correct this by adding the best run-blocking tackle in Auburn's Greg Robinson.
The Bills had the second-best running game last year, averaging 144.2 yards per game. On the surface these stats look good, but the Bills called the most run plays of any team and finished 14th in terms of yards per attempt with only 4.2 yards.
One of the big reasons for the low yard total per attempt was the run blocking, which was the 8th-worst according to Pro Football Focus with a grade of minus-59.5. If the Bills added a player like Cyril Richardson or Greg Robinson, it would help this group improve tremendously in this area.
Projected Round: 1
With the poor play the team had at left guard this season, finding a starting-caliber player for that position has to be one of the team's main priorities over the next few months. It won't matter what type of weapons the Bills bring in for quarterback EJ Manuel if he doesn't have time to throw the ball.
One player the Bills should look at in the draft would be Cyril Richardson out of Baylor, who Bleacher Report's Matt Miller believes could start right away for an NFL team. Miller points out in the video above that Richardson is very strong in run blocking and is surprisingly good in pass protection as well.
Richardson, however, struggled a bit at the Senior Bowl this past week, which might drop him on some teams' draft boards. CBS Sports' Rob Rang labeled Richardson as a player who missed an opportunity, writing:
At 6-foot-4, 344 pounds, Richardson is a massive interior presence but he struggled with quicker defensive tackles throughout the week of practice (especially Donald) and wasn't nearly as powerful as a drive blocker as one might expect given his size.
If the Bills are able to get Richardson in the second, it would help this team tremendously strengthen the offensive line and provide the protection Manuel will need in the pocket.
Projected Round: 2
The Bills defense finished in the top 10 in total yards against but finished 28th against the run, giving up 128.9 yards on the ground. One of the big reasons for the struggle on the ground came from the play of the linebackers and particularly their lack of depth at the position.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the top three defenders against the run came from the defensive line, with Kyle Williams, Alan Branch and Marcel Dareus all finishing with a grade above 15. The Bills only had one linebacker, Jerry Hughes, who played more than 600 snaps and finished with a grade above 5.
One player who could help fix the run defense right away would be Wisconsin's Chris Borland. By pairing Borland with Kiko Alonso, the Bills would have two extremely athletic linebackers who could cover from sideline to sideline.
The only concern with Borland is his size, but with Williams, Dareus and Branch tying up opposing offensive linemen, he should be free to make the necessary plays to stop the run.
Projected Round: 3
If the Bills do not bring back free agent Scott Chandler, the need for a tight end will become much more pressing. The big name at the position this year is Eric Ebron from UNC, but he may not be the best fit for the Buffalo Bills. This offense is based on the run game with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, and so the Bills should consider a tight end like Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz over Ebron.
As Matt Miller mentions in the video, Fiedorowicz is the best run-blocking tight end in the draft and can still help in the passing game, particularly in the red zone. This would be a big help for a team that finished the year 28th in red-zone scoring with touchdowns on only 47.73 percent of their red-zone possessions. This number actually dropped from 50 percent in 2012.
By replacing Chandler, if they do decide not to bring him back, with a player like Fiedorowicz, the Bills would get a much better blocker at the position as well as a player who can be a threat in the red zone.
Projected Round: 3
The Buffalo Bills wide receivers have plenty of speed but are missing that big body to make plays inside the red zone. The Bills' only wide reciever taller than 6' is Steve Johnson, but he does not have the size to box out defenders in the end zone.
One player who would be a perfect fit for this need would be Rutgers' Brandon Coleman.
If the Bills are able to add players like Richardson and Robinson on the offensive line and Fiedorowicz and Coleman in the passing game, the team should improve on their red-zone scoring in 2014.
Projected Round: 4-5