Re-Drafting the Buffalo Bills' 2013 Draft
The fortunes of Buffalo Bills' draft classes have shifted from woeful to solid in recent years, and their overall haul in 2013 was no different. Several rookies made drastic impacts on the field for the Bills, but their spot at the bottom of the AFC East was unchanged.
Did the Bills make the right move trading back in the first round to select EJ Manuel and pick up an extra second-rounder? Should the Bills have taken two wide receivers so early with a star-studded 2014 receiver class only a year away? Should offensive line have been more of a priority with underwhelming talent on its interior?
If the Bills' rookie front office knew then what they know now, how would things have changed during last April's draft?
Time to put the GM cap on and re-draft the Buffalo Bills' 2013 draft.
Round 1, No. 16 Overall: EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
There wasn't much smiling for the Bills rookie signal-caller during his first season in the NFL, but is still the right pick at this spot.
Manuel was a debated pick as the first quarterback off the board, but with no true star in the 2013 quarterback class, Manuel still has plenty of upside. The Bills were looking for a guy they would be able to build a team around not only from a football standpoint, but also in the leadership category. The former Seminole has the charm and charisma of a future franchise quarterback, however the game seemed too fast for him at times last season.
He had positive touchdown-to-interception numbers (11-to-9) and showed off his dual-threat ability as a runner. Manuel still has to learn the right time to scramble though, much like 2012 draftee Robert Griffin III. The Bills' rookie missed six games due to two separate injuries, and the team suffered from inconsistency at the quarterback position because of those injuries.
The Bills could have passed on Manuel for a quarterback in the later rounds, but Manuel presents the best value of the group moving forward. Safety Eric Reid—a Pro Bowler in his first season with the Niners—was another consideration, but the Bills' need at quarterback was greater, especially with the 2014 quarterback class losing its shimmer.
Round 2, No. 41 Overall: Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon
Kiko Alonso moves up five picks to the first of the Bills' two second-round picks following the trade with St. Louis in the first round. Alonso was mere votes away from becoming the league's rookie of the year on defense, losing out to New York Jets stud defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
Alonso's impact on the Bills defense was felt right away, although his outstanding play did even out a little toward the end of the season. Underrated out of Oregon, the instinctual linebacker shot right out of the gate with a sack and four interceptions in his first four games as a professional. Alonso also totaled a 22-tackle game in a narrow 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
By the end of the season, offenses were running away from Alonso or jamming him with a guard downfield to neutralize his impact.
However, the Bills are committed to Alonso's potential as a perennial All-Pro linebacker and select him with their first pick of the second round. A move to outside linebacker even enhances his value moving forward, as the team relies more on his ability to cover sideline to sideline.
Round 2, No. 46 Overall: Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky
Losing out on real second-round pick Robert Woods hurts the passing game for a season, but a stacked receiver class a year later allows the Bills to pick up a Pro Bowl guard with the 46th pick of the 2013 draft. Warford was considered a solid second-round pick at the time, but he outperformed his fellow rookies at the position by a wide margin.
With Andy Levitre leaving in free agency last offseason, the Bills needed to fill the one of the guard positions. Unfortunately, the team elected to go with the temporary fix of Doug Legursky and the offensive suffered drastically from bad guard play.
Insert Warford, the fourth-rated guard according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and Buffalo's somewhat stagnant offense might have been better. Warford was better in pass protection in Detroit's pass-first offense, but his solid plus-6.9 run-block rating makes him a great fit for offensive line guru Doug Marrone.
Round 3, No. 78 Overall: Jordan Reed, TE, Florida
The wide receiver position takes another hit, but the Bills find a more reliable target in tight end Jordan Reed.
Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was always a boom or bust type of pick for Buffalo's growing collection of the fastest athletes in the NFL. Despite his ability to stretch the field, the Bills could have used another solid pair of mitts across the middle.
Scott Chandler is an okay tight end, but he certainly doesn't change the way a defense game plans for the Bills' offense. His big frame makes him a great red-zone option, but beyond that the Bills could use an upgrade in athleticism. The clamoring for Eric Ebron this offseason confirms this belief, but selecting Reed in the third round would have presented an option of better value.
The 6'2" tight end led all rookies at the position with 45 receptions and 499 receiving yards, despite playing in only nine games. Reed also graded out well in his blocking assignments, with positive grades in both run and pass-blocking, according to PFF.
Round 4, No. 105 Overall: David Bakhtiari, OT, Colorado
The Bills are solid at left tackle with 2012 draftee Cordy Glenn having an incredibly good year in a fully healthy sophomore season. However, the right tackle spot leaves plenty to be desired with the team searching for an upgrade over Erik Pears.
The fourth round is a bit bare unless you're willing to take a gamble on guys like Marcus Lattimore or Levine Toilolo, but the gem of the group is David Bakhtiari out of Colorado. The mid-round tackle started all 16 games on the left side for an injury-ridden Green Bay Packers squad and did struggle with protection at times.
Bakhtiari might have had a lesser learning curve starting on the right side in Buffalo and his size-strength combination makes him a good fit in Marrone's system. The Bills would have upgraded one guard spot in the re-drafted second round, and the addition of Bakhtiari at right tackle shores up four of the five spots on the offensive line for the foreseeable future.
Round 5, No. 143 Overall: Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
Bills fans might be screaming at the television by now for failing to address the wide receiver position, but they finally get their wish in the fifth round. Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin filled two slots on the depth chart, but Kenny Stills is kind of a hybrid of the two.
Stills was a bit of an unrefined prospect coming out after his junior season, but solid size and 4.32 speed make him an intriguing late-round receiver. His obvious talent got him on the field early during his rookie season, and he finished 2013 with five scores while averaging an eye-popping 20 yards per catch.
The Bills could have used both his abilities to run after the catch stretch and stretch the outside of opposing defenses, Goodwin's forte. Stills has a bright future in the NFL and presents great value by getting bumped up a pick to 143.
Round 6, No. 177: DeVonte Holloman, LB, South Carolina
At the time, the Bills sixth-round pick of kicker Dustin Hopkins seemed like a no-brainer. The team's incumbent, Rian Lindell, was not getting any younger and Hopkins was coming off a great four-year career at Florida State, which ended with him being the all-time NCAA Division I leader in points.
Unfortunately, Hopkins never attempted a kick for the Bills due to injury, and the team signed twice-released veteran Dan Carpenter off the street. Carpenter had a career year for the Bills and make carrying two talented kickers on the roster essentially useless.
DeVonte Holloman is a rangy linebacker who entered the league as an edge guy, but he played primarily middle linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys during his first season. Holloman played well in limited duty before being thrust into the starting lineup in the final weeks of the year. He racked up 11 tackles and two sacks in a pivotal Week 17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but he nonetheless showcased his value moving forward.
The Bills linebacking was poor outside of Alonso and the coverage abilities of Manny Lawson. The development of Holloman could have provided a spark for the team late in the year.
Round 7, No. 222: Nickell Robey, CB, USC
Nickell Robey went undrafted out of USC last year, but the Bills would be sure to lock him up in the seventh round if they had to re-draft. Robey was a spark plug in the secondary and worked his way into the lineup as the true nickel corner by the end of the season.
Robey intercepted one pass and had three sacks during his rookie season, although he had the opportunity to finish off other big plays. His nose for the football makes him a great asset despite a crowded cornerback position.
Blitzing from the cornerback position may have left with former coordinator Mike Pettine, but Robey's range still puts him on the field in obvious passing situations.