No one can accuse the Buffalo Bills of playing it safe in this year’s draft. GM Buddy Nix made a number of high-risk, high-reward moves and picks, and the success of the franchise over the next few years hinges on whether or not they pay off.
The Bills opened the draft with a big trade with St. Louis, trading down and swapping their first and third round picks for the Rams‘ first, second, third, and seventh rounders. Buffalo’s ensuing picks were high on physical talent and potential, but filled with questions about production and character.
The selection of quarterback E.J.Manuel with the #16 overall pick earned mixed reviews. At 6’5″ and 237 pounds, Manuel has excellent size, along with speed and arm strength. But he lacks consistency and has yet to prove that he can see the whole field and read sophisticated defenses. At Florida State he was only asked to read one half of the field in any given situation.
Third round selection Marquise Goodwin, a wide receiver from Texas, is a similar potential diamond in the rough. Goodwin is an Olympic long jumper with big-time speed and explosiveness. Yet he only caught 26 passes for 340 yards in 2012.
Character issues hover over second round pick Kiko Alonso, a linebacker from Oregon, and Nevada safety Duke Williams, who was selected in the fourth. Both could start next year for the Bills. Both also have had several off-field “incidents.”
When asked to address the character issue after the draft, Williams responded as follows:
“I went through some ups and downs through my college career. And earlier in my college career I had a few minor incidents that occurred. As soon as I made that it wasn’t the right decision. I ended up getting suspended for three games and it’s just something you learn from as a person growing up. One thing about life is you learn from your mistakes. One thing is I became a better person from those mistakes that I made. It’s a great outcome. I’m still on the team, made it to get drafted and help the organization win a championship.”
Buffalo continued this high-risk, high-reward strategy after the draft when signing undrafted free agents. Their most high-profile signing was wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers from Tennessee Tech. Projected by some to be a third-round draft selection, Rogers’ stock dropped because of off-the-field issues during his first two seasons at Tennessee. He transferred to Tennessee Tech last August after being suspended indefinitely by the Volunteers for multiple failed drug tests.
But the eventual success or failure of this draft will depend on Manuel. He has the potential to be a franchise quarterback. Although many draft experts and analysts question whether that potential will ever be fully realized.
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