Tight end? Lineman? Wideout? First round options abound

Tony Callens, Reporter

Unpredictability is the name of the game for this year’s NFL draft. From Thursday through Saturday, 252 players will be chosen over seven rounds. After months of dissecting each prospect—from the February’s combine in Indianapolis to the pro days on college campuses around the nation— the time has finally come for NFL teams to determine their short and long term future.

The draft itself has become a must-see spectacle over the years, and 2014’s rookie class looks to be one of the deepest in recent memory.

The Buffalo Bills come off a disappointing 6-10 season that saw them at the bottom of the standings in the AFC East and their 14th consecutive season without making the playoffs. The franchise is over 20 years removed from its last Super Bowl appearance and the constant disappointment and stain of losing reverberates among the loyal fan base.

There was hope last offseason when the Bills drafted quarterback E.J. Manuel out of Florida State in the first round and added two promising rookie wide receivers in Robert Woods and Marquise “Flash” Goodwin in later rounds. They also drafted linebacker Kiko Alonso in the 2nd round, who went on to lead the team with over 125 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Currently, the Bills are slotted for the ninth overall pick in the draft and have several glaring needs.

Often was the case last season that the running game could not be productive outside the tackles and the right side struggled. Erik Pears does not seem to be a good enough starter and the Bills could go for a right tackle to fill this need. Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan are the top tackle prospects this year and can all start right away, but there is concern that all three will be off the board before the ninth pick.

Buffalo added wide receiver Mike Williams this offseason but neither he nor Stevie Johnson are legitimate number one NFL wide receivers. There has been chatter about the Bills possibly trading up to pick Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins before he falls off the board; Texas A&M’s Mike Evans is also an option.

Tight end is a positional need due to a lack of consistent production. Tony Moeaki was added in the middle of last season and Scott Chandler was re-signed this offseason. But neither is a complete player, and despite his size, Chandler struggles as a blocker and has mediocre hands. Moeaki is a number-two blocking tight end at best. North Carolina’s Eric Ebron is an intriguing prospect with great athletic tools that could possibly be too good to pass up at number nine. It is also a possible that the Bills could address the position in the later rounds if Washington’s Austin Sefarian-Jenkins is still on the board.

Linebacker Brandon Spikes was added to help against the run and veteran Keith Rivers adds some depth at the position, but Buffalo could add even more linebacker depth in the later rounds.

What will the Buffalo Bills do? Time will tell as all NFL fans eagerly wait for this Thursday. It should be entertaining, exciting and unpredictable, as always. General Manager Doug Whaley has his hands full this weekend. For myself and other Bills fans all around, let us hope he hits it out of the park.


Tony Callens can be reached by email at [email protected]