It’s that time of year where there is a clear picture of what teams will need for the 2012 NFL season. We’ll be conducting interviews with Experts that cover other teams to give you, the reader, a more comprehensive look of teams you might not follow. Today will chat with Buffalowdown editor Brad Andrews. If you’re a Bills fan and haven’t checked out Buffalowdown you’re missing out, the funniest and insightful Bills blog on the web.
1) How do you think the Bills did in Free Agency?
Amazingly well. NO ONE saw the Mario Williams thing coming. Just a coup for this front office. Adding another pass rusher in Mark Anderson was nice touch. Retaining star WR Stevie Johnson was a must, and GM Buddy Nix got it done. The Bills also retained the services of valuable veterans WR Derek Hagan, S Bryan Scott, LS Garrison Sanborn, K Rian Lindell, and TE Scott Chandler. The only real concern is that the Bills have yet to re-sign OGs Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart or OT Demetrius Bell. Losing all three would hurt. But so far, Nix gets an A+ from me.
2). After Free Agency what are the Bills three biggest needs?
If Urbik, Rinehart, and/or Bell don’t return, the offensive line is pretty bare. There’s only one guard on the current roster who has played an NFL game (Andy Levitre, who is at least very good), and the only left tackle on the roster is last year’s fourth-round pick Chris Hairston. Hairston’s okay, but they need some competition there. There’s also not much depth at LB. The Bills also don’t have a proven #2 WR to play opposite Stevie Johnson.
3). Something that is often over-looked in mocking drafts is future free agents. The Giants always seem to draft a player at a position of strength high when they know they have an important expiring contract (think DE or WR for the 2012 draft for the Giants). Is there a position of strength the Bills might address in draft because of a big looming free agent after the 2012 NFL Season?
Unless I’m missing something, the only big-name players on this team on their last year of a contract are RB Fred Jackson and S Jairus Byrd…and there’s no way the Bills draft a guy at either spot early. Buffalo already has replacements if needed with C.J. Spiller and Da’Norris Searcy. Andy Levitre will also be a free agent in 2012, but OG was already a priority.
4). Are there any young players or practice squad players that might be ready to step up and fill a perceived position of need?
The Bills might have struck gold twice in the 7th round of 2011. Buffalo’s first 7th round pick was CB Justin Rogers from Richmond. He was hurt all preseason but made the team anyway, and late in year he showed a ton of promise both as a kick returner and in coverage (knocking former first-rounder Leodis McKelvin to the bench in the process). Rogers could start in 2012. The Bills’ mountain of a second 7th-round pick, the 370-pound-or-so Michael Jasper from tiny NAIA school Bethel in Tennessee, might have a decent shot to make the team or even start at offensive guard in 2012. He spent the whole 2011 season on the practice squad learning to play offensive line after not making the team as a defensive lineman in training camp.
5). What young 2nd or 3rd year player do you think is ready to make a jump in the 2012 season?
Rogers is one, but I also like Buffalo’s other 2nd-year CB: Aaron Williams. He couldn’t stay healthy in 2011, but looked okay when he did play. With a full offseason of prep and some better luck, he could have a big year.
6). Is there a player that fans seem to be gravitating towards in the first round?
Before the Mario Williams and Mark Anderson signings, everyone wanted a pass rusher. Now there’s not a consensus at all. We’ll see as we get closer to the day what opinion is.
7). Hypothetically, if the Bills were going to trade up and target a player who won’t fall to them, who do you think it might be?
There’s no way the Bills trade up. I guarantee it will not happen. Buddy Nix doesn’t believe in it. MAYBE if they fell in love with a Riley Reiff or something and wanted to make sure to grab him, but it’s not happening
8). Who is a surprise pick you could see happening at 10 for the Bills?
Stanford G David DeCastro. That’s really early for a guard, but DeCastro is great and the Bills need a guard if they don’t bring back Urbik. Some people also say Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill, but Nix and head coach Buddy Nix need to win THIS YEAR. They’re not wasting a top-10 pick on a QB not ready to play NFL football. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start in 2012.
9) anything else to add??