STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Ten years and counting. That's how long it's been since the Bills have made the playoffs. And if Buffalo fans don't feel tortured enough, they're often reminded just how painfully that last playoff game ended, as the Frank Wycheck to Kevin Dyson Home Run Throwback play will be shown for ages. Maybe owner Ralph Wilson can drum up Doc Brown and a DeLorean, punch in “January 8, 2000,” and alter history, because there's not a lot that's happened over the last 10-plus years this franchise cares to remember.
A fresh regime has been sent in . again . to clean up the mess, and new GM Buddy Nix and new head coach Chan Gailey certainly have their work cut out for them. There's no clear-cut NFL-starting caliber quarterback, offensive tackle remains a major question mark, the team lacks a quality wideout after Lee Evans, much of last year's personnel doesn't quite fit with the new 3-4 defense, and no one knows what to do with Marshawn Lynch, a troublemaker whose role is in question with the drafting of C.J. Spiller at No. 9 overall. Is it any wonder this franchise is often mentioned in the same breath as Detroit and Oakland?
Not pretty, but even though we've said it on more than one occasion, signs of hope are appearing. Small signs, yes, but what good is wallowing in a decade of misery if there can't be an aging carrot leading Buffalo fans around the track again for one more spin?
Gailey has had success with mediocre quarterbacks before and knows how to fix an offense. Spiller could be the NFL's most exciting rookie in 2010 while allowing the team to get far more creative on offense. The defense has no stars, but there's quite a bit of steady talent and it boasts one of the league's best secondaries. And the special teams unit is always strong here. A return game featuring Spiller, Leodis McKelvin and Roscoe Parrish is downright scary.
That said, this isn't a fun division when you're operating through a forest of question marks. New England is an elite franchise, and the Bills haven't beaten the Pats since 2003. Rex Ryan looks like he's molded the Jets into a major power for at least a few seasons, and the Dolphins made some strong offseason moves after a disappointing 2009.
We've been doing the RotoWire magazine for a long time, and a previewed Bills squad has never made the playoffs. We're not really expecting the streak to end in 2010, but we've been pleasantly surprised before. Just not with the Bills.
Round, Overall, Player
3. (72) Alex Carrington, DE, Arkansas State- Unlike most on the roster, Carrington is suited for the 3-4.
4. (107) Marcus Easley, WR, Connecticut- Late bloomer is on the right team to move up the ranks.
5. (140) Ed Wang, OT, Virginia Tech- Most had the Bills pegged for a tackle much earlier, but they’ll rely on a sleeper bolster a weak position.
6. (178) Arthur Moats, LB, James Madison- Division II Defensive Player of the Year will begin as a backup ILB.
6. (192) Danny Batten, LB, South Dakota State- Buffalo liked small school sleepers this year. This one knows how to get to the passer.
Chad Jackson, WR (FA) The fact we’re mentioning Jackson here tells you all you need to know about the Bills’ ho-hum offseason.
Terrell Owens, WR (FA) Surprised everyone by overbehaving and underperforming in his one-year stint with a team that didn’t fit his flashy image.
Josh Reed, WR (FA) Bills will miss his third-down and special teams reliability.
WHO’S STEERING CHAN’S SHIP?
Most would have bet a week's worth of Mighty Taco that the Bills were grabbing a quarterback in the first two rounds of April's draft, but they ended up not addressing the spot until the seventh with project Levi Brown. That leaves last year's disappointing threesome of Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm. We don't see Fitz winning the job, meaning the Bills will either give Edwards one more chance, or go in a completely new direction with the once highly touted Brohm.
As much of a lullaby as this situation is, those in deep leagues might want to pay attention for a possible No. 2 fantasy quarterback. The bottom line is Gailey knows how to get mileage out of even the very average. See Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart, Jay Fiedler, and even Tyler Thigpen. All were mildly productive under Gailey, and Edwards and Brohm have better raw skills than all of them except maybe Stewart. There's absolutely no every-week starter here, but sometimes leagues are won by finding that guy you can plug in for just a week or two. The winner of this battle has a QB-friendly coach and will probably be playing from behind quite often.
SORTING THE RUNNING BACKS
Fred Jackson? Solid citizen, hard worker, making a career from nothing. Spiller? Solid citizen, built for speed, major upside. Lynch? Well, let's just say Roger Goodell has him on speed dial. The Bills say they'll give Lynch a clean slate, which could lead to a pretty overcrowded group behind a shaky O-Line, a muddled situation we'd tend to avoid. The value to be had here is if your entire league thinks that way. Jackson can do it all on the field, so if he lasts past the top 25 running backs, snap him up. The same with Spiller: After the top 30 backs are gone, he's worth a roll of the dice. And Lynch? It's hard to believe he was recently a fantasy firstrounder. Still, the guy runs like an angry bull and he's worth a flyer with your final dart, say the last round.
The new regime has committed to a 3-4 defense, pieces be damned. The talent is there, but most will be learning new positions in 2010. Marcus Stroud and Spencer Johnson will move from DT to DE. Chris Kelsay, Aaron Maybin and Chris Ellis will move from DE to LB. Kyle Williams becomes an undersized nose. All the returning linebackers have a new position to learn. And if Aaron Schobel decides to play football for another season, he'll have to move to LB as well. Bottom line; expect this unit to have some growing pains. At least the secondary is topnotch.
RISING: Many so-called experts didn’t
like C.J. Spiller at No. 9, but he’s an exciting talent and may be the NFL’s second-fastest player.
SUPERSLEEPER: Shawn Nelson’s rookie season was derailed by injuries, but he’s a big target with good hands. Is this the year the Bills finally have a TE worth drafting?
Paul Posluszny, LB He’s put up 110-plus tackles two years running and should have little problem adjusting to the 3-4.
Aaron Maybin, LB Take a wait-and see approach on Maybin, who’s moving to LB after last year’s rookie flop.
JAIRUS BYRD, S A great ball hawk, evidenced by nine picks and 11 passes defensed as a rookie.
RotoWire Rank: 23