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NFL Draft Report

 
By Joe Buscaglia
 


Mario's $18.8 million cap hit a "non-issue" to Bills


With loads of cap space, the Buffalo Bills don't have to make many hard decisions with some of the better players on their roster. And even though they employ a player with a roster bonus and salary jump that would make most front offices squirm, the Bills are intent on standing pat.

The highest paid defensive player in NFL history still resides on the Bills roster and Mario Williams won't need to worry about restructuring his deal. Williams is owed a $10.6 million roster bonus with the start of the new league year in March, which is more money than any single player from Buffalo's roster is owed for their salary this season.

The bonus is paired with a $6.4 million jump in the defensive end's cap number with the Bills, accounting for $18.8 million of Buffalo's annual salary allotment. Normally with a cap figure as jarring as the one Williams is owed, teams will work to restructure the deal.

Bills general manager Doug Whaley isn't concerned about it.

"At this time, non-issue," he said Friday. "We're comfortable where it is right now."

Williams has back-to-back double-digit seasons, collecting 23.5 sacks and forcing three fumbles during his first two seasons in Buffalo. Including 2014, the defensive end has four years left on his contract, with cap numbers of $18.8 million, $19 million (2015), $19.9 million (2016) and $16.5 million (2017).

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
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FSU's Benjamin says Bills' Manuel, FSU's Winston are similar off-the-field

In April of 2013, the Buffalo Bills selected quarterback EJ Manuel as their new hope for the future of the franchise.

In January of 2014, his freshman replacement at Florida State led a very similarly talented team to the school's first national championship since 1999. It's led to the exclamation from some -- not all -- fans of the Bills that their team drafted the wrong Seminoles quarterback.

One of the more intriguing prospects in the draft this year is wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin who hails from, you guessed it, Florida State. He had two seasons on the field in Tallahassee.

His first year, EJ Manuel threw him the ball. In his second, it was Jameis Winston. How might he compare the two?

"You really can't. They're totally two different types of guys," Benjamin said of their on-field prowess, but remarked off-the-field that they're actually quite similar. "But at the end of the day, they care about their team. That most of all. They care about their receivers, really. EJ and Jameis, off-the-field problems, you can go to them with anything. They'll be there to talk to you. You want to borrow a couple of bucks from them? They'll take it out their pockets and give it to you. That's the type of guys they are."

That falls right in line with the leadership qualities Manuel was touted to have, in which he was described as a player his teammates gravitate toward. Now the Bills are just hoping the on-field production will improve to match his off-the-field persona.

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If EJ were in this year's draft, where would Whaley rank him?


Quarterbacks.

Everyone needs a great one and so few NFL franchises have one of that caliber. That's why it was a bit of an anomaly in 2013 when the Buffalo Bills were the lone team to take a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft.

The general consensus was that it wasn't the year to need a quarterback, and almost every team held off. Those that waited, in the opinion of many, will be much better rewarded based on the prospects of the top signal callers available in 2014.

Since the Bills were the lone franchise to buck the trend of the popular opinion in 2013, where would their franchise quarterback rate in this year's crop?

That seemed like a good question for the guy that had a hand in drafting him, Buffalo general manager Doug Whaley.

"Oooh. Good question," Whaley said, caught perhaps a tad off-guard while expecting the normal combine banter with the media. "I would have to say he would be talked in the top tier of those guys. Just with his size and athletic ability, you looked at the measurements now, there was only one guy close to his size and that was Blake Bortles at 6-5, and AJ McCarron was over the 6-3, so he's in there. I'm a big proponent that everything equal, you go with the bigger guy."

So there you have it, Bills fans. In the opinion of Whaley, Manuel would be with the top crew of Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and even perhaps Derek Carr.

Save this quote just in case. If Manuel doesn't end up panning out for the Bills and the GM is forced to draft another quarterback to get over the hump, his final sentence in that quote should be remembered. In Whaley's world, the tie goes to the big guy.

What is Whaley expecting from Manuel in his second go-round?

"I want to see some progression just with his being comfortable in the system and I think you're gonna get that because now he knows what to expect. He knows what to expect in this off-season, he knows what to expect in camp, he knows what to expect in the regular season," the GM replied, before coming out with an intriguing sentence. "And with what coach put around him with the quarterback coach and the offensive assistant, we're giving him every resource to do what he has to do to take that next step to get us where we need to go."

All quotes are open to many different ways of interpretation, and perhaps the effort to give him "every resource" to succeed is essentially saying "we've gotta see something from you this year, kid." Or, maybe it's just a sentence in an answer. Either way, the progress of Manuel will be fascinating and it will not be impeded by a player at his same position in regards to the ninth overall pick.

Whaley said they can do just about anything with the ninth overall selection.

"With the way our roster's set up right now, besides quarterback, we could go with any position," he remarked.

If you were holding on to the slim hope that the Bills would take a signal caller with their first round pick, you can officially saddle up for another year of EJ.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
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2014 Tight End Rankings

Quick, name the top five tight ends of the Buffalo Bills since 1990.

Pete Metzelaars undoubtedly tops the list, but from there it's a collective head scratching exercise. Jay Riemersma? Scott Chandler? Lonnie Johnson? Dave Moore? Derek Fine?

While Chandler has been a suitable starter for the past three seasons, it's hard to argue that the Bills could serve to upgrade the position. Now that the tight end is a free agent heading into 2014, Buffalo might actually look at that position as one to add to through the NFL Draft.

While it's not a full out certainty considering they do like Tony Moeaki and want to see what he can do at the position, an argument can be made for an addition to tight end anyway. If young quarterback EJ Manuel is going to flourish, some will argue to surround him with as much playmaking talent as possible.

And for a young quarterback, the tight end is often their best friend. With that written, there are some intriguing names throughout the 2014 class.

Here are my initial rankings of tight ends available in this year's class:
(Keep in mind that these are overall rankings, not who the Bills may be looking for and targeting.)
  1. Eric Ebron - North Carolina
  2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins - Washington
  3. Jace Amaro - Texas Tech
  4. Troy Niklas - Notre Dame
  5. Colt Lyerla - Oregon
  6. C.J. Fiedorowicz - Iowa
  7. Arthur Lynch - Georgia
  8. Rob Blanchflower - UMass
  9. Richard Rodgers - Cal
  10. Marcel Jensen - Fresno State
  11. A.C. Leonard - Tennessee State
  12. Gator Hoskins - Marshall
  13. Jacob Pedersen - Wisconsin
  14. Xavier Grimble - USC
  15. Joe Don Duncan - Dixie State
  16. Trey Burton - Florida
  17. Ted Bolser - Indiana
  18. Crockett Gillmore - Colorado State
  19. Chris Coyle - Arizona State
  20. Jake Murphy - Utah
  21. Jordan Najvar - Baylor
  22. Michael Flacco - New Haven
  23. Nic Jacobs - McNeese State
**Note: Most have Lyerla much lower, but the 2014 Combine will be huge for Lyerla (5) in explaining himself to teams. His potential is outstanding enough, at this point, to take a mid-round chance on him.

An in-depth preview of the top players of the position and how they fit the Bills will be on the way as the draft gets closer.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia & @JoeBDraft
 
 




 

2014 Offensive Guard Rankings

The guard play for the Buffalo Bills in 2013 was, in a word, dreadful.

Right guard Kraig Urbik regressed in a new blocking scheme, left guard Colin Brown was the worst offensive linemen in the league by many metrics before being replaced and then his replacement Doug Legursky wasn't much better.

So what will the Bills do in the off-season to address the position? Head coach Doug Marrone has already publicly stated that they think three younger players (J.J. 'Unga, Mark Asper and Antoine McClain) show signs of starting potential at guard. Might they also bring in another young player through the draft the help the position as well?

If they do, they'll have options later on in the draft.

Here are my initial rankings of offensive guards available in this year's class:
(Keep in mind that these are overall rankings, not who the Bills may be looking for and targeting.)
  1. David Yankey, Stanford
  2. Trai Turner, LSU
  3. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
  4. Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
  5. Chris Watt, Notre Dame
  6. Dakota Dozier, Furman
  7. Brandon Thomas, Clemson
  8. Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
  9. Cyril Richardson, Baylor
  10. John Urschel, Penn State
  11. Anthony Steen, Alabama
  12. Kadeem Edwards, Tennessee State
  13. Jon Halapio, Florida
  14. Brandon Linder, Miami (FL)
  15. Spencer Long, Nebraska
  16. Ryan Groy, Wisconsin
  17. Austin Wentwort, Fresno State
  18. Zach Fulton, Tennessee
Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia & @JoeBDraft
 




 

2014 Offensive Tackle Rankings

Another week and another set of rankings.

The Buffalo Bills weren't as productive along the offensive line as they had been in the two years prior to 2013. At offensive tackle specifically, the Bills needed much more out of their right tackle position than what they got.

Heading into the 2014 NFL Draft, a right tackle could be brought in at some point to pair with Cordy Glenn heading into the upcoming season.

While the tackle group is pretty straight forward, there are some later round players available that have some potential in the NFL.

Here are my initial rankings of offensive tackles available in this year's class:
(Keep in mind that these are overall rankings, not who the Bills may be looking for and targeting.)
  1. ​Greg Robinson, Auburn
  2. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
  3. Zack Martin, Notre Dame
  4. Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
  5. Taylor Lewan, Michigan
  6. Morgan Moses, Virginia
  7. Billy Turner, North Dakota State
  8. Seantrel Henderson, Miami (FL)
  9. Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
  10. Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
  11. Joel Bitonio, Nevada
  12. Cornelius Lucas, Kansas State
  13. Michael Schofield, Michigan
  14. James Hurst, North Carolina
  15. Ja'Wuan James, Tennessee
  16. Cameron Fleming, Stanford
  17. Justin Britt, Missouri
  18. Charles Leno, Boise State
  19. Kenarious Gates, Georgia
  20. Kevin Graf, USC
More thorough breakdowns of the rankings and players will be coming throughout the weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia & @JoeBDraft
 




 

Joe B. talking WRs and Bills on Channel 2

The Buffalo Bills and 29 other teams are starting to gear up for the 2014 NFL Draft with the college football All-Star games already going. Fresh off the release of the wide receiver rankings at WGR550.com, Channel 2 (WGRZ) invited WGR on to talk about some prospects.

Here is the full 15-minute web segment with Joe Buscaglia and Jonah Javad (be sure to follow Jonah on Twitter), breaking down some of the bigger receivers the Bills may target in the 2014 NFL Draft. It's the first of many video breakdowns in store over the next few months.

Click play below for the first edition!

(And yes, that freeze frame is hilarious.)

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia & @JoeBDraft
 
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2014 Wide Receiver Rankings

It's officially draft season for fans of the Buffalo Bills, and to kick things off is a look at one of the positions the team could add to in an effort to try and help their young quarterback.

How is the talent in this year's wide receiver group?

In a word, phenomenal. Stacked, even.

Here are my initial rankings of wide receivers available in this year's class:
(Keep in mind that these are overall rankings, not who the Bills may be looking for and targeting.)
  1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson
  2. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
  3. Mike Evans, Texas A&M
  4. Marqise Lee, USC
  5. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
  6. Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU
  7. Allen Robinson, Penn State
  8. Jarvis Landry, LSU
  9. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
  10. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
  11. Paul Richardson, Colorado
  12. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
  13. Davante Adams, Fresno State
  14. Bruce Ellington, South Carolina
  15. Robert Herron, Wyoming
  16. Tevin Reese, Baylor
  17. Martavis Bryant, Clemson
  18. Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma
  19. Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
  20. Devin Street, Pittsburgh
  21. Mike Davis, Texas
  22. Cody Latimer, Indiana
  23. Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest
  24. Ryan Grant, Tulane
  25. Cody Hoffman, BYU
  26. Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State
  27. Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina
  28. T.J. Jones, Notre Dame
  29. Josh Huff, Oregon
  30. Shaq Evans, UCLA
  31. Kain Colter, Northwestern
  32. Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley
  33. L'Damian Washington, Missouri
  34. Kenny Shaw, Florida State
  35. Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
  36. Eric Ward, Texas Tech
  37. Kevin Norwood, Alabama
More thorough breakdowns of the rankings and players will be coming throughout the weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia & @JoeBDraft
 




 

98 underclassmen declare for 2014 NFL Draft

When in doubt, test it out.

That seems to be the operating procedure for underclassmen in college football in recent years, and now the number of players declaring for the NFL Draft that still have years of eligibility remaining has reached a new height.

A record 98 student-athletes have made themselves eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft. Here they are broken down by position:

Quarterback
Blake Borles, Central Florida
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Brett Smith, Wyoming

Running Back
George Atkinson, Notre Dame
Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State
Brendan Bigelow, Cal
Alfred Blue, LSU
Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
Devonta Freeman, Florida State
Jeremy Hill, LSU
Storm Johnson, Central Florida
Henry Josey, Missouri
Tre Mason, Auburn
Adam Muema, San Diego State
Darrin Reaves, UAB
Bishop Sankey, Washington
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
Jerome Smith, Syracuse
John Spooney, Brown
De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Terrance West, Towson
James Wilder, Jr., Florida State

Wide Receiver
Davante Adams, Fresno State
Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt
Martavis Bryant, Clemson
Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Bruce Ellington, South Carolina
Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Austin Franklin, New Mexico State
Jarvis Landry, LSU
Cody Latimer, Indiana
Marqise Lee, USC
Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
Paul Richardson, Colorado
Allen Robinson, Penn State
Willie Snead, Ball State
Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State
Sammy Watkins, Clemson

Tight End
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Xavier Grimble, USC
Nic Jacobs, McNeese State
A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State
Colt Lyerla, Oregon
Jake Murphy, Utah
Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
Richard Rodgers, Cal
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Washington

Offensive Tackle
Cameron Fleming, Stanford
Terrance Hackney, Bethune-Cookman
Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
Greg Robinson, Auburn

Offensive Guard
Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
Trai Turner, LSU
David Yankey, Stanford

Center
Russel Bodine, North Carolina
Marcus Martin, USC

Defensive End
Carl Bradford, Arizona State
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Scott Crichton, Oregon State
Kony Ealy, Missouri
Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
Aaron Lynch, South Florida
Chris McCain, Cal
George Uko, USC

Defensive Tackle
Dominique Easley, Florida
Ego Ferguson, LSU
Carlos Gray, NC State
Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Anthony Johnson, LSU
Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
Jeoffrey Pagan, Alabama
Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina

Linebacker
Khairi Fortt, Cal
Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
Ronald Powell, Florida
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut

Cornerback
Bashaud Breeland, Clemson
Vic Hampton, South Carolina
Kameron Jackson, Cal
Albert Louis-Jean, Boston College
Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
Marcus Roberson, Florida
Bradley Roby, Ohio State

Safety
Nick Addison, Bethune-Cookman
Dion Bailey, USC
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Jonathan Dowling, Western Kentucky
Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Ed Reynolds, Stanford
Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama
Pierre Warren, Jacksonville State

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia & @JoeBDraft

 
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Bills' Marrone raved about Barkley in September

 
Before you read any more, it is very important to note one thing in particular:

You can read however much or little in to this as you want, because sometimes coach speak exists and some of the things they say are a little over the top. But sometimes coaches speak the truth, too.

Back in September when the Buffalo Bills were still steered by Chan Gailey, Doug Marrone was still the head man at Syracuse University and preparing to take on the USC Trojans for the second straight year.

At that point in time, USC was considered to be one of the top programs in the nation heading in to the season, and they're led by none other than 2013 draft hopeful Matt Barkley.

This news item comes courtesy of Matt Rybaltowski of CBSSports.com, who recapped Marrone talking about his opponents -- and more specifically Barkley.

Last October, Barkley shredded the Orange secondary with 324 yards and five touchdowns. During Monday's Big East coaches' teleconference, Marrone indicated that Barkley, not Robert Griffin III, would have been considered the top quarterback in last April's NFL Draft alongside Andrew Luck.

“I was one of a couple people that was hoping he'd go on to the NFL,” Marrone said. “I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I'm happy he's back.”

 
Keep in mind that Marrone and Syracuse did not have to go up against Robert Griffin III and Baylor within the past couple of seasons so he didn't necessarily watch as much tape as he did on Barkley, but the quote still remains one that makes you wonder a little bit.

Then the adoration continued when talking about Barkley's skills on the field.

Besides being impressed by Barkley's intangibles, Marrone raved about Barkley's pocket presence and patience. Unlike many college quarterbacks Barkley excels in checking down to his backs when his downfield targets are covered, Marrone said. Barkley connected with his running backs four times in last season's 38-17 win over Syracuse.

“If he doesn't like what's going on when they (take away) the deep vertical threats, he can come right back to the backs,” Marrone said. “That's one of the things you see with the top guys in the NFL.”

 
Some interesting stuff, wouldn't you say? I don't know if you can really make heads or tails out of who the Bills will ultimately select through this article, but it sure is interesting seeing the mindset of the Bills' future head coach, when he wasn't a head coach, talking about a quarterback who very well could be his next quarterback.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
 
 




 
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