Commentary

Commentary

Another Gear | WR Kolby Listenbee

The Buffalo Bills’ wide receiver group will feature one of the most competitive battles going into training camp. There are several holdovers from the prior regime, some names that were signed in free agency, and then a few undrafted free agents that were brought in to compete.

Kolby Listenbee falls under the prior regime category, as he was drafted in the 6th round, pick #192, in the 2016 NFL Draft. However, he never saw the field due to a double sports hernia. Listenbee underwent surgery in March 2016 and was placed on the Reserve/Non Football Injury list, which would have allowed him to return in week 7 of the 2016 season.

Unfortunately, he never did return due to pelvic inflammation. Listenbee said in addition to the hernias, he was also experiencing pain from some pelvic instability that resulted from a hit in college.

“It’s always been my adductors,” he said, referencing the upper leg/midsection muscles that were injured with the hernia, “and then my pelvis, my pelvis has always been an issue too. Everybody’s been saying it’s the double sports hernia but the pelvis has always been an issue too.

Listenbee is continuously working to get stronger and healthier on a daily basis.

 

The 4.39 speedster has speed that not many receivers on this team possess. He may be able to carve out a niche if he can get back to 100%.

 

2017 Buffalo Bills Offense – Early Depth Chart by Personnel Groupings

The Buffalo Bills capped off their 2017 draft last week, and they’re now in the process of solidifying their roster for the upcoming season. During this offseason the Bills’ offense has undergone a considerable overhaul. It improved on a weak wide receiver group with the key additions of Zay Jones, Philly Brown, and Andre Holmes. The offensive line gained strong depth with the retention of Ryan Groy, the signing of Vladimir Ducasse, and the drafting of a potential starter in Dion Dawkins. However, the primary change for the Bills’ offense is a new offensive coordinator. Rick Dennison comes to the Bills after spending the past two seasons with Denver Broncos in the same role. His play calling revolves around a zone-run scheme with a heavy amount of play-action and deep drop backs. Dennison ran the majority of his plays out of four main personnel groupings: 21, 10, 11, and 12. Looking at the Bills’ current roster, I will explain to you which players are expected to be seen on the field, depending on the personnel grouping called.

11 Personnel

11 personnel is the most commonly used personnel group in today’s pass happy NFL. With three wide receivers on the field and a tight end, most teams smartly play nickel coverage against this offensive package. Rick Dennison ran 53 percent (539/1019) of his offensive play calls out of 11 personnel in 2016.  In 2017, I’d expect to see this number increase. With LeSean McCoy at running back and a capable run blocker in Charles Clay, the Bills could have lots of success running the football against a defense lined up in nickel. Dennison’s offense utilized 11 personnel 200 times on first down and ten.  This could be a smart and effective way for the Bills to get positive yards on first down, making second and third downs more manageable.

 

21 Personnel

21 personnel is more often than not the base personnel grouping of any offense. It offers the ability to call a multitude of run plays, while also offering opportunities in the passing game. Rick Dennison utilized 21 personnel on 19 percent (194/1019) of the plays he called last season. In 2017, expect to see a running back, fullback, tight end, and two receivers on the field quite often. This will allow Dennison to remain balanced between the run game and pass game, while not giving away any significant keys to an opponent’s defense.

 

10 Personnel

10 personnel puts four receivers on the field with one running back, most likely in the backfield.  The 2016 Denver Broncos’ offense, under Rick Dennison, employed this personnel set 11 percent of the time, most often in passing situations. When the Bills send out their 10 personnel in 2017, expect it to include Sammy Watkins, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, and Philly Brown. If the play call involves the running back in the quarterback’s progression, expect it to be LeSean McCoy. However, if the running back is assigned to block, expect it to be Jonathan Williams or Mike Tolbert, as LeSean McCoy struggles in pass protection.

 

12 Personnel

12 personnel can be ever so dangerous in the NFL if you have the right players for it. A pass catching tight end and a blocking tight end make this personnel group effective. Defenses have two choices when they are presented with 12 personnel. They can: 1) choose to stay in their base defense, or 2) elect to play a nickel coverage, bringing an extra defensive back on the field. If a defense stays in base, a mismatch is created with the pass catching tight end. If a defense decides to bring on an extra defensive back to cover the pass catching tight end, a run strength is created with the blocking tight end. Coach Dennison utilized 12 personnel 10 percent of the time last season. With the Bills, he may not have the luxury of having a pure blocking tight end on the roster. Nonetheless, he could potentially have success with Clay, O’Leary, and possibly Logan Thomas.

 

The Buffalo Bills have a talented offensive roster that can be utilized in many different ways. With Coach Dennison known for his zone scheme and play action pass, I would expect to see the 2017 Bills in a lot of 21 and 11 personnel sets. Looking at the roster, the players the Bills have on offense can be very successful in these two sets. I fully expect OC Rick Dennison to put the Bills’ offense in a position to succeed each Sunday.


Remaining Buffalo Bills Free Agent Targets

The Bills have a few final holes to fill, most notably at the OLB, S, RB, and TE positions. Here are the best remaining players at each position. Let us know who you want the Bills to sign.

Running Backs
LeGarrette Blount (30)
DeAngelo Williams (33)
Chris Johnson (31)
Denard Robinson (26)
Khiry Robinson (27)
Christine Michael (27)
Jonathan Grimes (27)
Bobby Rainey (29)
Jordan Todman (27)
Rashad Jennings (32)
Dexter McCluster (28)
James Starks (31)
Antone Smith (31)
Ronnie Hillman (25)
Stepfan Taylor (25)
Matt Asiata (29)
Joique Bell (30)

Tight Ends
Gary Barnidge (31)
Jacob Tamme (32)
Larry Donnell (28)
Tim Wright (26)
Kellen Davis (31)
Clay Harbor (29)
Jim Dray (30)
Brandon Myers (31)
Chris Gragg (26)

Linebackers
Perry Riley (28)
Sio Moore (26)
Gerald Hodges (26)
DeAndre Levy (30)
Josh Bynes (27)
Justin Durant (31)
Daryl Smith (35)
Josh Mauga (29)
Bryan Braman (29)
Spencer Paysinger (28)
Kelvin Sheppard (29)
Philip Wheeler (32)
Donald Butler (28)
Michael Morgan (29)
D’Qwell Jackson (33)
Akeem Dent (29)
Sean Weatherspoon (29)
Rey Maualuga (30)
Brandon Spikes (29)
Rolando McClain (27)

Safeties
Tre Boston (24)
Marcus Gilchrist (28)
Daimion Stafford (26)
Jairus Byrd (30)
Bacarri Rambo (26)
Duke Ihenacho (27)
Kendrick Lewis (28)
Dashon Goldson (32)
Antonio Allen (28)
Matt Elam (25)
Shamarko Thomas (26)
Jeron Johnson (28)

As you can tell, there is plenty of talent remaining.

I’d take

  1. LB- Hodges/Bynes,
  2. S – Boston/Byrd,
  3. TE – Barnidge
  4. RB – Blount.

Cam’s Take: The Pegulas, Doug Whaley, and Rational Choice Theory

On the morning of April 30th, 2017, the day immediately following the conclusion of the NFL Draft, owner Terry Pegula made the decision that it was time to relieve general manager Doug Whaley and the rest of the scouting staff of their duties. The decision as to exactly why Whaley was fired remains up for debate, but many believe that the team’s performance under Whaley’s four-year tenure was merely mediocre. As Mike Rodak of ESPN.com notes, the team made the playoffs zero times with only one winning season, when Doug Marrone led the team to a 9-7 record. Marrone then chose an opt-out clause in his contract that let him collect $4 million in base salary and leave the team to pursue jobs elsewhere. Many Bills fans and players were left incredibly frustrated at Coach Marrone. Then came along the Pegula family who purchased ownership rights of the team and conducted a new head coaching search. Russ Brandon, the team’s president, informed The Pegulas that one of their candidates, Rex Ryan, should not leave the building. The Pegulas listened to Brandon’s advice, as a week later Ryan was hired as the head coach of the Bills. Whaley was left with a new head coach in the outspoken Ryan, who promised a playoff berth in his first season as Buffalo’s head coach. Whaley was not the one who chose the head coach, so when the team failed under the Ryan experiment in two seasons, many sympathized with Whaley. Yet others were skeptical of Whaley, since he remained devout in his faith of QB EJ Manuel, who was a first round draft pick in 2013, while Whaley served as assistant General Manager under Buddy Nix. Whaley also made the questionable move of trading up for WR Sammy Watkins in the first round of the 2014 draft. The team gave up multiple picks in order to switch with the Cleveland Browns, and Sammy Watkins proved to be a talented player, but for the past few seasons he has been injury prone. Analysts and fans argue that the team could have stayed at the no. 9 position and drafted WR Odell Beckham Jr., who has been a phenom for the New York Giants.

I can understand why fans argued for Whaley to stay, since he never had the chance to work with his own preferred head coach. Even head coach Sean McDermott was the choice of the Pegulas, so if Whaley had stayed, he would have been forced to work with McDermott, whether he liked it or not. In the mind of the Pegulas, however, it was time for Whaley to go. The scouting staff and personnel staff, including Kelvin Fisher and Jim Monos, had done their duties. Their assessments of players in this year’s draft were complete, and it was time for a new wave of personnel to be a part of the organization. The reason I sympathize with The Pegulas’ move is because of one theorem: Rational Behavior. Rational Behavior theory argues that decisions are made based on the assumption that the outcome results in the optimal level of benefit for an individual or group. Rationality means that the behavior makes logical sense. Furthermore, financial website Investopedia notes that “often the decision is made without significant emotional response over the choice”. Often in business decisions, emotions may play a factor, since it is human nature to avoid hurt feelings. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and the 17 year playoff drought continues. Therefore, Terry and Kim Pegula felt the need to set emotions aside and inform Whaley of his departure.

As we all know, tastes are subjective and always changing, so someone’s opinion of what is rational might differ from someone else’s. While The Pegulas may feel that their choice is rational, others may feel that Whaley wasn’t given a fair chance, since he never had his own head coach of choice, and since two of the coaches with whom he cooperated were hard to deal with (Marrone and Ryan). Yet, others will argue that despite differences, the NFL is a results-oriented business based upon optimal outcomes. If the Buffalo Bills failed to make the playoffs under Whaley’s tenure, then Terry and Kim felt that they had seen enough. Rational Behavior revolves around satisfaction obtained from advantageous decision making. Whether Whaley was irrational or the Pegulas were irrational is a topic of discussion among Bills fans, yet one thing’s for certain: Whaley’s time in Buffalo is done.

Flag Players, Over-Draft Candidates, and a Number of Rankings and Predictions!

Here’s a mish-mash of my different draft thoughts and rankings:

 

Bills 7 round mock draft (what I think the Bills SHOULD do):

Note: Picks are numbered in order of Bills selection, not by round. Bills picks are rounds 1, 2, 3, 5, 5, 5, 6.

  1. DeShone Kizer QB ND
  2. Taywan Taylor WR WKU
  3. Will Holden OT/Gareon Conley CB OSU (if available go Conley)
  4. Nate Hairston CB TEMP
  5. Jalen Reeves-Maybin LB TENN
  6. Xavier Woods S
  7. Whoever falls that is the “bad character” guy (Kelly, etc. Talent>effort>character) For now, Kelly

 

My Top 32 Big Board

  1. Myles Garrett EDGE TAMU
  2. Malik Hooker S OSU
  3. Marshon Lattimore CB OSU
  4. Solomon Thomas EDGE STAN
  5. OJ Howard TE BAMA
  6. DeShone Kizer QB ND
  7. Haason Reddick LB TEMP
  8. Malik McDowell DT MSU
  9. Charles Harris EDGE MIZZ
  10. David Njoku TE MIA
  11. Gareon Conley CB OSU
  12. Jonathan Allen DT BAMA
  13. Christian McCaffrey RB STAN
  14. Garrett Bolles OT UTAH
  15. Mitch Trubisky QB UNC
  16. Tim Williams EDGE BAMA
  17. Reuben Foster LB BAMA
  18. Corey Davis WR WMU
  19. Forrest Lamp OG WKU
  20. John Ross WR WASH
  21. Joe Mixon RB OKL
  22. Cam Robinson OT BAMA
  23. Jarrad Davis LB FLA
  24. Mike Williams WR CLEM
  25. Derek Rivers EDGE YST
  26. Tak McKinley EDGE UCLA
  27. Marlon Humphrey CB BAMA
  28. Evan Engram TE OLE
  29. Ryan Ramczyk OT WIS
  30. Chris Wormley DT MICH
  31. Chidobe Awuzie CB COL
  32. Marcus Williams S UTAH

 

Bold Predictions:

  1. Dalvin Cook is not taken in the 1st round
  2. Jamal Adams falls out of the Top 20
  3. Derek Barnett is not taken in the first round
  4. Malik McDowell is the first DT selected
  5. Nate Peterman is not selected on the first two days of the draft
  6. The Bills will take a QB round 1, and it will be Deshone Kizer 🙂 (let me have fun)

 

Flag Players
DeShone Kizer QB ND- Have I said it all already? Kizer is my favorite QB, and it is not even close. Rule of thumb: draft the “he is not a good person, says every anonymous person and media member” guy. Fake narratives. If it feels fake, it probably is, and it definitely is with Kizer. Also, always remember the Dan Marino effect. Expectations being high and then not being met. Find out what changed and determine if the player changed or the circumstances damaged the player. In Kizer’s case, all of the above apply. The team was expected to be great, and it was simply bad. It really hurt his chances of success. Even still, I saw pocket traits and rare throws from different platforms that demonstrated his unique abilities. DeShone Kizer. Ride or die.

 

OJ Howard and David Njoku TE BAMA & MIA- Top tight end prospects since 2000: OJ Howard, David Njoku. These two are athletic freaks and can be grouped together. Both are receivers in Tight End bodies and are absolute defensive coordinator nightmares. How do you cover a guy that is bigger than all of your defensive backs, but so much faster than your linebackers? They can run routes like receivers, but make contested catches like tight ends. Both are scheme-changing players and are the next generation of great mismatches. I will take both over the top receivers in this class without hesitation.

 

Charles Harris EDGE MIZZ- Harris is just a damn good football player. He was used so improperly this past season that I was scratching my head watching just about every game. Your best EDGE rusher and penetrator, and you have him doing the opposite? Why? This is the problem with defensive scheme changes. An extremely talented player does not fit your scheme? Change your scheme. Let Harris terrorize QBs off the edge with his quick first step, an explosive counter spin and speed off the edge. Positional value: QB, then edge rusher. Guys like Harris do not fall. He needs to be an early selection.

 

Derek Rivers EDGE YST- He is not a universal defensive fit, but as a stand up outside rusher, he can flash double digit sack potential. Great first step paired with excellent initial hand usage. He can bend the edge and lean without sacrificing balance or speed. Converts speed to power, a key trait on the edge. He has disruptor written all over him, and that is what you need on the edge. He is going to make the scout that jumps on the table for him a lot of money. His two biggest flaws: low level of competition and power versus the run. He dominated the lower competition, and I just am not really concerned with how a great pass rusher does against the run in a passing league. Excellent day 2 selection.

 

Malik McDowell DT MSU- Bet on talent over effort. Effort guys who are not talented seem to have a much lower ceiling than the talent guys who lack effort, and for obvious reasons. A part of the draft is taking a chance and determining if it is worth the reward. Guys with McDowell’s skill set do not come along very often, and those are the guys I am taking chances on. The payoff is excellent. McDowell is a top notch disruptor in both facets of the game. He is the total package, using both strength and quickness to penetrate. Some worry about the effort. His team was horrible, so some are worried that will translate to the NFL. Here is where I get confused. If your team is that bad, why do you care if a guy is not trying? If you are good, you know he will try, and give you elite level production. So why do you care, even if he has effort issues on the next level?

 

Christian McCaffrey RB STAN- There are a few critical abilities a successful running back must have. Ability to make defenders miss? Check. Vision? Check. Ability as a receiver? Big check. He is built for a modern day offense. His play in space is incredible, and that is how the NFL is played today. Who can make more plays in one-on-one space, and who can create space? With his ability to make guys miss, McCaffrey creates. I normally dislike first round RBs greatly, but McCaffrey is an exception.

 

Taywan Taylor WR WKU- Arguably the most underhyped day 2 WR in this class, Taylor is explosive. His separation skills are evident in all areas of the field. He is not limited like many others in this class. While his size is not ideal, he actually plays bigger than his size suggests. This could be a result of his longer arms, and he does have a contested high point catch ability you would not think a player of his size would have. I like him a lot as a round 2 player, and he is my #5 WR.

 

Jalen Reeves-Maybin LB TENN- If he is not off the board at the beginning of day 3, the league is not doing this draft thing right. He is the perfect WILL linebacker who can run and chase, but most importantly COVER. It is a passing league, and when your linebacker slides out to nickel CB and Safety, you are in a good spot. He’s an athletic, instinctual player that disrupts. Reeves-Maybin is Buffalo’s dream linebacker. I kind of like him blitzing, too. He proved to be effective at Tennessee in that area. A part of me thinks he should go on day 2. Draft him, Buffalo.

 

Joe Williams RB UTAH- A big reason I put him on my flag players is because of the Buffalo fit. This is another player that the Bills should be all over. He is a zone, one cut style of runner that runs with decisiveness and quickness in the hole. He’s a really good athlete (seeing a theme yet?) that is falling, mainly due to character concerns (seeing another theme?) and a question of his commitment to football. When you get a guy with that kind of speed, vision and game breaking ability behind a very good offensive line that fits his skill set, you have the potential for a good starter on day 3. Steal.

 

Nate Hairston CB TEMP- This is the perfect McDermott mid round CB selection. He is your long, athletic, cover 3 corner that can be built into a long term starter. I will take Hairston in round 4 over Humphrey in round 1 every day. He shows excellent change of direction and tackling ability, which are necessary in this defense. He fits the mold of what you are looking for in today’s styles. He is far from a finished product, but should be a starter in 2-3 years.

 

Overdraft Candidates

Derek Barnett EDGE TENN- Strength is demolishing in the run game. He does not just set the edge, he makes disruptive plays with great hands. Unfortunately, these players are not valued in today’s NFL. It is a passing league, and if you are not an elite edge rusher, then you are not worthy of a first round pick. To be an elite edge rusher, you need an elite athletic profile. Barnett does not. He is incredibly average, and will be a serviceable run stopper. Day 2.

 

Pat Mahomes QB TTU- It is almost impossible to completely alter a player’s throwing style. They revert back to what they know. Think Tim Tebow. You can try to rebuild them all you want, but it just won’t happen. Mahomes is this. He has zero discipline in his game. When push comes to shove, he will revert back. Poor decision maker. Some fan base is going to be very unhappy in a few years.

 

Jamal Adams S LSU- I want nothing to do with him. At safety, if you are not exceptional in coverage, then you don’t belong in round 1. Adams is average in his change of direction ability. He is average in anticipation. Strong safeties whose skill set is in the box do not have high value in the NFL. Their pay reflects that. Adams is talked about in the same way LaRon Landry was. He will be a fine player, but he just won’t be important. He’s a day 2 player.

 

Jabrill Peppers S MICH- Guys who don’t have a definitive role or position do not belong in round 1. Same as Adams, “tweeners” are not valued. He has playmaking potential, but he is way too much of a projection for where he is supposed to be taken.

 

Jonathan Allen DT BAMA- I always worry about Alabama players with injury issues. They tend to linger. I have long term concerns here with his shoulders.

 

Marlon Humphrey CB BAMA- You can find zone corners relatively easily, especially in this draft. Humphrey struggles with the deep ball and often overreacts to receiver movements. While he does have raw skills to be coached up, I will let someone else draft him and get someone later that can be just as good.

Cover 1 | The Podcast Episode #17 Peppers, Gillislee and the NFL Draft

Erik Turner and Kevin Massare cover a multitude of topics leading into the 2017 NFL Draft.

  • Jabrill Peppers’ diluted urine sample
  • Bills not matching Mike Gillislee’s offer, RB options
  • EVERYTHING NFL DRAFT

 


Scouting Reports:

Scouting Report | WR Zay Jones

Scouting Report | LB Raekwon McMillan

2017 NFL Draft Profile | WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

 

 

2017 Buffalo Bills Schedule (Updated)

2017 Buffalo Bills Schedule:

Week 1: vs NYJ

Week 2: @ CAR

Week 3: vs DEN

Week 4: @ ATL

Week 5: @ CIN

Week 6: BYE

Week 7: vs TB

Week 8: vs OAK

Week 9: @ NYJ (TNF)

Week 10: vs NO

Week 11: @ LAC

Week 12: @ KC

Week 13: vs NE

Week 14: vs Indy

Week 15: vs MIA

Week 16: @ NE

Week 17: @ MIA

Signals, Smokescreens, Satisfaction

In contract theory and economics, we often talk about how when we give something of value it sends a signal to other people and relays information about itself. If I were to assign something a price, which is a form of value, then I would be sending a signal to a buyer or seller, giving them the option of whether they want to purchase or sell that item. A prime example of an online service that involves signaling is eBay, where items are posted for people to engage in buying and selling that involves set prices. However, in economics and contract theory there can be false signals, which are essentially signals that give off the wrong impression or indicate a value of an item that is not correct. In other words, if a person were set a price for an item and a buyer purchase the item, but later discover that the object is worth less than what they bought it for, then that purchaser may feel they have been “robbed” or lied to. This is sometimes what we call a “smokescreen”: an act that is performed to conceal or falsify the value of something.

But what do smokescreens and signals have to do with the NFL? They are big part of it, especially during each year’s draft process. Teams will often send false signals or smokescreens about who they are going to pick, concealing their true intentions or trying to entice trade offers. A team may want to draft a top WR, but another team may value that receiver at the same level. The team who values the WR at the same level may not want the other franchise to notice, so they might produce a smokescreen and workout several RBs who analysts set at a high value, even though they have no intention of drafting a RB. For example, the Buffalo Bills re-signed Tyrod Taylor, but they have worked out and visited with many of the draft’s top QBs, including Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, DeShone Kizer, Nathan Peterman, and others. Beat writers who cover the Bills have debated whether this is a smokescreen or not, since the Bills have the 10th pick. Other teams may now think the Bills want to draft a QB, but it’s possible the Bills have other plans. To hide their true intentions, the Bills may have sent false signals to other franchises. As this example shows,the NFL (and its draft) emulates economic competition, in which people in a market compete for things that have the highest value.

Sean McDermott even touched upon the fact that the visits could have possibly been a false signal, saying “Maybe these last three or four trips were just kind of all a smokescreen, right? It’s kind of like hiding your presents from your kids. You kind of put them in different spots and see, right? We’ll just see. It’s just a big mystery at this point. No one really knows. You never know who’s going to be there at number 10 when we pick. You just got to go do the homework and study it up.” Peter Schrager of “Good Morning Football” on the NFL Network also touched upon this idea, indicating that the Cleveland Browns at pick 12 could possibly trade with the Bills at 10, eyeing QBs like Trubisky. For the Bills, these smokescreens could result in more draft picks, which some Bills fans would heartily rejoice. Regardless of whether the Bills’ meetings are a smokescreen, we all know that such false signals are prevalent during the draft. Just as signals are important in any interaction between people in a market, so are smokescreens in the interactions between NFL franchises in the NFL Draft market.

Eye for Talent, Period. By David Palermo

The NFL Draft grows every year, and so does the number of ‘armchair general managers.’ Thanks to independent film breakdown sites like Cover1.net, which offers a condensed football education, fans are ‘in the know’ now more than ever. Much like the emergence of the All-22 camera angle for the average fan, draft and scouting sites have taken off. This has increased the amount of fan criticism of front office positions like the general managers, and there is no doubt that GM Doug Whaley has been in the crosshairs of the Buffalo media since he assumed the position in 2013.

But the problem is that most fans don’t (can’t?) view Whaley’s tenure objectively.

Doug Whaley’s Track Record

Doug Whaley is equivalent to a franchise quarterback like an Aaron Rodgers, in that both were groomed for the position they now hold. Buddy Nix had the vision to immediately find his own successor from a great franchise in the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are an organization of stability from the top down. When they hire general managers, coaches, scouts, etc., they stick with them. That organization oozes continuity because they hire evaluators, teach them, value them, and grow with them.

Whaley was a scouting ‘soldier’ for that organization for many years. He spent ten years as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pro scouting coordinator. Here were some of his responsibilities:

“Responsible for advance scouting of the Steelers’ opponents. His focus was breaking down opposing players for the team’s upcoming opponents.

He was also responsible for making campus visits and scouting college players throughout the year. Whaley also evaluated unrestricted and restricted free agents throughout the season and into the free agent offseason period.”

Here are some of the picks he had a hand in for the Steelers from 1999-2009.

2009 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
RD SEL # PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 32 Ziggy Hood DT Missouri
3 79 Kraig Urbik T Wisconsin
3 84 Mike Wallace WR Mississippi
3 96 Keenan Lewis DB Oregon State
5 168 Joe Burnett DB Central Florida
5 169 Frank Summers RB Nevada-Las Vegas
6 205 Ra’Shon Harris DT Oregon
7 226 A.Q. Shipley C Penn State
7 241 David Johnson TE Arkansas State
2008 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
RD SEL # PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 23 Rashard Mendenhall RB Illinois
2 53 Limas Sweed WR Texas
3 88 Bruce Davis LB UCLA
4 130 Tony Hills T Texas
5 156 Dennis Dixon QB Oregon
6 188 Mike Humpal OLB Iowa
6 194 Ryan Mundy FS West Virginia
2007 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
RD SEL # PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 15 Lawrence Timmons LB Florida State
2 46 LaMarr Woodley LB Michigan
3 77 Matt Spaeth TE Minnesota
4 112 Daniel Sepulveda P Baylor
4 132 Ryan McBean DE Oklahoma State
5 156 Cameron Stephenson G Rutgers
5 170 William Gay CB Louisville
7 227 Dallas Baker WR Florida
2006 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
RD SEL # PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 25 Santonio Holmes WR Ohio State
3 83 Anthony Smith DB Syracuse
3 95 Willie Reid WR Florida State
4 131 Willie Colon T Hofstra
4 133 Orien Harris DT Miami (Fla.)
5 164 Omar Jacobs QB Bowling Green State
5 167 Charles Davis TE Purdue
6 201 Marvin Philip C California
7 240 Cedric Humes RB Virginia Tech
2005 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
RD SEL # PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 30 Heath Miller TE Virginia
2 62 Bryant McFadden DB Florida State
3 93 Trai Essex T Northwestern
4 131 Fred Gibson WR Georgia
5 166 Rian Wallace LB Temple
6 204 Chris Kemoeatu G Utah
7 228 Shaun Nua DE Brigham Young
7 244 Noah Herron RB Northwestern
2004 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
RD SEL # PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 11 Ben Roethlisberger QB Miami (Ohio)
2 38 Ricardo Colclough CB Tusculum
3 75 Max Starks T Florida
5 145 Nathaniel Adibi DE Virginia Tech
6 177 Bo Lacy T Arkansas
6 194 Matt Kranchick TE Penn State
6 197 Drew Caylor C Stanford
7 212 Eric Taylor DT Memphis
2003 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
RD SEL # PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 16 Troy Polamalu DB USC
2 59 Alonzo Jackson LB Florida State
4 125 Ike Taylor CB Louisiana-Lafayette
5 163 Brian St. Pierre QB Boston College
7 242 J.T. Wall Georgia
2002 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
RD SEL # PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 30 Kendall Simmons G Auburn
2 62 Antwaan Randle El WR Indiana
3 94 Chris Hope DB Florida State
4 128 Larry Foote ILB Michigan
5 166 Verron Haynes RB Georgia
6 202 Lee Mays WR Texas-El Paso
7 212 LaVar Glover CB Cincinnati
7 242 Brett Keisel DE Brigham Young
2001 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
RD SEL # PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 19 Casey Hampton NT Texas
2 39 Kendrell Bell ILB Georgia
4 111 Mathias Nkwenti T Temple
5 146 Chukky Okobi C Purdue
6 181 Rodney Bailey DE Ohio State
6 182 Roger Knight LB Wisconsin
7 218 Chris Taylor Texas A&M
2000 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
RD SEL # PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 8 Plaxico Burress WR Michigan State
2 38 Marvel Smith T Arizona State
3 72 Kendrick Clancy NT Mississippi
3 77 Hank Poteat CB Pittsburgh
4 103 Danny Farmer WR UCLA
5 137 Clark Haggans LB Colorado State
5 163 Tee Martin QB Tennessee
6 173 Chris Combs DE Duke
6 204 Jason Gavadza TE Kent State
1999 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS
RD SEL # PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 13 Troy Edwards WR Louisiana Tech
2 59 Scott Shields DB Weber State
3 73 Joey Porter LB Colorado State
3 74 Kris Farris T UCLA
3 95 Amos Zereoue RB West Virginia
4 109 Aaron Smith DE Northern Colorado
5 136 Jerame Tuman TE Michigan
5 166 Malcolm Johnson WR Notre Dame
7 214 Antonio Dingle DT Virginia
7 219 Chad Kelsay LB Nebraska
7 228 Kris Brown K Nebraska

When you look at that list, over the course of ten years you can’t deny that Whaley and his scouting staffs had their fair share of hits and misses. Every team and GM does. Finding 2-3 future starters or productive players per draft class are what teams shoot for. How many starters or productive players has he drafted in his short tenure?

We can blame the organization or Whaley for that matter on the EJ Manuel pick. Everyone knows he was instructed to find the best QB in that draft, did and Nix instructed him to draft Manuel. I guess you can pin that on him, even though he wasn’t named GM until after the draft. 

How did this QB draft class pan out?

1 16 Buffalo Bills EJ Manuel QB Florida State ACC from St. Louis [R1 – 5]
2 39 New York Jets Geno Smith” href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geno_Smith”>Geno Smith QB West Virginia Big 12
3 73 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mike Glennon” href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Glennon”>Mike Glennon QB N.C. State ACC
4 98 Philadelphia Eagles Matt Barkley” href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Barkley”>Matt Barkley QB USC Pac-12 from Jacksonville [R4 – 1]
4 110 New York Giants Ryan Nassib” href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Nassib”>Ryan Nassib QB Syracuse Big East from San Diego via Arizona [R4 – 8]
4 112 Oakland Raiders Tyler Wilson QB Arkansas SEC from Tampa Bay [R4 – 10]
4 115 Pittsburgh Steelers Landry Jones” href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landry_Jones”>Landry Jones QB Oklahoma Big 12
7 221 San Diego Chargers Brad Sorensen QB Southern Utah Big Sky
7 234 Denver Broncos Zac Dysert QB Miami (OH) MAC
7 237 San Francisco 49ers B. J. Daniels QB South Florida Big East

 

Everything starts with how you evaluate talent, and last I checked the Bills have had a plethora of talent and an increased overall record since Doug Whaley has taken charge. Here is how I would break down the avenues by which teams acquire talent: the draft and free agency (including undrafted free agents) could be considered 75% of how a roster is built. This leaves 25% open for trades. Why only 25% towards trades? They are rare in the modern NFL.

So lets look at the different ways and reasons Whaley made the moves he has.

The Bills defense was a 3-4 scheme when Whaley took over as GM in May 2013, but Pettine got the Browns Head coaching gig so what did he do? Signed former Head Coach Jim Schwartz to become the defensive coordinator. Schwartz brought in a wide nine 4-3 defense, and the savy coach adapted the players to his scheme the best he could and the defense dominated. The defense was phenomenal, but the offense was bad.

Most fans scoff at the decision to trade up to get Sammy Watkins in 2014 to help jumpstart the offense. The draft became known as a deep WR draft class so the capital surrendered (2015 1st rounder) overshadowed and will always overshadow Watkins’ talent.

Fans still overlook his talent because of what the team gave up, even more so after this past season due to his foot injury. Never mind that he is an elite talent.

 

Marrone left following the 2014 season and the organization moved onto Rex’s 3-4/4-6 hybrid defense. Feeling that the defense would continue its dominance Whaley addressed the offensive side of the ball so what did he do?

He traded an injured second round linebacker Kiko Alonso for All Pro Running Back LeSean McCoy. That was hands down the best move by Doug Whaley to date. Yet, Whaley doesn’t get credit for it because apparently Chip Kelly initiated the trade? Whaley pulled the trigger, right? He should get the credit.

 

What else did he do to improve the offensive side of the ball that season? He signed Harvin, Taylor, Incognito, Clay, drafted John Miller and Karlos Williams. Not to mention an instant starting corner in Ronald Darby. Is that not providing talent for his coaching staff?

All in all, Whaley had to acquire talent to fit three completely different defensive schemes, and two different offensive schemes. How much consistency can you expect from young players that are going through complete system changes? He was tasked with bringing in players for completely different defenses and often with opposing skill sets (4-3 vs. 3-4). But still no credit.

Fans will say, “Whaley doesn’t get credit for bringing in Zach Brown, Lorenzo Alexander, Richie Incognito, Taylor and many others. Those were Rex Ryan moves.” You mean to tell me that Whaley, his pro personnel director Jim Monos, and advanced scouting staff, people who are assigned to scout free agents, just rolled over and approved? No. Rex may have recommended those players, but he didn’t pull the trigger. Everyone did their homework on those players, evaluated their skills, traits, and potential fits in Rex’s scheme (or  Shady’s fit in Roman’s scheme/offensive philosophy) and Whaley executed.

Retaining their own guys is a common approach by teams such as the Packers and Steelers, and something that Whaley has attempted to do. The Bills gave second contracts to Cordy Glenn, Aaron Williams, Fred Jackson, Eric Wood, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Marcus Easley, and guys they brought in as free agents or UDFA like Nickell Robey-Coleman, Tyrod Taylor, Lorenzo Alexander, Richie Incognito, and others.

 

Has Whaley struggled with some responsibilities that fall under the GM title? Most definitely. Consider Marcell Dareus’s contract. Whaley may not have put the contract together, but he certainly gave the thumbs up, and leaving out verbiage that could void the contract if he continued to get into trouble off the field was a gaffe.

There’s no language in Dareus’ contract that voids the guaranteed money due to suspension in future years of the seven-year, $102.3 million pact that he signed in 2015, which would leave the Bills with sizable dead money on their cap if they did want to part ways with Dareus. -Pro Football Talk

 

The window for guys like Kyle Williams, Eric Wood, and even LeSean McCoy is closing. The Bills have six picks in the 2017 NFL draft, and I have full trust that Whaley will nail it (again). This draft is deep at positions that he typically scouts well in linebacker, corner, and safety, which are also positions of need.

Whaley now has a coach and scheme to which he can commit resources. The team hired Sean McDermott for the long run and they plan on staying the course. McDermott put offensive and defensive systems in place that are respected and have been successful. They are the kinds of systems that maximize their players’ potential, but also allow the team to build depth and plug in a player without a steep drop off in execution if a starter gets injured.

Do not let only one avenue for finding talent (the draft) cloud what the main goal is: finding quality talent anywhere we can. This is something that Whaley has done amidst an ownership change, coaching changes, and scheme changes galore. Overall, Doug Whaley certainly deserves blame for his mistakes, but he also deserves praise for his impressive successes.

Follow Dave @NumbBillsFan and Adam @NumbBillsAdamD

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