Bills Begin Rebuilding Process
Spiller to become cornerstone of team's rebirth.
by Steve Saslow
April 25, 2010

C.J. Spiller and Ralph WilsonMany fans were upset that the Bills went with a luxury pick with the ninth overall pick in the draft by taking running back C.J. Spiller. I think it just proved the point that the team is in full rebuilding mode. Buddy Nix pretty much confirmed it after the draft saying this draft was just a first step in the process. Even though the team is loaded at the position if the rebuilding plan goes well they will be a decent team in three years. Spiller will be the cornerstone of that rebirth, Ralph Wilson said so himself. At that point nobody will remember that the team had too much depth in the backfield when they chose Spiller. They will just know him as the star he hopefully becomes.

That being said there are many questions raised by this draft. They didn't choose their quarterback of the future but took a development project in round 7 with the pick of Levi Brown. They didn't address the offensive tackle issue until the 5th round when they reached for the first Chinese-American to be drafted into the NFL in Ed Wang. Five of their nine picks were from small colleges which will question if they can make the huge jump in competition to the NFL.

The Bills had two chances to take Jimmy Clausen and three chanced to get Colt McCoy. Some people are outraged that they passed on two of the top four quarterbacks according to the so-called draft experts. Does that mean that Nix and Chan Gailey feel they have their long term quarterback on the current roster? No, it means that they don't think any of these quarterbacks would develop into the franchise player they have been searching for at the position since Jim Kelly left. They know this team won't be very good this year and will likely have a high pick next year when the QB class is better. There is a chance they looked ahead and think they have a better chance at better prospects next year. In the meantime they can start to develop Brown as a long term backup quarterback and see if there is anything in Brian Brohm who may have the best upside out of the three who will fight for the starting job this year. A year when it really doesn't matter because this team won't compete for the playoffs and the powers at be know that.

The Bills desperately needs help at offensive tackle and for the second draft in a row they almost ignored it. Wang was the first tackle drafted as high as round 5 since Mike Williams was taken fourth overall. He was the first tackle taken by the team since Demetrius Bell was picked two years ago. There is a lot of pressure on a converted tight end who is still learning to play the position. That likely leaves Bell as the starting left tackle if he gets healthy and can stay healthy. Something he couldn't do last year. The only other lineman they drafted was from lineman U when they took Kyle Calloway from Iowa in the seventh round. He played tackle for the Hawkeyes but will play guard for the Bills. He adds depth to the position what is needed considering the devastating broken leg Eric Wood is coming back from. Calloway could be a versatile member of the line for years to come which is not something I can absolutely say about Wang.

The pick that craws at me the most is the 2nd round choice of DT Torell Troup. Yes they need a big nose tackle for the 3-4 defense and Troup may be a solid prospect but he's making a huge leap from the University of Central Florida to the pros. If they wanted a nose tackle at that point there were a few rated higher than Troup. If he was their man they could have waited and took him in round 3 and they could have taken the offensive tackle they desperately needed in round 2.

They added three other players in the draft to help them with the conversion to the 3-4 taking Alex Carrington in the third round and Arthur Moats and Danny Batten in the sixth round. They are all players from very small schools that played in the 4-3 defense. Moats and Batten will be switching positions which is normal when you go to the 3-4. Moats will play inside linebacker and Batten outside linebacker. These aren't the tweener picks of the past that don't fit at end or linebacker or safety or linebacker. They fit fine in the defense at the positions they are slotted in.

I feel the team needed to draft two wide receivers in this draft since there is a huge lack of depth there. They only took one but I think the one they took has tremendous upside in Connecticut's Marcus Easley. Some will say he's a one hit wonder since he only started his senior year, and not the whole year at that. He may be a steal in the fourth round who could contribute right away.

My question is did they need to change to the 3-4? Yes, the run defense has been awful so the new defense may help. The problem is if they stayed in the 4-3 they have some good defensive players for that scheme. They could have filled more offensive holes instead of adding players that fit the 3-4 mold. Since this is a rebuilding scheme though, and the 3-4 is the chic scheme of choice, this is the right time to make the shift. The players they did get are bigger and should help them against the run if they can make the jump from the small schools they came from. Nix said they don't look at the schools, they look at their size and these guys are big enough to play in the NFL at the positions they will play.

We gave the Bills a B in our final draft grade. That is because we have to give the new regime the benefit of the doubt that they are rebuilding in the correct manner. It will be a couple of years before we know if they drafted right. Nix said that all the players they took they had a higher grade on than when they got them but they don't know if they are right yet. Nix is known throughout the league as an astute talent evaluator, we have to hope he got it right because if he didn't the latest rebuilding process took a step back like the three other rebuilding phases this past decade. If he hits on most of these picks the new Bills are off and running and should be good again... in a couple of years.