Playoff Drought Hit 17 Years in 2016

The 2016 season was the 17th straight year that the Bills missed the playoffs and they continue to have the longest playoff drought in any of the four major sports in America. This will be another season of upheaval as what has become a nearly bi-annual tradition of the team starting the offseason looking for a new coach. For the 17th year in a row (I know it coincides with the drought, maybe I should stop doing them?) we do our position by position final exam grades as well as individual player grades for key players at each position. We also take a stab at what we think next season's roster will look like:

Quarterbacks: Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel, Cardale Jones

This was the year that Taylor was supposed to take the next step to being a franchise quarterback armed with a new contract extension that had the team hedging its bet. It ended with Taylor on the bench so they can protect themselves against guaranteeing $30 Million and a loss of confidence in him. Taylor still struggled as a passer but he did put up a lot of points. Manuel got one last look in the finale and failed miserably. Jones is the new hope for the future and got into the finale but he is still a very raw project.
Final Overall Grade C-: For all the uncertainty they did score more points than any season since 1998.
Taylor C: He's an average starter but his annual salary will be commensurate with his production. It still looks like they will part ways with him. Question is who would replace him?
Manuel F: He got the start in the finale and was totally inept. His Bills career has to be over.
Jones Incomplete: Will get a lot of instruction in the offseason but still not ready to be a starter next season.

Running Backs: LeSean McCoy, Mike Gillislee, Jonathan Williams, Reggie Bush, Jerome Felton

The Bills led the NFL in rushing for a second straight year as Shady was a lot of fun to watch as he really bought in to everything the team was doing and showed why he is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL. He had 1,267 yards rushing and a whopping 5.4 yard average per carry. Gillislee really solidified the number two spot rushing for 577 yards and had an even better 5.7 yards per carry. Rookie Jonathan Williams struggled some but has talent. Bush was supposed to be a spark plug but he finished the season as the only back to have negative yards for the season. Felton did a fantastic job as a lead blocker.
Final Overall Grade A: Top rushing attack in the league is the best unit on the team.
McCoy A+: Was great this year and developed into a team leader. Look for much of the same next year from him.
Gillislee A-: Really solid backup who should serve the same role next year.
Williams C: Needs to continue his development next year as the #3.
Bush F: His career is over.
Felton A: Showed there is still a value in having a true fullback.

Receivers: Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Brandon Tate, Justin Hunter, Charles Clay, Nick O'Leary

Watkins continues to battle injuries as he missed half the season with his foot problems and struggled with it the other half. He only had 28 catches for 430 yards as even when he did play he was out of sync with Taylor. Woods was the leader with 613 receiving yards but still not great numbers for a number two receiver. He only scored one touchdown all season. Goodwin's numbers were very pedestrian for a number three guy with just 29 catches for 430 yards. Tate and Hunter were used in some situations because the position was decimated with injuries. Clay was underutilized as Taylor rarely looked his way until the final few weeks when he really came on. He led the team with 57 receptions.
Final Overall Grade F: This unit is void of talent and requires a complete rebuild for 2017.
Watkins D: To become elite he needs to get healthy and stay healthy.
Woods D: He is ready for new surroundings as he will leave in free agency.
Goodwin D: Time to part ways with this underachieving speedster as he hits the open market.
Tate D: Made a few plays when pressed into service.
Hunter C: Big target who was used in the red zone and finished with four TDs. Could look to bring him back next year for that role.
Clay C+: Next year's QB needs to utilize him better.
O'Leary D: Really didn't do anything as the #2 TE. May try to upgrade this spot in the offseason.

Offensive Line: Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller, Jordan Mills, Ryan Groy, Cyrus Kouandjio,

This unit did a solid job blocking in the running game. Miller had a solid second season while Groy filled in admirably for the injured Wood. Glenn battled injuries all year but was as solid as ever. Incognito was once again consistently good. Mills struggled at right tackle but Kouandjio didn't play well there although he filled in nicely at left tackle for Glenn.
Final Overall Grade B: Gave up too many sacks but some of that was Taylor hanging on to the ball too long.
Glenn B+: Needs to get healthy for next season.
Incognito B+: Still the rock of the offensive line next season.
Wood A-: Was playing very well before breaking his leg.
Miller A: Could develop into a top guard next year.
Mills D: May be time to let him go as a free agent.
Groy A: Solid backup who was excellent at center when Wood went down. Should be top interior backup next year again.
Kouandjio B: Much better on the left side perhaps they leave him there and put Glenn on the right side?

Defensive Line: Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Adolphus Washington, Leger Douzable, Jerel Worthy, Corbin Bryant

Kyle Williams had a solid season despite his age but may have finally had enough after breaking down late in the season. Dareus was useless the first half of the season because of a suspension and injuries. When he did play he didn't really do much of anything which is very disappointing from the team's highest paid player. Washington saw his playing time decrease as the season went on. Douzable played very well in Rex Ryan's scheme. Worthy showed talent and should have been used more. Bryant was solid until suffering a season ending injury.
Final Overall Grade C-: Many holes led to disappointing run defense.
Kyle Williams B+: The undisputed leader on defense is contemplating retirement.
Dareus F: Unmotivated player who can't justify his contract.
Washington D: Needs to develop more in new defense to continue to get playing time.
Douzable B: Solid player who may not fit the new coach's scheme so he may leave in free agency.
Worthy B: A player worth developing next season.
Bryant D: His Bills career may be over as he hits the market.

Linebackers: Jerry Hughes, Lorenzo Alexander, Zach Brown, Preston Brown

The linebacking corps was a pleasant surprise as they were the one unit that stayed healthy. Alexander and Zach Brown were unexpected finds in free agency but Preston Brown and Hughes were disappointments.
Final Overall Grade C: Needed to do more for the awful run defense.
Hughes C-: Disappeared late in the season. Will fit a 4-3 scheme better which they will likely go to next season.
Alexander A-: What a career resurgence from him. Already talking a new deal with the Bills.
Z. Brown B+: The team's leading tackler would fit a 4-3 scheme nicely. Will likely look to re-sign the free agent.
P. Brown C+: 2nd in tacklers but struggled in pass coverage. He also fits a 4-3 scheme better.

Secondary: Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Kevon Seymour, Corey White, Corey Graham, Aaron Williams, Robert Blanton

Gilmore struggled mightily early in the year but played better as the season went on and was great down the stretch. Darby had a massive sophomore slump. This unit took a huge hit when Williams suffered another neck injury.
Final Overall Grade C: This position needs total rebuilding in the offseason as well.
Gilmore B: Wants to be paid like a top 5 corner but he's not one. Could be tagged but likely will be allowed to leave in free agency.
Darby D: They will really need him to bounce back from a bad second season.
Robey-Coleman C-: Feisty overachieving nickel corner may have run out of steam in Buffalo.
Seymour B-: Decent rookie season will need to develop in his second season as his playing time will likely increase in year two.
White D Played both corner and safety but neither well. They will likely not re-sign him.
Graham C+: Played almost every down. Versatile safety who's experience will be counted on next year for rebuilt unit.
Aaron Williams Inc: Looks like he is headed for an early retirement which is sad especially since the unit collapsed when he got hurt.
Blanton F Was an awful signing who will not be retained.

Special Teams: Dan Carpenter, Colton Schmidt, Brandon Tate, Garrison Sanborn

Carpenter continued to miss extra points and was horrible on field goals outside of 40. Schmidt was just average if that. Tate was a nice late preseason signing who was solid as the main returner.
Final Overall Grade C: This unit was just average.
Carpenter D: He cost them the Dolphins game and will likely not be on the team next season.
Schmidt C: Need to bring in competition for him next year.
Tate B: Solid returner headed to free agency who should be brought back.
Coverage Teams B+: Didn't allow a touchdown for a third year in a row.
Sanborn B+: Still a solid long snapper who should return although Leid Ferguson will get another look.

Coaching: Rex Ryan, Anthony Lynn, Dennis Thurman, Danny Crossman

Ryan was let go after failing to make the playoffs as the defense failed to make any improvement on their 19th ranked unit in both 2015 and 2016. Lynn's meteoric rise from RB coach to offensive coordinator to interim head coach was something to see as the offense improved under his watch. It's unknown how much say Thurman had on the defense but they had no answers way too often. Crossman's special teams were not very good.
Final Overall Grade D: Most, if not all staff members will be gone next season.
Ryan F: He failed in Buffalo and will now hit the broadcast booth where he will excel.
Lynn A-: A rising star. Will he be the next head coach of the Bills or another team? Probably.
Thurman F: Will he get a job now that Ryan will be out of the league?
Crossman C: Will likely be replaced by new coaching staff.

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