Playoff Drought Comes To Surprising End

The 2017 season was definitely a successful one as the Bills ended their 17 year playoff drought. It was an incredible achievement in the first year of the Sean McDermott/Brandon Beane era especially after they got rid of several high caliber players that didn't buy in to "the process". This will be another offseason of upheaval as the new era looks towards adding to the foundation for future success. For the 18th year in a row 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, Nate Peterman, Joe Webb

It was another interesting year at the quarterback position. The Bills went with Tyrod until Sean McDermott made the dubious move to bench him against the Chargers for Nate Peterman. That lasted one horrible half before he went back to Taylor in a move that seemed to suggest he was the better of two bad options.
Final Overall Grade D: Taylor took a step back as a passer this year as the Bills finished 31st passing after finishing 30th in 2016.
Taylor D: He is a below average passer and an average QB thanks to his legs. All pertinent statistics were down from a year ago. Another uncertain offseason for him but I would guess he is gone and the team will draft a QB high and sign another free agent.
Peterman D-: Five interceptions in one half? Wow! He did look good in the snow game until getting hurt. Will be back as a number two or three.
Webb C: Had his moment bringing the team back in the snow game. His main contribution was special teams. Could be back in that role next year as low level free agent signing.

Running Backs: LeSean McCoy, Mike Tolbert, Patrick DiMarco

For the first time in three years the Bills didn't lead the NFL in rushing. They did well though finishing 6th. Shady finished four yards per carry and 1,138 yards rushing as he went over the 10,000 yard mark for his career. The backup RB position left a lot to be desired especially with McDermott's fascination with Tolbert. DiMarco was a non-factor as most fullbacks are.
Final Overall Grade B: Shady is the best player on this team but needed the depth behind him he had in 2016.
McCoy A: Shows no signs of slowing down. The talk of moving on from him for cap reasons is laughable.
Tolbert F: He was horrible but don't rule out McDermott bringing him back because he loves him.
DiMarco D: Really wasn't a factor but should be back as their lone fullback.

Receivers: Jordan Matthews, Zay Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, Deonte Thompson, Brandon Tate, Charles Clay, Nick O'Leary

When they traded away Sammy Watkins and allowed Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin to leave this unit had a complete overhaul but it was horrible from top to bottom. Their best receiver was Clay who led all receivers in catches and yards. Jones had a disappointing rookie season while Matthews came over from Philadelphia and was hurt most of the year and ineffective when he was able to play. The trade for Benjamin will likely pay dividends next year but injuries hampered him here as well. Thompson was a bright spot when he was signed off the street.
Final Overall Grade D: It was the sorriest group of wide receivers in the NFL so they get an F. The TEs bring the total grade up to a D.
Matthews D: Injuries and ineffectiveness made it an uninspiring season in Buffalo. He will surely go elsewhere in free agency.
Jones F: Struggled with drops and then disappeared totally from the offense. They will be hopeful he develops a lot in season two.
Benjamin C: If he can stay healthy next year he is the number one receiver on this team.
Thompson B+: The best wide receiver on this team came off the street. Will be back and challenge for the number two spot again.
Tate D: Made a few plays when pressed into service. Likely will be let go as a free agent unless they don't find a better returner.
Clay B: Was utilized much better than in 2016 and put up decent numbers.
O'Leary C+: Developed as a receiver and could see his role increased next year.

Offensive Line: Cordy Glenn, Dion Dawkins, Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, Vlad Ducasse, Jordan Mills, John Miller,

This unit did a solid job blocking in the running game once again this year but did give up a whopping 47 sacks. Some of that was Taylor holding on to the ball too long. Glenn was injured most of the year but Dawkins developed very quickly and has a very bright future. Incognito and Wood held down the middle very well. Ducasse took over from Miller midway through the season and played real well down the stretch. Mills played well in spots but they never had a better option at right tackle.
Final Overall Grade C: Seemed to take a step back as they learned a new blocking scheme.
Glenn Incomplete: Two seasons filled with injuries. Bills will likely look to trade him.
Dawkins A: Solid rookie season will start next year again but on which side?
Incognito C: Took a slight step back this season as age may be catching up to him. Future clouded by investigation over alleged racial slur in Wildcard game.
Wood B-: Seemed to struggle a bit this year. Still will be the anchor of the line next year after signing an extension last offseason.
Ducasse B: Everyone was wondering why the coaches loved him. He showed it near the end of the season when he was perhaps the best linemen on the team.
Miller D: Was benched during the season and may be let go before next year.
Mills C: Played a little better in 2017 but they will look for an upgrade this offseason or move Dawkins to his spot.

Defensive Line: Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes, Shaq Lawson, Eddie Yarbrough, Ryan Davis, Adolphus Washington, Cedric Thornton

Kyle Williams was the leader of this football team as retirement looms once again for the heart and soul of this football team. Hughes struggled in this defense despite playing in a 4-3 defense again which is his specialty. Lawson did decent in the run game but struggled rushing the passer before getting hurt. The rest of the players were solid role players.
Final Overall Grade C-: There was way too little pressure produced by this unit.
Kyle Williams C: Started showing his age but will be brought back if he doesn't retire.
Hughes D: 2nd straight down season for him. Will likely be back because they have nobody else to rush the passer.
Lawson C: Solid against the run but need more from him rushing the passer. Hopefully will grow more next season.
Yarbrough C: Made a huge splash in the preseason but less effective as the season progressed. Likely will be back for depth purposes.
Davis B: Solid free agent addition who gave them a steady hand. Will be back and may see playing time increased.
Washington D: Has never developed as a pro and may not be back in 2018.
Thornton C: An average depth player.

Linebackers: Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Milano, Ramon Humber, Preston Brown, Tanner Vallejo

The linebacking corps played better than expected. Alexander saw playing time decreased because of the 4-3 scheme but he was effective when in there. Milano was a pleasant surprise as a 5th round draft pick and took the starting job away from Humber late in the season. Brown excelled in this defense and led the league in tackles.
Final Overall Grade B-: Did better than expected but needed more consistency.
Alexander B: Solid leader who played well. Should be brought back despite age.
Milano A: Another promising rookie who should start from day one next year.
Humber C+: Played pretty well and should come back for depth next year.
Brown A: Much better than expected season and should be a priority free agent to re-sign.
Vallejo B: Solid special teams player who saw little time at LB. Will look to develop him into a bigger contributor next year.

Secondary: Tre'Davious White, E.J. Gaines, Leonard Johnson, Shareece Wright, Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer

This unit underwent a complete overhaul in McDermott's first season and it performed better than anyone expected. McDermott builds his secondary around safeties and used free agency to bring in two players that weren't stars but are now in Hyde and Poyer. White was the 1st round draft pick and excelled as a rookie. Gaines came over in the Watkins trade and was perfect for this defense.
Final Overall Grade A-: McDermott got the players for his defense and they played in the system very well.
White A+: This young man has a very bright future in the NFL.
Gaines A: His only problem was injuries. Should be a priority to re-sign in free agency.
Johnson B-: Did a decent job in the slot could be back there next year if re-signed.
Wright C: Depth player who will likely not be re-signed as a free agent.
Hyde A+ The 2nd team All-Pro is perfect for this defense.
Poyer A+: Deserved some of the accolades that Hyde got.

Special Teams: Stephen Hauschka, Colton Schmidt, Brandon Tate, Leid Ferguson

Hauschka struggled mightily in the preseason making everyone nervous. When the games counted his was incredible. Schmidt was solid once again as the punter. Tate did decent returning punts not as much with kick returns. Final Overall Grade B+: Solid season for the third part of the team.
Hauschka A: Solid free agent signing. Won't have any competition for the job next year.
Schmidt B: Bills tried to bring in competition for him last year, may not face any in 2018.
Tate C: Didn't have any big returns but is solid at the job. Will let him test the free agent market.
Coverage Teams B+: Didn't allow a touchdown for a fourth year in a row.
Ferguson A: Almost every snap was perfect in his first season. Should be back.

Coaching: Sean McDermott, Rick Dennison, Leslie Frazier, Danny Crossman

McDermott came in to change the culture and talked a lot about trusting the process. The team certainly bought in to the process and were a close knit group even after McDermott made the mistake of switching QBs. Dennison had uninspiring game plans as the offense sputtered all season long. Frazier brought the defense back from the depths of the Ryan era. Crossman had his unit playing well all season long.
Final Overall Grade B+: Rookie coach ended the playoff drought, not bad at all.
McDermott A-: Had a few hiccups but a very solid rookie season for the head coach.
Dennison D: Didn't have the weapons but didn't get the most out of them. They should let him go.
Frazier B: Should get a chance to get his unit to grow more in year two of his scheme.
Crossman B: He has survived three coaching staffs and should be back next year.

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