Bills Draft Stud Tackle With 4th Pick Overall
Trade for Drew Bledsoe and possible steal in second round helps offense immensely.
by Steve Saslow
Sunday April 22, 2002
The Bills entered this draft with major intrigue surrounding the highest pick they have had since 1985. They wasted less time than most other teams in the longest first round in draft history. The drafting of Mike Williams was a no brainer decision as he was the first of 10 players drafted by the Bills during the draft. That was one less pick than they originally had as they traded their fourth selection to move up 8 spots and back into the second round of the draft. Of course they made one major addition on day two of the draft by trading next year's number one pick for Drew Bledsoe as the offense was the big winner during this draft.
The Bills had many choices in the first round, but trading the pick wasn't one of them. The Bills received no phone calls while on the clock in round one and Tom Donahoe said it would have taken an unbelievable offer to part with the pick. For all the speculation and rumors over the past few weeks the Bills had every intention of staying pat and taking Williams who the organization unanimously rated as the player they coveted most. You can never have too many offensive linemen as last year's injuries attest to. Williams may start his Bills career at his natural right tackle position since he's a better run blocker than pass protector. If that happens, expect last year's rookie Jonas Jennings to move to left tackle. That would mean free agent signee Trey Teague would move to center. This would make a formidable offensive line if Teague can handle the move back to Center after being a tackle throughout his pro career.
The Bills surprised many by using their second round pick to select a wide receiver. The fact is we love the Bills pick of Josh Reed. He was the best available player and a team can't have too many wideouts, especially with Bledsoe throwing the ball for the team next year. He has been compared to a legendary Bill with the same last name. He is a big time receiver who may become a starter in 2003 since Peerless Price is an unrestricted free agent after this season. In the very least he should push Price to play at his best.
The Bills did make one trade on day one of the draft but surprisingly it was to move up eight spots from their 4th pick in the third round to late in the second round. In the deal they gave their fourth round selection to San Francisco. The player the Bills coveted in that spot was Ryan Denney. He's a tall pass rushing defensive end in the Phil Hansen mode. He will probably step right in to Hansen's old spot at right end and move inside to tackle in passing situations. The Bills felt he would be gone by the time they picked in round three and he was worth losing a fourth round pick to obtain. The Bills toyed with drafting him when they took Reed but felt they couldn't pass up on the wide receiver. We shall see, his size will make it hard for QBs to throw over him but his game needs polishing.
In the third round the Bills had only their compensatory pick for losing Marcellus Wiley. There is a good chance that they coveted DT Dorsett Davis who had fallen farther than expected. The Denver Broncos traded up just ahead of Buffalo and took him, fearing the Bills need for a defensive tackle would make them take him. The Bills seemed to scramble at that point and made their only reach pick of the draft, they selected Coy Wire from Stanford. He is a project with lots of talent. He is projected as a strong safety in the pros but has never played the position. He played running back and outside linebacker before playing free safety in the senior bowl. He would have been available later on but the Bills didn't have a fourth round pick so they took a chance. He sounds like last year's project pick Tony Driver who also was a running back early in his college career. He was drafted in the sixth round.
The team finally addressed it's defensive tackle needs in the fifth round by taking Justin Bannan from Colorado. He slipped down a bit lower than expected and may develop into the partner that Pat Williams needs. He is considered to be in the Shawn Price mode and will probably take his spot on the roster. He is a two gap player that is needed for the Bills. He's a run stuffer with little pass rushing ability but that isn't what they got him for. He may even start as a rookie since there is a nice hole at the position.
In the sixth round the Bills went for a cornerback by taking Kevin Thomas. He doesn't seem to be a Bills type of corner as he isn't that aggressive and doesn't tackle well. He may end up cut or on the practice squad.
The club had four picks in the final round as they looked to round out the depth chart. They went for an offensive guard with their normal pick, selecting Mike Pucillo who can play both guard and tackle. He should add some depth to a much improved position and should stick on the practice squad at the very least. With the three compensatory picks the club tabbed another WR when they took Rodney Wright from Fresno State. They followed that pick by selecting fullback Jarrett Ferguson and finally a linebacker, Dominique Stevenson. Of these picks we like the selection of Ferguson the best. He's a compact ball carrier who seems to have too much talent to have slipped this far. Wright is project case who may not making the team as the club looks to find lightning in a bottle like they did last year with the pick of another troubled wideout Reggie Germany. Stevenson will have trouble making the team behind London Fletcher and font color=navy>Brandon Spoon. His best chance of making the team is on special teams.
The team split the draft evenly selecting five offensive and five defensive players while trading for the biggest offensive player of all. The one negative of the draft was the inability to fill the hole at defensive tackle until the fifth round but they were never in the right place to take a tackle at other times. It would have been a reach to take one in the first round. Denver stole one from them in the third round by trading up. So the Bills did what 3-13 teams do, draft the best available athlete. That should go a long way in the continued development of this young team.
The theme of the draft was toughness. The team wanted tougher players and got that with Williams, Reed, Wire, and Denney to name a few. They also drafted players of high character like Williams, Wire, Bannan, and Pucillo. There is no way to know for sure how good the draft is for a few years. Looking at Donahoe's history and the proven commodity in Bledsoe, along with the rare prospect of Williams it appears the Bills are a much better team today then they were at the beginning of the weekend. Add to that the other free agent signings and the Bills appear headed to respectability and perhaps beyond.
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