Bills Drafting For Depth, Not Need
A stellar free agency period clears way for flexible draft.
by Steve Saslow
Tuesday April 22, 2002
In the first two years of the Tom Donahoe era the Bills drafted 22 players, 19 of them made the team, and 18 are still on the roster. That goes a long way in saying how good the Donahoe team has been at drafting players. It also goes a long way in saying how bad the team was after the salary cap purge that began when Donahoe arrived in 2001. This year it may be harder for a draftee to make the team, and very hard for any of them to be starters like seven rookies did the past two years.
Thanks to continued improvement on the field, the development of many of those rookies, and a stellar free agency period this off season, the club will be looking to add depth instead of starters. With the off season signings of defensive tackle Sam Adams, and linebackers Jeff Posey and Takeo Spikes, the team has filled most of their starter needs on the defensive side of the ball. What is missing is a pass rushing defensive end to complement Aaron Schobel, The draft is strong at defensive end and if the club takes one with the 23rd overall pick in the draft, he may end up starting immediately. Possible picks here include Kenny Peterson from Ohio St, Michael Haynes of Penn St. or Chris Kelsay from Nebraska. Otherwise any player picked will have the luxury of learning and developing from the bench, something the rookies of the past two years couldn't do.
With the possible exception of an end, or a defensive tackle in the first round that is very strong at those positions, the Bills will indeed look to fill out the in the draft. Donahoe acknowledged last week that the club needs depth at wide receiver, running back, defensive back, and the defensive line. They satisfied one of those needs by signing Olandis Gary. Besides taking possibly two defensive linemen the Bills are sure to take a wide receiver, a cornerback, and perhaps a safety with their seven picks this weekend.
While conventional wisdom has the Bills going for a big man on the line in the first round don't count out a surprise with the first pick. Last year, Donahoe surprised everyone by drafting WR Josh Reed in the second round even though it was a position of strength. This year he is starting as Peerless Price went to Atlanta for their first round pick. That was great foresight by Donahoe, he may think the same way this year, as CB Antoine Winfield is entering the final year of his contract. A cornerback is not out of the question in the first round. A corner would fill two roles this year, a nickel back, which they need despite the recent signing of Danion Sidney. He would also be groomed to replace Winfield if they lose him next off season. There are more stud defensive linemen than corners making a tackle or end the best bet.
While the team also needs help at safety in interesting possibility in round one would be Michael Doss who would give the Bills another Ohio St. Buckeye in their defensive backfield. If not Doss, they would likely draft a Safety later on in the draft. One position that will get addressed, probably in day one of the draft, is wide receiver. While Reed moves in Price's spot and Bobby Shaw joins the team as the third wideout, the team desperately needs a speedy wide receiver who can perhaps return kicks also.
Late in the draft the team would likely go for best available player but they would like to add depth at linebacker and they wouldn't pass on an interior offensive lineman they could develop. Trying to predict exactly what they are going to do is impossible but rest assured by the end of the weekend they will have more depth on both sides of the ball and perhaps a new starter at defensive end. If Donahoe does as well as he has done the past two years, there may be another few rising starts in the class of 2003, but thanks to the tremendous growth of the franchise, they won't have to do it in a hurry.
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