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Bills Go On Offensive During Draft
Bold move leads to five of six players coming on offense
by Steve Saslow
April 25, 2004

NFL Draft 2004 Depending on who you talk to the Bills had a great draft or a terrible draft. Talking to me you I will take the side of the great draft. The reality is, you really won't know for two or three years if it is a successful draft or not. What fun would be to wait that long? So we will analyze it right now.

The team ended up with six selections and attacked the side of the ball that was pathetic last year in more ways than one. They selected five offensive players and were aggressive in doing it. The big news of the draft was the trading up 21 spots from mid-second round back into the first round to take the QB of the future, Tulane's J.P. Losman. This move completely over shadowed the first player chosen by the team, Wisconsin wide receiver Lee Evans who was taken 13th overall.

Few people argued with the pick of Evans, he is a speedster receiver in the Peerless Price mold, something the team has been missing since Price took off to Atlanta for a first round pick last year. Evans fills a great hole and, unlike last year's top pick, will have impact right away. He will most likely start the season as the number three or four receiver but will quickly move up the depth chart. Even if he doesn't, coach Mularkey will have a bunch of four receiver sets that Evans can excel in. He will stretch defenses and take away double teams on Eric Moulds. It will also make Josh Reed a better receiver since he can move back into his slot position when Evans enters the game.

While Evans will be an immediate impact and it is a non controversial pick, the same can't be said for Losman. While many fans think he is a quality pick the real controversy is the price he came at. The Bills gave up their second round pick, fifth round pick, and next year's one to get Losman. Let's break that down a bit, the second is the "swap" pick for moving up, so they are giving up a fifth which usually isn't a big deal and next year's one. That is the pick that has everyone saying they gave up too much. Two things here, the Giants gave up a third, fifth, and next year's one to move up three spots in their QB swap with San Diego. The Bills gave up slightly more to move up 21 spots. They gave up the going rate for moving up more than half a round at the top of the draft to get what they feel is a future franchise QB. The other thing is, Donahoe is probably thinking ahead. Like last year, when he traded Price to recoup the pick he lost in the Drew Bledsoe deal, he probably knows he will trade Travis Henry or Willis McGahee next offseason for a number one pick from some team. If they didn't make this deal they would be using the number one next year most likely on the quarterback of the future. This way, they get that guy a year earlier, and they can groom him for one year longer.

Some may say that if they waited, Losman would have been there when the Bills turn came in the second round but that is highly unlikely. Either Green Bay or St. Louis would have taken him a few picks later in the first round. When you break it down like that, and assume you will get that number one pick back, it isn't too much to give up if Losman succeeds. Of course, that is a very big if. No doubt, Tom Donahoe's future in Buffalo is tied to this move. Losman needs to succeed where Gregg Williams and for the most part Bledsoe have not. Losman definitely has the swagger and personality that Western New York will love ala Jim Kelly. Losman and Kelly have two ironic things in common. Both are the only two first round quarterbacks ever drafted by the club, and both were the 2nd pick of the Bills in their respective draft class. This may be where the comparison ends, we can only hope Losman is even close to as productive as Kelly was, if he is, than the trade will be looked back on as a no brainer.

After the deal, that left the Bills with only four more picks, they closed out day one by taking Ohio St. defensive tackle Tim Anderson. I love this pick and the city of Buffalo will love it too. He is a blue collar hard nosed player, the theme of the new coaching regime. He is very underrated and just comes in and does his job in the middle of the defense. He may end up starting next year, if Pat Williams doesn't return after this season. Once Anderson gets into the starting lineup, he may stay there for years to come, he is that kind of unheralded quality player that Buffalo loves.

On day two, the draft started getting a bit more questionable. The Bills picked tight end Tim Euhus in the fourth round. While a big blocking tight end was needed, Euhus is not that. He is more of a pass catching tight end that admittedly needs help in his blocking technique and scheme. Fortunately, Mike Mularkey is an old tight end and feels he and the coaching staff will be able to teach him the blocking end of it. Euhus will make the team and probably be the number two tight end since there is no depth at the position but a big blocking tight end may still be needed.

The team closed the draft with two seventh round selections after having to wait through the fifth and sixth rounds with no picks thanks to the Losman deal and last year's deal for Mark Campbell. With their first seventh round pick, acquired from Detroit last summer for Olandis Gary, they chose OT Dylan McFarland. He has some good potential and upside. He is very tall and can play guard or tackle. He comes from division 1AA Montana and will be a project. It will be a huge jump to the pros but Jim McNally is the best in the business and he will work hard with McFarland, who may in time develop into a quality player. He seems destined for the practice squad as a rookie.

Their final pick was WR/RB Jonathan Smith of Georgia Tech. This is the guy that Mularkey feels he can put in his coveted "slash" role. Smith is a former running back who converted to wide receiver and played some quarterback in high school. So, he can run a little, throw a little, and catch a lot. His main job if he makes the team will be as a return man. He is very small, 5' 7" and less than 190lbs. He won't see the field much on offense unless a gadget play is in the works.

So when we sat down to grade the draft, and we looked at our player draft capsules, we were happy with what was done. It seems to be a great day one, and some potential in day two that is all you can ask. Of course, the real grades won't be known for a couple of years but Bills fans hope by then Losman to Evans will be a dynamic duo in the National Football League. If not, Tom Donahoe may not be around here anymore.

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