The Buffalo Bills focused on adding speed and versatility to their team in the 2013 NFL Draft. After adding quarterback E.J. Manuel in the first round, Buffalo General Manager Buddy Nix targeted wide receiver, defensive back, linebacker, kicker and tight end as positions to upgrade.
I already wrote about how I like the quarterback pick on Thursday. The Bills found Manuel some weapons in the draft, starting with USC wide receiver Robert Woods in the second round. He's not the big receiver I wanted at 6-0, 201 pounds, but he has good speed and runs great routes. Nix said he's the most NFL ready of all the rookie receivers. That's important because Buffalo doesn't need to rely on just T.J. Graham, Marcus Easley and Brad Smith to step up this year. Woods also ran a pro-style offense at USC, catching 250 passes for 2,933 yards and 32 touchdowns over three seasons.
Later in the second round, Buffalo grabbed Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso. He has good size at 6-3, 238 pounds and plays both the run and the pass well. The knock on the pick is his 2010 DUI arrest. In 2011, he won the Rose Bowl's Defensive Player o the Game Award with five tackles, 2.5 for a loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception. In two years of starting, Alonso had 21 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and six interceptions. The Bills needed a playmaking linebacker and got one. Nix said he sees Alonso as a three-down linebacker. He could line up inside with Nigel Bradham in a 3-4 base defense, taking Kelvin Sheppard off the field.
In the third round, the Bills went wide receiver again with Texas' Marquise Goodwin. He's only 5-9, 183 pound, but is blazing fast running a 4.27 40 at the combine. Goodwin went to the London Olympics for the long jump. Despite his track and field success, Nix said he's a real football player who can block and take a hit. He contributed in all four years at Texas, finishing with 120 receptions, 1,364 yards and seven touchdowns. He also ran the ball 45 times for 416 yards and three touchdowns. Some draft experts compare him to Miami's Mike Wallace.
Buffalo started day three with a pair of safeties, Nevada's Duke Williams and Clemson's Jonathan Meeks. Williams fell in the draft because of off-field issues (underage possession of alcohol in 2009, driving with a suspended license and without insurance in 2011). He played all four years and finished with 292 total tackles, 14.5 for a loss, four interceptions and five forced fumbles. Bills scout Brad Forsyth noted that Williams is more of a strong safety, but could play corner if need be. Meeks finished his Tigers career with 159 total tackles, 3.0 for a loss and seven interceptions. Buffalo scout Darrell Moody said he frequently played deep as the last line of defense in Clemson's defense. What I don't like is that these picks could mean bad news on Jairus Byrd's extension. "Well they were the two best guys up there at the time we were picking," Nix said. "Obviously we want to be prepared for whatever happens."
One of my favorite picks was Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins in the sixth round. I criticized Rian Lindell for not being able to kick the ball into the end zone and it seems Hopkins can kick field goals and kickoffs. Last year, 41.35 percent of Hopkins kickoffs went for touchbacks. In his career, Hopkins has made 78.6 percent of his field goals, including 83.3 percent as a senior. He went 5 for 6 from 50-plus yards last year including a 56-yarder. I think this is the end of Lindell's career in Buffalo unless Hopkins has a mental breakdown.
With their final pick, Buffalo took Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg. He has decent size at 6-3, 244 pounds, but has excellent athleticism, running a 4.50 40 and recording a vertical jump of 37.5 inches. Gragg actually spent a year at wide receiver for the Razorbacks. He finished his career with 82 receptions for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns. Buffalo's only pass-catching tight end is Scott Chandler, who is coming off an ACL injury.
The Bills also signed the highest profile undrafted free agent in Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers. He went to Tennessee, but failed three drug tests and transferred to Tech. He's big at 6-2, 217 pounds, and was one of the most athletic receivers at the combine. If Rogers' problems are behind him, he could be the steal of the draft. He caught 78 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first two years at Tennessee and 61 passes for 893 yard and 10 touchdowns at Tech.
It is interesting that Buffalo took three players with past off the field issues. This certainly is a different regime.
My only issue is that they didn't address the cornerback position. I like Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore, but Ron Brooks didn't play much last year and Justin Rogers was awful at times. Maybe a new defense will help them out.
What do you think of the Bills' draft? Let me know on Twitter @MPN_DanGoldman.