Buffalo Bills 2013 NFL Draft Report Card: Bills add speed on offense, pick up defensive help

2013-04-28T08:36:00Z 2013-05-02T13:42:31Z Buffalo Bills 2013 NFL Draft Report Card: Bills add speed on offense, pick up defensive helpRobert Harding Auburn Citizen
April 28, 2013 8:36 am  • 

The 2013 NFL Draft is complete and if you're a Buffalo Bills fan, you should be optimistic.

The Bills drafted a quarterback, two wide receivers, a tight end, a linebacker, two defensive backs and a kicker. Yes, a kicker. 

Here are my grades for the Buffalo Bills 2013 draft class:

Round 1 - No. 16 overall: E.J. Manuel, quarterback, Florida State

The Bills liked Manuel. I knew that much. But I didn't think they would actually draft him. Regardless, it's not a bad pick. Hindsight is 20/20, but the Bills could have waited to draft him. Either way, Manuel is a Buffalo Bill. 

Based on what we know about the Bills offensive plans, Manuel fits right in. He fits their long-term plans. They want to run an offense that requires a quick and mobile quarterback like Manuel. But Manuel has other attributes. He's big, has a strong arm and is a great leader. He was a winner in college and will bring that same attitude to the pros. 

A lot of national experts don't like the pick. In fact, if you go on ESPN.com, there is a poll asking readers who will be the biggest bust. Manuel is leading with 58 percent of the vote. 

But I'm willing to give him a shot. The Bills wanted a guy who is a leader and could run their offense. Manuel is the guy they felt is the best quarterback for the job.

GRADE: B

Round 2 - No. 41 overall: Robert Woods, wide receiver, USC

This is my favorite pick of the eight selections made by the Bills. Woods put up big numbers in 2011 with USC and while his numbers dropped in 2012, he still had 11 touchdowns. He had 76 catches for 846 yards in 2012, but registered 111 catches and 1,292 yards in 2011. 

Woods can come in and compete for the No. 2 receiver spot opposite Stevie Johnson. He's not a Calvin Johnson-type receiver, but he should put up solid numbers for the Bills. And as he showed last year, he doesn't mind sharing touches with another receiver. 

GRADE: A-

Round 2 - No. 46 overall: Kiko Alonso, linebacker, Oregon

Alonso is quick and can contribute immediately on defense. The Bills needed help at linebacker and they found a guy who is a good tackler. Don't be surprised if he gets a few interceptions. He has shown a knack for finding the ball and making plays. 

My two problems with this pick: Alonso wasn't the best linebacker on the board. Others, like Arthur Brown, were still available. Clearly the Bills had Alonso high on their list. Also, Alonso has a couple of off-the-field issues in his past. Hopefully that's where they stay. 

Of the eight players drafted by the Bills, Alonso is one who could be a Week 1 starter. The Bills need to bolster their linebacking corps. Alonso helps fill a need.

GRADE: B-

Round 3 - No. 78 overall: Marquise Goodwin, wide receiver, Texas

Goodwin is a smaller receiver -- 5'9" -- but he is fast. (He ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.) As mentioned before, the Bills want to run an up-tempo offense. Goodwin can play in the slot or he can run deep patterns on the outside. 

I don't see Goodwin having the same impact as Woods. The Bills will need to find spots for Goodwin. You could hand him the ball or have him return kicks. He's not going to be a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver, but he should be able to contribute on offense and special teams. 

One reason I question this pick: Manuel could have fallen to the second or third round. The Bills could have waited to take a quarterback and instead of trading spots with St. Louis, keep the No. 8 pick and draft Tavon Austin, a wide receiver from West Virginia. Austin is about the same size as Goodwin, but a much better receiver. He would be able to come in and have an immediate impact. But the Bills decided to take a different route. 

Goodwin could be a good player for Buffalo, but I don't see him having a huge impact on offense.

GRADE: C

Round 4 - No. 105 overall: Duke Williams, safety, Nevada

With George Wilson gone and Jairus Byrd as the only established safety, drafting Williams was important. The Bills needed help -- and depth -- in the secondary. Williams was Nevada's second-leading tackler in 2012, with 106 total tackles (68 solo). While he only had one interception, he did force three fumbles and had two fumble recoveries. 

Williams probably isn't going to get you a lot of takeaways, but he has the ability to be one of the team's leading tacklers. He's a nice pickup in the fourth round.

GRADE: B

Round 5 - No. 143 overall: Jonathan Meeks, safety, Clemson

Meeks, like Williams, is a nice late round pickup. He played the most snaps of any defensive player at Clemson and registered 62 tackles (47 solo). Like Williams, he's a good tackler, but you won't see him racking up interceptions. He had two in 2012. He didn't have any forced fumbles or fumble recoveries last season.

I could see Meeks coming in and playing a role in nickel or dime packages. With the Bills current roster, I don't see him starting. But he provides more depth at a position of need for the Bills. 

GRADE: B-

Round 6 - No. 177 overall: Dustin Hopkins, kicker, Florida State

Hopkins has a big leg and is able to make kicks from 50-plus yards. He made 25 field goals last season and also averaged 62.7 yards per kickoff with 43 touchbacks. He made 83 percent of his field goals in 2012, including 5-for-6 from 50-plus. Currently, Rian Lindell is the Bills kicker. But that could change. Hopkins has the ability to compete for the starting job. If he has a good camp, Lindell will have to find a new team. 

While I like Hopkins, I question using a sixth round pick on a guy who might have been available as an undrafted free agent. The Bills had other needs -- offensive line, for example -- but decided to use one of their draft picks on a kicker. 

I like the player, but I don't like using a draft pick on a kicker when you have other holes to fill. That's what hurts this grade. If I'm grading Hopkins, he gets an A- or B+. But I'm not a fan of what the Bills did here.

GRADE: C+

Round 7 - No. 222 overall: Chris Gragg, tight end, Arkansas

Gragg could be a good addition for the Bills. Scott Chandler is a good tight end, but as we have seen in the NFL, it doesn't hurt to have two good pass catching tight ends. 

If you're looking for statistics, it's tough to tell how productive Gragg can be. He missed seven games last year, but did play in five and registered 22 catches for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He has speed for a bigger guy -- he ran a 4.5 40-yard dash at the combine -- so he could be a deep threat at the tight end position. 

GRADE: B-

Overall draft class: I won't give a grade out for this category, but I think the Bills' 2013 NFL draft was solid. The theme of the draft, at least for the Bills, was speed. They got a strong quarterback who can move around and throw down field. They drafted two wide receivers. They got a quick linebacker and two quick defensive backs. And they also picked up a kicker and a tight end. 

It's amazing that, in this draft dominated by offensive linemen, the Bills didn't draft a single one. Given the depth and quality available, they might regret that decision in two or three years. 

Of the eight players drafted, I see four of them contributing right away. Woods has the ability to be a starter as a rookie. Alonso has the range to secure one of the starting linebacker positions. Duke Williams could start at safety, especially if he proves himself in camp. And Dustin Hopkins will challenge incumbent kicker Rian Lindell. I think Hopkins will win that duel. 

As for E.J. Manuel, I don't think he will be the Week 1 starter. I could be wrong. Kevin Kolb could fill that role, but I don't see Kolb fitting the long-term plan. I'm not sure how effectively Kolb will be able to run the Bills offense. It might not be long before we see Manuel starting for the Bills. 

Time will tell if this is a good draft class. The Bills have a history of missing out on players (Aldon Smith, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick) and picking busts. Hopefully the 2013 draft changes that trend. 

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