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Bills Today: Bills, Pats get top offseason grades

Posted May 18, 2017

The Bills know the Patriots are the team to beat and have been for quite a while, for them and the rest of the league. But ESPN.com's assessment of both of their offseasons is encouraging.


Here’s the Bills news of note for May 18th.

1 - Bills, Pats get top offseason grades
Bills GM Brandon Beane made no secret of the fact that the New England Patriots have had a stranglehold on the AFC East. Perhaps it’s a good sign then that in ESPN.com’s handing out of offseason grades that the Bills letter grade matched that of the Patriots.

Both clubs received ‘B’ grades from ESPN.com for their offseasons. Here’s an excerpt of their assessment of Buffalo’s dealings since the 2016 campaign ended.

What went right

They picked up an extra first-round pick in the 2018 draft by trading down. The Bills shed picks under general manager Doug Whaley, trading up to grab Sammy Watkins and Reggie Ragland during his tenure in charge of the organization. Buffalo drafted just 20 players from 2014 through 2016, and those drafts don't look pretty right now. The most productive player from Whaley's 2014 draft might be Ross Cockrell, who is starting at cornerback for the Steelers 

They cleaned house. This probably wasn't a time for half-measures. Rex Ryan's status within the organization seemed to turn toxic as the 2016 season went along, as his grandstand firing of Greg Roman after an 0-2 start seemed to either mask or ignore the difficulties Ryan had in crafting an effective defense. After inheriting a unit that ranked second in DVOA under Jim Schwartz in 2014, Ryan's defenses ranked 24th and 26th during his two years at the helm.

They brought back Taylor. The arguments for moving on from Taylor were flimsy at best, and even though Taylor would have likely been slightly overpaid under the terms of his old deal, the Bills were able to renegotiate and lock up Taylor on a more palatable, two-year, $30.5 million deal.

What went wrong

They continued to shed talent to the Patriots. It's telling that the Patriots value Buffalo's players more than the Bills do. Bill Belichick appears to have guessed correctly on Chris Hogan, who averaged a league-high 17.9 yards per reception and racked up 332 receiving yards in the postseason en route to a Super Bowl ring. The former undrafted free agent is on a three-year, $12 million deal with New England, which is chump change for wideouts.

Grade: B

2 - Beane on valuing players
As GM Brandon Beane continues to assemble his front office, he shed some light on how he and his front office hierarchy will be putting together their college and pro grading scales for prospects and players. He and his staff will also determine player values as they pertain to the salary cap.

Beane plans to conduct several open discussions with Assistant GM Joe Schoen and Director of Player Personnel Brian Gaine after their personnel and scouting departments are filled out.

“We’re going to talk about valuing players,” said Beane in an appearance on the John Murphy Show. “Where does a player slot in the pay scale across the league? Obviously quarterbacks are valued more than anybody. Left tackles have to protect them. Pass rushers are valuable. You see those things in the league.”

The important thing as Beane sees it is to have a broader perspective on those valuations that go beyond just your own club.  

“Part of it is not only what you value, but what you have to pay to get some of these guys,” he said. “The guard market this year really exploded. When I was down in Carolina Trai Turner is a hot, young guard. His value we just saw going up and up and up. So you have to pay attention to not only how you value guys, but how the league values players as well.

“You need to know your players. You draft best available and you have to decide are they worth this percent of the cap. I don’t think you can say, ‘I want to pay one elite left tackle. I want to pay one guard. I want to pay one defensive tackle.’ Theoretically those all sound great, but if you do that sometimes you might pay a guy that isn’t worth that money just because he’s the best tackle on your team, but might not rank as high across the league.”

That’s why developing as sure fire a system as they can for player grading and valuation once they are pros is critical to building Buffalo’s roster the right way.

“It’s about football players,” said Beane. “You want to draft best player available, develop, sign, build your roster with as many good players and we’ll find spots for them to get them on the field.”

3 - PFF tabs Peterman as Bills best backup option
The Bills signed free agent veteran QB T.J. Yates to serve as Tyrod Taylor’s backup quarterback this season. A player with experience that includes playoff starts is a good signal caller to have in reserve. Plus he has a working knowledge of Buffalo’s offensive scheme having played in it while with Houston under Gary Kubiak. ProFootballFocus however, has other ideas about the team’s backup role.

They think rookie QB Nate Peterman is best fit for the job. Here was part of their reasoning for that opinion.

  • Peterman was the fifth ranked quarterback on PFF’s draft board and he ranked as our 105th overall player in the draft class. If QB Tyrod Taylor is forced to miss any time in 2017, Peterman should be the guy called in to replace him.
  • Peterman ranked fourth out of 43 draft eligible quarterbacks in 2016 with a 54.8 adjusted completion percentage on passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air down field.
  • He ranked seventh among draft eligible quarterbacks with a 66.1 adjusted completion percentage while under pressure in 2016 and his 114.7 passer rating while under duress was second in the class. Peterman threw for nine touchdowns and surrendered just one interception while pressured in his last year at Pitt.

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