What they're saying: mock drafts, free agency reviews, playoff predictions

  1. Buffalo Bills: While the Patriots are still the odds-on favorites to take the division, look for Rex Ryan's team to come out with that first-year Ryan energy and take down a wild-card spot. If nothing else, the additions of LeSean McCoy and Percy Harvin should ease the burden on whichever quarterback ends up winning the battle. A nine-win team got markedly better from the year before and has a coach who can better utilize the tools at hand on defense. What's not to like?

5. Bills becomes one of NFL's most fascinating teams

Buffalo has been bad at professional football for a decade. Even worse: They have usually been boring. That's out the window.

It's amazing to think that coach Doug Marrone's decision to leave the Bills was viewed at the time as an embarrassment for the franchise. New owner Terry Pegula has spearheaded a spending spree that has attracted talent and buzz unlike anything we've seen from the Bills in a while. 

Rex Ryan's defensive line is more talented than any he had with the Jets. His offensive coordinator Greg Roman suddenly has a surplus of weapons to deploy: LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, Robert Woods and Charles Clay. Matt Cassel is no savior, but he is an upgrade at quarterback. There is a fantasy football feel to the Bills that could blow up in smoke, but this is going to be one of the most fascinating teams to watch in September. We haven't said that about Buffalo in a long time.

PASS

Once the Buffalo Bills hired Rex Ryan to be their new head coach, you just knew the days of having quiet offseasons in lovely Western New York were over.

And Ryan hasn't disappointed in his first few months on the job, as the Bills made a gigantic splash, trading linebacker Kiko Alonso for Eagles running back LeSean McCoy in a true stunner. McCoy is a nice fit in Ryan's ground-and-pound offensive philosophy, and it can be reasoned that Ryan's defense can operate at a high level of efficiency without Alonso.

Re-signing defensive end Jerry Hughes—who compiled 20 sacks (10 each in 2013 and 2014) over the past two seasons—was a major transaction. And although the club overpaid for tight end Charles Clay, he should instantly improve the passing attack. Mercurial wide receiver Percy Harvin also came in on a one-year, low-risk deal. 

The Bills lost a few players, notably running back C.J. Spiller and tight end Scott Chandler, but the club is definitely better now than at last season's end. 

Jerry Hughes, ED (Buffalo Bills)

The final spot was a close run thing, but Buffalo did the smart thing in re-signing Hughes. Hughes is an interesting player who already in his short career has been cast off as a bust before quietly becoming a very good player in Buffalo. The Bills looked initially like they had salvaged a useful pass-rusher out of Hughes when they first got him, but he has developed into an all-around player at his defensive end spot.

Playing on that defensive line in Buffalo certainly doesn't hurt his ability to play with relatively little attention focused on him, but he still has to beat his man, which is usually the left tackle, the best pass-protector most offenses have to deploy. Over the past two seasons Hughes has notched 120 total pressures (59 in 2013, 61 in 2014), and also earned a grade against the run of 14.2. Great defensive lines are great because they have an abundance of riches along the front. Rex Ryan needs the kind of player that Hughes has become, even with the talent he has elsewhere on the line. The Bills' defense will be a far better team for this re-signing.

Breakout player: LB Preston Brown

Kiko Alonso is gone. Brandon Spikes remains unsigned. Preston Brown is in line to start behind one of the best defensive lines in the league.

What more is there to say?

Well, being handed the starting job guarantees nothing, but Brown is going to be manning the inside of a Rex Ryan defense. That Ryan thinks enough of Brown to trade Alonso and risk losing Spikes goes to show how big his role will be next season. 

50) ​ - OT Jake Fisher, Oregon

  • The Bills could really do anything with this pick on the offensive line. Regardless of position, Buffalo needs to add a starting caliber player for the offensive line to give Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel or Tyrod Taylor a fighting chance. Fisher makes sense for quite a few reasons. First, being a former tight end, he fits the Greg Roman type of mold for the offense as an athletic, moving lineman that can get out into space. Second, he's versatile enough to play on the outside or the inside, which gives the Bills quite a bit of flexibility. Nothing is off the table when it comes to the offensive line this offseason. 

81) ​ - DE Mario Edwards, Florida State
- The sneakiest need for the Bills this offseason, regardless of the talent they have starting for them at the moment, is along the defensive line. The Bills were quite fortunate in 2014 that they weren't dealt any serious injuries to any part of the defensive line. Kyle Williams missed a little bit of time, but that was the extent of it, while Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams didn't miss a start. Now with Rex Ryan in the fold, it would be a good idea to collect additional versatile defensive linemen so that when they switch looks from a 4-3 to a 3-4, they have someone that can bridge the gap if one of the regular starters are unavailable. That's where Mario Edwards comes in, with the ability to play anywhere on the defensive line outside of nose tackle, and can even be a standup rusher in the 3-4 on occasion.For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.

No. 1 Team Need: Quarterback

Silva's Analysis 

Buffalo likely views journeyman Matt Cassel as no more than a short-term "bridge." It didn't take long for the Bills to conclude E.J. Manuel isn't the answer. As Buffalo's passing-game weapons largely consist of smaller short-to-intermediate run-after-catch types, the Bills could use a distributor at quarterback capable of throwing with timing and anticipation. At Stanford (Andrew Luck) and in San Francisco (Colin Kaepernick), new Bills OC Greg Roman has a history of working with athletic signal callers.

No. 2 Team Need: Offensive Line

Silva's Analysis

The Bills intend to play ground-and-pound power football under Roman and new coach Rex Ryan. Roman's rushing offenses in San Francisco were multiple, but he primarily ran a gap scheme, and Ryan has stated his intention to "build a bully" in Buffalo. The Bills need maulers up front. They could use upgrades at both right guard and right tackle. Incumbent RT Seantrel Henderson may have a promising future, but he was one of the worst right tackles in football last year. The Bills' guard play has been atrocious across the board. 

No. 3 Team Need: Safety 

Silva's Analysis

Aaron Williams should have free safety locked down, but strong safety will be up for grabs after the Bills lost Da'Norris Searcy in free agency. While potential in-house replacement Duke Williams did play about half of Buffalo's 2014 defensive snaps, it's unclear whether Rex will be satisfied with him as a full-time safety. At very least, he should face competition. Ryan typically utilizes his free safety in center field and his strong safety as a tone setter.

Norris' Mock Draft:

**

Round 2(18): QBBryce Petty**, Baylor - I have this odd, almost sickening feeling Petty will be selected in the second round. He certainly checks boxes many teams look for: arm, athletic, and a "franchise" face. His issues arise when something breaks down around him, like pressure in the pocket or throwing to a second-covered read. Petty has not displayed the innate skills in a closing pocket that I look for.

Round 3 (17): G John Miller, Louisville - Miller is an explosive blocker who has experience on both the right and left side in Bobby Petrino's offense. He can move blockers off the ball at the line of scrimmage or get to the second level. Miller is also a personal favorite.

Round 5 (19): S Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern - This type of statement might not be well received, but if Campbell played at a different school he would receive more media attention. He will have to play close to the line of scrimmage, however, he is aggressive and assertive. He fits Rex's mentality of a head-hunting strong safety.

Round 6 (12): DL Derrick Lott, UTC - Lott tested as an above average athlete for the position and has similarities to Giants 2014 third-round pick Jay Bromley. His best role will be in sub-package sets as an interior disruptor.

Round 6 (18): LB Bryce Hager, Baylor - I've read praise of Hager's ability in coverage. After trading Kiko Alonso, this is more of a depth selection.

Round 7 (17): OL Tayo Fabuluje, Kansas State - Evan called for power, mauling and bullying blockers. Fabuluje is all strength and frame and no technique or bend. Sometimes size alone is enough for blockers to win. 

Bills Current First-Team Offense

QB: Matt Cassel

RB: LeSean McCoy

FB: Jerome Felton

WR: Sammy Watkins

WR: Percy Harvin

TE: Charles Clay

The Bills have been active around the free agency window in 2015, securing players by extension, new contract or trade.

LT: Cordy Glenn

LG: Richie Incognito

C: Eric Wood

RG: Kraig Urbik

RT: Seantrel Henderson

Bills Current First-Team Defense 

RE: Kyle Williams

LE: Stefan Charles

NT: Marcell Dareus

OLB: Jerry Hughes

OLB: Mario Williams

ILB: Nigel Bradham

ILB: Preston Brown

CB: Stephon Gilmore

CB: Leodis McKelvin

FS: Aaron Williams

SS: Duke Williams

  1. Buffalo Bills. Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke. Yes, it's drafting for need. But this is right around where Tomlinson – the highest-rated pure guard in the draft – is slated to go. He's best suited for a power-rushing attack just like the Bills plan to run under offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Other possibilities include another tight end or a "five-technique" defensive end. 

BEST FIT:

--Ali Marpet, guard, Hobart.
--The Bills will look for interior offensive line depth in the draft and Division III Hobart's Ali Marpet, who put himself in the top-100 discussion with his showing at the Senior Bowl, would be a natural fit. Buffalo is a few hours west of Hobart in Northern New York and Ryan's squad has the depth chart that would allow Marpet to develop and eventually fight for a starting job in year two (Selected by Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com).* *

NFLDRAFTSCOUT.COM PICKS:
--Rob Rang: AJ Cann, guard, South Carolina
The acquisitions of head coach Rex Ryan, running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Percy Harvin won't matter much if the Bills don't add talent to a patchwork offensive line. The Bills reportedly swung and missed on attempts to lure Bryan Bulaga out of Green Bay and Jahri Evans in a trade with New Orleans. Cann, a four-year starter with good athleticism and strength, is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated guard. If still on the board, he'd be a possible plug-and-play option at left guard for the Bills.

--Dane Brugler: Garrett Grayson, quarterback, Colorado State
Without a 2015 first-round pick at their disposal, the Bills need to make their second-day selections count. Buffalo has put together a talented roster, but questions loom at the quarterback position and the franchise will likely add a young passer to compete with EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel. Although more of a mid-round talent, Grayson will likely hear his name called on the second day for a quarterback needy team like the Bills

Norris' Mock Draft:

**

Round 2(18): QBBryce Petty**, Baylor - I have this odd, almost sickening feeling Petty will be selected in the second round. He certainly checks boxes many teams look for: arm, athletic, and a "franchise" face. His issues arise when something breaks down around him, like pressure in the pocket or throwing to a second-covered read. Petty has not displayed the innate skills in a closing pocket that I look for.

Round 3 (17): G John Miller, Louisville - Miller is an explosive blocker who has experience on both the right and left side in Bobby Petrino's offense. He can move blockers off the ball at the line of scrimmage or get to the second level. Miller is also a personal favorite.

Round 5 (19): S Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern - This type of statement might not be well received, but if Campbell played at a different school he would receive more media attention. He will have to play close to the line of scrimmage, however, he is aggressive and assertive. He fits Rex's mentality of a head-hunting strong safety.

Round 6 (12): DL Derrick Lott, UTC - Lott tested as an above average athlete for the position and has similarities to Giants 2014 third-round pick Jay Bromley. His best role will be in sub-package sets as an interior disruptor.

Round 6 (18): LB Bryce Hager, Baylor - I've read praise of Hager's ability in coverage. After trading Kiko Alonso, this is more of a depth selection.

Round 7 (17): OL Tayo Fabuluje, Kansas State - Evan called for power, mauling and bullying blockers. Fabuluje is all strength and frame and no technique or bend. Sometimes size alone is enough for blockers to win. 

Round 2 (50th Overall): OT Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin

Because of last year's draft-day trade to move up for receiver Sammy Watkins, the Bills' first selection doesn't come until the second round. Buffalo can still find a Day 1 starter here. 

New head coach Rex Ryan made his offensive philosophy clear very early in the offseason. "We prefer to ground and pound it, we're going to run it 50 times if we can on you," Ryan said on WGR 550-AM in Buffalo (via Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle).

The problem is that the Bills offensive line was rated dead last in run blocking a season ago, per Pro Football Focus. Adding Wisconsin's Rob Havenstein could change this.

The 6-7, 321-pound Havenstein spent last season opening gaping holes for star running back Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin. He can do the same for McCoy and Co. at the next level.

If the Bills are planning for the future, I believe the third round would be a good place to find a developmental quarterback to groom under Cassel. However, we are looking for immediate contributors, so let's go back to the offensive line. 

The 6-2, 303-pound Miller is a power-blocker who relies on strength to open holes at the interior of the line. He should be a solid fit next to Havenstein on the right side of the line, though he has experience playing left guard as well.

Though the Bills already have an incredibly stout defensive front, I like the idea of adding a defensive lineman like Mississippi State's Kaleb Eulls here. 

Eulls has the size (6-4, 295-pounds) and strength (26 reps on 225-pound bench press) to be an effective run-stopper at the NFL level. He has also shown the ability to take on blockers and engage double-teams effectively. These are underrated abilities that fit well in Rex Ryan's blitz schemes.

Amos isn't great in run support and doesn't project as a regular special teams contributor. However, he is an excellent pass defender. According to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, Amos allowed just 3.9 yards per target in 2014.

Like Amos, Texas State product Craig Mager is a guy who can step in and contribute as a defensive back in sub-packages.

Unlike Amos, Mager brings the kind of physicality needed to excel on special teams. 

The Bills already addressed the tight end position by signing restricted free agent Charles Clay away from the Miami Dolphins. However, it still makes sense to add a blocking specialist at the position due to Rex Ryan's affinity for the ground game.

Kent State's Casey Pierce would be an excellent addition if he can be had in the seventh round. At 6'4" and 242 pounds, he has the build of a receiving tight end, but not the natural athleticism. 

Pierce's strength is his willingness to be a tenacious blocker on both run and pass plays. 

CUTEST COUPLE: Doug Whaley, Rex Ryan and Terry Pegula, GM, head coach and owner, Buffalo Bills: A Rex Ryan team will always enter with fireworks, and the brass in Buffalo understood that well. Say what you will about the moves they've made, and the relatively limited salary-cap space they've left themselves with, but Buffalo is providing its fan base with something it deserves. At this point, it's playoffs or bust, a point of view that was still a ways away before Percy Harvin and LeSean McCoy walked in the door. Now, it's up to Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman to make the pieces fit.

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