NFL Combine Provides New Targets for Buffalo Bills in 2014 NFL Draft
Buffalo Bills: NFL Combine Provides New Targets for 2014 NFL Draft
For a franchise that has hit in the NFL Draft in the past, the Buffalo Bills have to turn things around to get back in the postseason. The Bills are coming off what is a disappointing 6-10 season with limited offensive production and questions surrounding rookie E.J. Manuel's health. The Bills have the No. 9 pick in the first round of this year's draft and have plenty of major needs to address.
One of the many reasons why the Bills have the longest current playoff drought in the NFL is their poor drafting. From the likes of Aaron Maybin, James Hardy and countless others, the Bills have repeatedly failed to capitalize on players who could help turn around the misfortunes of the franchise, one that has gone since 1999 without a postseason appearance.
Buffalo's biggest concern is, without a shadow of a doubt, their offense. Manuel could not stay healthy, thus the Bills' offense struggled repeatedly, going through three different QBs. Another area of concern for the Bills is their secondary.
Offensively, the Bills have plenty of questions surrounding their entire offense. Will Manuel prove to be the answer for a long-suffering franchise at the quarterback position? Will Stevie Johnson be able to produce at an All-Pro level like he did in the past? Finally, is the offensive line good enough to keep Manuel healthy?
Defensively, the Bills also have some questions to address. Will Mario Williams continue to be productive like he was last year? What will the Bills do with Jairus Byrd? Finally, can Marcell Dareus turn around his act and be a productive player for the Bills?
The Bills have plenty of work to do this offseason, including addressing some key free agents this offseason. In order to get any closer to the New England Patriots in the AFC East, here are five players who performed well at the recent NFL Scouting Combine and should be on Buffalo's radar.Brian Kalchik is a writer for rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and connect with him on Google.
5. Ryan Groy, Wisconsin
Buffalo's interior offensive line, outside of center Eric Wood, is average to say the least. In order to get better in the interior, the Bills should target Wisconsin's Ryan Groy. Former Wisconsin linemen like Groy have been known for being maulers in the running game and being solid players. Groy proved this in the Combine with 26 reps on the bench press, a 9-foot broad jump and a 4.47 20-yard shuttle. This lineman would be a great fit for a cold weather city like Buffalo.
4. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
Tight end has been a long-standing need for the Bills since the K-Gun days of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed in the early 1990s. One prospect to help cure these woes is Notre Dame's Troy Niklas. With former Fighting Irish tight ends Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and Tyler Eifert already in the NFL, Niklas will follow their footsteps. At the Combine, Niklas put up 27 reps at 225 and had an impressive 60-yard shuttle in 12.19 seconds. Although Niklas has only played the position for just two years, he has one of the highest ceiling in this year's draft.
3. James Gayle, Virginia Tech
Another pass-rushing defensive end to complement Mario Williams will help the Bills' front four get pressure on Tom Brady and the rest of the AFC East quarterbacks. A quality candidate who can step up to this task is Virginia Tech's James Gayle. Gayle had a solid Combine, starting with a 4.7 40. Gayle also put up 26 reps at 225 and had a 37-inch vertical jump. Gayle's motor and competitiveness will be a good fit on a talented defensive line with Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario.
2. Carl Bradford, Arizona State
The Bills addressed one of their biggest needs at linebacker last year with Kiko Alonso. Alonso was one of the top defensive rookies last year, but the Bills also need a complementary linebacker to round out a solid unit. One who can fill this is Arizona State's Carl Bradford. Bradford has the versatility to be both a linebacker and a pass rushing defensive end. The former Sun Devil had a solid Combine, running a 4.76 40, benching 23 reps at 225 and having a 10-foot broad jump.
1. Terrence Brooks, Florida State
Safety Jairus Byrd is unlikely to come back as a free agent after holding out repeatedly on the Bills. A good candidate to replace Byrd should he choose to leave is Florida State's Terrence Brooks. After winning a national championship, Brooks excelled at the Combine, posting a 4.41 40, a 38-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of nine feet. Brooks has both the speed to keep up with tight ends and receivers, but he also packs a punch and is a physical player in run support.