Grading the Draft: Buffalo Bills

Coming into January the Bills were without a pick in the first round thanks to the acquisition of Drew Bledsoe the prior year. That was not to be the case as in the end they received a late choice in the initial frame for Peerless Price. Then the fun began

Round Pick Player Pos School
1 23(23) Willis McGahee* HB Miami (FL)
2 16(48) Chris Kelsay DE Nebraska
3 30(94) Angelo Crowell OLB Virginia
4 14(111) Terrence McGee CB NW St.
4 30(127) Sam Aiken WR North Carolina
5 16(151) Ben Sobieski OG Iowa
6 14(187) Lauvale Sape DT Utah
7 14(228) Mario Haggan ILB Mississippi St.

UDFA of Note: Jerton Evans/S/Virginia, Kenneth Hilliard/S/TCU, Anthony Floyd/S/Louisville, Jason Johnson/QB/Arizona, Justin Sands/QB/Kansas, Ray Thomas/TE/Wake Forest, Gary Bryd/T/Clemson

To say the selection of Willis McGahee in round one by the Bills was shocking would be an understatement. This is a team on the verge of making a major step up but one with big needs in the defensive front seven, yet in the end they bypassed several top prospects that could've plugged holes for one that may not play for a while. Factoring in that Buffalo already owns a bruising feature runner in Travis Henry and that makes this pick all the more confusing. Word was the team is concerned of Henry's poor ball security and may be unwilling to pony up the big bucks when he's a free agent. But taking McGahee who may not play for a quite a while and when he does there are no guarantee's he'll ever be 100%, is a major risk.

The fact that Chris Kelsay fell into their laps during round two makes the McGahee pick a little less risky. Many, including ourselves, penciled in the Bills using their fist round pick on Kelsay, a relentless pass rusher that makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. The injury riddled campaign in 2002 plus poor play against the run caused Kelsay to slip.

Round three saw another defensive area addressed as Angelo Crowell was selected. Crowell was solid in college but may not have the speed for the weak-side in the NFL and is not tall enough for the strong side. He could back-up and offer impact on special teams.

With a pair of selections in round four they initially took a shot in the dark then went for pure value.

Terrence McGee offers terrific size/speed numbers and was a corner many had on their radar screen since 2000 but the small school cover man did not dominate the opposition or stand out enough at Northwestern State to warrant an early pick.   On the other hand Sam Aiken gives the offense another pair of reliable hands and a nice sized receiver that can go over the middle, take a pounding and make the tough catch. Aiken was excellent value and should fit in as the team's third wide out.

Ben Sobieski is a major project as the fifth round choice offers terrific athleticism but constantly missed time at Iowa with injury.

Lauvale Sape give them depth at defensive tackle and has enough explosion and quickness to play at the next level.  Similarly Mario Haggan could be an inexpensive back-up at linebacker or may even grow into a defensive lineman at some point in his career.

The top free agent signing is Anthony Floyd, a ball hawking free safety and good special teams player who should be a solid nickel back.

Analysis: Only time will tell about this draft, the time it takes McGahee to heal and his play upon return.  Considering they basically traded Price for McGahee, got a great receiver in round two last April and came away with Aiken in the middle rounds this year, plus snagged Kelsay in round two, we'd give Buffalo the thumbs up.

Tony Pauline
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