NEEDS RATING KEY
5.0 - High priority. This is a position that is a glaring weakness and there is the likelihood that this team cannot compete next year without making a major addition here.
4.0 - Medium Priority. This is an area that is an obvious weakness, but the team isn't quite desperate to make a major move here possibly because they have some young potential. But this is an area that if the team cannot fix via free agency, will definitely use one of their picks in the first three or four rounds to supplement.
3.0 - Upgrade Potential. This is a position that isn't a weakness per se, but there is significant room for an upgrade. If the right player comes along they will certainly snag him, but if they don't fix this position with a major free agent addition or early round pick, then it's not the end of the world.
2.0 - Depth Need. An area where there is a need to add depth. Perhaps there is an aging veteran and they might want to start to look at grooming his heir apparent or replacement. Not likely to be a high priority and a position that more than likely will be address in the middle and late rounds rather than with a top pick.
1.0 - Future Need. This is an area that is not a priority, and doesn't initially appear as a need. But there is some room to develop some depth for perhaps two or more years down the line. This is usually an area that a team will look at in the late rounds if at all.
0.0 - Non-need. This is a position that is a strength of their team, they have a solid starter, capable depth, and/or a young player at the position that they like and want to develop. Very little possibility this area is addressed and would be the equivalent of a wasted draft pick.
Top 7 Needs
1. LB - 4.5
2. OT - 4.0
3. QB - 4.0
4. DE - 3.0
5. TE - 3.0
6. CB - 3.0
7. WR - 2.0
Position by Position Breakdown
Quarterback - The Bills need to decide how committed they are to Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's played well at times this year, but hasn't played at a level where the team should be comfortable with him as their starter over the long haul. But he's definitely played at a level where they could opt not to use their top pick on a quarterback and try to wait until the second round. But regardless, the Bills need to find a better young option than Levi Brown to build around in the future. But they'll have to decide whether that player requires a first or second round pick. NEED: 4.0
Running Back - Despite the lack of great production, the Bills have a solid pair of running backs in Jackson and Spiller. And both are players that should be keepers for the next few seasons. They don't really have a third back and could draft one in the late rounds, but it's not really a need. NEED: 0.5
Fullback - Corey McIntyre is the starter and is a capable lead blocker and receiver, but is nothing special. Caulcrick is a decent developmental backup for him. Together they are a decent pair. NEED: 0.5
Wide Receiver - Steve Johnson had a breakout season, but the Bills have decisions to make with Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish. They could probably move both players for some early round picks to reload, and if that is the case then they will need to draft more wide receiver help. But if they opt to keep one or both, especially Evans, then their need is a lot less because it's only an issue of depth. But they have gotten some production from undrafted reserves like David Nelson and Donald Jones to give them some young depth worth developing. But they might be on the lookout for future replacements for Evans and Parrish even if they are kept because they don't appear to be long-term solutions for them. NEED: 2.0
Tight End - The Bills have gotten next to no production from Shawn Nelson, and his replacements this year haven't done much. So using a high pick on this position or going after a money free agent makes a lot of sense as they look to expand their passing game beyond Johnson. NEED: 3.0
Offensive Tackle - Demetrius Bell has made some strides this year, but he's still not good enough to be considered a long-term option at left tackle. But the right tackle position is a much more glaring immediate issue given the state of things. Ideally the Bills can draft a guy that they can immediately plug into the right side, and then a year or two from now switch over to the left side. But the Bills seem willing to live with Bell as a starter for another year. NEED: 4.0
Offensive Guard - Levitre and Wood are a good pair, but they may try and move Wood permanently inside. But even if that does happen, they will probably go with the guys they currently have on the roster to replace Wood. Those would likely be Cord Howard or Mansfield Wrotto, two players that played for Gailey at Georgia Tech. But for the most part, their need at this position is probably to find some more young developmental talent and depth. NEED: 1.0
Center - Hangartner is the starter, but they might move Wood to this position later on. But for the time being, between the two of them they are fairly capable here. NEED: 0.5
Defensive Tackle - Kyle Williams is one of the more productive players in the league for two years running, although he's not the prototype for a nose tackle. But with Torrell Troup working in the rotation behind him, they should be pretty good here. NEED: 0.0
Defensive End - They have a decent rotation, but nobody really here that stands out. Dwan Edwards, Marcus Stroud, and Spencer Johnson are all guys that you can work with, but they really need an Aaron Smith-type that can really bolster their porous run defense. They can potentially solve those issues with an early round draft pick or an upper-level free agent signing. But given the Bills frugal ways, that is more likely to come via the draft. NEED: 3.0
Linebacker - Posluszny is as solid as they come, and the Bills awarded Chris Kelsay with an extension at the beginning of the year. So one presumes both of those guys are counted upon to be long-term starters. Most are ready to proclaim Aaron Maybin as a bust, and Akin Ayodele replaced Andra Davis at midseason. Ayodele is a free agent and Davis has just one more year left on his contract, and the Bills dumped Kawika Mitchell at the beginning of the year. So finding another option to play beside Posluszny on the inside is a definite need. And the Bills need to find a big-time pass rusher on the outside since they utterly lack that. So that will be their top priority here in the off-season, to try and find someone that can provide double-digit sacks. They picked up Merriman, but he is a free agent and contributed nothing to the team, to the point that he should not be back. NEED: 4.5
Cornerback - McGee missed most of the season with a knee injury and hasn't played a full 16-game schedule since 2004. Drayton Florence is a capable starter, but a free agent they could lose. Both Reggie Corner and Leodis McKelvin seem better suited to play nickel corner rather than be starters. So even if they can keep Florence, they should be in the market looking for another starter at this position. NEED: 3.0
Safety - Whitner is a free agent, and who knows if he'll be back. He just isn't a big time playmaker, but one never really knows what Bills management is up to. Apparently, they are already in contract negotiations to bring him back. Jairus Byrd had a big dropoff in production, but the Bills have a nice insurance policy in George Wilson as their third safety. This most likely only becomes a need if Whitner isn't retained, but probably not a high need since between Wilson and Bryan Scott they should have a decent stopgap starter. NEED: 1.0
Kicker - Rian Lindell's production has dipped in recent years. He'll be 34 and entering the final year of his contract next year. There is every reason to let that play out and deal with any major changes in 2012, but they might bring in more competition this off-season with an eye to the future. NEED: 1.0
Punter - Moorman is one of the best punters in the league, but has seen a dropoff in production. He'll be 35 next year, but there is no need to look at making a change. NEED: 0.0
The year's upcoming draft and the college game can be discussed here.
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