Read all my articles first and many other of my colleagues' thoughts on prettygoodsports.com. Also, many of these were written prior to preseason games so please take that into consideration.
I think the Bills would actually be an extremely competitive franchise if they did not play in the AFC East with the Patriots. You can say that about all three teams in the division, but more so the Bills since they usually have talent to compete with them. However, they let the Patriots get in their head and make gut reactions like hiring Rex Ryan, cutting players who can actually play, and overturning the coaching staff and front office more than necessary. Like I said in the Browns article teams' take for granted how valuable stability and how good leadership up top can trickle down to the rest of the team. If the Bills can stick with a GM and coach they can possibly be a more attractive option for free agents to get them to come up to cold Buffalo, but with their inability to be loyal to one GM or coach can be a turn off for players. I do think this team however, has enough talent to compete in the AFC enough to possibly sniff the playoffs as a sneaky dark horse team. The biggest key for them, well many teams, is to stay healthy and have their young players step up.
On offense in particular is where I think this team is better than people give them credit for. I personally like Tyrod Taylor and his ability to give this team wins. Obviously, he can be upgraded if possible due to his limited size and hit or miss accuracy, but he is the best quarterback the Bills have had since Jim Kelly in the 90s. It would be a terrible idea for them to let him go like they flirted with this off season. If players like LeSean McCoy, and more so Sammy Watkins can stay healthy I can see Taylor taking a step up in development to look like a decent Pro Bowl caliber quarterback again. The line on their offense is my only worry and with Taylor being smaller it is most important to keep him upright and healthy. Their left side of the line is actually very solid with Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, and Eric Wood, it's the rest of the line and the depth behind them that worry me. They really do not have a go to starter at right guard, maybe rookie Dion Dawkins can move there, but I would rather him beat out the turnstile Jordan Mills at right tackle. Overall, their offense should be able to put up points and with a solid runner with McCoy if he can stay healthy should help them play well in the snow to win games down the stretch.
The defense is where I am a bit more hesitant about their success. I know coach Sean McDermott is a defensive mind, but he has a very specific coverage scheme that I think is a bit outdated. He prefers to use a zone coverage scheme that without a strong pass rush will get torched by most solid quarterbacks. Just look how bad they were in Carolina last season as he led their defense. The Bills should have a decent pass rush, but moving Jerry Hughes back to a traditional end spot where he is much less effective. Plus, Marcell Dareus was one of the leagues best 5-technique ends and I would worry about his health and stamina being called upon to play more snaps. The rest of the line is filled with question marks like Shaq Lawson who missed all last season and he too was a better fit for Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense and then Kyle Williams next to Dareus is an aging veteran. They are also moving Lorenzo Alexander who was one of the league's best sack artists last season off the line so who knows how he will perform now. Their linebacking corp all together is a bit bland where Gerald Hodges will be asked to start maybe last year's 2nd rounder Reggie Ragland will improve after an injury riddled rookie year. Then their secondary has been picked apart over the years losing some solid players and none more talented than Stephon Gilmore who left for their rivals in Foxborough. Ronald Darby did play well covering team's 2nd best options so it's still up to debate if he can cover top receivers. Also, you have to hope first round rookie Tre'Davious White can overcome some of his lackadaisical issues he had at LSU. This weak defense in transition worries me a lot and I have to wait and see how they play to be able to correctly evaluate this team.
In the end, I can see this team being a 8-8 club with an ability to be better if they win those 50/50 games. Obviously, they can sneak some wins by the Patriots since they always play them tough, but those are hard to predict. I do see them being favorites to sweep both the Dolphins and the Jets in my opinion. Other winable games can be against the Bengals, Panthers, Bucs, Raiders at home, Saints, and Colts. If this defense players better than expected I can definitely see them beat some of the tougher teams on their schedule. I may be too optimistic about this team, but even those unlucky teams turn it around sometimes right?
1 (27) - Tre'Davious White CB - I was not that enthusiastic about White coming into the draft, but I do commend the Bills for trading down and getting more picks. He does have all the physical and athletic gifts from his speed, to his arm length, and ability to move around on defense. I do like his experience as a four year starter for a program, which produces some good defensive backs. I do not think White will be a bust if he can keep his head on straight since his biggest detractor is his ability to slack off on defense and get burned. If he keeps up that type of play in the NFL he will be bounced out quickly.
2 (5) - Zay Jones WR - I am always a bit hesitant to draft receivers from a program that utilizes the air raid system or anything of the like. Jones comes from an East Carolina program that produced Justin Hardy who previously held many college receiving records before Jones himself broke some of them. He did look good during the pre draft process to give teams some confidence that he can translate to the NFL. I do like his ability to be a good compliment across from Sammy Watkins to work the underneath routes and the red zone with his superior size to the veteran. I would never ask him however, to be a number one option since I think he is too limited athletic wise to be a true go to receiver.
2 (31) - Dion Dawkins OL - Dawkins and Taylor Moton were in the same category of high upside and low floor blocker in this draft. I can see Dawkins translating well as a guard due to his shorter arms, but like Moton he does have some talent to be able to play a decent right tackle if he can get stronger. He does need to improve his technique only being a blocker for a brief time in his career. I would have rather had him be a depth option right away, but as a second rounder for a team who needs better blockers he may be pushed to play sooner than he should.
5 (19) - Matt Milano LB - As mentioned above I think their linebacking corp is a bit weak and could use a jolt of youth and speed. That is something that Milano can provide with his intensity. I do worry about his athletic upside, but his intelligence coming from Boston College can be a great tool he can use to get to the field sooner than later. Most likely he will be on the kick coverage squad to start his career, but I can see him cracking the starting line up if injuries take place and he may outplay those he replaced.
5 (28) - Nathan Peterman QB - I was one of those who was very high on Peterman and his possibility of being a solid starter in this league. However, I guess I was one of few since he slid down to the 5th round. The Bills must like him enough to have traded the intriguing Cardale Jones prior to camp. He does have the arm strength and knowledge of a pro system to be able to be ready to play sooner than most quarterbacks. I just worry about his grit and ability to work from within the pocket since his limited athleticism limits him from moving away from defenders. I bet he will be an excellent back up throughout his career and maybe he can be more if given an opportunity.
6 (11) - Tanner Vallejo LB - Another linebacker to add to their lack of depth at the position. To me there were others on the board better than Vallejo and even Milano, but you are really picking hairs here if you talk like that about a 5th rounder or 6th rounder. He is a good coverage option in sub packages and will be an excellent coverage player most likely.
2018 Off Season:
Obviously, this organization is not high on Tyrod Taylor, but if I were them I would stick with him until an undisputed better quarterback arrives. Whether, that's in the draft or trading for someone until then they should go all in on Taylor and give him a vote of confidence that can make him more comfortable overall knowing the team is behind him. The do need to improve their blocking on the right side in front of him and figuring out what to do about Sammy Watkins who is an upcoming free agent. I understand why they did not pick up the oft-injured receivers 5th year option and if he stays healthy all season long I still worry about giving him a long term big contract due to his injury history. I would also think they would look into bringing a younger running back to be able to possibly start long term if McCoy begins to erode as he gets older. I am sure they would also look into upgrading their secondary and more likely in the safety unit as they start to mold the defense under McDermott.
My 2018 Mock Draft Selections:
1 (9) - Da'Ron Payne DT Alabama
1 (21) - Adonis Alexander CB Virginia Tech
2 (13) - James Washington WR Oklahoma St