Bills draft preview: Cornerback

April, 18, 2014
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Continuing a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:

Position: Cornerback

Current personnel: Stephon Gilmore (signed through 2015), Leodis McKelvin (2016), Corey Graham (2017), Nickell Robey (2015), Ron Brooks (2015), Brandon Smith (2015), Mario Butler (2015)

Draft need: Low

State of the position: Four of the Bills' 19 pre-draft visits have been cornerbacks, tied for the most of any position. That's slightly surprising, as the Bills have a young core of players already in place at the position. Gilmore's wrist injury knocked him off track last season, but with continued development he could be one of the NFL's better cornerbacks. McKelvin is coming off a career season, while Robey was a steal as an undrafted free agent last spring.

One wild card is Graham, who coach Doug Marrone hinted at the owners meetings could be tried at safety. But even if Graham shifts to the back end, he could move back to cornerback in case of injury. That lessens the need to draft a cornerback. The other wild card is Robey, who is undersized and may be viewed differently by Jim Schwartz than he was by Mike Pettine. If Robey takes a step back, then the Bills could use some help at cornerback. But it's hardly a pressing need.

One name that could work in Buffalo? Oklahoma's Aaron Colvin, who was projected to be an early-round pick before he tore his ACL during a Senior Bowl practice in January. He won't be ready for the start of this season and could be available later in the draft. If there's a player to draft and stash on PUP or injured reserve, Colvin could be it.

Sweet spot: Mid-to-late rounds

Possible targets: Ross Cockrell (Duke), Walt Aikens (Liberty), Aaron Colvin (Oklahoma)
When the Buffalo Bills' new stadium committee met for the first time on April 1, the majority of the gathering took place behind closed doors.

New York State Assemblyman Michael Kearns wants to change that.

The Buffalo News reported Tuesday that Kearns sent a letter to New York governor Andrew Cuomo arguing that the committee, which includes both public and private leaders, should be subject to the state's open meeting law.

Deputy Erie County Executive Richard Tobe, one of the 20 members of the committee, told the newspaper that the county considers the committee to be a "non-public advisory panel" that doesn't fall under open government laws.

“We’ll be dealing with potential sites for a stadium, and don’t want to forecast that because it could lead to land speculation and possibly hike prices,” Tobe told the News.

The committee has begun the process of evaluating potential sites for a new Bills stadium. The Bills, of course, are a private entity, but a new stadium would undoubtedly require public funding.

What's your take? Should the meetings be open the public?

Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Bills 

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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Is a consensus developing around which position the Buffalo Bills should draft with the ninth overall pick?

After trading for wide receiver Mike Williams earlier this month, the Bills are expected to target offensive tackle or tight end with their first-round selection.

In each of his four mock drafts, ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has projected a tackle to the Bills. So what about in his most recent mockInsider, which was released today?


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Resetting Bills' pre-draft visits

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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In years past, Thursday would have began the one-week countdown until the first night of the NFL draft.

The schedule is different this spring, with an extra two weeks before the draft, which will begin on May 8.

With three weeks remaining until they're on the clock at Radio City Music Hall, the Buffalo Bills have used 19 of their 30 allowed pre-draft visits. These visits make up a small part of the overall scouting process, which includes private campus visits, pro days, the combine, and game evaluation of players.

Here is a position-by-position look at which players have visited Orchard Park since pre-draft visits began on April 1:

Running back:
Lache Seastrunk (Baylor); Jeremy Hill (LSU); Terrance Cobb (Cumberlands); Carlos Hyde (Ohio State)

Wide receiver:
Cody Latimer (Indiana); Odell Beckham (LSU)

Tight end:
Troy Niklas (Notre Dame); Eric Ebron (North Carolina); Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington)

Offensive tackle:
Charles Siddoway (Mississippi State); Jake Matthews (Texas A&M)

Defensive end:
Scott Crichton (Oregon State)

Linebacker:
Ryan Shazier (Ohio State); Preston Brown (Louisville)

Cornerback:
Bradley Roby (Ohio State); Ross Cockrell (Duke); Phillip Gaines (Rice); Walt Aikens (Liberty)

Safety:
Bashaud Breeland (Clemson)

Bills draft preview: Linebacker

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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Continuing a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:

Position: Linebacker

Current personnel: Kiko Alonso (signed through 2016), Brandon Spikes (2014), Keith Rivers (2015), Nigel Bradham (2015), Ty Powell (2015), Nathan Williams (2015)

Draft need: Moderate

State of the position: Alonso was the runner-up for the Associated Press' NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, while Spikes and Rivers were both strong, value signings by the Bills this offseason. That settles the top of the depth chart, but there is still significant uncertainty at the position.

Spikes signed a one-year, prove-it deal and could be playing elsewhere by 2015. Rivers has battled injuries in his career and must prove he is a durable, full-time player. Even with Spikes and Rivers, the Bills could use an athletic, fourth linebacker with good coverage ability who could step in this season in sub packages. That player could then compete for a starting role in future seasons.

Bradham probably isn't that player. He saw his playing time slip considerably in Mike Pettine's defense last season and it's not clear where he'll fit in Jim Schwartz's scheme. Bradham shouldn't preclude the Bills from drafting another linebacker.

Sweet spot: Second round or later.

Possible targets: Ryan Shazier (Ohio State), Chris Borland (Wisconsin), Telvin Smith (Florida State)

Jim Kelly to spend Easter in NYC

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly is planning to spend Easter in New York City with his family, before resuming treatments for sinus cancer.

Kelly's wife, Jill, took to Twitter on Thursday.

Barring any setbacks, Kelly's brother had said earlier this week the former Bills star would travel home to suburban Buffalo before returning to New York City on Sunday to resume treatments.

"He's doing pretty good," Dan Kelly told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "We anticipate Jim coming home for this weekend. He's put together a couple of good days in a row."

Dan Kelly said his brother had a rough stretch last week following his first chemotherapy session on April 8. He said the treatments are particularly painful because they're targeting cancer cells attached to nerves in Kelly's maxillary sinus and adjacent tissues.

Kelly is scheduled to have two more chemotherapy sessions and is also having radiation treatment five days a week.

He has spent the past three weeks being treated at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Kelly initially underwent surgery in Buffalo last June to remove cancerous cells from his upper jaw. A follow-up test in March revealed that the cancer had returned.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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Catching up on Buffalo Bills news

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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As we return from vacation, offering some thoughts on Buffalo Bills news from the past week:

Donald Trump's continued interest: The biggest headline from the past week belonged to Trump, who reiterated his interest in buying the Bills in an interview with the Buffalo News. Trump had said in a radio interview last month that he had been contacted by a group looking to buy the team, and his intention would be to keep the franchise in Buffalo. The greatest takeaway from Trump's comments to the Buffalo News was that he would be willing to sell his casino interests in order to become an NFL owner, which league rules require. Still, it's too early to say how serious of a contender Trump will be to buy the team. For now, the most we can do is put him among potential buyers who would be against relocating the Bills.

Jeremy Jacobs angle cools off: This month, the Buffalo News reported Boston Bruins owner Jacobs "leads the list of potential local suitors" who could buy the Bills. The Buffalo native owns the Delaware North Companies, which issued a statement last week saying that Jacobs would not sell the Bruins in order to buy the Bills, as NFL rules would require. The possibility exists for another member of Jacobs' family to act as the principal owner for the purchase, but the company's statement indicates there might not be serious interest from Jacobs to buy the team.

Bon Jovi resurfaces: Last November, rock star Jon Bon Jovi made headlines when CBS Sports reported that he was interested in buying the Bills upon Ralph Wilson's death. His publicist told the Toronto Sun last week that Bon Jovi's interest in becoming an NFL owner is still real, but declined to link him directly to the Bills. The newspaper said Bon Jovi remains linked with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the group that owns most of Toronto's professional sports teams. It's a situation that could put the NFL in a bind: the league has expressed a desire to expand internationally and Toronto would be an ideal trial balloon to that end. Still, the NFL prefers teams not to relocate, and seeing their team move across Lake Ontario would be a blow to Bills fans in Western New York. This one bears close watching.

Preseason schedule released: The NFL released its preseason schedule last week, and as expected, the Bills will play their first three preseason games -- including the Hall of Fame game in Canton -- on the road. The Bills can start training camp as early as July 19, making for a long stretch at St. John Fisher College. For their second preseason game, the Bills will travel early, holding joint practices with the Pittsburgh Steelers at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. before heading to Heinz Field for their game. The Bills open their preseason in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers -- don't expect to see much of Cam Newton in that game -- and close out their slate by hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions. The Buccaneers game should feature plenty of EJ Manuel and Mike Glennon, a rematch of last December's game in Tampa.

Jake Matthews, Austin Seferian-Jenkins visit: The Bills continued their slate of pre-draft visits last week, hosting Texas A&M offensive tackle Matthews on Wednesday, LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham on Thursday, and Washington tight end Seferian-Jenkins on Friday. The Bills could target Matthews with their ninth overall pick, while they would have to cross their fingers that Beckham slips to the second round. Seferian-Jenkins is expected to come off the board in the second round. The Bills also hosted Louisville linebacker Preston Brown, Cumberlands running back Terrance Cobb, Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines, Liberty cornerback Walt Aikens, and Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde last week. The team has now used 19 of its 30 pre-draft visits allotted by the NFL.

Basketball tryout: This is the time of year when NFL teams turn over every stone in search of talent, and the Bills are no different. WKBW in Buffalo reported Sunday that the Bills will host Canisius basketball player Chris Manhertz for a workout. This isn't uncommon, as NFL teams often check out prospects from other sports -- basketball, track, rugby, and Australian rules football -- and gauge their potential as football players. At 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, Manhertz would project as a tight end and would be a long shot to make the 53-man roster if he is signed.

Kourtnei Brown waived: The Bills waived defensive end Kourtnei Brown last week. He was injured for most of last preseason and was released during final cuts in August. He eventually returned to the practice squad and was re-signed to a future contract, but might not have been a good fit for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Coincidentally, Brown was claimed off waivers by the Detroit Lions, who fired Schwartz this year.

Jake Dombrowski signed: The Bills signed former Harvard punter Dombrowski last week to his first professional contract. He is to compete with veteran Brian Moorman in training camp. Moorman, 38, is nearing the end of the road and has already been released by the Bills once. They will continue to look for his replacement.

NFL Nation Buzz: Buffalo Bills

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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ESPN.com Buffalo Bills reporter Mike Rodak breaks down the AFC East offseason and says one particular transaction trumps all the rest.
Continuing a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:

Position: Defensive tackle

Current personnel: Kyle Williams (signed through 2016), Marcell Dareus (signed through 2014 with option for 2015), Alan Branch (2016), Corbin Bryant (2014), Stefan Charles (2015)

Draft need: Low

State of the position: There isn't an immediate need at this position. The starting duo -- Williams and Dareus -- is set, while Branch is likely to slide inside from defensive end in Mike Pettine's system to defensive tackle in Jim Schwartz's scheme. Branch will add depth and run-stopping ability at the goal line. Bryant has some playing experience and could help in a pinch, but ultimately is a replaceable player. Charles is a developmental project.

The wild card at this position is Dareus. He had a rough ending to last season, sitting out parts of the final two games after being late to team meetings. The Bills have until May 3 to exercise Dareus' fifth-year option for 2015 and unless coach Doug Marrone has serious concerns about Dareus' work ethic, it makes sense to keep him in Buffalo for another season. General manager Doug Whaley has said that the Bills have interest in extending Dareus' contract, a sign that he is the team's long-term plans. Dareus' contract situation creates some uncertainty but shouldn't cause the Bills to draft a replacement in the early rounds next month.

The more likely scenario is that the Bills see a player on the board later in the draft who fits their scheme and profile for the position. That player could compete with Charles for a roster spot and potentially add a layer of depth.

Sweet spot: Late rounds.

Possible targets: Shamar Stephen (Connecticut), Bruce Gaston (Purdue), Jay Bromley (Syracuse)

Bills draft preview: Defensive end

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
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As we step away on vacation, we'll provide a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:

Position: Defensive end

Current personnel: Mario Williams (signed through 2017), Jerry Hughes (2014), Manny Lawson (2016), Jarius Wynn (2014), Jacquies Smith (2015), Ikponmwosa Igbinosun (2015)

Draft need: Moderate

State of the position: This position has changed under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Hughes and Lawson figure to split playing time across from Williams in Schwartz's base 4-3 alignment, with Hughes expected to see significant playing time in sub packages. Lawson is a bit of a question mark, a tweener who doesn't have a well-defined role in the defense. He's too tall and lanky to be a stout run defender on early downs, while he lacks the pass-rushing skills of Hughes or Williams to be a force on passing downs. Lawson could see time as a linebacker but lacks the athleticism to play there full-time. General manager Doug Whaley has already indicated that Keith Rivers and Kiko Alonso are penciled in as outside linebackers.

Given Lawson's uncertainty and Hughes entering the final year of his contract -- and possibly set to cash in with another strong season -- it would make sense for the Bills to target defensive end in the draft. There's an outside chance that they could roll the dice and try to move up for Jadaveon Clowney or Khalil Mack, but the much more likely scenario is that they keep an eye out for a defensive end in the mid rounds. The ideal player would be around 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds with some potential as a pass rusher.

Sweet spot: Mid rounds.

Possible targets: Scott Crichton (Oregon State), Trent Murphy (Stanford), Chris Smith (Arkansas), James Gayle (Virginia Tech)

Donald Trump serious about Bills

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
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New York City businessman and billionaire Donald Trump says he is committed to buying the Bills and keeping them in western New York, according to The Buffalo News.

"I'm going to give it a heavy shot," Trump told the News on Monday from his office in Manhattan. "I would love to do it, and if I can do it, I'm keeping it in Buffalo."

Multiple sources confirmed to the News that Trump has had two conversations with Bills president and CEO Russ Brandon.

Trump, who earlier this month confirmed that he was contacted by a group looking to purchase the Bills following the death of longtime owner Ralph Wilson, also wanted to ease concerns that he would move the team to Los Angeles or Toronto.

He has previously said it would be "catastrophic" if Buffalo lost the Bills.

"I live in New York, and it's easier for me to go to Buffalo than any other place," Trump said. "Where am I going to move it, some place on the other side of the country where I have to travel for five hours?"

Trump believes his history with the NFL would play no role in a potential purchase of the Bills.

In 1983, Trump bought the New Jersey Generals and was largely responsible for the USFL switching from a spring schedule into direct competition with the NFL in the fall.

"I think the NFL owners respected me for it because I took a dead league and made it hot," Trump said. "But my thing when I bought the team was, 'I will not play football in the spring.' Even if they would have teetered along for another couple years, it wouldn't have survived in the spring. And if I hadn't gotten involved, they wouldn't have lasted another season.


(Read full post)


Bills draft preview: Guard/center

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
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As we step away on vacation, we'll provide a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:

Position: Guard/center

Current personnel: Eric Wood (2017), Kraig Urbik (2016), Chris Williams (2017), Doug Legursky (2014), J.J. Unga (2015), Antoine McClain, Mark Asper (2014), Jamaal Johnson-Webb (2015), Randy Colling (2016)

Draft need: Moderate-to-low

State of the position: The Bills don't need a center. Wood is a team captain and signed a long-term deal last August that will keep him as a fixture on the Bills' offensive line for the foreseeable future. The story at guard, however, is different. Urbik has three years left on his deal and the Bills signed Williams to a four-year deal last month, but neither player is in the same category as Wood. There will be a spotlight on Williams this preseason to see if he can fill the void at left guard, where the Bills struggled to replace Andy Levitre last season. If Williams can steady the ship, then Legursky will be able to return to an interior backup role, which is ideal for him. The rest of the personnel at both guard and center are developmental players.

It would be shocking if the Bills selected a guard in the first three rounds. Still, having a mid-to-late round pick learning the system wouldn't hurt. It would provide some insurance in case of injury and also provide a potential replacement for Legursky, who is undersized. Under Marrone, the Bills have valued size in their offensive linemen and if they decide to draft a guard, look for them to pick up one of the bigger players on the board.

Sweet spot: Mid-to-late rounds

Possible targets: Cyril Richardson (Baylor), Jon Halapio (Florida), Spencer Long (Nebraska), Kadeem Edwards (Tennessee State), Anthony Steen (Alabama)
video

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It's not quite Warren Buffett and his billion dollar prize for a perfect NCAA tournament bracket, but the St. Louis Rams are offering a lucrative reward for a guessing game of their own.

The Rams announced Monday that any person who predicts their 2014 schedule with 100 percent accuracy will win $100,000. To win the prize, participants must correctly hit on all facets of the schedule, including each week's opponent, location, the exact date of the game and the date of the team's bye week.

In other words, it's not as simple as just guessing which team the Rams will play in a given week.

With so many moving parts, like predicting which games might fall on a Thursday or Monday night, the contest still has better odds than something as extensive as the NCAA tournament, but it figures to offer longshot odds, at best.

In the even more unlikely event that more than one person accurately predicts the schedule, the Rams will hold a trivia contest as a tiebreaker. The contest is limited to those 18 or older with a limit of one entry per person. Those that want to participate can enter at the team's website, stlouisrams.com/guessourgames.

The Buffalo Bills have created a similar contest, with a prize of season tickets for life if a fan correctly guesses the team's schedule. The entry that correctly predicts the most games will win 2014 season tickets.

The NFL has yet to reveal when it will announce this year's regular-season schedule, though it's expected to come sometime next week. The Rams set a deadline of April 21 at 5:59 p.m. ET for entries.


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As we step away on vacation, we'll provide a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:

Position: Offensive tackle

Current personnel: Cordy Glenn (signed through 2015), Erik Pears (2014), Chris Hairston (2014), Edawn Coughman (2015)

Draft need: High

State of the position: There is little doubt the Bills will target this position in the draft. Pears is 32, entering the final year of his deal, and showed at points last season that the Bills could use an upgrade at right tackle. Hairston probably isn't the answer. While he started 15 games for the Bills between 2011 and 2012, Hairston spent all of last season on the reserve/non-football illness list. The last update from coach Doug Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley was that Hairston still had medical hurdles to clear before returning, and even then, it's not known how Marrone -- who has a keen eye for offensive linemen -- views the former fourth-round pick. That's not to say Hairston couldn't contribute if healthy, but it shouldn't preclude the Bills from drafting an offensive tackle.

The Bills have a good shot at plucking one of the top three tackles off the board when they select at ninth overall. If they do so, will he play left tackle or right tackle? Glenn performed well at left tackle last season and moving him to right tackle to accommodate a rookie at left tackle seems like a risky move. The safer option would be to start the first-round pick at right tackle and keep Glenn at left tackle until performance dictates otherwise. Of course, that raises a debate over whether right tackle is a position worthy of selecting early in the first round. A case can be made either way, but it's important to note that even a second-round or third-round tackle should be able to compete with Pears and Hairston for the starting job.

Sweet spot: Any round, especially first round.

Possible targets: Greg Robinson (Auburn), Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Taylor Lewan (Michigan)

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