Brian Billick's thoughts for April 4
Billick examines the draft needs of the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, and looks at wide receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones.
Buffalo Bills | Miami Dolphins | A.J. Green | Julio Jones
Bills have concerns almost everywhere
The Buffalo Bills are one of only two teams to not have made the playoffs this century and will have their eighth chance in the past ten years to select in the top half of each round. Last year's top three picks: running back C.J. Spiller, defensive tackle Torell Troup and defensive end Alex Carrington all failed to crack the starting lineup and are listed as backups.
The Bills were last in the league in rushing defense and gave up at least 200 yards on the ground in half of their games. They ranked 25th in the league in total offense and will need to decide if they saw enough last year to be satisfied with their quarterback position.
The late season surge of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick may help the Bills avoid the mistake of taking a quarterback with the third overall pick. Instead, they should focus their attention on the defensive side of the ball in a year when the top half of the draft is loaded with defensive players. The Bills' most recent draft choices at quarterback, J.P. Losman in 2004 and Trent Edwards in 2007, might indicate that this would be a better course of action.
Besides inside linebacker, where Paul Posluszny returned from injury to have a solid 2010 season, the Bills can use help at virtually every other position.
The Bills' have a chance to overcome their historic struggle of establishing a defensive line via the draft. In addition to the two picks in the first three rounds last year, the Bills have drafted three defensive lineman in the first round this decade, Erik Flowers in 2000, Jon McCargo in 2006 and Aaron Maybin in 2009. None is currently even on the roster.
Only second-rounder Chris Kelsay and fifth rounder Kyle Williams have proven to be of any real value.
Offensively, it won't matter what they do at quarterback if they don’t rebuild the offensive line and add to the excellent selection of offensive guard Eric Wood, whom they got in the first round in 2009.
Along with their always-tough AFC East schedule, the Bills won't have to go far from home as they swing through the strong NFC East. Their other out-of-division opponents include the AFC West, the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals.
Dolphins could draft running back
With all the things that have gone on in Miami over the past two seasons, one thing brings into sharp focus the difficulties the Dolphins have had.
Built under the Bill Parcells model of "play good defense and run the ball," Miami went from fourth in the league in rushing in 2009 to 21st in 2010.
Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the reverse was true for the defense, going from 22nd in the league in total defense in 2009 to sixth in 2010.
Miami used its first two picks in last year's draft on the front seven by selecting defensive tackle Jared Odrick with the 28th pick and defensive end Koa Misi at No. 40 in the second round. Both are now established starters and eight of the starting 11 on defense have come via the draft.
With Jake Long and Vernon Carey, both former first-round picks, manning the offensive tackle spots, the Dolphins may want to focus on the interior of their offensive line with the 15th pick. They may also consider taking the first running back off the board if they believe they will lose Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to free agency.
The Dolphins cannot afford to miss on their first-round pick because they are without a second via the Brandon Marshall trade last year with Denver.
Their commitment to Chad Henne as their starter might be tested if one of the top rated quarterbacks should slip to this spot.
Along with their always tough AFC East schedule, the Dolphins will have to play the NFC East, AFC West, Houston and Cleveland.
Green could make quick impact
Georgia's A.J. Green has been considered the top wide receiver prospect since the day he became eligible for the draft. While, Alabama's Julio Jones is gaining ground, Green still remains at the top of the list.
Green measures in at 6-foot-3 5/8 and 211 pounds. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and jumped a 34.5-inch vertical. He uses that height, size, speed and jumping ability very effectively on the field. He attacks the ball in the air and often catches the ball at its highest point, making it very difficult for defenders to get a hand on the ball. He has a good burst into his routes and great body control to adjust to poorly thrown balls, making a tough catch look almost effortless. He shows good agility and running skills to gain yards after the catch and make the most out of his touches.
Even with his height, he shows above average ability to get off bump coverage and get back into his route quickly. All in all, he is a big threat receiver that will have an early impact on whatever team selects him.
He has been drawing comparisons anywhere from Calvin Johnson to Randy Moss, but I am not quite ready to go that far. For now, I liken his game play to Tampa Bay's Mike Williams. Coming out of Syracuse, Williams had first-round talent, but dropped into the fourth round due to off-the-field concerns. Last year, as a rookie, Williams had 65 receptions for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns. I would look for Green to have a similar impact to his respective team next year.
Jones compares to Boldin
Jones plays tough Julio Jones is a three-year starter from Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide. He measures in at 6-foot-2 3/4 and 220 pounds. Jones has always been considered an elite prospect with a high first-round grade, but he raised his stock even more during the NFL Scouting Combine. It was there that he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and jumped a 38.5-inch vertical, all while having a bone injury in his foot. Not only does that show supreme athleticism but also a certain level of toughness that some NFL prima donnas at the wide receiver position lack.
Jones carries that toughness onto the field as well. He shows a no-fear mentality when going across the middle, and often gives up his body in order to make a catch. He also displays that 4.39 speed in his route running by maintaining close to full speed when coming in and out of breaks. He also shows the ability to be a great double-move receiver who is so often used in NFL passing systems. When the ball is in his possession, he runs "angry" and often picks up yards after contact.
Jones is best when the defensive back tries to play press coverage but could work on his technique to eat up separation when the corner is playing off coverage. He has above average hands but will sometimes drop an easy pass by letting it get into his body.
Jones' Combine workout was very impressive and encouraged NFL scouts and talent evaluators to go back and look at additional tape. Some teams have claimed to move him ahead of A.J. Green on their draft board, but I would still consider him a close second. I believe Jones to be very comparable to Anquan Boldin and will give his future team that tough presence at the wide receiver position.
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