The fate of the Buffalo Bills’ 2013 draft – like those of all 31 other NFL teams – won’t be known for years down the road.
But that doesn’t stop a slew of national draft analysts from grading it days after the fact.
Not surprisingly, initial reaction has been mixed.
USA Today’s Nate Davis was on the low end of the scale, handing out a D+. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. wasn’t much better, giving the Bills a C-. Former Bills receiver Bucky Brooks – now an analyst for NFL.com – was more favorable, with a B+.
Kiper’s grade was the lowest he gave out to any team. His doubts about quarterback EJ Manuel – Buffalo’s first-round pick – was the main reason why.
“That’s the big reason. That’s the 16th pick in the draft. I didn’t have EJ Manuel going until the late-second, early third round,” Kiper said Monday on a conference call. “I didn’t have a grade anywhere near 16 on EJ Manuel. That’s the reason why you get a C-, no matter what else you do. That’s the quarterback. What they have to do is hope he develops into an outstanding quarterback. I’ve been wrong before. We all have with players, so you never know. It’s just an opinion. But obviously they believe strongly in EJ Manuel.”
Kiper said he would have liked to have seen the Bills double down at quarterback and select Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, reuniting him with Buffalo coach Doug Marrone.
“Fourth round area, I would have tried to get Ryan Nassib, bring them both in,” he said. “Nothing wrong with having two young quarterbacks. Especially when one of them is not the consensus big-time quarterback like [Andrew] Luck and Robert Griffin III were.
“You’ve got a quarterback like that, you don’t necessarily worry about it, but even then Washington still brought in Kirk Cousins last year.”
It wasn’t all bad from Kiper’s perspective. He liked Buffalo’s selection of Southern Cal receiver Robert Woods near the top of the second round.
“I thought at that point that he would be gone, possibly,” Kiper said. “To get Robert Woods, a polished receiver, that’s a nice pick.”
Brooks was similarly high on the selection of Woods, writing on NFL.com that “pairing Woods with Stevie Johnson will give the Bills their most explosive receiving tandem in years.”
Brooks said Bills General Manager Buddy Nix “deserves kudos” for landing four players who could possibly start as rookies in Manuel, Woods, linebacker Kiko Alonso (second round, No. 46 overall) and safety Duke Williams (fourth round).
“The class will ultimately be judged by Manuel’s ability to develop into a franchise quarterback,” he writes.
Brooks’ grade of B+ was the best in the AFC East.
Like the selection of Manuel, analysts were split on Buffalo’s pick of Alonso. Kiper said he would have preferred Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown, who went later in the second round to the Baltimore Ravens, in that spot. Rob Rang of CBSSports.com, meanwhile, liked the choice of Alonso, writing he “was the guy making all of the plays that Dion Jordan (the third overall pick to Miami) was supposed to make and could surprise.”
Rang agreed with Kiper that the Manuel pick will define the class for the Bills.
“One has to wonder if General Manager Buddy Nix and head coach Doug Marrone would get as many questions if they’d taken ‘safer’ options like Matt Barkley or Ryan Nassib,” he writes. “Manuel wasn’t asked to make complicated reads in Tallahassee and impressed coaches at the Senior Bowl when forced to do so. He’s too much of a projection to warrant No. 16 overall but is the most dynamic dual-threat passer in the draft, and his upside is through the roof.”
The choice of Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin – who had the fastest 40 time at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.27 seconds) – in the third round intrigued Kiper, Rang and Brooks, as did the pick of Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg in the seventh round.
“He’s not going to block, but as a pass catcher, he’s got good hands. That’s not a bad seventh-round pick,” Kiper said.
Gragg ran the 40 in 4.50 seconds.
“If Marquise Goodwin and Chris Gragg can also tap into their athletic potential, Buffalo’s offense could develop into a scoring machine,” Brooks writes.
Davis thought the Bills gambled too much on potential, citing Manuel’s lack of consistency, Alonso’s off-field issues with alcohol and Goodwin’s questionable hands and route running.
The selection of Williams in the fourth round was also met with favorable reviews.
Rang thought he could have gone a round earlier, while Brooks believes he and Alonso will give the Bills added toughness, athleticism and playmaking ability.
Kiper also thought the idea of adding Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins in the sixth round was a good one.
“It wasn’t all bad,” he said. “A C-minus isn’t awful. A lot of it had to do with two things. The Manuel pick, not looking at Nassib, and Alonso over Brown.