The Buffalo Bills wasted no time turning in their draft card Thursday night, selecting Clemson running back C.J. Spiller with the ninth pick approximately two minutes after the Oakland Raiders selected Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain.
Don’t get me wrong. Spiller is a dynamic, three-down playmaker who finished fourth in the ACC in rushing last season (1,271 yards) and fifth in touchdowns (12). He also caught 36 passes for 503 yards and four scores.
The great thing about the former Clemson Tiger is that he can come in and contribute right away. The problem is, the Bills had much bigger problems than the running back position entering Thursday's first round.
This is an organization that hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999 and hasn’t won a postseason game since 1995, when they defeated the Miami Dolphins 37-22 in the wildcard round.
This is a team that has gone 32-48 over the past five years and 66-94 over the last decade, with just one winning season (2004) since 2000.
Spiller may have been the best player on the Bills’ draft board last night when they went on the clock, but this is a team that desperately needs to upgrade their offensive line and defensive front seven.
Why not try to improve the rushing defense?
Buffalo has ranked 22nd or worse in rushing defense in each of the last five seasons, allowing more than 121.6 yards per game on the ground since 2005. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Bills have finished in the bottom five in rushing defense in four of the last five seasons.
Why not draft a pass rusher?
We all know you need to be able to get after the quarterback in this league if you want to win football games. Buffalo—who has won only 20 games over the past three seasons—has finished 18th or worse in sacks in each of the last three years. While ranking 18th in 2009 was an improvement, the Bills ranked 28th in 2008 and 29th in 2007.
How about bolstering the offensive line?
The Bills may not be getting after opposing quarterbacks, but rest assured, opposing pass rushers are getting after them.
Buffalo has ranked in the top ten in sacks allowed in four of the past five seasons. They put a cherry on that fudge sundae in 2009 when they gave up 46 sacks, the fourth-highest total in the NFL.
Ok, so you can’t protect your quarterback. How about getting him a viable wideout?
Terrell Owens is gone, leaving the Bills with Lee Evans, James Hardy, Roscoe Parrish and Chad Jackson to man the wide receiver position.
Those four wideouts combined for 48 receptions and seven touchdowns in 2009. All seven scores and 44 of the 48 catches were produced by the 29-year-old Evans.
Top put that in perspective, 66 NFL wide receivers caught more than 48 passes last year. 16 wideouts scored eight or more touchdowns.
Doesn’t Buffalo already have a running back (or two)?
2009 didn’t provide many highlight performances for the Bills, but they were able to muster a half-decent rushing attack. Buffalo ranked 16th in rushing (116.7 yds/gm) in 2009. However, keep in mind that in nine games last year, the Bills were trailing at the half.
In addition, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch are still on the roster. Sure, Lynch has been rumored to be on the block, but how much do you think he’s worth now that everyone in the NFL saw the Bills draft Spiller last night?
Not much. If they can’t find a taker, Buffalo may end up cutting Lynch and getting nothing in return.
Is Trent Edwards still the guy in Buffalo?
Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow may not be the answer in the eyes of the Buffalo faithful, but would you rather have one of them or another season of Trent Edwards?
Again, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying Spiller is a bad player—far from it. He’s going to cause mismatch problems for opposing defenses and can provide an adrenaline boost to the kicking game.
The problem is that the AFC East is now armed to the teeth with talent. Miami brought in Brandon Marshall and drafted Jared Odrick, the Jets have been stockpiling experience and talent all over the field and New England is, well, New England.
Buffalo had several issues they could have addressed in last night’s first round. The running back position wasn’t one of them.
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