“Draft and develop” is a common refrain among NFL teams.
The goal, obviously, is to draft players who can contribute immediately, and then re-sign them — preferably at a discounted rate. When there is a coaching change, though, often times those drafted players find themselves on the outs.
A recent study put together by the analytics website Pro Football Focus perfectly illustrates that when it comes to the Buffalo Bills. PFF tracked the number of snaps for “homegrown” players — those drafted by their team — for every franchise in 2017, and the Bills finished last in the NFL, with just 8,798. The next-closest team was Indianapolis with 8,991.
A look at which teams had the most home grown snaps in 2017 pic.twitter.com/FLgs29LNua
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 26, 2018
That’s not a huge surprise given the drastic roster turnover the Bills went through after coach Sean McDermott, and later General Manager Brandon Beane, took over in their respective roles. Any player drafted by former GM Doug Whaley quickly found his way off the roster — even if Beane consistently stressed that wasn’t his intention.
Of those 8,798 snaps, 3,448 were taken by rookies — which is a good sign for the future. Those 3,448 snaps ranked fifth among NFL teams, according to PFF, with the 49ers leading the way at a whopping 5,033.
Cornerback Tre’Davious White played 1,093 defensive snaps (99 percent of the team's total), which was third among all rookies, according to PFF, behind just Tenneessee’s Adoree Jackson (1,165) and New Orleans’ Ryan Ramczyk (1,163).
Linebacker Matt Milano, a fifth-round draft pick, played 676 combined snaps (450 on defense, 226 on special teams), while sixth-round linebacker Tanner Vallejo played 256 snaps on special teams, which ranked third on the team. Offensively, wide receiver Zay Jones saw 792 snaps (76 percent of the offensive) and tackle Dion Dawkins took 781 (74 percent of the offensive total).
After the rookies, the bulk of the Bills' homegrown snaps came from three players. Center Eric Wood took every offensive snap (1,055), while linebacker Preston Brown led the defense with 1,098 snaps – 99 percent of the team's 1,108. Veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams took 758 defensive snaps, while tight end Nick O'Leary played 549 offensive snaps, left tackle Cordy Glenn took 275 before getting shut down because of injury and right guard John Miller took 256 before losing his job to Vlad Ducasse. Defensively, lineman Adolphus Washington took 510 snaps as part of the rotation inside, while defensive end Shaq Lawson played 435 before going on injured reserve.
How important are homegrown snaps? That’s up for debate. The top team in the league was Cincinnati, with 18,559. Green Bay was next with 17,018 and Dallas with 16,808. None of those three teams made the playoffs, although the Packers losing quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a big reason why. The Steelers (16,557) and Falcons (16,420) rounded out the top five, while the AFC champion Patriots finished eighth (14,842) and the Super Bowl champion Eagles were 10th (14,319).
The Bills’ total does not figure to go up dramatically in 2018, with Wood retiring and Williams’ playing status uncertain as he mulls retirement. Additionally, Brown will be an unrestricted free agent.