ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. dished out his draft grades Sunday, and the final mark for the Buffalo Bills wasn’t pretty.
Kiper gave the Bills a C-, the lowest grade of any of the 32 teams in the NFL.
“It wasn’t an awful grade,” Kiper explained on a national conference call. “It was just based on the fact that I thought they had to take a quarterback. Tyrod Taylor’s there, and Matt Cassel’s there, and EJ Manuel’s there. Maybe Cassel will be the starter, who knows?”
Kiper said the Bills were in a position to add another quarterback to that mix, specifically Baylor’s Bryce Petty. Buffalo had two opportunities to take Petty, at No. 50 overall in the second round and No. 81 overall in the third round, but passed on him each time. He ultimately went to the New York Jets in the fourth round, 103rd overall.
“I thought Bryce Petty was a guy, maybe you bring him into the fold,” Kiper said. “He’s got the arm to deal with the weather conditions up in Buffalo, in New York, in New England, when you’re in that division. But they didn’t.”
Instead, the Bills went with Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby in the second round and Louisville guard John Miller in the third. Those picks got a mixed reaction from Kiper.
“You think about Darby — great speed, great overall athletic ability, but he’s frustrating because he does allow completions when he’s in the area,” he said. “Miller I thought was a decent third-round pick, then they had late-round picks.”
Those included two more Florida State players in running back Karlos Williams (fifth round, 155th overall) and tight end Nick O’Leary (sixth round, 194th overall).
“O’Leary, if he would have run better than a 4.93, probably would have gone a little earlier,” Kiper said. “Now, I did like Dez Lewis, the wide receiver out of Central Arkansas. He was a guy I thought could have been maybe a fourth- or fifth-round pick, and I don’t think anybody would have argued with that.”
That wasn’t enough to stop Kiper from giving the Bills his lowest draft grade.
“Not taking the quarterback, and reaching for Darby, who I didn’t give nearly that type of grade to – I thought fourth-fifth round,” Kiper reasoned. “Taking him in the second round, passing on Bryce Petty, when you could have had, I thought, a quarterback that really would have been able to be, maybe in two, three years be the starting quarterback with the Buffalo Bills.”
Kiper’s colleague, Todd McShay, had a differing view.
“I didn’t have a problem with them passing on quarterback, because I didn’t think there was a quarterback out there,” he said. “If you looked at one after the first two – Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota – nothing’s sure fire.
“I didn’t look at any of these other quarterbacks, from Bryce Petty to Garrett Grayson to Sean Mannion to Brett Hundley, I had third-round, fourth-round and then fifth-round grades, with Hundley being the fifth-round grade, on all of them.”
McShay said that amounts to backup grade.
“Maybe you develop one into an adequate starter,” he said. “But they already have adequate starters, if you will. Back-end starters in the league. … So if you’re not going to get an upgrade at that position, you’ve got to get it somewhere else.”
That means McShay didn’t have an issue with the Bills developing the roster at other positions and staying away from a quarterback, but can understand Kiper’s reasoning for wanting to add one.
“It’s frustrating, because it’s the most important position and you’re sitting there going into another season with a whole lot of uncertainty,” he said. “But I didn’t think there was a quarterback they could have upgraded with.
McShay also offered his thoughts on Darby, Miller and Williams.
• On Darby: “I had late second. I guess it was a little bit earlier than I would have taken him, but it’s kind of splitting hairs.”
• On Miller: “John Miller was a solid pick at guard and guard was a need for them.”
• On Williams: “Karlos Williams, I thought that was where he should have gone. His run style fits what they want to do. He’s a north-south runner. I didn’t think he ran as hard and physical this past year as he did back in 2013, so if there’s a reason why, maybe they know it and they’re comfortable with it and they think they’re getting the back who was there in 2013. And if they do, then they wind up with a really good value.”
McShay said his biggest issue with the Bills’ draft was the lack of ammunition. Buffalo was without first- and fourth-round selections, which were traded to Cleveland last season as part of the move up to draft Sammy Watkins.
“What’s done is done,” he said. “He’s going to be a really, really good player, so we’ll see over time, but it limited what they could do in this draft in terms of maybe moving around or just getting more players, because of picks they gave away to go up and get Watkins.”