The Buffalo Bills made the playoffs in 2017. Keep that in mind when reading Sports Illustrated in the coming days.
In the Feb. 12 issue, Andy Benoit ranks the NFL's "neediest" teams, with the Bills coming in third on that list, behind only the New York Jets (5-11 in 2017) and Cleveland Browns (0-16).
"The Bills’ biggest need is at QB, but that’s true for just about any team without a franchise guy in that spot," Benoit writes. "Digging deeper, look to the D-line. Coach Sean McDermott is a creative, effective blitz schemer. But he more often plays traditional zone coverages, which require a potent four-man rush. Buffalo had just 27 sacks last season, tied for third fewest in the NFL, and you can see that reflected on film: Their front four rarely controlled games. This roster’s only viable pass rusher is defensive end Jerry Hughes, who can go quiet for stretches. The Bills need an edge bender opposite him, as well as a penetrator inside, especially if 34-year-old free agent Kyle Williams does not return."
Our take: Benoit is spot on about the Bills' biggest need, and the situation they face along the defensive line. In addition to needing more sacks, the line was a big reason why the team's run defense finished 29th against the run. Shaq Lawson, a 2016 first-round pick, hasn't come close to meeting those expectations, while replacing the traded Marcell Dareus proved to be a challenge.
Even with that being the case, it seems odd to see the Bills ahead of teams like Chicago (5-11), Indianapolis (4-12) and Denver (5-11) on this list. While the Bears and Colts have quarterbacks, they are lacking talent at several other positions, while the Broncos are in the same quarterback hole as the Bills. Putting a team that made the postseason behind them on any "neediest" list feels like a stretch. The good news for the Bills is they've got a decent amount of space under the salary cap and eight draft picks in the first five rounds with which to fill those needs.