BUFFALO BILLS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
New offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, 33, comes to Buffalo from Syracuse, where he worked as Doug Marrone’s offensive coordinator. Hackett ran an up-tempo style of offense at Syracuse, and his first order of business will be figuring out who is quarterback — Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tarvaris Jackson or a rookie. The strength on offense is the O-line, RB C.J. Spiller and WR Stevie Johnson.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
QB — The worst-kept secret in Western New York is that the Bills want, nay need, to draft a franchise quarterback in 2013. GM Buddy Nix has made that apparent, and new head coach Doug Marrone will be looking to select a signalcaller to be “his guy” going forward. Even though Fitzpatrick signed a big contract in 2011, his play the past two seasons has been too inconsistent, and his turnovers have been crushing at times. Tarvaris Jackson was resigned to compete, as well.
WR — Last year’s third-round pick of T.J. Graham did not solve the Bills’ depth issue at wide receiver, and that was exposed when WR David Nelson went on injured reserve in Week One. Nix also said he wants to add a big-play wideout to line up on the outside, either opposite Johnson or having Johnson move inside.
TE — Scott Chandler has been very good the past two seasons, especially in the red zone, as a safety valve and touchdown threat for Fitzpatrick, but he tore his ACL in Week 16, which makes his status for the start of next year in question. Lee Smith is not the pass-catching TE who can replace Chandler.
Mike Pettine comes over from the AFC East-rival Jets to take over a defense that has been abysmal the past two seasons and fell well short of expectations in 2012. Pettine will use multiple fronts and has some versatile personnel, with Buffalo running a 3-4 in ’11 and a 4-3 in ’12. He wants it to be aggressive and attacking. Buffalo is strong up front, young in the back end and needs help at LB.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
LB — All three starting LB spots could be up for grabs in training camp, depending on what the Bills do in free agency. Released WLB Nick Barnett, who will be 32 next year, would have been due $3.5 million in 2013. MLB Kelvin Sheppard did not take the Year Two leap that the club hoped. The Bills struggled mightily to stop the run and could use a playmaker in the LB corps, as well.
CB — The Bills have been one of those “we can never have enough cornerback” teams. Stephon Gilmore is locked into a starting spot, but Aaron Williams struggled in 2012 and has not been durable. Leodis McKelvin is a free agent, Terrence McGee has barely seen the field because of injuries, and Ron Brooks and Justin Rogers are young players who didn’t fix things in the secondary when thrust into action.
S — Not surprisingly, the Bills gave quality FS Jairus Byrd the franchise tag, but 16-game starting SS George Wilson was released. Wilson had started to defer snaps to Da’Norris Searcy, and there is no depth at the position behind Searcy.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (10): CB Stephen Gilmore / South Carolina (GP/GS: 16/16)
Skinny: Strong cover CB (led team in PDs) but too many penalties.
2nd round (41): OT Cordy Glenn / Georgia (GP/GS: 13/13)
Skinny: Exceeded expectations on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s blind side.
3rd round (69): WR T.J. Graham / North Carolina State (GP/GS: 15/11)
Skinny: Went 31-322-1, but offense never made most of his speed.
4th round (105): OLB Nigel Bradham / Florida State (GP/GS: 16/11)
Skinny: Showed upside after taking over starting SLB job.
4th round (124): CB Ron Brooks / LSU (GP/GS: 9/2)
Skinny: Returned from injury to help on special teams and corner
5th round (144): OT Zebrie Sanders / Florida State (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Spent season on injured reserve.
5th round (147): LB Tank Carder /TCU (GP/GS: 15/1)
Skinny: Played for the Browns.
6th round (178): OG Mark Asper / Oregon (GP/GS: 1/0)
Skinny: Spent time with Vikings, finished season with Jaguars.
7th round (251): PK John Potter / Western Michigan (GP/GS: 6/0)
Skinny: Kickoff specialist for first six games before being cut.
SUMMARY: Gilmore and Glenn appear to be the real deal. Bradham and Graham showed potential, but jury is still out.
Pro Football Weekly's 2013 Draft Guide is now available at stores where magazines are sold. It can also be ordered by calling 1-800-FOOTBALL.