Just want to go on record as saying that I am in favor of the Bills drafting E.J. Manuel of Florida State in the first round this weekend. Think his strong arm, good size, and mobility make him a project that new head coach Doug Marrone thinks he can build into an all-pro - or at least a Pro Bowler. Marrone obviously felt he had gone as far as he could with his college QB Ryan Nassib of Syracuse.
I read a scouting report (that unfortunately, I can't seem to find the link to) where a couple Florida State watchers were really questioning Manuel's football aptitude - not his intelligence or work ethic, just his feel and innate understanding of the game. Not sure how much of an issue this is, but obviously something Marrone feels he can work with. We'll see. Proverbial upside potential is huge. Downside is that Marrone swings and misses, and I don't know that he has a back-up plan in place at the moment, but if he's really a good coach I would expect him to develop one. Remember the Cowboys drafted Steve Walsh and Troy Aikman early on in Jimmy Johnson's career. Only one worked out. (For more on playing the odds keep reading.)
Also, this signing of D'Rick Rogers could be huge. For those of you who didn't click on the link, or haven't heard of him, he was an all-SEC receiver as a sophomore, but has had some pretty serious off-the-field problems (drugs and fighting I think are two of them) and pretty much got kicked off the Tennessee team. He transferred to Tennessee Tech and had a pretty good year this year - don't know who his QB was - including one game in which he had over 300 yards receiving.
Now, Rogers may or may not work out - but the reason the move is great for the Bills is because it's so sound from the process standpoint. What am I saying? Well, if you know me, I am definitely a fan of the Moneyball approach (I was an early Bill James reader in junior high) of exploiting what I'll call "market opportunities." (Moneyball is mainly about market inefficiencies, but this is something a little different.) Basically, we all know the Bills have trouble attracting prime veteran free agents due to their history of losing and probably location - without overpaying them. So, it's going to be very tough to build a team that way - as I think we kind of saw in this offseason. The draft is one way they can build, and it is weighted toward losing teams, so that helps. But, where else can Buffalo gain an edge over more successful franchises? I would think in recruiting UFAs like Rogers, because they see a chance to gain valuable playing time in Buffalo that they might not get anywhere else. I mean, seriously, Rogers could theoretically step in and start opposite Stevie Johnson next year. At least, I'm thinkin' that's what he was thinkin'.
So, great move by Buffalo, and hopefully some of their other UFAs went through the same thought process. Because, as I said, Rogers might not work out, but the plan in our player development should be to assemble as many highly rated prospects as possible and assume some will work out and some won't. Obviously, the more you have, the better chance of developing more better players. And as the guy on the AT&T? commercials, more is better, isn't it?