Two Bills roster moves have been notable this offseason. WRs David Nelson and Donald Jones have essentially been released, leaving a gaping hole at the receiver position at One Bills Drive.
And NFL history has proven one absolute truth in the NFL Draft; you can get the same value in the later rounds at wideout as you can in the first round. So, in the interest of saving the Bills from taking a receiver with the number eight pick in the draft in April, let’s take a look at some receivers who fly under the radar on the free agent market. Here is the list according to KFFL:
1.) Steve Breaston: Speed. Breaston is a solid kick and punt returner. If there is one thing extremely evident with the release of Nelson and Jones, is that the Bills are looking for speed out of the wideout position. Breaston immediately provides the speed the Bills are looking for, but he can also play in the slot, and is not afraid to go across the middle.
2.) Ted Ginn Jr.: Cut from the same mold as Breaston, Ginn fills a need as a kick and punt returner while also providing dynamic speed. He could be picked up for a bargain price, probably even a smaller price tag than what Jones or Nelson would have commanded with their qualifying offers.
3.) Donnie Avery: The Colts may want to sign Avery back before the market opens, but after a terrific 2012 season, he may find more money on the open market. Avery had 60 grabs for 781 yards a year ago, and would be a shrewd addition who flies under the radar of some of the bigger names in the market.
4.) Brian Hartline: Like Avery, the Fins are going to want to keep Hartline, but the former Ohio State Buckeye’s stock may never be higher; the perfect time to test the free agent waters. Hartline had a monster 2012 season in South Florida, catching 74 balls for 1083 yards. He doesn’t fit the speed receiver mold, but Hartline knows how to get open and possesses phenomenal hands.
5.) Emmanuel Sanders: Here’s the speed again. While Sanders is a restricted free agent likely to stay in Pittsburgh, he seems the perfect fit to wear a Bills uniform in Doug Marrone’s offense. He would only cost the Bills a third-round pick if they took a run at Sanders, and if I told you today Buffalo’s third round pick would catch 50 balls for 700 yards next season, you’d be elated. So why not guarantee that production with a run at Sanders?
So while fans may look for the big names like Dwyane Bowe, Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace (who is all but gone if you believe what you read coming out of Pittsburgh), there are other receivers to be had that wouldn’t hamstring the Bills fnancially.
The Bills should focus on filling a need on their historically bad defense with their first round pick, and look to the quarterback or receiver position in round two. Baylor’s WR Terrance Williams would be ideal and West Virginia’s WR Stedman Bailey packs that speed punch the Bills now covet at the wideout position.
All of the conjecture about the draft over the next 8 weeks will be fun, but we won’t know the Bills truest needs until we see how they attack the free agent market before the draft. Stay tuned!