Every year teams attempt to improve their roster through free agency, player trades, and the draft. The results vary, with huge successes, big time busts, and guys who just exist. For every London Fletcher or Andy Levitre, there is an Aaron Maybin or Derrick Dockery. The Bills have many intriguing newcomers this year but I’ll focus on Mike Williams, Brandon Spikes, and Sam Watkins.
In Mike Williams the Bills may have their best red zone threat outside of tight end Scott Chandler. Williams caught 23 touchdowns in his first three seasons with the Buccaneers before injuries limited him to just six games last year. Williams is the only guy the Bills have with decent size at 6’2” and 212lbs; he’s physical and catches the ball at its highest point. Williams was acquired by his hometown Bills for a sixth round pick this off-season following a trend of acquiring players from Buffalo or who rooted for Buffalo (small net I know). Anytime a player is had for such a small price there is baggage. With Williams, domestic issues with his girlfriend and family have turned into legal issues that led to his departure from Tampa Bay. If Williams can regain his form and his head in Buffalo, he could be one of the biggest steals of the off-season; In the event his problems follow him home, he can be cut with limited cap ramifications.
Brandon Spikes was brought to the Buffalo from division top dog New England to shore up a run defense that hasn’t finished higher than 28th in the league the past five seasons. Spikes brings a stout frame, nasty mentality and an ability to shed blocks that has been absent from the bills linebacking core since Takeo Spikes. The biggest knock against spikes is his coverage ability, which has limited him to a two down role for most of his career. The Bills brought him in on a one year, 3.25 million dollar deal that will give Spikes the opportunity to prove his worth or worthlessness. Spikes should immediately toughen up the Buffalo front seven and force teams to be less one dimensional against the Bills than they have been in the past. If Spikes can get the Bills out of the NFL’s basement of run defenses, expect him to be rewarded more aptly in the 2015 off-season.
Lastly there’s the guy who’s getting all the buzz, first round pick Sam Watkins. Watkins likely has the most pressure to produce this year due to the premium price paid to acquire him, but for the sake of this article, we’ll skip that discussion. Watkins is an elite prospect that doesn’t possess elite measurable, but dominated the competition in college. Watkins is the kind of receiver that did everything well, but he is especially dangerous running after the catch. He may not be able to just run by corners at the pro level, but his burst, lateral agility and willingness to take contact for extra yards could make him a star at the NFL level. I don’t believe Watkins is going to produce the results the Bills fans will want immediately, few rookie receivers register 1000 yard seasons and even fewer who don’t have a proven quarterback. Look for Watkins to provide plenty of excitement on several highlight reel kick returns and screens this year but fall short of lofty Offensive Rookie of the Year expectations with a decent 55 catch, 800 yard, 6 touchdown season.
Overall, I believe Spikes will be the most valuable off-season addition in Orchard Park this year as he could key a defensive turnaround for one of the worst run and ppg defenses in the NFL this decade. Williams is a close second, but I expect Marrone’s run til you puke mentality combined with the inexperience of EJ Manuel to keep him out of the brightest spotlight. Watkins’ talent is undeniable, but will be viewed as the biggest bust this year due to unrealistic expectations. So who do you think will make the biggest impact for the Bills this year? Who is the biggest bust?
Most valuable addition for 2014 (Choices: Brandon Spikes, Mike Williams, Sam Watkins, Other)
Biggest disappointment for 2014 (Choices: Brandon Spikes, Mike Williams, Sam Watkins, Other)