The 10 most important Bills

July 21, 2019 - 8:48 am

I overthought SOME of it, and didn't overthink the other parts.... and I have compiled my ranking of the 10 most important Bills players. We'll start at 1, because it's obvious.

1. Josh Allen

This one is obvious, of course. That said, I think the Bills could find their way to 6-7 wins with Matt Barkley as the quarterback. Perhaps that's "the game he played against the Jets" bias, but it seems to me that they could run, play defense against a relatively soft schedule, and have him game-manage his way to that number. Allen, brings the possibility of the playoffs if he takes a step or two forward. All eyes are on Josh as soon as camp begins, and they'll stay there throughout the season. Allen is so important that he's probably the only player that we could extract from a bad team season and be satisfied if things went well just for him. 6-10 but Allen throws for 32 TDs and 3800 yards? That'd be quite something to see play out, but it's also something I think an awful lot of Bills fans would settle for quite quickly.

2. Tre White

This team has been about building a tough and reliable defense since the day that Sean McDermott signed on as head coach. His first draft pick, even before Brandon Beane showed up, was Tre White. One of the best players on the team, playing a position that is of primary importance in this passing league, White will look to build on his first two seasons of success and grow his own name. It's not a huge shock to me that White isn't given as much credit as he might deserve. Going back to the days of Stephon Gilmore (when I staunchly defended him as being very good and said that if he played for a team that won all the time like New England that he'd be thought of as one of the best in the league) the Bills have had good players at that position. Go back even further if you'd like to Nate Clements and Antoine Winfield. It's a position of strength for this team, and White will finally start to get the attention he deserves if the wins come with it.

3. Tremaine Edmunds

The leader of the defense retired in the offseason, and along the way revealed that he'd already started to hand things over to Tremaine Edmunds. Kyle Williams was the rock in the middle for the Bills for more than a decade. In Tremaine Edmunds the Bills have their leader in the middle that showed plenty of promise in his rookie season. The Bills have youth at all three levels of their young defense, and Edmunds as the man in the middle should be a linchpin for years to come. While this defense has been good the last two years, what we're waiting to see are a few game-wreckers. Edmunds should take another step toward that this year.

4. Mitch Morse

The overhaul of the offensive line centers around Mitch Morse. Get it? Badumching. The Bills made Morse the league's highest paid center when signing him away from the Kansas City Chiefs. After spending a year working with Patrick Mahomes, they're hoping that he can lighten the load for Allen. I don't claim to know all the ins and outs of playing the center position, but I do know that when it comes to the Bills, he's as important as anyone outside the quarterback, currently. He's the one player on the offensive line that you can CHISEL into his starting spot. The overhaul has brought in a number of pieces, and the sooner they can slot in the rest, the better.

5. Micah Hyde

The Bills highest rated player in the Madden ratings, Micah Hyde deserves mention in the top five. Honorable mention to Jordan Poyer here, because as a tandem the two have solidified a Bills safety position that seemed to be influx for an awfully long time. They had flashes with Jairus Byrd, ok bit more than just a flash, and Donte Whitner, who yes some did like at one point. With these two the Bills front office has scored big on a bargain. Hyde (and Poyer) with Tre White give the Bills a third straight year of knowing exactly how they line up at three positions in the defensive backfield, and has been a big part of why they've been able to carousel through several different options at the other DB spots.

6. Dion Dawkins

Trading Cordy Glenn to the Bengals was plenty about money, and plenty about belief in Dion Dawkins. The Bills third year tackle isn't quite a chiseled-in starter on the left side, but you'd have to say or hope that he's the favorite. As this overhaul of the line sets up, there's no doubt they have an awful lot of options. The way I see it, the fewer variables on that line the better, and with Morse locked in at center, if Dawkins can return to his next-to-Incognito form of two years ago, the Bills would be quite pleased.

7. Jerry Hughes

Rushing the passer is important, but it's not been all that important for Sean McDermott's defenses. Last year, ranked #2 overall in DVOA, the Bills defense didn't really get after the passer too much, finishing 26th in sacks. I'm one to think that sacks can be a stat that is affected by score and game situation as much as rushing carries can. You know, that whole, you get a lot of rushing attempts BECAUSE you're winning thing? I think that works with sacks too. Consider the Chiefs last year who had one of the worst defenses in the league. They led the league in sacks. Sometimes it's the game situation, sometimes it's the caliber of QB you play, and sometimes it's actually better NOT to sack the QB by getting a pressure that forces a bad throw. Jerry Hughes had back-to-back 10 sack seasons with the Bills in 2013 and 2014, but hasn't seen any more than 7 sacks since. His 7 sacks last season don't tell the whole story though, as Pro Football Focus ranked him the #1 edge rusher in the league in pressure rate. The only player in the league to have been more effective in pressure rate, was Aaron Donald. Hughes will get some help up front this year with a new disruptor in the middle.

8. Ed Oliver

The 9th overall pick in this year's NFL Draft will be brought along slowly. As part of a defensive line rotation, the Bills will likely be looking to optimize the situations they can get Oliver in. I've seen an over/under on his sack total set at about 5.5 which I think is about right. Bills Beat Reporter Sal Capaccio has pointed out many times that you shouldn't expect to see too much of Oliver when it comes to snap percentages. He's a piece in that defensive line rotation until he can showcase that he's just too good to take off the field given his level of play. Potentially a disruptor in the pass game, the Bills are hoping to get a little more pressure by getting a push up the middle with Oliver, Jordan Phillips, and Star Lotulilei. If this defense gets a fierce pass rush... watch out.

9. Cody Ford

When we did this segment on the air I picked Matt Milano for this spot, but I'm switching it to Cody Ford. Everything I've laid out about the offensive line up above, plays into this decision. If the Bills can go from one to THREE locked in starters on the offensive line, then I think we'd be feeling like the overhaul was a smash success. The other players they've picked up are on shorter, cheaper deals, and Ford is a player they identified and traded up for. If you're always trading up in the draft, which goes against an awful lot of the smart thinking, you've got to be hitting those picks. In Dion Dawkins, Zay Jones, Tremaine Edmunds, and Josh Allen, it's a mixed bag. Ford, and Dawson Knox get added to that bunch this year. Ford blossoming would be a huge win for this offense.

10. Cole Beasley

I'm going to be calling him Mr. Drive-Extender. I still think the Bills WR corps is bottom ten in the league, but it's taken a big jump from last year. With weapons on the outside in Robert Foster and John Brown, I have no doubt that Josh Allen will be pushing the ball down the field. Cole Beasley will be working the middle, and he's pretty good at it. In 2017 he was the #1 slot WR in getting separation according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Last season, only three WRs had a higher catch percentage. That comes due to his ability to get open, his reliable hands, and that throws to Beasley average about 7 air yards. He'll be the short throw option. He'll be the go-to guy for the finer passing plays that extend drives.


So there's my list... and the player I had the toughest time leaving off was Robert Foster. #1 in the NFL in air yards per target, I think Foster is very important to this team, but the addition of John Brown has made them a pair for me in some way. The Bills need a field-stretcher, and they've got two. From field-stretchers, drive-extenders, three lineman on each side of the ball, and a handful of young players looking to advance their careers... bring on the season.

So who did I leave out?

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