Friday, February 7, 2014
MVP replacements: Buffalo Bills
By Mike Rodak
Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.
So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.
Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone didn't hide his feelings when one his offensive captains fell to the turf last October.
Running back Fred Jackson already had been dealing with a knee injury, but this one -- coming during a 23-21 Bills win over Miami in Week 7 -- looked worse.
"I was scared," Marrone said. "I saw it happen. He went down in a quick movement. At first, I was concerned."
Jackson eventually got back to his feet, waved off a cart and re-entered the game. It was just one of several injuries that Jackson shrugged off this season, which proved to be one of the best of his career.
The Bills still finished with a 6-10 record, but it's hard to see them performing even that well if Jackson hadn’t been able to play in all 16 games. Because of that, Jackson is the Bills' MVP.
Without Jackson, the Bills would be forced to use C.J. Spiller as their workhorse back, and that poses problems. While he provides tremendous value as an explosive second option in the backfield, Spiller has turned in negative plays and might not have the durability to handle a full workload.
Jackson enters the final season of his contract in 2014, and complicating matters is his age. He turns 33 in February. While Jackson hasn't shown signs of slowing down, his clock is still ticking.
If the Bills want to maximize the chances for their young quarterback, EJ Manuel, to succeed, they need a player like Jackson to ease the pressure.
Potential pick: James Wilder Jr.*, RB, Florida State
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 229 pounds, Wilder Jr. is a powerful between-the-tackles runner with the lower-body strength to push the pile and regularly pick up yards after contact. In terms of durability, he has fewer career carries than some of the top backs in this draft class had in 2013 and outside of sustaining a concussion against Clemson in 2013 he’s stayed healthy. In addition, the Bills need to improve their punt and kickoff coverage. Wilder can help in both areas.
-- Steve Muench