NFL Nation: John McCargo

Bucs take plunge on Haynesworth

November, 9, 2011
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have made it very clear the last two years that they intend to build through the draft, veered slightly off course Wednesday, by claiming veteran defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth off waivers from the New England Patriots.

Ironically, the Buccaneers tried to sign Haynesworth as a free agent in 2009. But Haynesworth signed with the Washington Redskins. He later said the Buccaneers offered more money, but he didn’t want to have “distractions’’ in Florida.

The move comes at a time when the Bucs are thin at defensive tackle. Gerald McCoy went on injured reserve after injuring his arm in Sunday’s loss to New Orleans. The Bucs were left with Brian Price and Roy Miller as their only healthy defensive tackles because reserve Frank Okam was out with an injury. The Bucs also signed John McCargo on Tuesday.

But Haynesworth could vault quickly past Okam and McCargo. If he’s healthy and focused, Haynesworth could even provide a temporary upgrade from McCoy.

Buccaneers shore up DT position

November, 8, 2011
After losing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a season-ending injury, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced they have re-signed John McCargo, who was with the team in the preseason.

A first-round pick by Buffalo in 2006, McCargo never really panned out. In five seasons, he played in 39 games with just one start and 2.5 sacks.

But he can add some depth behind defensive tackles Brian Price, Roy Miller and Frank Okam. There’s one other scenario that’s at least worth pondering at the moment.

That’s Albert Haynesworth. He was waived by the New England Patriots on Tuesday and will go on the waiver wire at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday. Teams will have until 4 p.m. ET Wednesday to claim Haynesworth.

It’s worth remembering that the Buccaneers tried to sign Haynesworth in 2009, soon after coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik came to power. Haynesworth later said that Tampa Bay’s offer was financially larger, but he elected to sign with the Washington Redskins, saying that there were too many distractions in Florida.

Would the Bucs put in a claim on Haynesworth now?

It’s possible, but I doubt it. Since 2010, Tampa Bay has been hesitant to bring in high-profile players. The Bucs constantly remind us that they’re building through the draft and punter Michael Koenen was their only free-agent pickup of any consequence this year.

Plus, Haynesworth comes with lots of baggage. The Bucs are pretty conscious of their public image these days. If you’re thinking there’s a big move on the horizon, I’m thinking you probably will be disappointed. McCargo might have been the big move.

Buccaneers continue going with youth

September, 2, 2011
We were tied up with Friday’s NFC South chat as this emerged, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a few interesting cuts a little bit ago.

They’ve parted ways with linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, defensive end Kyle Moore and defensive tackle John McCargo.

McKenzie is the most interesting of the bunch because it appeared he had a shot at the starting job at middle linebacker at the start of training camp. McKenzie even ran Tampa Bay’s defense and helped draw up practice plans for players-only workouts during the lockout. But, once camp started, it quickly became obvious the Bucs had rookie Mason Foster ticketed for the starting job.

What’s unclear now is who will be Foster’s backup? Adam Hayward has experience at the position and a couple of young players, Derrell Smith and Simoni Lawrence, have done some good things in the preseason. Outside linebacker Quincy Black is expected to be the middle linebacker on passing downs as Foster will come out when the Bucs go to their nickel package.

The releases of McCargo and Moore aren’t as surprising, but each comes with a bit of a storyline. The Bucs took a shot by bringing in McCargo, a former first-round pick, who has had a disappointing career. They took a look at him, but they obviously feel they’re in good shape at defensive tackle with Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Frank Okam, Roy Miller and possibly Al Woods. There was some question about Price’s health early on, but he appears ready to contribute.

Moore was a fourth-round pick in 2009, the first draft for general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris. He struggled with injuries and the Bucs used their top two picks this year on defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. They also have Michael Bennett and Tim Crowder.

Bills back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Bills will need every moment they can find to prepare for the season. Their offensive skill players gathered at quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's home in April. A larger contingent convened in Western New York for casual workouts in May.

Biggest challenge: Buffalo must find a defensive identity quickly. The Bills switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 with bad results last year. As it became obvious they had the NFL's worst run defense, they mixed their fronts. Head coach Chan Gailey has said that they will be a hybrid defense leaning toward a 3-4 base. Then he hired longtime 4-3 mastermind Dave Wannstedt -- not to replace defensive coordinator George Edwards, but as assistant head coach and linebackers coach.

Line in the sand: The Bills have a tenuous offensive line, although all the late-season starters are back. The line mostly has been mediocre and often riddled with injuries. Demetrius Bell has been a bargain at left tackle, but far from dominant. Right guard Eric Wood could eventually shift to center.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Inside linebacker Paul Posluszny and safety Donte Whitner have been two of the Bills' most prolific tacklers. Cornerback Drayton Florence is an overlooked free agent who could be popular on the open market. Disappointing former first-round pick John McCargo is a goner.

Marcell Dareus makes colossal impression

April, 29, 2011
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Marcell Dareus didn't stand at the lectern at One Bills Drive as much as he loomed.

Dareus probably had to pay the tailor overtime for the suit he wore Friday afternoon. He's 6-foot-3 and 319 pounds, but seemed bigger than that.

He made a colossal impression when he was introduced to local reporters.

Dareus, the third overall draft choice Thursday night, was more prominent with his words than he was with his stature.

When explaining his approach to football and life, Alabama's star defensive lineman shared an anecdote about his mother. Michelle Luckey spent much of her life confined to a wheelchair because of congestive heart failure. She raised six sons and a daughter.

"Her whole drive was to never give up," Dareus said. "When she was on her death bed -- she was on her death bed a couple of times -- but one time I asked 'Mom, why are you still fighting?' I was in middle school. It was just a crazy question. 'Why are you still fighting?'

"She looked at me and said, 'I have seven kids. Do you want me to be gone now, or do you want me to just keep fighting?' I said, 'I want you to keep fighting.' She said, 'All right then. You go over there and sit down.' She rolled over and went back to sleep."

Draft followers may already know Dareus' tribulations. senior writer Jeffri Chadiha told the tale last week with a feature story.

Dareus' mother died last May, the latest in a series of heartaches. His father, a Haitian immigrant, died when Dareus was 6. The grandmother who helped raise Dareus died when he was 13. His high school coach died in a car crash right after Dareus signed with the Crimson Tide.

"I can't give up," Dareus said Friday. "When you can go to sleep in pain, you don't know what pain is. That's my whole thing. I got a little hurt elbow, a hamstring, an ankle, that's not going to keep me from playing.

[+] EnlargeMarcell Dareus
AP Photo/David DupreyMarcell Dareus, center, said all the right things when he was introduced to reporters on Friday.
"As long as she could go to sleep, wake up, put food on the table and be in pain 24 hours a day, the little things I go through is nothing."

Bills fans can't help but get excited about that type of gravitas from a potential star.

The Bills haven't been to the playoffs in 11 years. They've experienced more embarrassment than glory, especially when it comes to their first-round draft choices. Fans have endured busts and insulting malcontents such as Erik Flowers, Mike Williams, Willis McGahee, Marshawn Lynch and John McCargo.

Nobody can say for sure whether Dareus will be the real deal, but he has gotten off to a great start.

We need to keep in mind Dareus is fresh off the interview circuit from the NFL scouting combine, his pro day and a series of private meetings with this coach or that general manager from the West Coast to the Eastern Seaboard. Draft prospects are trained to answer interview questions. Dareus probably wasn't going to face a pitch he couldn't crush out of the park at Friday afternoon's news conference.

Dareus said all the right things. So have a parade of phonies throughout the years in the NFL.

"We're very pleased to have a man of not only his ability, but the man that he is," Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey said. "He's a great person in his own right, and he's going to represent our organization extremely well on the field and off the field for many years to come."

Gailey's testimony means something. He values high-character players maybe more than others in his profession. You get the sense Gailey would rather lead a mediocre player he respects than an elite athlete he doesn't.

Dareus conveyed himself as a grinder, the embodiment of Western New York's working spirit and the antithesis of Buffalo's first-round pick from two years ago.

Outside linebacker Aaron Maybin, the 11th pick in 2009, has been all flash and no substance. Before Maybin signed his NFL contract, he had a rap song that mentioned Maybach luxury cars, pinky rings, Circoc vodka, Nike endorsement deals and all the heads he was going to knock off.

Maybin has as many NFL sacks as Dareus does.

Dareus is about to strike it rich, too. But he said he's not going to keep his showmanship limited to Sundays.

"I want to be a pro on and off the field," Dareus said. "I want to handle myself in the community, back home with my brothers and sister, and when I do have kids I want to be a pro around them, let them know and set an example.

"Sometimes you have it. And even if you worked for it, that doesn't mean you have to flaunt it and blow it all away."

Dareus recalled after he visited One Bills Drive last month, he called one of his brothers and said "Buffalo might be my city." He said it reminded him of Tuscaloosa, a city with everything you need but a smaller feel and rabid fans who support the team.

If Dareus proves sincere about his feelings and can back up the Bills' scouting department's faith in him, then fans will have a new hero in their midst.

"I just want to go out there and give everything I have," Dareus said.

Bills draft record not as bad as you think

April, 21, 2011
Kyle Williams and Steve JohnsonUS PresswirePro Bowler Kyle Williams (left) and receiver Steve Johnson were both drafted in the later rounds.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills fans have pondered some persistent questions over the years.

How would life have changed if Scott Norwood made that kick?

What will happen to the team when Ralph Wilson passes away?

Was the Music City Miracle really a forward lateral?

How on earth does Tom Modrak still have a job?

Modrak is Buffalo's vice president of college scouting. Modrak, formerly a Pittsburgh Steelers scout during their Steel Curtain years and director of football operations with the Philadelphia Eagles, has held the Bills' top scouting job since May 2001 and worked his first draft for them in 2002.

In that time, the Bills' streak of seasons without a playoff appearance has extended to 11 and counting. Despite holding prime draft-order slots, they have repeatedly squandered them with maddening first-round decisions.

The list is enough to make the most optimistic Bills fan groan: pass-rusher Aaron Maybin (zero sacks) 11th overall instead of Brian Orakpo (19.5 sacks) two years ago; small-school cornerback Leodis McKelvin 11th overall instead of Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady in 2008; safety Donte Whitner with the eighth pick in 2006 and then trading up for defensive tackle John McCargo; trading up for quarterback J.P. Losman in 2004; useless tackle Mike Williams fifth in 2002.

"Certainly we've had our misses up at the top," Modrak said Tuesday at a news conference to preview next week's draft. "We've done pretty well in the middle and at the end, the non-glamour kind of picks. But we've missed some. That is regrettable."

There are additional selections one can criticize: wide receiver James Hardy in the second round; running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall even though the Bills had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers already ...

[+] EnlargeTom Modrak
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesDespite some high-profile misses, Tom Modrak's draftees have performed well on the whole.
OK. I'll stop now. That's enough to illustrate why there's frustration over Modrak and his scouting department's evaluation skills.

The fact Modrak joined the Bills to serve under former president Tom Donahoe -- an executive Wilson and Bills fans came to despise -- only adds to fascination of Modrak's continued employment.

Now that I've set the table, let's yank the tablecloth out from underneath the plasticware.

Draft data suggest the Bills haven't drafted much worse than the average NFL team since 2002.

ESPN researcher John Fisher -- he claims no relation to St. John Fisher, the namesake of the college where the Bills hold their training camp -- shuffled some spreadsheets and came up with some information that's not particularly damning when compared to the rest of the NFL.

  • The Bills have drafted five Pro Bowlers with Modrak in charge of scouting. That's tied for 14th in the league. One of those Pro Bowlers was Willis McGahee for the Baltimore Ravens, but Modrak was the chief scout who drafted him. What the Bills did with McGahee afterward that isn't his fault. Same goes for Marshawn Lynch.
  • Although a game started for the Bills isn't as impressive as a game started for the New England Patriots the past nine years, Bills draftees from the first through third rounds have started 804 games, 15th in the league.
  • Bills draftees from the fourth round or later have started 417 games, eighth in the league.
  • When it comes to individual statistics accumulated with the teams that drafted them, Bills taken from 2002 onward have ranked third in 1,000-yard rushing seasons, tied for seventh in 1,000-yard receiving seasons, 20th in total sacks and 19th in total interceptions.

While the Bills have missed badly on several of their prominent selections, they have done quite well in the latter part of the draft with gems such as cornerback and Pro Bowl kick returner Terrence McGee (fourth round in 2003), Pro Bowl defensive lineman Kyle Williams (fifth round in 2006), receiver Steve Johnson (seventh round in 2008) and left tackle Demetrius Bell (seventh round in 2008).

Top running back Fred Jackson and perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters -- traded to Philly two years ago -- weren't drafted at all.

"If you look at other teams, they do it. They miss at the top," Modrak said. "When you don't win, it's magnified. It looks bad.

"But I think from a strictly homer point-of-view [late-round success] is the work and the labor that goes into it and the detail that's paid to those kinds of things. That does not say that other teams don't do the same thing, but we have a good group, and we fortunately have done that."

The Bills have had some obvious blind spots in the draft.

A refusal to pick a tackle earlier than the fifth round since 2002 has hurt them. Peters' success as a converted tight end is a factor in that trend, but the Bills were having contract problems with him while he still was on the roster. Foresight would've been helpful. But that's an organizational philosophy more than Modrak's domain.

The Bills' track record at tight end is miserable, too. They've drafted five: Tim Euhus, Kevin Everett, Derek Schouman, Derek Fine and Shawn Nelson. Everett was the lone selection sooner than the fourth round. A broken neck while covering a kickoff on opening day in 2007 ended his career.

That tight end quintet has combined to score five NFL touchdowns. Of the 143 tight ends drafted since Modrak joined the Bills, 43 of them have scored more than five touchdowns individually.

Some might also say finding a quarterback has been a failure. Starting quarterbacks, however, aren't easy for any team to locate.

Forty-seven quarterbacks have been drafted within the first three rounds since 2002. The only three teams not included in this pursuit have been the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. The Bills took two within the first three rounds, Losman 22nd overall in 2004 and Trent Edwards 92nd in 2007.

That league-wide group yielded nine Pro Bowlers, but just two of them -- 24th overall pick Aaron Rodgers and third-rounder Matt Schaub -- weren't selected in the top 11. Rodgers and Schaub served as backups for three seasons before they became starters.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix explained that scouting is only one of three critical phases that determine whether a draft pick explodes or fizzles.

"You've got to pick the right guy," Nix said Tuesday. "He's got to have enough athletic ability and enough intelligence, production to do the job, which is what you spend the year doing. We're scouts and personnel guys.

"The second phase, now -- and don't make light of it because it's just as important -- is coaching, strength coaches, trainers. That's the second phase, and both of those things have to be in place. If not, the development of the guy is retarded.

"I'm not going to name teams, but you can name teams every year that get top guys and they don't get any better. They actually may go the other way, and it's the developmental part."

Chan Gailey is Buffalo's fourth head coach -- fifth if you count interim coach Perry Fewell -- since Modrak came aboard. Coordinators have passed through a revolving door. The Bills also have overhauled their strength and conditioning program a couple times.

Nix then stressed that even if the precisely correct draft choice is made and the proper infrastructure is in place, a third phase still can torpedo development. The player can ruin his future if he's "not willing to be a professional and do everything it takes."

"You can go back and look at the so-called busts, and it's one of these three phases," Nix said. "You've got to have it all for them to be really good.

"So even though we put it all on one thing -- 'That was a terrible draft. That was a bust. Those idiots don't know.' -- that's just about a third of it."

Another element that must be considered when discussing Buffalo drafts is the question of who makes the final pick.

Nix and Gailey have been clear Nix makes the final call, although Wilson still can exercise his ownership privilege.

Before Nix became GM last year, trying to decipher who was to credit or blame for a Bills draft choice was like a "Three Stooges" scene. The irate boss hears a commotion, storms into the room and asks "Say! What's the wise idea? Who did this?" Moe pointed at Larry. Curly pointed at Moe. Larry pointed at Curly.

Modrak has been a constant since 2002, but there have been many voices in the Bills' draft room in that period, from Donahoe to GM Marv Levy to chief operating officer Russ Brandon to the various opinionated head coaches who lobbied for prospects they hotly desired.

The Bills' scouting department clearly needs to step its game up to help turn around the franchise. They'll never be the kind of team that lures top free agents because of their market conditions. Buffalo simply isn't as sexy as Miami or San Diego or New York and doesn't offer a perennial chance to win like New England or Pittsburgh does.

But, believe it or not, the Bills' drafts could have been substantially worse since Modrak arrived.

Worse: Maybin or McCargo? White or Ginn?

March, 18, 2011
This week's edition of "Draft Watch" dealt with each club's best and worst picks of the past five years.

Some readers disagreed with two of my busts.

The first two comments pertained to my selection of defensive lineman John McCargo as the Buffalo Bills' worst pick.

Scottiewags wrote: "McCargo is not and will never be worse than Aaron Maybin."

Dgnfcnorthaz later added: "Maybin has been so invisible that Graham must have forgotten who he is."

Another reader contended I erred in calling quarterback Pat White the Miami Dolphins' worst pick over wide receiver Ted Ginn.

I considered both Maybin and Ginn as the biggest busts of the past half-decade, but I decided against them. I'll spell out why they were chosen.

As much as Maybin disgusts Bills fans, he has been in the NFL only two seasons. He has had two defensive coordinators and needed to learn two totally different schemes. He entered the league as an end, which he played at Penn State, and then last year switched to standup outside linebacker.

I'm willing to give Maybin another season before I can judge him against McCargo, a veteran with a fuller body of -- for lack of a better noun -- "work."

Maybin already has as many starts in two seasons as McCargo has in his career -- one. Maybin has played 27 games, eight more than McCargo has played the past three combined.

McCargo was a healthy scratch for 15 games last year. He's a veteran who can’t get on the field. Maybin played 11 games last year as a 22-year-old.

Ginn, meanwhile, is a knee-jerk response because he's such a pariah to Dolfans. But Ginn was a weapon defenses needed to account for on a weekly basis. He wasn't very effective, but opponents certainly had to game plan for him.

Ginn generated some highlights for the Dolphins. He led them with 56 catches and 790 yards in 2008. He was a scintillating return man, taking two kickoffs for touchdowns at the Meadowlands in 2009. Plus, the Dolphins were able to get draft compensation out of him.

White played one indigestible season and got cut. Ten months later, he retired from professional baseball. In less than two years after the Dolphins drafted White, he had failed at two sports. Ginn's still in the NFL.

But disagreement is what makes these kinds of conversations so much fun. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. I'll jump in later for some discussion.

Draft Watch: AFC East

March, 17, 2011
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: draft rewind -- examining the past five drafts.

Buffalo Bills

Best choice: Defensive lineman Kyle Williams. Only three players in the Bills' past five draft classes have gone to a Pro Bowl. Two of them, Williams and safety Jairus Byrd, still are on the team. Williams was a 2006 fifth-round pick who has emerged as one of the NFL's top interior pass-rushers.

Worst choice: Defensive end John McCargo. The Bills traded up to select McCargo 26th overall in 2006. He has started one game since then. He was a healthy scratch for 15 games last year. The Bills tried to deal him to the Indianapolis Colts in 2009, but he failed his physical and was sent back.

Bubble player: Left tackle Demetrius Bell. On the surface, a starting left tackle from the seventh round sounds like a steal. But when you consider the Bills have banked on Bell and avoided drafting other tackles early enough to compete with him for three years, then you'd expect Bell to be an obvious franchise player. He has been OK, but far from a clear-cut solution.

Miami Dolphins

Best choice: Left tackle Jake Long. There's not much to discuss here aside from wondering how the Dolphins would be different had they drafted Matt Ryan No. 1 in 2008 instead. But Long undoubtedly has been their best draft choice of the past five years. He's an elite blocker and protector. He has been chosen for three Pro Bowls in three seasons.

Worst choice: Quarterback Pat White. The most regrettable pick of the Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland regime was White at 44th overall in 2009. Not even former general manager Randy Mueller's fateful 2007 draft -- two of 10 picks still on the roster -- had a dud like White, who was cut after one season and retired from baseball seven months later.

Bubble player: Defensive end Jared Odrick. Last year's first-round draft choice is in a tough spot. Odrick played one game because of a hairline leg fracture. While the rookie was out, the Dolphins' three-man defensive front was cemented. Right end Randy Starks went to the Pro Bowl, while some thought left end Kendall Langford had the better season. And don't expect Starks to return to nose tackle to make way for Odrick. The Dolphins placed their franchise tag on nose tackle Paul Soliai.

New England Patriots

Best choice: Inside linebacker Jerod Mayo. Since the Patriots drafted Mayo 10th in 2008, he has led them in tackles all three years, won The Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, has been defensive captain the past two seasons, was named first-team All-Pro last year and went to the Pro Bowl.

Worst choice: Wide receiver Chad Jackson. The Patriots traded with the Green Bay Packers to move up 16 spots and select Jackson 36th overall in 2006. Who did the Packers get with the 52nd pick? Greg Jennings. Injuries and lack of commitment forced Jackson out of New England after two seasons and 13 catches.

Bubble player: Safety Brandon Meriweather. For the most part, Meriweather has been successful. The 24th pick in 2007 has been to a pair of Pro Bowls. But how they voted him a starter last year is a mystery. Bill Belichick removed him from the starting lineup for three games because of disappointing play. That plus Meriweather's presence at a recent multiple shooting in his hometown raises questions about which way his career is going.

New York Jets

Best choice: Cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Jets not only drafted him 14th in 2007, but also spent second- and fifth-round picks to move up 11 spots for the chance. He quickly established himself as an elite lockdown cornerback. As long as he stays healthy, he should remain in the conversation for defensive player of the year for a while.

Worst choice: Defensive end Vernon Gholston. He's one of the biggest busts in franchise history. The Jets used the sixth pick of the 2008 draft on a player they thought would terrorize quarterbacks. The Jets cut him after three seasons and zero sacks.

Bubble player: Running back Shonn Greene. The Jets traded up to make Greene, the reigning Doak Walker Award winner at the time, the first pick on the second day of the 2009 draft. Greene has been solid, but he has played a supporting role to Thomas Jones and then LaDainian Tomlinson. Will 2011 be the season he takes over the lead?

Top draft busts in AFC East history tallied

February, 28, 2011
When word got out the New York Jets would release defensive end Vernon Gholston, I solicited your nominees for the AFC East's biggest draft busts.

These disappointments received the most votes for each club:

Buffalo Bills
  1. Defensive end Aaron Maybin (11th in 2009)
  2. Tackle Mike Williams (fourth in 2002)
  3. Quarterback J.P. Losman (22nd in 2004)
  4. Defensive tackle John McCargo (26th in 2006)
  5. Defensive end Erik Flowers (26th in 2000)
Comment: Sadly, Buffalo's list suggests readers don't remember the team before the Music City Miracle. Last year's strong safety, Donte Whitner, finished sixth. Epic busts Walt Patulski (first in 1972), Tony Hunter (12th in 1983) and Perry Tuttle (19th in 1982) received only one vote each. Nobody mentioned running back Terry Miller (fifth in 1978).

Miami Dolphins
  1. Receiver Yatil Green (15th in 1997)
  2. Receiver Ted Ginn (ninth in 2007)
  3. Running back John Avery (29th in 1998)
  4. Cornerback Jamar Fletcher (26th in 2001)
  5. Receiver Randal Hill (23rd in 1991), Eric Kumerow (16th in 1988), running back Sammie Smith (ninth in 1989)
Comment: The Dolphins were the most nominated team in this exercise. They led with 16 nominees and the number of votes cast. Green didn't play in his rookie or sophomore seasons because of injuries and lasted eight games his third year. My pick would have been Kumerow, whose career consisted of three seasons, zero starts and five sacks.

New England Patriots
  • Running back Laurence Maroney (21st in 2006)
  • Receiver Chad Jackson (36th in 2006)
  • Receiver Hart Lee Dykes (16th in 1989)
  • Cornerback Chris Canty (29th in 1997)
  • Offensive lineman Eugene Chung (13th in 1992), defensive end Kenneth Sims (first in 1982), linebacker Chris Singleton (eighth in 1990)
Comment: I was surprised Sims didn't receive more attention. He was the No. 1 choice ahead of Marcus Allen, Gerald Riggs, Mike Munchak, Jim McMahon and Chip Banks. Maroney received the most votes, but he also generated the most spirited debate because many readers disagreed he should be considered a bust. Jackson was a second-round pick, but the Patriots traded up 16 spots to get him.

New York Jets
  1. Running back Blair Thomas (second in 1990)
  2. Defensive end Vernon Gholston (sixth in 2008)
  3. Tight end Kyle Brady (ninth in 1995)
  4. Defensive tackle DeWayne Robertson (fourth in 2003)
  5. Receiver Johnny "Lam" Jones (second in 1980)
Comment: There was a lot of material to work with here. I was satisfied readers emphasized the magnitude of the bust over the freshness of Gholston's release by voting for Thomas. The next running back off the board in 1990 was Emmitt Smith.

Bills regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 30
Preseason Power Ranking: 31

[+] EnlargeChan Gailey
Crystal LoGiudice/US PresswireChan Gailey's Bills will have to address a number of needs during the offseason.
Biggest surprise: The Bills opened the season 0-8, which would be considered a mild surprise. They weren't supposed to win. Most shocking was first-year head coach Chan Gailey's ability to keep his overmatched talent committed enough to pull out of the nosedive. In one six-game stretch, the Bills won four games and lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. The Bills were a team of overachievers led by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (seventh-round draft choice and career backup), running back Fred Jackson (undrafted), receiver Steve Johnson (seventh-round pick) and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (fifth-round pick).

Biggest disappointment: The Bills closed out the season with losses to the New England Patriots and New York Jets by a combined score of 72-10. But even more disgusting than their finish was the lack of production the Bills received from recent first-round draft choices. Rookie running back C.J. Spiller (ninth overall) didn't live up to the promise he demonstrated in the preseason. Outside linebacker Aaron Maybin (11th pick in 2009) started one game and still doesn't have a sack. The Bills dumped running back Marshawn Lynch (12th pick in 2007) for a fourth-round pick. Safety Donte Whitner (eighth pick in 2006) was uninspiring again. Defensive lineman John McCargo (26th pick in 2006) was a healthy scratch for 15 games. Receiver Lee Evans (13th pick in 2004) posted mediocre numbers before landing on injured reserve in December.

Biggest need: The Bills own the third selection in April's draft. There are few positions they could settle upon and have it not be a helpful decision. The Bills remain in a rebuilding phase and need help in a great number of places and should find an elite player -- unless their first-round track record fails them yet again. The Bills can't go wrong with a quarterback, pass-rusher, run-stopping defensive lineman, offensive tackle or inside linebacker.

Team MVP: Kyle Williams, defensive tackle. He played for the NFL's worst run defense, but he was the only player opposing offensive coordinators needed to neutralize. Williams recorded 5.5 sacks.

Why didn't they realize that sooner? The Bills could have changed the course of their season had the brain trust not misidentified their offensive centerpieces. Gailey gave quarterback Trent Edwards all the meaningful training camp and preseason snaps, leaving Fitzpatrick with slapdash preparation time. Gailey gave Fitzpatrick the job in Week 3, and the Bills cut Edwards shortly thereafter. How much further along would the offense have been had Fitzpatrick been groomed for the job properly? Lynch started three out of his four games before the Bills traded him, rendering Jackson a bit player. Jackson got more than 12 carries for the first time in Week 7 and still almost rushed for 1,000 yards.

Seasons greetings from Orchard Park, N.Y.

December, 26, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Cold, gray and windy is the forecast for Sunday's matchup between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills here at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Temperature at kickoff will be about 23 degrees, but it will feel like 9 degrees, with winds gusting up to 23 mph. The chance of snow is 50 percent.

New England could clinch the AFC East title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, while a victory over the Patriots would make Buffalo's season. The Bills have won four out of their past six games, including an overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Buffalo has lost 14 straight games to New England and 19 out of 20 in the series.

The inactives:

New England Patriots
Buffalo Bills

Aaron Maybin active for Buffalo

November, 28, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Aaron Maybin will wear shoulder pads on Sunday.

Maybin, the struggling Buffalo Bills outside linebacker, doesn't appear on the inactive list for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The 11th pick in last year's draft has been a healthy scratch the five previous games.

These players have been deactivated:

Pittsburgh Steelers
Buffalo Bills

Wrap-up: Bills 49, Bengals 31

November, 21, 2010
A few thoughts on Buffalo's win over Cincinnati:

What it means: The Bills are on a winning streak. A week after their first victory of the season, the Bills seemed on the verge of getting annihilated at Paul Brown Stadium. They trailed 28-7 in the second quarter, but surged in the second half to crush the Bengals.

How they did it: The Bills scored 35 unanswered points after the intermission to flip a blowout loss into a blowout victory. The Bills entered the game with two interceptions all year, but in the second half intercepted Carson Palmer twice and recovered a Cedric Benson fumble. Drayton Florence returned the fumble 27 yards for a touchdown.

The villain as a hero: Steve Johnson scrawled "Why so serious?" on his undershirt in homage to The Joker, a role Johnson wanted to play against the self-proclaimed Batman and Robin, Bengals receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Johnson finished with eight catches for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Batman and Robin combined for six receptions, 91 yards and two touchdowns.

Unhappy returns: Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played poorly for much of his first game back in Cincinnati, where he spent two seasons and started a dozen games. Fitzpatrick threw two first-half interceptions to Johnathan Joseph, who returned one of them 21 yards for a touchdown to put Cincinnati up 28-7.

Happy returns: Fitzpatrick rebounded in the second half to complete seven of 10 throws for 139 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions. In two seasons with Buffalo, he already has 27 touchdown passes, two more than Trent Edwards had in his three-plus seasons.

High-profile inactives: The Bills scratched four first-round draft choices: running back C.J. Spiller (injured), defensive lineman John McCargo (healthy) and outside linebackers Aaron Maybin (healthy) and Shawne Merriman (injured).

What's next: The Bills welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week 12.

Midseason Stock Watch: Bills

November, 10, 2010
Power Rankings: Preseason: No. 31. This week: No. 32.

2010 schedule/results

[+] EnlargeCJ Spiller
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireFirst-round draft pick C.J. Spiller hasn't made much of an impact on a winless Bills team.
Where they stand: The Bills are the NFL's only winless team and on their way to an 11th consecutive season without the playoffs. But the Bills have remained competitive on a weekly basis. They have lost three straight games by a field goal, including two in overtime on the road. The Bills rank 26th in total offense and 26th in total defense.

Falling: The Bills went into 2010 with two key strengths. Head coach Chan Gailey boasted three feature-quality running backs in Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch and rookie C.J. Spiller. The Bills also had their secondary intact from the season before, when they ranked second in pass defense and second in interceptions.

Neither of those supposed assets has held up. The Bills traded Lynch. Jackson has been OK, but has only two rushing touchdowns. Spiller virtually has been a nonfactor. The ninth overall draft choice has one receiving touchdown and another via kickoff return, but on the ground he has only 150 yards and no touchdowns. The Bills had 28 interceptions last year. They have one this year, and it belongs to linebacker Andra Davis, whom they just put on injured reserve.

Buffalo's scouting department hasn't looked too swift. If not in a winless season, when should we be witnessing youngsters emerge? Many of the Bills' past several first-round picks have been disappointing. Outside linebacker Aaron Maybin and defensive lineman John McCargo are healthy scratches every week.

Rising: Poor run game aside, the Bills have developed a sometimes-entertaining offense under Gailey, daring to get into shootouts with the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, for instance. Ryan Fitzpatrick does a nice job of distributing his passes to receivers Steve Johnson, Lee Evans and -- up until breaking his wrist last week -- Roscoe Parrish. Fitzpatrick is on pace to become only the second Bills quarterback to throw for 30 touchdowns in a season.

There hasn't been much to like about the Bills' switch to a 3-4 defense. They've waffled lately and deployed four-man fronts to stop the run. But nose tackle Kyle Williams has stood out with a team-leading three sacks (unusual for that position), and the Bills recently showed they were committed to the 3-4 by claiming outside linebacker Shawne Merriman off waivers. Merriman probably won't be back next year, but his addition should improve an anemic pass rush.

Midseason MVP: Fitzpatrick still makes untimely mistakes, but since he assumed control of the offense from Trent Edwards, the Bills seem to harbor significantly more hope. Johnson's brow-raising aerial production has gone hand-in-hand with Fitzpatrick's promotion.

Outlook: The Bills are halfway to 0-16 and have a rugged remaining schedule. Their best shot might be Sunday at home against the Detroit Lions, who aren't expected to have starting quarterback Matthew Stafford. But, as the Bills showed by taking the Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs into sudden death, they have a legitimate shot to win any week. The prediction here is they pick up a couple victories but still finish with a top two draft choice in April.

Aaron Maybin behind Buffalo's 8-ball

October, 26, 2010
Sophomore pass-rusher Aaron Maybin isn't completely out of chances to win over the Buffalo Bills' coaching staff.

But head coach Chan Gailey conceded Monday chances are slim Maybin will turn around another lost season.

The Bills deactivated Maybin for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens. He wasn't hurt. He simply hasn't been good enough to contribute to one of the NFL's worst defenses despite being the 11th overall draft pick last year.

"He has to continue to improve his all-around play and that includes special teams," Gailey said. "And to be honest with you, it gets harder and harder because this is game planning. It's not going out and practicing to see who wins spots right now.

"If somebody doesn't play well, then you give them another chance. If somebody keeps playing well, you might not get another chance right now. So it just depends on how other people do."

An injury might be Maybin's best bet to get back on the field. Even when active, he was playing only a few snaps a game.

What made Sunday's benching even more notable is the game in M&T Stadium was Maybin's homecoming. He's from Ellicott City, Md., and considers Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis a mentor. Maybin and Lewis work out together in the offseason.

"He's upset," Gailey said. "He should be. I would expect him to be. He wasn't happy when I told him, and hopefully it'll generate the next time he gets an opportunity [into] better production."

The timing, Gailey said, was coincidental.

"I don't send messages," Gailey said. "We play the people that we think are going to help us win, and we felt like those other two outside linebackers gave us a better chance, especially in special teams to help us win the game."

Maybin still is searching for his first NFL sack.

The Bills recently shifted back to a 4-3 defense. While Maybin is a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker, the Bills ran a 4-3 defense when they drafted him. So if he's such a bad fit, the front office should get much of the blame for his inability to make an impact on a team that needs defenders badly.

Although Maybin's plummeting in significance, Gailey said the Bills won't give up on him.

"I think you're wrong as a coach if you lose complete faith in a player," Gailey said. "I think every player goes through ups and downs and goes through a learning curve in certain defenses and certain situations.

"You have to keep coaching them, which we'll do. You keep trying to improve their play, and you keep trying to get them to understand ways to get better for each and every individual that's out there. ... If you lose complete faith in a player, you ought to not have him around."

The Bills had two first-round draft choices healthy and inactive Sunday. Defensive lineman John McCargo, who the Bills traded up to select 26th overall in 2006, hasn't gotten into a game this year.