Luckily, in strode a Tweet from follower HomeSlice5484, whose name is presumably an homage to Chris Spielman and Robert Royal’s uniform numbers. Hechallenged me to name a depth chart pre-camp, and see how well I did post-camp.
I look forward to being wrong. Remember that Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix are evaluating these players not just based on game tape and talent, but gut instincts. Old football guys aren’t afraid to cut players and, as we saw with their drafting strategy, trust their guts more than players’ reputations.
Feeling the need to string this out a few days, I’ll do a handful of positions at a time, beginning with running backs and wide-outs. For our purposes, let’s go with the guidelines the Steelers used for their 3-4 defense’s 53-man roster.
Running backs (4-5):
Joique Bell, Rodney Ferguson, Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Corey McIntyre, Chad Simpson, C.J. Spiller
Several things to note here. First, Jackson has probably the third-most raw talent of the tailbacks, but will be the No. 1 entering camp. We all know Spiller is a freak and the future No. 1, perhaps by midseason. I don’t fear a lengthy hold-out from him at all.
I still think Marshawn Lynch could be in Seattle, maybe even by the time camp starts. There’s also a chance he winds up home in Oakland if the Raiders don’t like what they see from Darren McFadden, who was an on-field mess in 2009. If Lynch stays, he’ll be your No. 3 out of camp.
Lynch’s displeasure with our fine city is just one of the reasons I didn’t cross out Chad Simpson. The other is his value on special teams, which is coincidentally what will likely separate McIntyre from Ferguson, who has more pure running back experience. McIntyre is viewed as a veteran presence. He captained the Falcons special teams unit in 2007.
Wide receivers (5-6)
Marcus Easley, Lee Evans, James Hardy, Felton Huggins, Chad Jackson, Steve Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, Roscoe Parrish, Naaman Roosevelt
This is another tricky list to trim. I originally had Hardy cut in favor of Jackson, but Chad Simpson’s inclusion is enough special teams/kickoff return insurance for the team to take a look at Hardy for another year (provided his health is checking out).
Evans and Johnson will be your Nos. 1 and 2 wide receivers, and fantasy nerds who snag Evans this year could be in for a nice surprise. I genuinely believe Gailey will identify a quarterback close enough to get real numbers into Evans’ hands.
Hardy may be your No. 5 wide-out, to be honest. Marcus Easley is a raw and wonderful talent, and the idea of switching between him and Parrish in the slot is intriguing because of the mismatch potential. In the slot on three receiver sets, the Bills have the option of the physical, big Easley or the shifty Parrish. It’ll keep nickelbacks on their toes.
So, why the change in fortune for Parrish, who seemed destined to say goodbye to Buffalo after a dismal few years? Clearly, the City of Buffalo wasn’t Roscoe’s problem here (remember, he initially signed a contract extension). The kid wanted the ball, and the Bills didn’t think he needed it. I think Gailey values No. 11, and suspect he’ll have a bounce back year in some regard. In a sense, it’ll be a quasi-Josh Reed return to fan favor. By the way, don’t be surprised if Reed has an a-okay season when Philip Rivers goes all “PHILIP RIVERS” — thanks, James Todd Smith — in San Diego.
Huggins’ time is likely over. He was a Jauron feel-good guy and may end up with R. Manuel Jauron in Philadelphia when they need a special teams signing. Roosevelt is all-but-destined for the practice squad. Remember, he was a quarterback even into his time at the University at Buffalo.