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Projected 2014 starters: Buffalo Bills

Around The League predicts the Week 1 starting lineups for all 32 teams, analyzing the potential impact of each rookie class. Click here for the complete series breakdown.

Buffalo Bills Projected 2014 Starters
Offense
Defense
QB
DE
RB
DT
WR1
DT
WR2
DE
WR3
MLB
TE1
WLB
Kiko Alonso
LT
CB1
LG
CB2
C
CB3
RG
SS
RT
FS


» Bills general manager Doug Whaley dropped hints all offseason that Buffalo would use the draft to land a game-changing wide receiver. He wasn't messing around, wheeling-and-dealing his way to the fourth overall pick to grab Sammy Watkins, perhaps the draft's most exciting player. Pairing Watkins with Robert Woods and the newly acquired Mike Williams gives the Bills one of the AFC's more intriguing collection of pass-catchers. That group won't include Stevie Johnson, who was shipped to the 49ers hours after the drafting of Watkins.

» Buffalo overspent for free agent Chris Williams, who takes over at left guard, before finding its new right tackle in rookie Cyrus Kouandjio. After failing multiple team physicals with an arthritic knee, the former first-team All-American from Alabama looms as a boom-or-bust prospect for a line that allowed an outrageous 48 sacks last season, fourth-worst in the NFL.

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» The Patriots had their fill of Brandon Spikes, but the productive linebacker makes Buffalo's nasty front seven an even bigger headache. Paired next to last season's Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate in Kiko Alonso, Spikes might be the league's top run-stuffer at his position.

» The Bills can't expect Da'Norris Searcy to duplicate the play of ball-hawking free safety Jairus Byrd, who held quarterbacks to a passer rating of 35.0 last season, second best in the NFL. Searcy must improve his play against the run, but coaches trusts him as a blitzer. If Searcy struggles, Duke Williams could see increased snaps.

» So much hinges on EJ Manuel. Injuries and inconsistent play washed away his rookie campaign, but if Buffalo's locked-in starter can flip the switch, this year's Bills squad looms as a dark-horse playoff contender. The defense is frisky, the running game is a beast and the receiving talent is juicy. EJ can alter perceptions if he gets this team off to a fast start.

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