After taking a day or two to sit back and reflect how the Buffalo Bills approached their 2011 draft one thing has become obvious about Buddy Nix. He really doesn’t listen to draft gurus who tell them they need to address the quarterback position. Nix and coach Chan Gailey have both admitted that they need address the game’s most important position, yet also giving their support to Ryan Fitzpatrick. One thing to consider about the quarterback position is that there is no greater where for a GM and coach to put his job on the line than with drafting a quarterback highly and having it not work out. So rather than race to find their franchise guy the Bills seem content (as am I) riding at least this season out with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their quarterback. This is a contract year for Fitzpatrick, but I’d be shocked at this point if they try to get him an extension for two to three years once they have the authority to do so.
I’m not a fan of handing out grades because we know nothing about how they actually perform. One grade I will give Buddy Nix and company is an A+++ for effort. They stuck to their draft board and picked players of huge need (i.e. Defense…see Joe @ Buffalo Wins)
As for the players the Bills selected the common theme was defense which when assessing last years team seemed to have the more immediate and gapping holes. The Bills also continued their theme of trying to find players who are more suited for the 3-4 front which demonstrated their commitment to that switch and although they will use multiple defensive fronts I would look for more of those to be in the base 3-4. Picking up Marcell Dareus and Kelvin Sheppard the Bills picked up big, physical players who many consider to have the ability to contribute early in their careers. Both picks also filled a need for the Bills at the 5-technique as well as ILB. In the second round, the Bills addressed a more under the radar need in the secondary. Reviewing all the picks:
Marcell Dareus, DT/DE Alabama – Should at the very least be able to help the defensive front rotation. With the Bills using both a 3-4 and 4-3 front Dareus should play DE in the 3-4 and be able to slide inside when they mix in the 4-3 front. Nothing about this pick is ‘sexy’. He was not a sack machine, but he is a strong, nasty defender that will occupy his blocker and maybe another which is really what you want from your 3-4 end. He possesses good agility for his size and should still be disruptive in the passing game. This pick made so much sense for the Bills on a variety of levels.
Aaron Williams, DB Texas – When looking at the Bills needs in this draft, DB was under the radar. With the continued injuries to Terrence McGee and uncertain return of Drayton Florence, the Bills took a first round talent at the top of round 2. He’s a big corner over 200lbs and should have no problem helping support the run game. Depending what the Bills do with free agency when it opens up, Williams should at a minimum compete to be the teams nickel back.
Kelvin Sheppard, ILB LSU – Most of the people I have spoken with love this pick. Gailey coached Sheppard at the Senior Bowl and loved the ‘intangibles’ of the kid. A subpar pro day workout hurt his potential draft stock, however I am happy that Nix and Gailey referred to what they saw in Mobile and game tape rather than rely specifically in his measurables. Again, depending what the Bills do in free agency there is little reason to doubt that Sheppard will be given every opportunity to start at ILB in 3-4 situations. He’s not a Ray Lewis/Patrick Willis freak on the field, but is a smart defender and fills a huge need for the Bills.
Da’Norris Searcy, DB UNC – First little, and only head stretcher for me. There were several highly rated TE on the board and potentially some help along the offensive line. However, what I think doesn’t matter and the Bills secondary was hardly set in stone. It is expected that Searcy will make a move to strong safety at some point and will have opportunity to compete in nickel and dime situations. He is another 200lb plus defensive back that continued the trend of the Bills getting big and physical on defense.
Chris Hairston, OT Clemson – 6’6” 328lbs. He’s a big strong man that finished second at the combine in bench press (33) and first among offensive tackles. The Bills are going to continue this year with Demetrius Bell on the left side and it should be an open competition on the right side. Many would have liked to see the Bills address this earlier, but I believe Green Bay selecting Sheard out of Mississippi State at least somewhat toppled that plan. I have long contended that this group is more serviceable than some would suggest. I think being the third year that some of them play together should allow them to gel. I think the Bills again could address the right side in free agency, however if they do not this along with quarterback I imagine will be the first two picks in 2012.
Johnny White, RB UNC – The south has risen once again. White was considered an underrated back by Todd McShay and has played multiple positions in college. He will be an immediate special teams contributor and should compete for the Bills third RB.
Chris White, LB Mississippi St. – Another senior bowl linkage for Gailey. He should provide some depth at the position and contribute on special teams. He’s again a big physical defender that allowed Nix to stack positions and try to build some depth.
Justin Rogers, DB Richmond – I really don’t know anything, but a late round smaller school player will probably need to be ‘coached up’. Bills secondary is depleted so there will be an opportunity for him to make the team barring what the team does in free agency.
Michael Jasper, DT Bethel – He’s big and chuncky like Moto Moto from Madagascar 2 (yeah I have a two year old). Honestly, he’s a very large man that Nix and Gailey will really have to work and will probably not see much time at all this season.
I love what the team did in the draft, but it’s going to take at least one more for them to stack depth at positions and carry that depth. I’m not as concerned they didn’t address the quarterback position although I would expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to be re-signed very soon once the team is permitted to do so. At the very least, the team appeared to get better this past weekend. They’ve officially got me excited to see some of these young guys. Even amidst a lockout….damn you NFL!