By Mario Granata
Many people have varying opinions of the Buffalo Bills Draft this past weekend. While the picks will be scrutinized in either respect for the 2015 season and beyond, the central theme here is obtaining players that can offer depth and with the opportunity to develop; an idea that has been foreign to the Bills for quite some time.
With the free agency frenzy that the Bills demonstrated in March and April, they were pretty much set their roster with the exception of a few debates. So in a way, the draft was a bonus for the Bills in their plight to be competitive to the point of making a playoff run in 2015.
Pick 50 – Ronald Darby – CB
It has been stated on many of the Hashtag Sports episodes that the need for the Bills to have a ‘consistent’ slot cornerback in the passing NFL was a question mark to say the least. Darby, while a shock to this writer for the Bills, gives them more depth in the secondary and might answer the question of what Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman are planning. If Darby works his way to start in nickel packages, he is much more intimidating coming off the edge in a blitz scheme than Nickell Robey. Also, if he is impressive enough, he could play opposite Stephon Gilmore, which would put Leodis McKelvin in the slot. It also could signal that they are content with the combination of Duke Williams, Bacarri Rambo, or even Corey Graham patrolling the back end with Aaron Williams. Either way, they have time to find out. Let us not forget, Gilmore’s option gives the team only this season and next season (at $11 million) since no extension has been signed.
Pick 81 – Jon Miller – G
Was it shocking that the Bills addressed their offensive line in the draft? No. Was it a bit of a shock that they decided to draft a guard with only 3 active tackles on the roster? A bit. The acquisition of Richie Incognito, in many fans eyes, signaled that they are set at the right guard spot, but it is always good to have some insurance. Are they just drafting for depth? Has Cyril Richardson and Cyrus Kouandjio progressed during the off season? How is the health of Chris Williams? What is the role of the “6th man” Kraig Urbik? Depending on Miller’s progression, this might spell the end of Chris Williams’ days in Buffalo, as the Bills look to free up some cap room with a post June 1stcut. If the Bills decide to keep Williams (who was drafted as a tackle and moved to guard the season before the Bills acquired him), this would give the trinity of Miller, Kouandjio and Richardson to develop. It is true that Kouandjio is listed as a tackle but we all saw how that played out last season. If the 2014 draft class of Kouandjio and Richardson display or reach their potential this season, than Miller (much like Kouandijo) might not have a place on the active roster.
Pick 155 – Karlos Williams – RB
With a loaded backfield already consisting of LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon, it didn’t appear like there was any need for another ball carrier. The Bills felt differently, looking to develop another running back as 2015 could signal the end of Fred Jackson’s illustrious career in Buffalo. However, it could mean that Anthony “Boobie” Dixon will be dealt or cut. Greg Roman let Boobie out of San Francisco and while he has proved to be a formidable special teams player, he wasn’t the bruising short-yardage back that the Bills hoped for. Williams could fill in on special teams at a fraction of the price, and has something that Dixon doesn’t: practice squad eligibility.
The Bills finished the draft by taking Tony Steward (LB, Clemson), Nick O’Leary (TE, FSU) and Dezmin Lewis (WR, Central Arkansas).
When you look at the likes of Preston Brown, Nigel Bradham, Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson, Steward can sit back and see how the nuances of the defense develop during gameday and in practice.
Charles Clay was signed this off season and MarQueis Gray proved to be very athletic at the tight end position. Besides those two players, the Bills don’t have much depth. If an injury were to happen to Clay or Gray, Buffalo would be in trouble.
Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Percy Harvin along with Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley give the Bills more than enough depth, but not a lot of height. If Lewis picks up the offense and wrangles in his route running, he could give the Bills some much-needed size at that position.
Now many of the doubters over the NFL landscape will give the Bills a poor draft grade or scratch their heads at the players chosen, but looking ahead at the 2016 players that the Bills have to sign, and the current players on the roster for 2015, they weren’t drafting for immediate need. They now are in a position to develop these players over the 2015 season, so if there are some players that decide to change their address in the years to come, the Bills are set at a cheaper price. Do I expect these players that were taken to be immediate impact players? Depends on learning curve that Rex Ryan implores, but the Bills now have the most precious commodity that they haven’t had in the past: time.
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