Nowadays, the Buddy Nix/Chan Gailey era in Buffalo Bills history is chugging along full steam ahead. And based on the 2012 offseason/draft selections over the weekend, the hopes to break out of a 12-year playoff drought are possibly at an all time high in Orchard Park.
Entering their third season at the helm, Bills General Manager Buddy Nix and Head Coach Chan Gailey have delighted the Buffalo fan base by working together to massively overhaul the ineffective roster given to them in 2010. Gone are names like Dick Jauron, Aaron Maybin, James Hardy, Trent Edwards, Geoff Hangartner, Lee Evans, Langston Walker, and Ko Simpson. In enter the fresh, new faces of the era; coach Dave Wannstedt, assistant GM Doug Whaley, Marcel Dareus, Mario Williams, Aaron Williams, Shawne Merriman, Chris Hairston, and the continuous development of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Stevie Johnson, Eric Wood, and Andy Levitre have all resulted in vast improvements on both sides of the ball.
With that said, the last word I would use to describe the Bills draft this year is sexy. But that doesn’t make it a failure by any stretch of the imagination. There was a very workman-like, blue collar demeanor that was exuded from the selections made over the weekend. It was evident that the Bills wanted to get bigger, become more aggressive, and find proven players that exercise a very solid work ethic throughout their college careers.
Going right down the line…first-rounder Stephon Gilmore was a three-year starter for South Carolina and is slated to become the team’s first healthy ‘shutdown corner’ in years. Draft guru Mike Mayock touted Gilmore as the 8th best player in the draft, somebody that has the dangerous combination of size, speed, and tenacity to cause mayhem for opposing offenses for years to come. His reserved nature was seen early on Thursday night as his name was called for the 10th pick. Basically, the kid looked like he just walked out of a mortuary, but as further research has indicated, that’s basically the norm for him and should be no cause for Buffalonian concern. The good news is that his reserved nature *off* the field does not interfere with his attitude *on* it. Gilmore’s awareness and aggressiveness can be partially attributed to his career as a quarterback before making the change to corner. Any CB that has the intelligence, sensibility to think like a QB is alright in my book.
6’6” 345 lb second-rounder Cordy Glenn had 50 career starts for Georgia to go along with his 36” arm span. Overall, he was an absolute steal at pick #41 – many mock drafts had Buffalo actually taking him at their first pick, #10. If Cordy becomes the left tackle that Nix and Gailey perceive, he will physically become the largest LT in team history. With some improvement on his footwork, there’s no reason why he cannot fulfill that vital role quickly for the Bills.
Fourth-rounder Nigel Bradham led the Florida St Seminoles in tackles for the last three seasons while somehow managing to look exactly like Office Linebacker Terry Tate from the old Reebok ads. Simply put, to call the man terrifyingly shredded would be an understatement. He will bring much needed size and aggressiveness to the linebacking corps, and he should contribute immediately on special teams.
In addition, Bills’ fifth round selections Zebrie Sanders and Tank Carder established themselves as motivational stalwarts for their respective teams. To quote Sanders’ coach Jimbo Fisher, “Zebrie’s a guy that’s very intelligent, very conscientious, stands for the right things and believes in team.” Along with being a high character guy, he also has the ability to play either right or left tackle which is a huge bonus for the inhabitants of One Bills Drive. Carder, meanwhile, endured a life-threatening car accident at 13 resulting in 7 broken ribs, a punctured lung and pancreas, and the belief that he would never be able to play football again. His ability to never-say-never was showcased during the 2011 Rose Bowl. Late in the game, his pass deflection on a two-point conversation would win the game for TCU, contributing much to his selection as the Defensive MVP of the game. While Sanders may also have a solid chance of starting this season, look for Carder to be a special teams ace, much like Bradham…but with a compete level that high, Carder may very well find a way to turn some heads this offseason and find a starting spot.
The Bills’ additional selections were third round WR TJ Graham, sixth round OG/C Mark Asper, and seventh round K John Potter. For the most part, they will address depth concerns for a team that became noticeably less effective (and victorious) down the stretch in 2011 when banged up. In my opinion, Graham is the most interesting selection of the draft based on the real lack of information about him. The one thing that is certain about him is he will be able to stretch the field for the Bills’ passing attack, something that has been lacking since the departure of Lee Evans early last season. We will all learn together how effective he can be in Gailey’s system for 2012.
Kudos need to be sent out to Nix/Gailey for their pre-draft preparation and the appropriate focus to select very solid players that address positions of need in this year’s draft. Aside from the last three picks mentioned, many believed that the players drafted by the Bills were projected to go either at the spot, or higher than the spot they were selected. Sure, there’s an element of luck there…but bravo to the war room for sticking to their game plan and executing in a convincible way, the results are apparent.
Combine the draft with the signings of Mario Williams, Mark Anderson during free agency, the promotion of Dave Wannstedt to Defensive Coordinator, and Chan Gailey’s great knowledge of offensive scheming, and we are poised to see a largely revamped team for the upcoming season. I, for one, cannot wait to see what’s in store!
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