Alright this may have taken a lot longer that I would’ve liked but welcome back to the return of Bleed Buffalo. For your reading pleasure I’ve done a pick-by-pick recap of the Buffalo Bills’ 2011 NFL draft, analyzing each drafted player while adding other options that were available for the Bills with each pick. Enjoy!
First Round (3rd Overall): Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama– Dareus is the Bills safest first round pick since the team drafted Antoine Winfield in the 1999 draft. Not only does he address a need but he is arguably the most NFL-ready player in this draft. Dareus is a beast on the interior, with the ability to play any position along the Bills 3-4 defensive front. Playing in a 3-4 throughout his college career at Alabama, Dareus played every position on the line and was a dominating force against the run with enough agility to get after the quarterback. He’s the highest defensive linemen selection since the Bills chose Bruce Smith first overall in the 1985 draft and like Smith should start from day one. Dareus and Williams should form a dominating interior one-two punch for years to come.
Other Possible Selections: None, Dareus was number two on the Bills draft board behind Cam Newton and thank god the Panthers took that option away from them.
Second Round (34th Overall): Aaron Williams, CB/S Texas– Admittedly my stomach churned a bit when I heard Andre Reed call Williams’s name with the Bills second round selection. After all, the Bills have selected at least one defensive back in nine of the last 11 drafts including one in the first two rounds for the fourth time in the past six drafts. The Bills have a horrible track record of keeping corners around (i.e. Winfield, Nate Clements, Jabari Greer) into their prime. Based on need and value however this was a solid pick. Williams projects as a corner/safety tweener. He has good ball skills and is solid against the run. He has the speed to stay with most receivers in man-to-man situations and should provide depth to a secondary that could lose Drayton Florence, Ashton Youboty and Donte Whitner this year.
Other Possible Selections: OLBs Akeem Ayers, Brooks Reed, TE Kyle Rudolph, OT Ben Ijalana- Ayers and Reed both projected well at outside linebacker in the Bills 3-4 scheme. Ayers has a great motor and the quickness and agility to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Reed was a defensive end at Arizona but projected as an outside linebacker in the 3-4. Reed has a knack for getting after the quarterback and finding the ball and either he or Ayers would’ve solidified the Bills outside pass rush. Rudolph would’ve been a great value pick with the second overall pick in the second round. He was far and away the best tight end in the draft and would’ve addressed an immediate need for the Bills. Ijalana is a massive body who could’ve stepped in right away at right tackle and also could’ve provided depth along the line.
Third Round (68th Overall): Kelvin Sheppard, ILB LSU– Going into the draft Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey made it clear that they were looking to get bigger at inside linebacker. They did just that by selecting Sheppard. Not only is he a prototypical 3-4 inside linebacker but his leadership qualities are immeasurable. Sheppard was the unquestioned leader of the top defense in the country for the past two years and should be able to step right in next to Paul Posluszny and start from week one. His coverage skills are somewhat questionable and he is by no means a burner but he has the ability to diagnose plays and find the ball.
Other Possible Selections: ILB Martez Wilson- Of the two Sheppard has better overall qualities but Wilson is an interesting player. He’s got great size (6’4, 250) and has been used as a pass rusher even though his natural position is MLB. I would’ve been fine with either pick but Gailey and Nix must’ve seen something they valued more in Sheppard.
Fourth Round (100th Overall): Da’Norris Searcy, S North Carolina– I don’t know where “draft experts” like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay get their information from but Donte Whitner is not a top five safety in the NFL. I don’t even think he’s a top ten safety. The unwarranted perception of Whitner’s abilities have probably priced him out of Buffalo and most Bills fans couldn’t care less. Searcy was drafted to provide depth at the safety position behind Bryan Scott and George Wilson. At 5’10 223lbs he was one of the few safeties in this draft that was actually built to be a strong safety in the NFL. Another Senior Bowler, Gailey thinks he has the ability to play in the box against the run but he also has some quickness. At North Carolina he played nickel corner and has the speed to stay with slot receivers. Along with Williams, Searcy will immediately provide solid depth to the secondary and also has the chance to see significant playing time in his rookie year.
Other Possible Picks: OLB Sam Acho, TE Luke Stocker- Acho wasn’t incredibly productive at Texas but he demonstrated impressive agility in offseason workouts and the combine. He would’ve been a big of a project however and probably wouldn’t have been able to produce as soon as Searcy. Stocker stature is extremely impressive at 6’4 258lbs and had solid production in his senior season (39 catches, 417 yards, two TDs). He could’ve become a solid target inside the red zone.
Fourth Round (122nd Overall): Chris Hairston, OT Clemson– Hairston has great size (6’6 326lbs) and should immediately push the rabble (Erik Pears, Mansfield Wroto, Ed Wang) that’s competing for the starting right tackle position. Hairston played left tackle at Clemson and has the strength to open up lanes for his former Tigers’ teammate C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Hairston has the agility to develop into the Bills’ left tackle of the future.
Other Possible Picks: FB/LB Owen Marecic- Hairston was a better pick than Marecic would’ve been but this kid’s impressive. He’s a bruiser at the point of attack and played both ways full time in college. Marecic will be a fullback in the NFL but he’ll be an absolute beast on special teams.
Fifth Round (133rd Overall): Johnny White, RB North Carolina– This one was a head scratcher when it happened but the more you analyze it the better in looks. The Bills already have a solid one-two punch at running back with Fred Jackson and Spiller which could become dynamic next season but neither has the ability to ground and pound like White has been tabbed to be able to do. McShay raved about this pick for the Bills, referring to White as one of the most underrated running backs in the draft. He played running back, receiver and corner in college and along with his versatility has been praised for his great hands and special teams abilities. Unless Spiller or Jackson succumb to injuries, White probably won’t see much playing time at running back in his first couple seasons but should help out on third downs and special teams and will probably be groomed as Jackson’s eventual replacement.
Other Possible Picks: QB Ricky Stanzi, S Ahmad Black, TE D.J. Williams- The Bills obviously didn’t see the value in adding a Ricky Stanzi in this draft even though they currently only have Fitzy and Levi Brown on their roster. Stanzi would’ve been a major project just like Brown will be but and I don’t blame Nix for passing on him. Black would’ve been a great value pick as he was once tabbed as a possible second to third round selection. Williams won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end in his senior season and it was surprising to see him drop this far. He projects as an H-back in the NFL and the Bills don’t employ one in their offensive scheme so they obviously didn’t see the value in adding him but Williams would’ve been a nice weapon for Fitzy.
Sixth Round (169th Overall): Chris White, ILB Mississippi St.-White projects as an immediate contributor on special teams but I have to say this was one of my least favorite picks of the Bills draft. With UNC’s Quan Sturdivant still on the board I thought he was a lock at this pick. Of the 33 players the Bills brought in for pre-draft visits, Sturdivant was one and the player chosen latest in the draft. From what I’ve read and heard about White he seems like he has some solid potential but will likely be stuck to a special teams and back-up role for the first few years in the league. White was another Senior Bowler and the Bills must’ve been impressed with what they saw in him. He was, after all, a Second Team All-SEC selection and ranked fourth in the elite conference in college football with 105 total tackles. He also had six sacks in his senior year which is a pretty impressive stat for a middle linebacker.
Other Possible Picks: Sturdivant, MLB Greg Jones- Sturdivant was a beast in college and was regarded by some as a third round prospect. Jones was without a doubt the most decorated linebacker coming out of college but his lack of size (6-0 240) was obviously a concern for many teams. He probably projects better in a Cover-2 or 4-3 scheme but when you get to the sixth round you’re generally looking for the best value pick and Jones or Sturdivant both would’ve been better value that White.
Seventh Round (206 Overall): Justin Rogers, CB Richmond– Honestly I forgot the Bills even drafted Rogers until I started writing this article. Rogers seems to have decent size at 5’10 180 but will struggle to make the roster behind Williams, Terrence McGee, McKelvin, Reggie Corner, and possibly Florence. If Florence isn’t resigned Rogers will have a shot to stick and contribute on special teams.
Other Possible Picks: OLB Mark Herzlich, DE Greg Romeus, DE Cliff Matthews-Personally I think it’s an absolute travesty that Herzlich didn’t get drafted. His determination and leadership abilities alone should’ve warranted a seventh round pick. It’s somewhat understandable that teams were worried about his health concerns but Herzlich is still a very talented player who will reward any team that takes a waiver out on him with his leadership, hard work and determination to succeed at the next level. Romeus and Matthews both have technical flaws and need some seasoning but could both develop into contributors in the future.
Seventh Round (245th Overall): Michael Jasper, NT Bethel– The pick of Jasper had everyone digging deep into their draft guides and on internet draft sites but this guy could turn this draft into one of the Bills’ best. Jasper is a monster, weighing in at 448 pounds in January this year but dropping down to 375 pounds by draft day. Jasper played both ways during his college days at Bethel in Tennessee but projects as a nose tackle at the next level for obvious reasons. I’ll admit that I’ve been obsessed with watching this guy’s training and workout videos since the Bills drafted him in April. His measurables are out of this world for a player his size. He has the stature of a Ted Washington with the athleticism of a Kyle Williams. It’s going to take plenty of time to develop Jasper but he could turn the Bills defense into a nightmare for opposing runners.
Other Possible Picks: No one with the exception of Herzlich. This pick has honestly become my favorite of the Bills draft with the exception of Dareus.