Last year, in his first draft as GM of the Buffalo Bills, Buddy Nix spent his first-round pick on Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. That one selection got him painted into a corner by many Bills fans as a "best player available" drafter. After selecting Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft last night, there's a much more definitive pattern developing with Nix.
Not much attention was paid to the fact last year that the team's two Day Two picks were defensive linemen. That behavior was reinforced when nose tackle Torell Troup (second round, Central Florida) and defensive end Alex Carrington (third round, Arkansas State) were blips on the radar of the league's worst run defense. Troup played, but didn't excel. Carrington barely saw the field.
As it stands this morning, Nix has used early picks to select three 3-4 defensive linemen in his first two drafts with the Bills. The result: the Bills have, potentially, a rock-solid foundation for their defense.
Buffalo already has a star defensive lineman in Kyle Williams, a fifth-round pick out of LSU in 2006 that earned his first Pro Bowl berth a year ago. No matter what scheme the Bills end up running - and it's pretty clear at this point that it's going to be mostly 3-4 - the team is going to use Williams. They love him. The fans love him. He's the consummate pro, a heck of a football player, and they'll find ways to get him to keep making plays.
In Troup, Carrington and now Dareus, the Bills have drafted (emphasis on the word "drafted") three 3-4 defensive linemen very early in Nix's career with Buffalo. The team seems convinced that Troup (who has been busting his butt this off-season, and is up to close to 330 pounds) and Carrington (who probably shouldn't be penciled in as a starter anymore) are ready to become quality contributors. They'll play Dareus immediately, as well.
At minimum, the Bills have two high-quality defensive linemen around which to build in Dareus and Williams. Ideally, they'll have two more emerge in Troup and Carrington. This is what Buddy Nix has built as Bills GM. If he's to be painted into a corner by Bills fans, the focus should be on the D-Line.
Let's not forget, also, that two heady veterans, ends Dwan Edwards and Spencer Johnson, are expected to be factored heavily into the rotation next year. If things break well, that's six quality contributors on a three-man line. There is depth here, and they may not be done adding depth, either.
There's more work to do. But I'm very excited to see how good this defensive line can be.