With the 3rd pick, the Bills have selected, Marcell Dareus, defensive lineman from Alabama.
With the 34th pick, the Bills have selected, Aaron Williams, cornerback from Texas.
With the 68th pick, the Bills have selected, Kelvin Sheppard, linebacker from LSU.
I shall start off by saying that I am feeling good so far about this draft, not great, but good. Gailey and Nix were not lying when they said the defense was going to take priority in this draft and have made good choices. It is not necessarily what I would've done, but I am not bashing my head against the wall like I was last year when they surprised (almost) everyone by drafting Spiller. In this post I shall state my short list, diagnose the Bills picks, what the picks mean, and what I would have done differently. So without any more of my monologuing, let's begin.
The Bills had two focuses in the First Round, both of which were to bring star power to the front seven for their defense. These two players were OLB Von Miller and DL Marcell Dareus. Von Miller would have been that dynamic pass rusher/defender and quick play-maker on the end as evidenced by his 28 sacks in 2 years. Dareus would fortify the 3-4 D-Line and make huge improvements in defending against the run and even bring some heat in passing situations having made 11 sacks in college. Honestly, I would have been fine with either pick, but after Denver took Von Miller off the boards, there was no doubt that Dareus would be a Buffalo Bill. CHIX did not disappoint and the Bills now have a 320 DE.
This means that the Bills are seemingly set on their defensive line, with set starters Dwan Edwards - Kyle WIlliams - Marcell Dareus poised to anchor the defense next year. Also set are the backups, Alex Carrington - Torell Troup - Spencer Johnson (the first two of these coming to the Bills in the third and second round respectively of last year's draft). McCargo will likely be cut, a true bust indeed. Ideally Troup is the immediate backup behind Williams, while Carrington will spend the next few years behind Edward to develop and eventually succeed him as the starter. Johnson meanwhile will provide experience behind Dareus as he adjust to the NFL. The impact of Dareus's versatility to play 3-4 DE, 3-4 NT and 4-3 DT is so perfect for the Bills hybrid defense that Gailey could choose to go with just six defensive linemen this year.
In the Second Round the Bills had quite a few options available to them. Topping my lists were QB Colin Kaepernick, TE Kyle Rudolph, OLB Akeem Ayers and CB Ras-I Dowling. Kaepernick had all the tools Gailey seemed to desire in a QB; mobility, a strong arm and an established winner. Rudolph represented the elite tight end the Bills have been lacking for a decade with his blocking and catching. Akeem Ayers was a force as a 3-4 OLB with a good explosion off the edge and a sound tackler. Dowling was a somewhat underrated corner heading in due to an injury, but was tall, had good vision and blazing speed. Believing that the Bills would update their secondary sometime in the Day 2 or early Day 3, I thought Dowling would be the Bills pick, but New England claimed him first.
With Dowling gone, the Bills turned to another high ranked, tall corner by drafting Aaron Williams. Now I know people are highly critical of drafting corners when we have good depth already. However, McGee has been injured lately and is getting older, McKelvin is inconsistent and Florence is a penalty machine free agent. Williams had a very successful collegiate career as a shutdown corner and run stopper, but he will need to develop his skills a little to adjust to the NFL, mostly in maintaining fluidity in his technique. Williams is over 6 feet tall and posted a 4.44 on his pro day, an improvement from his combine. Assuming McGee and McKelvin start, this will give Williams time to hone his technique.
Had I been in charge of the draft, I would've either targeted Kaepernick or Ayers. Having improved the D-Line already, I would have gotten Kaepernick to serve as a franchise quarterback as he has great tools of a big mobile QB. Gailey passing over him shows a commitment to strengthen the defense as well as faith in Fitzpatrick. It could be that the Bills will seek their franchise quarterback next year depending on how well Fitz plays this year. Ayers would have brought explosiveness to a group that has fizzled over the years. By passing over Ayers and the other OLBs still available, Gailey shows his satisfaction with Kelsay and faith in Merriman and could also indicate that Maybin has one last chance to shine.
In the Third Round, the Bills still had options like ILB Martez Wilson, OLB Justin Houston, QB Ryan Mallett, TE Luke Stocker and OT Marcus Cannon. Wilson is a fast linebacker with development needs. Houston is a proven 3-4 OLB in college while Ryan Mallett's big arm could get himself hired. Stocker is a good pass catching/blocking hybrid while Cannon is a huge ROT yet moves fairly well.
The Bills decided to that ILB Kelvin Sheppard instead. While this early into the third may have been a bit high, Gailey loved Sheppard's bloodiness and run defense and took him early. Given the lack of depth in the current ILB area, Sheppard stands a good chance at starting soon. While this pick may be a bit early given that Sheppard was pegged as a late third, early fourth round selection, Gailey was taking no chances and decided to shore up the LB corps. Sheppard is a sound tackler especially against the run and should provide good assistance in the years to come.
Gailey's decision to address the middle linebacker position is a very necessary one in shoring up the defense. Had I been in charge, I would've pursued Wilson as his speed and tackling this late in the draft would have been a small steal. More so, I am surprised that the Bills passed over an accomplished OLB like Justin Houston which again shows that the Bills feel they are invested enough with their current players there.
Based off of the Bills picks so far, DL Marcell Dareus, CB Aaron Williams, ILB Kelvin Sheppard, the Bills have addressed some holes and are continuing to rebuild the defense. What do you think the Bills should prioritize in the fourth?
QB Ricky Stanzi - Iowa [6-4, 223, 4.87]
I was amazed that the Bills decided not to grab a QB in the second. That being said, they need a backup and Stanzi is the best on the boards right now having thrown 3,004 yards, 25 TDs to 6 INTs at 64% completion rate in 2011. Ironically Stanzi is the 100th ranked talent on CBS
OT James Brewer - Indiana [6-6, 323, 5.21]
Brewer is a solid pass protector and good in the run game as well. He has missed time in three years due to injury and he may not be the most aggressive player out on the field. Brewer was expected to go as early as the third but clearly that did not happen.
OT Marcus Cannon - TCU [6-5, 358, 5.26]
Has some problems in fending off smaller players in the pass game, but still has great agility for his size and is a beast in the run game. Would play at right tackle in the NFL for the Bills and was a second round talent.
TE Jordan Cameron - USC [6-5, 254, 4.53]
Cameron only caught 16 passes for 126 yards and a TD in college after playing basketball. That being said, his physical ability, speed and jumping make him an ideal target in the fourth round.
TE Virgil Green - Nevada [6-4, 249, 4.70]
The Bills need a tight end. Low depth in this class, but still, many options available including Green who had an explosive combine and a good 2010 campaign with 35 catches 515 yards and 5 TDs in 2010. Green has good blocking and catching skills and would like start if drafted.
TE Luke Stocker - Tennessee [6-5, 258, 4.68]
a good combination of pass catching and more so blocking, Stocker's athleticism should have put in the late third round, but thats good news for Buffalo. 39 catches for 417 yards and 2 TDs in 2010 is much better production than any of the Bills tight ends this past year.
OLB Sam Acho - Texas [6-2, 262, 4.67]
Another late second/third round prospect who made it to the fourth, the Bills could still draft a future starter at OLB here that has size, speed and impact. Acho fits the bill having 115 tackles, 16 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in the last two years. He's hard working, a good tackler but lacks explosiveness.
OLB Chris Carter - Fresno State [6-1, 248, 4.58]
Carter is a small school sleeper whose explosive speed and tackling ability would greatly improve the edge. In 2010, Carter posted 54 tackles with 11 sacks.
OLB Cliff Matthews - South Carolina [6-4, 257, 4.81]
Matthews is solid prospect with good athleticism and fair speed. In the last two years, he posted 86 tackles and 13 sacks as a 4-3 DE.
ILB Casey Matthews - Oregon [6-1, 231, 4.79]
145 tackles 6 sacks and 4 interception as a Duck during the last two years. While at the combines, Matthews never made an impact, he shows a lot of bloodiness on tape and as Nix has said the Bills would draft two ILBs, Matthews could fit in that department.
ILB Colin McCarthy - Miami [6-1, 238, 4.59]
The Bills need a quick linebacker that can stop the run and cover tight ends. With 207 tackles and 3 sacks in the last two years, McCarthy has the speed and tackling ability to make an impact.
ILB Quan Sturdivant - North Carolina [6-1, 241, 4.63]
Sturdivant was expected to go sometime in the third round but the call never came. He is very quick and aggressive which is why teams like his potential. Had 310 career tackles and 7 sacks in college.