First off I must apologize for my long absence of contributions to my fellow Bills fans. Between school and work, I have been fairly busy these past few months, but I am glad to say that I am caught up and ready to go. Before the draft, I posted a piece on my opinions of the Bills 2010 performance, roster moves and draft needs. With training camp seemingly set to resume in the next few weeks, I decided to post my thoughts about the Bills post-draft by analyzing their draft picks, their roster depth, potential free agents, roster predictions and potential 2012 draft needs. But for now, we shall focus on analyzing this past year’s draft class.
1 – DL Marcell Dareus – Alabama
2 – CB Aaron Williams – Texas
3 – LB Kelvin Sheppard – Louisiana State
4 – SS Da'Norris Searcy – North Carolina
4 – OT Chris Hairston – Clemson
5 – RB Johnny White – North Carolina
6 – LB Chris White – Mississippi State
7 – CB Justin Rogers – Richmond
7 – DL Michael Jasper – Bethel
Round 1: DL Marcell Dareus – Alabama [6-3, 319, 4.93]
One of the most important goals in CHIX’s draft plan was to rebuild the defense, particularly in shoring up defense against the run. With Marcus Stroud moving on, the Bills needed a big defensive end and were not disappointed when Marcell Dareus was around at the third pick. Dareus, at 320 pounds, has the speed and agility of a smaller man and at defensive end/tackle, was a staple in stopping the run at Alabama and has the versatility to play all positions along the line. Dareus also has pass rushing ability having made 66 tackles and 11 sacks in two years and should give opponent offenses more than a meatball to handle in the long run. With Von Miller as the only other player I would have wanted the Bills to draft third overall (or else trade back for a QB/DE) already gone, I would not have done anything different.
Round 2: CB Aaron Williams – Texas [6-0. 204, 4.55]
While some fans were surprised that the Bills passed on a few QB and OLB prospects in favor of a corner, the pick does not terribly surprise me as I had CB Ras-I Dowling (the guy taken before the Bills pick) on my short list. Aaron Williams is a big run stopping corner, drafted given the free agent status of Drayton Florence and Terrence McGee nearing the end of his career. While his speed and agility will need to be made more consistent, he is a sound and safe selection. If George Wilson also switches over to strong safety as some people speculate, Williams could back up Byrd at free safety as well. At Texas he recorded 89 tackles, 5 forced fumbles, 3 sacks and 4 interceptions in three years. Had I been making the pick, I may have given QB Colin Kaepernick or OLB Akeem Ayers a second look, but I trust CHIX’s assessment to forgo a potential franchise QB in favor of a player that could see starting time by the end of the season.
Round 3: LB Kelvin Sheppard – LSU [6-2, 250, 4.70]
Though the Bills jumped a gun a bit (in my opinion) they still came away with a solid pick to shore up the inside linebacker corps that may be losing its leader, Paul Posluszny to free agency. The Bills need a young impact player and Sheppard is that guy. Shepp is a strong tackler having made 228 in his last two seasons while recording 5 sacks and 2 interceptions as well. Sheppard may not have as much talent as Martez Wilson (touted as the top ILB in the draft, yet drafted afterwards), he is another safe option. Sheppard’s selection was a smart one though. Other options here would have included the aforementioned Wilson, OLB Justin Houston or OT Joseph Barksdale.
Round 4: SS Da’Norris Searcy – North Carolina [5-11, 223, 4.55]
With CHIX believing that reconcile with Donte Whitner was impossible, the decision to draft a strong safety was made. Searcy, however talented, comes from a lackluster class in this area and the Bills would have probably have been better off drafting one later in the draft (there are also quite a few comparable ones that went undrafted as well). In college, Searcy made 72 tackles and 5 interceptions in his last two seasons as well as being a big return man (the Bills are after all lacking in that area…). Better alternatives at this point would have included OT James Brewer, TE Luke Stocker or TE Cameron Jordan.
Round 4: OT Chris Hairston – Clemson [6-6, 326, 5.38]
The Bills made their earliest tackle acquisition since first round flop Mike Williams, much to the relief of Bills fans everywhere. While Hairston is not the quickest guy on the field, he is a very capable blocker and is seen as the long term prospect at right tackle, provided Erik Pears is not the answer. Hairston also has experience on the left side, but lacks the quickness necessary at this time for that side. At this point, I would not have done anything different.
Round 5: RB Johnny White – North Carolina [5-10, 209, 4.50]
White rushed for 720 yards (5.5 yards a carry) and seven touchdowns while adding 288 yards receiving in his final year. While not having elite statistics by any means, White had been getting a lot of hype leading into the draft week after showing great athleticism and talent in the combines. I would have been a fan of this pick had other areas like tight end or rush linebacker been pursued first. White is immediately placed as a third running back on the roster and will provide ample depth in the years to come. Better picks here could have included OT Marcus Cannon (for those of you wanting a LT competitor), TE D.J. Williams, or even QB Ricky Stanzi in a backup capacity (although many would have cringed at the lateness of a QB acquisition).
Round 6: LB Chris White – Mississippi State [6-3, 240, 4.74]
CHIX obviously studied this player in depth and had him targeted in the sixth round as there were two other inside linebackers that were ranked higher in the draft, Quan Sturdivant and Greg Jones. White seems to be a sound late choice to play as a backup linebacker though having made 180 tackles and 6 sacks in two years. White also has a good build for the position. Aside from the other two inside linebackers already mentioned, the only other player I would have possibly drafted instead of White might have been TE Virgil Green.
Round 7: CB Justin Rogers – Richmond [5-11, 180, 4.45]
Rogers pick surprised me. While he is a corner that gets interceptions and a good return man (see what I said about Searcy), he could develop better techniques; the fact that the Bills may be trying to bring back Drayton Florence, puts the Bills over on corners. Rogers would likely compete for the fifth corner position. At Richmond, Rogers got 11 tackles and 8 interceptions in four years. Rather than target a second (or third corner if you include Searcy as one) I would have targeted an outside linebacker to compete for Maybin’s roster spot. Mark Herzlich or Bruce Miller stand out on my list here (Herzlich still is available…) but this late in the draft, I am alright with the Bills drafting another corner. Rogers seems to be in line for a practice squad spot.
Round 7: DL Michael Jasper – Bethel [6-4, 394, 5.58]
For their last pick, the Bills literally added depth to their roster by taking the biggest player although rumor has it he lost some weight since then. (Some Rumblers were certainly happy with his selection) Jasper is an offensive and defensive interior lineman and while it will be a few seasons until he sees playing time (practice squad designation preferable this year), his massiveness will create headaches for teams to get around. Given the lateness of this pick, there are not many other options that one can suggest alternatively, but I’m sure a few of you have favorite undrafted players you would like to see at Rochester in a few weeks (hopefully).
Recap: The Bills took big steps to shore up one of the worst defenses in the league in this draft. With a big hole to fill with the departure of Marcus Stroud at defensive end, the Bills wisely selected Marcell Dareus to anchor the Bills’ 3-4 defensive line. With the possible departure of starters Drayton Florence and Paul Posluszny, the Bills added Aaron Williams and Kelvin Sheppard respectively. Both players have skills to start, but would be better off learning the next level for several games first before settling in their respective positions long term. Chris Hairston likewise fits this bill developing behind Erik Pears for a season or two. Da’Norris Searcy, Chris White and Johnny White will probably see some playing time during the year, but in backup positions for the most part. Lastly, Justin Rogers and Michael Jasper will need a full year to develop and would be better off developing on the practice squad. Go Bills!