NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina holds up a jersey as he stands on stage after he was selected #10 overall by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The 2012 NFL Draft is in the books, and the Buffalo Bills added nine new players to its roster - and GM Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey have made it clear that they expect every last one of them to come in and compete with the team's current players. It is an organizational belief that competition makes a team better at every position, and for the third straight draft, the Bills have built numbers at every position to try to bring out the best of the talent on hand.
Naturally, however, each player was drafted with a particular role in mind, or because of a specific skill set. Some will carry the burden of heavy expectations, while some will be immediately written off by fans. What should you expect from each of the nine newest Bills during the 2012 season? That's what we're striving to answer for you right now.
1-10: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: Gailey made it very clear that he believed Gilmore is capable of coming in and starting right away, and as a Top 10 pick, that should be the expectation - particularly with so many question marks at the position. He probably will not open training camp running with the ones, but at some point in his rookie season, he should become a starter, sooner rather than later. He profiles as a perimeter corner in the base defense, and could become the slot corner in nickel and dime packages thanks to his elite athleticism.
2-41: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia: This is another player that could, and should, emerge as a starter as a rookie - not just because of his potential, but because of where he was drafted and how highly the Bills had him graded. Like Gilmore, he won't open camp with the ones - that'll be Chris Hairston - but it's not at all unfair to expect Glenn to become the team's full-time starting left tackle at some point in 2012.
3-69: T.J. Graham, WR, North Carolina State: The Bills drafted Graham to add vertical explosiveness to their receiving corps; mission accomplished. Graham is so raw as a player and route-runner, however, that he does not remotely clear up the muddled picture at receiver for the Bills. Graham will compete with the likes of Donald Jones, Marcus Easley and Derek Hagan for what is essentially the third receiver role, even though they'll be No. 2 on the depth chart. Graham has an advantage thanks to his speed, but he'll need to produce quickly to leapfrog the incumbents at the start of the season. The Bills like him and drafted him early, however, and with so many unproven players around him, it's again fair to expect Graham to emerge as a starter by the end of his rookie season.
4-105: Nigel Bradham, LB, Florida State: There's a lot to like about Bradham, starting with his coverage ability and hard-hitting explosiveness. He's a run-and-hit player, and the Bills didn't have much of that at linebacker. That said, Bradham is merely a depth option at this point, as he'll need to adjust to the NFL and Buffalo's defense before he's ready to play - though that may not take long, given the simplicity of Dave Wannstedt's system. Bradham profiles as a down-the-line starter at either outside linebacker spot; for now, he's a depth player and a specialist.
4-124: Ron Brooks, CB, LSU: Of all of Buffalo's mid-round picks, we think Brooks has the best chance at earning playing time straight away defensively. An argument can be made that Brooks is already Buffalo's most athletic corner, and while he wasn't a starter at LSU, he played quite a bit and has a ton of big-game experience. At worst, Brooks is high-upside depth and a dynamite special teams performer - he's a lock to be a punt gunner in Week 1, in our view - but he'll also have an opportunity to lock down a dime corner role, where he'd excel in the slot, particularly as a blitzer.
5-144: Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State: The Bills made it very clear that they think he's a right tackle, but then, they were saying the same thing about Hairston a year ago, and he's still penciled in as the starter on the left side. The Bills also made it very clear that Sanders will need time to develop, so at best, he'll fend off incumbent Sam Young to be the team's fourth tackle next year, and spend most of the season inactive barring an injury above him. Sanders does, however, have down-the-line starting potential.
5-147: Tank Carder, LB, TCU: Like Bradham before him, Carder is a run-and-hit player with years of production at a power college (albeit not in a power conference). He's an excellent fit in Wannstedt's system because he's a good athlete and a smart player, but with a logjam of linebackers in front of him - including Bradham - he's a depth player and a specialist. That may be his ceiling, as well.
6-178: Mark Asper, OG, Oregon: After some initial confusion about where he'd play, Nix confirmed after the draft that the team will use him at guard and center, similar to the way the team used veteran Colin Brown a year ago. We like this pick for a couple of reasons: it gives the team another option in the pivot (they don't have many), and the 26-year-old Asper could make for a plug-and-play replacement at either guard spot if the team can't retain all three of its top guards (all impending free agents) after the season. Fans panned this pick, but it was a smart investment.
7-251: John Potter, K, Western Michigan: Nix made it clear that the Bills snagged this kicker to be a kickoff specialist, reasoning that if the team can consistently force opponents to start at the 20-yard line, it'll help their defense and keep their depth players healthy. That's fine and all, but we'll see how happy Gailey is about that plan when he has to make room for two kickers on his game day roster - assuming Potter is good enough at what he was drafted to do to make the team, of course.