ORCHARD PARK, NY - MAY 11: Stephon Gilmore #27 of the Buffalo Bills runs drills during Buffalo Bills Rookie Camp on May 11, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
When Buddy Nix was named general manager of the Buffalo Bills on December 31, 2009, he made it immediately and abundantly clear that the team's philosophy would be to build through the draft. Now three full draft classes into his regime, the Bills (barring injury) will feature at least four starters that were drafted by Nix and his scouting department.
Two defenders selected in 2011 are entrenched as starters: defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. A third defender - rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore - is a very strong bet to start, as well. Lastly, one of two players drafted by Nix - Cordy Glenn (2012) or Chris Hairston (2011) - will wind up the opening-day starter at left tackle.
Four may seem like a low number - for now, an argument can be made that it is - but that number has the potential to grow by the time September 9 rolls around, as well.
The two wide receivers that Nix has drafted - T.J. Graham (2012) and Marcus Easley (2010) - are in the mix to start, where the team is looking for an outside option to emerge. They'll have to beat out 2010 undrafted free agent signee Donald Jones to do so, however - and Jones is a player that we can credit to Nix as part of the draft process.
The same is true of fellow 2010 undrafted free agent receiver David Nelson, who has emerged as a strong contributor in his first two seasons despite not being a starter. He's part of a group of four more players Nix has drafted that, while not necessarily starters, are expected to play very prominent roles for the team in 2012. That group also includes running back C.J. Spiller and two cornerbacks drafted in 2011: Aaron Williams and Justin Rogers. Williams, a second-round pick, has the best chance of emerging as an opening-day starter out of that group.
In all, we count four draft picks locked in as starters, four draft picks that are in direct competition for a starting job, two picks with major roles, an undrafted free agent with a chance to start and another undrafted free agent with a major role. That group of a dozen players, plus several more prospects with down-the-line contributing potential, is what Nix has built through the draft to this point in his tenure running Buffalo's football operation.