On the day that he was drafted, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Torell Troup was "the guy that the Bills passed on [Player X] for" - and whether "Player X" was identified as a quarterback (Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy were popular with fans), a fellow defensive tackle (Terrence Cody was the big name then) or a player at some other position, Troup's identity hasn't changed much through two pro seasons. (These days, he's pretty much the guy that the Bills passed on Rob Gronkowski for.)
A lot of Troup's problems have been unavoidable. He was drafted to play nose tackle in a defense that the team never fully installed (and has since abandoned), and though he showed improvement from the start of his rookie season to the end of it, he was merely a rotational player on the field, contributing on roughly one-fifth of the team's defensive plays.
Things only went downhill for Troup from there, and he now enters his third pro season with more to prove than any other Buddy Nix draft pick to date.
Coming out of Central Florida, Troup was a well-regarded run-plugging prospect pegged by most "experts" outside of the league to be a third- or fourth-round pick. It was a mild surprise when the Bills used the No. 41 overall pick on Troup, but not from a need standpoint: the Bills were in the market for a 3-4 nose tackle at the time, and Troup fit that profile.
Troup weighed in at 314 pounds during the 2010 NFL Combine - a much lower figure than what he weighed when he started playing at UCF. His weight drop paid off, as he put up solid field workout numbers for a player of his ilk without sacrificing anything on the bench (he did 34 reps, proving his strength).
When the Bills made Troup a second-round pick, they justified taking him a bit earlier than most thought he'd go by touting him as a durable player and a hard worker that filled one of the team's biggest needs.
"He is a classic nose (tackle)," said former Bills VP of College Scouting Tom Modrak on the day that Troup was drafted. "He plays a lot of snaps - he plays a lot of snaps every game. He's strong, he can beat the double team and you know what those guys do, those are the guys who have to defeat double teams, or at least hold up so your linebackers have a chance. That's what he's been doing, he hustles to the ball and he's a great kid."
"We think that Troup can play 30 plays a game, and now we're good in the middle and the center is going to pay his dues every snap," added Nix at the time. "There won't be anybody taking a play off. It's like what we said from the start, you can't put too many good players out there."
Troup's playing time suffered as a rookie, however - not just because he initially struggled adjusting to NFL competition, but because defensive tackle Kyle Williams was enjoying a break-out, Pro Bowl season, meaning that he was on the field a bit more than the team perhaps expected him to be that April. He ended his rookie season with 23 tackles in 15 games, and provided minimal impact.
His first full professional off-season, however, was a good one. Even though the NFL lockout kept him away from team facilities and out of the team's workout program, Troup busted his butt to get in better shape, chronicling every workout on his popular Twitter account. By the time the lockout ended and training camp began last year, Troup was up to 327 pounds, was stronger throughout his frame, and reporters were touting him as a player poised to make a big improvement in year two.
Then came the back injury. A long-existing disc problem exacerbated by a small spinal fracture robbed Troup of a great deal of pre-season work, then limited him to just five perfunctory regular season appearances before the team finally gave up hope that he'd heal on his own and placed him on IR on November 30. Troup had surgery on December 16 of last year to repair the fracture and clean up the disc issue, and though he's been back working out for a while, it's still not 100 percent clear if he'll be ready for the start of training camp in four weeks.
(The cruel irony here: Gronkowski slid into the second round in 2010 because teams were wary of health concerns regarding the tight end's back. He's played in every regular season game for New England and has dominated Buffalo even more than he has the league at large, while Troup missed most of his second season with a back injury.)
Troup has been a disappointment, to be sure, but only in the sense that he hasn't gotten to play much - largely due to circumstances out of his control. He has a lot to prove - starting with proving that he's healthy - but fortunately for him, he's competing at a wide open depth position in training camp this year. Even as the team moves back to the 4-3 defense, there will still be ample opportunity for Troup to not only keep his roster spot, but become a valuable reserve for the team. He's got a ways to go to get there, but in my eyes, Troup will be one of the more interesting stories to follow this summer at St. John Fisher.