While we're on the subject of Buddy Nix draft picks with the Buffalo Bills over the past three years, it's also worth pointing out that four of his nine picks made in the top three rounds may be facing make-or-break opportunities entering the 2013 season.
Fan bases have a tendency to pick apart draft classes from the angle of who the team didn't draft; this post is not meant to engender that discussion (although it most certainly will, given the successes of men like Rob Gronkowski and Russell Wilson... sigh). Instead, this post is simply to point out that 44 percent of Nix's early-round draft picks in Buffalo face iffy situations as the team switches coaching staffs. Those four players are:
Torell Troup, defensive tackle (2010, Round 2, No. 41 overall): Troup has been a kind of anti-C.J. Spiller in his first three seasons; he was a virtual non-factor as a rookie and for part of his second season, but where Spiller got an opportunity and has since ascended towards stardom, Troup has been laid up with a back injury. Much like last year, Troup is now purportedly healthy and ready to compete for a roster spot this summer; for now, however, the Bills have gotten very little return on investment with the former second-round pick.
Aaron Williams, cornerback (2011, Round 2, No. 34 overall): We've discussed Williams at length multiple times over the past few weeks, so we'll quickly sum this one up - Williams has struggled at cornerback to the point that some fans are openly wishing he'd switch positions, and he quibbles with fans on Twitter a bit too frequently. Unless the new coaching staff sees things radically differently than the old regime, however, Williams still looks like the team's No. 2 corner for now.
Kelvin Sheppard, middle linebacker (2011, Round 3, No. 68 overall): He was aided in his draft positioning by the fact that he played for former head coach Chan Gailey and the Bills' outgoing coaching staff at the 2011 Senior Bowl; had that not happened, the Bills might not have been as sold on Sheppard as they ultimately were. He's been a two-down starter for most of his career, but has not had much of an impact.
T.J. Graham, wide receiver (2012, Round 3, No. 69 overall): We knew coming out of North Carolina State that Graham was probably too raw to be reliably counted on in his rookie season; he didn't exceed those expectations, struggling with drops while failing to ascend from also-ran status in the Bills' receiving corps. Graham is still a project receiver worth looking into - he clearly has the deep speed that made him worthy, in Nix's eyes, of a rare trade up - but the team would be taking a great leap of faith to count on Graham as a starter in 2013.
The team's other five picks within the first three rounds under Nix - Spiller, Alex Carrington, Marcell Dareus, Stephon Gilmore and Cordy Glenn - have all largely earned passes from the fan base to one degree or another, but with the possible exception of Spiller, none has really lived up to expectations, either.