First, a note - be sure to keep your browsers locked in to Mocking the Draft starting this morning, as the 2008 SB Nation NFL Mock Draft is under way.
With draft season approaching in full force, many fans of the Buffalo Bills have been discussing the possibility of their favorite team drafting a cornerback in the first round of the draft. With four cornerbacks (Leodis McKelvin, Mike Jenkins, Aqib Talib and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) possibly representing the best value for the Bills when they choose at pick 11, such talk makes sense. When one takes a gander at Buffalo's roster, however, taking a cornerback doesn't make sense.
The free agent addition of CB William James, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, has plunged Buffalo into a three-way race for the starting right cornerback job opposite Terrence McGee. That gives the Bills four legitimate NFL cornerbacks, all with starting experience. Which cornerback should win the starting job in 2008? Let's meet the candidates:
#33 Jabari Greer - Greer was forced into a starting role last year after injuries to Jason Webster and Ashton Youboty. By and large, Greer's play was highly surprising - he finished seventh on the team with 45 tackles and intercepted two passes, good for a tie for second on the team. Size is his biggest knock, but Greer excels in man coverage and is consistently around the ball. With more experience, he could become the playmaker of Buffalo's secondary.
#26 Ashton Youboty - Youboty was elevated to the starting role last year immediately after Webster was injured in Week One, but an injury to Youboty forced him out of the lineup once more. He did not crack that lineup again until the final week of the season, when he intercepted a pass off of Donovan McNabb. Youboty made a serious charge to start late in the pre-season, but was beaten out by the veteran Webster. With a much more open competition this year, if Youboty can put together a strong training camp, he has the best physical gifts of any of these three players and may very well start.
FA William James - James, who was being pursued by other teams (Eagles, Texans), chose Buffalo because it gave him the best opportunity to start. A seven-year veteran, James' career has been highly inconsistent - in four seasons he's played in 12 games or more, but in the other three seasons, it's been five or less. He's injury-prone, but he's got skills - he started as a rookie for the Giants and had an excellent rookie campaign, and has started for the Giants and Eagles occasionally since injuries derailed his early promise. He's got great size (6'0", 200 pounds) and may be a boost to Buffalo's run defense on the edge.
These options may not be appealing to all Bills fans, but the team has three young talents with starting experience to choose from here. With that in mind, do we honestly expect Buffalo to draft a cornerback in the first round? I know I don't.
As for who should start, my vote is still for Greer. Youboty and James both have the size that Buffalo covets in their nickel cornerbacks (see Kiwaukee Thomas), and the Bills can't be without Greer's aggressive pass coverage style on passing downs. Playmaking is something the Bills need to do a lot more of in 2008, and Greer has the best chance of doing that. Of course, if Youboty has a great four games during the pre-season, I'd rather see him in the lineup - he was drafted for a reason, after all.
Thoughts on the cornerback position, who should start, and how this depth translates to the draft?