Lately, I've been fielding a lot of questions about Buffalo Bills rookie defensive lineman Marcell Dareus. The questions have varied in the way they've been asked, but the central theme is common: how are Bills fans feeling about the No. 3 overall pick? More importantly, are their views skewed at all by the players picked around Dareus?
It's tough to remember a group of Top 5 picks that have been as successful as rookies as the crop from the 2011 NFL Draft have been. Take a look at the impact:
- Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: 59.7% completions, 3,573 yards, 15 TD, 16 INT, 13 rushing TD
- Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos: 62 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
- Marcell Dareus, DT, Buffalo Bills: 35 tackles, 4.5 sacks
- A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: 55 receptions, 891 yards, 7 TD
- Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals: 57 tackles, 2 INT, 1.0 sacks, 4 punt return TD
It's an incredibly strong group - but one could easily make the case that Dareus has had the smallest impact of the bunch.
My answer to the original question has fallen under this umbrella: yeah, Bills fans are definitely satisfied with Dareus, but I also think they might have expected a bit more.
I don't consider it a problem that Dareus' numbers pale in comparison with the names around him. Newton's a quarterback - and a really darned good one - and Green, Peterson and Miller (to an extent) all play flashy positions where big plays are glamorized. Dareus is not in that position. He does the grunt work, and he's been forced to do a lot more of it than he should have been in year one, and he's done it fairly well. The fact that he has stats that don't make him look like a total slouch surrounded by those players is, in my opinion, pretty amazing considering his circumstances.
Still, I also think Bills fans were expecting a bit more from Dareus in the pre-season - particularly in terms of consistency. Part of his lack of consistency has to do with the Bills' constant tweaking to their defensive alignment thanks to the unit being pretty terrible. Part of it also has to do with the absence of his running mate, Kyle Williams.
The frustrating thing about Dareus is that he's flip-flopped between brilliant and non-existent this season. That's not even necessarily a bad thing for a rookie to be, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating. He was dominant for entire games (against the terrible lines of Washington, San Diego) and flashed dominance in others (NY Giants), but was completely handled in other games. The flashes of dominance are encouraging, and in answering the question, I've said that Bills fans are largely hitching their hopes to those flashes.
What say you, Bills fans? What are your views on Dareus' rookie season, which is nearing its completion? Are your views skewed at all by the (statistical) quality of the players picked around him in the Top 5 this season? And are you encouraged about the Crimson Elephant moving forward?