"Put it this way: Kyle Williams was considered one of the NFL's most dominant defensive tackles in 2010, a year in which he recorded a career-high 5.5 sacks. Marcell Dareus equaled that total in a rookie season in which he didn't have an off-season training program, played the majority of the year without Williams by his side, and was by all accounts fairly inconsistent. That tells you what you need to know about Dareus: he's an outstanding prospect with enormous upside." - Me in May 2012
Every year here at Buffalo Rumblings, we run a summer series in which we talk about the ten most important Buffalo Bills players entering a given season. Where in past seasons we've focused the series on guys that needed to perform if the team was going to succeed, this year's focus will just be on the team's ten players most likely to directly influence the team's successes or failures in 2012.
Next up on the list: defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who enters his second season with star potential.
I talked a little bit about this Tuesday night with some Twitter followers (@BrianGalliford) as I was writing this article: for all intents and purposes, Dareus has been glossed over this entire off-season. That's not his fault, of course; two massive free agent signings at defensive end and the return of a healthy Kyle Williams inside is, strangely, enough to put a high-upside former No. 3 overall pick on the back-burner. (Boy, does that say a lot.)
Don't get me wrong. It's not as if the people making Dareus almost into an afterthought (and I think we're all guilty of it, to an extent) are doing so because they dislike him or think poorly of him; we've just been distracted by all of the shiny new toys for three months. He's talked about a lot, but not singled out nearly to the extent of his three expected fellow starting linemen.
It's time for the distraction to end. As I said in May, Dareus equaled Kyle Williams' career-high sack total without the benefit of circumstance. (Williams has never had circumstance on his side, either, so I see it this way: both have upside, but Marcell's is considerably higher.) Dareus is a monster, has huge ability, and is only scratching the surface of the player that he's capable of becoming.
People talk all the time about how each Bills defensive lineman stands to benefit from the presence of the others; not enough people are talking about the fact that while Kyle Williams causes enough blocking scheme issues of his own, an at-his-best Dareus will cause more headaches for opposing offensive coordinators than any defender save for the $100 million end lining up to his left. Where Williams has developed into the complete package over time, Dareus was born as a completer package, and seems ready to harness his gifts.
At the end of May, I called Dareus the team's best shot at a breakout star this season. About a week later, Gary Horton of Scouts, Inc. agreed, ranking Dareus as the No. 1 breakout candidate in the AFC. He's got kinks in his game to work out; he's not there yet. When he gets there - I say "when" and not "if," because I don't doubt the drive that this 22-year-old possesses - he'll be a household name.
Ten Buffalo Bills To Decide 2012
1. TBA 6/15
2. TBA 6/14
3. DT Marcell Dareus
4. RB Fred Jackson
5. DT Kyle Williams
6. DE Mark Anderson
7. LB Nick Barnett
8. FS Jairus Byrd
9. RB C.J. Spiller
10. WR Stevie Johnson