One of our favorite offseason measures of the general level of talent on the Buffalo Bills' roster here at Buffalo Rumblings is our twice-annual list of the team's 10 best players age 25 and younger. We are re-visiting that list this evening.
It's an arbitrary list, to be sure; for one, we're taking our first look before the 2016 NFL Draft, where the Bills may add multiple names that will be added to this list. The number 25 is in and of itself arbitrary, and because of the way we enforce it - a player can't turn 26 during the calendar year 2016, or he won't make the list - quality 25-year-olds at the time of publishing such as Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams won't make the cut.
Still, regardless of its practicality, the Top 10 Bills Age 25 and Under list is still a useful way to take stock of the youngest talent in the pipeline. Here's our pre-2016 NFL Draft shot at forming this list. How would you re-arrange it?
10. LB Tony Steward (24 on 9/19)
A darkhorse candidate for a huge uptick in playing time in 2016 due to the Bills' need at linebacker, Steward enters his second pro season with durability concerns, but also as the most naturally athletic linebacker on Buffalo's roster today.
9. OT Cyrus Kouandjio (23 on 7/21)
Worries about a chronic knee issue have not subsided since he entered the league as a second-round pick in 2014, but Kouandjio made unequivocal strides between his first and second seasons, and could compete for a starting job again this summer.
8. OT Seantrel Henderson (24 on 1/21)
With a Crohn's disease diagnosis working toward his rearview mirror, the Bills' two-year starting right tackle faces the challenges of not only returning to playing shape and re-claiming his starting gig, but improving his overall level of play.
7. OG John Miller (23 on 8/12)
The youngest projected starter on Buffalo's offensive line at present, Miller had some rookie-season moments to build on in 2016, but needs to improve his pass-blocking and his level of consistency by quite a bit if he's going to remain a starter long-term.
6. CB Nickell Robey (24 on 1/17)
Buffalo's top slot defensive back for the past three seasons, Robey has not quite been able to manage to recapture his rookie-season magic of 2013 over the past two seasons, but is still a quality sub-package player in Rex Ryan's defense.
5. LB Preston Brown (24 on 10/27)
Brown enjoyed a very good rookie season in 2014 when everything was clicking around him, but when the defense struggled in 2015, Brown's play tanked, as well. The Bills are challenging Brown in 2016, where he'll project as an every-down starter again.
4. WR Robert Woods (24 on 4/10)
While his numbers haven't screamed No. 2 receiver to this point in his three-year career, Woods proved his value in Greg Roman's offense in an injury-plagued 2015 season as a blocker and second/third receiving target. He'll be better when healthy.
3. RB Karlos Williams (23 on 5/4)
Multiple concussions and a brutally aggressive running style don't mix well, but there's little doubt that Williams is an outstanding second back in Roman's offense given his rookie-year exploits (616 yards and nine touchdowns in 11 games played).
2. CB Ronald Darby (22 on 1/2)
Darby was nothing short of a revelation as a rookie, overcoming perceived weaknesses as a prospect to nearly win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He faces huge second-year expectations, and will benefit from a full NFL offseason schedule.
1. WR Sammy Watkins (23 on 6/14)
The most talented Bills player of any age, and at any position, Watkins closed out the 2015 regular season on a tear, ranking among the NFL's elite receivers in the final 10 games of the season. He should be a huge focal point of the offense in 2016.