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Buffalo Bills NFL Draft Retrospective: 2011

Buddy Nix’s second draft was an improvement, but could’ve been much more

In order to prepare for observing the Buffalo Bills’ 2019 rookie class during their first training camp, we thought it would be fun to look back at the past seven drafts of the Bills, as a sort of retrospective. Our goal: an examination of where the team found successes, where the it was led astray and a chance to remember some of the more forgotten players from the past nine years.

Next up is the second draft for the Buddy Nix regime—one that saw the team in possession of the third overall pick and looking to continue building up their 3-4 run defense under George Edwards after finishing with the 28th-ranked scoring defense and giving up the second-most rushing yards in team history.

Round 1
3rd overall

DT Marcell Dareus

Drafted to shore up the team’s aforementioned poor run defense, Dareus never finished with fewer than 5.5 sacks in his first four seasons with the team. He was also a two-time Pro Bowler and first team All-Pro in 2014. That year, he led all defensive tackles in the league with ten sacks and was a key member of a defense that finished fourth in points allowed. After a decent first season in Rex Ryan’s defense, Dareus signed a massive contract extension, but saw his production slip in 2016. His production slipped even more in the beginning of 2017—to the point where Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane were forced to dump him on the Jacksonville Jaguars for a 2018 sixth-round pick.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Dareus always was among the most talented of Buffalo’s defenders during his time on the team, but he never managed to truly take that talent and be consistently transcendent on the field. Additionally, although his career with the Bills was successful at times, it didn’t come with the longevity that you’d expect for a player selected with the third overall pick of the draft.

Round 2
34th overall

S Aaron Williams

Originally drafted to be an outside corner, Williams struggled as a rookie, made a quick switch a year later to safety, and took to it like a duck to water. The 2013 season under Mike Pettine was truly his breakout year, with 82 tackles, four interceptions, and 11 pass defenses as a versatile safety/match-up player. The 2014 season under Jim Schwartz was much of the same, with Doug Whaley deciding to sign the third-year player to a four-year extension. In Week 2 of the following season, on an attempted flying tackle of Julian Edelman, he suffered a neck injury and was taken off the field on a stretcher. He made a return to the field in 2016, but was the victim of a cheap-shot by Jarvis Landry during the Week 7 game at the Miami Dolphins and was cut by the team in the 2017 offseason.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Another Nix player who suffered a devastating injury and never really recovered, Williams has to be one of the more disappointing Bills’ draft picks in the past decade. Here was a player who was playing at a Pro Bowl level, in the prime of his career, and it all got snuffed out thanks largely to a freak injury. It’s difficult to blame Nix for that.

Round 3
68th overall

LB Kelvin Sheppard

Sheppard was thought of as a ‘safe pick’ coming into the draft, as he wasn’t the most athletic specimen, but was productive and generally savvy. He started the final nine games of his rookie season, performing decently against the run and was then given a full-time starting role in 2012, finishing with 80 tackles, two sacks and a pass defensed. However, when Ryan Grigson came calling about wanting to trade for the young linebacker, new GM Doug Whaley was quick to sign a deal to send him to the Indianapolis Colts for pass rusher Jerry Hughes.

Verdict: Minor Miss

The Bills clearly knew what they had when they traded Sheppard: a below-average starter, or a decent backup. The fact that they were able to move on so successfully from Sheppard doesn’t mask the fact that his short career with the team was unspectacular.

Round 4
100th overall

SS Da’Norris Searcy

More of an in-the-box, strong safety, Searcy was brought in to provide depth behind Jairus Byrd and George Wilson. He proved to be a valuable backup and part-time starter during his first three years, then was forced into a starting role in the 2014 following the departure of Byrd. Searcy successfully stepped up to the plate that season and finished with 65 tackles, three interceptions, and five passes defended. That season was his last with the team, as he parlayed his success into a four-year contract with the Tennessee Titans.

Verdict: Minor Hit

Managing to get a full rookie contract, including 23 starts, from a fourth-round pick is deserving of some praise. Like Sheppard, Searcy wasn’t the greatest athlete, but he was a tough, smart player who spent his four seasons with the team on a steady upward trajectory.

Round 4
122nd overall

OT Chris Hairston

Coming out of Clemson, Hairston was a massive tackle prospect who the team expected to replace Erik Pears as a starter at right tackle down the line. He was forced to start seven games his rookie year, after Demetress Bell went down with injury. Acquitting himself well, Hairston was set to compete with Pears to start in 2012, but lost the competition. Round two of their competition was supposed to begin in 2013, but Hairston came down with a mysterious illness, and was placed on IR in late August of that year. After drafting Cyrus Kouandjio and Seantrel Henderson in 2014, the former Clemson Tiger lost to the numbers game and was signed by the San Diego Chargers the following offseason.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Hairston played in 41 games for the team, making 13 starts in 2011 and 2012. That’s not bad, but untimely injuries really sapped his chances to earn a starting job and remain with the team.

Round 5
133rd overall

RB Johnny White

With Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller both on the team, it was always going to be difficult for White to even make the team, let alone contribute. Given a smattering of snaps during his rookie season, the team signed Tashard Choice and Chan Gailey seemed to prefer him to White. The former UNC tailback was permanently waived in October 2012.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Twenty carries for 72 yards is all the team received from their fifth-round pick over two seasons. That’s subpar no matter how you slice it.

Round 6
169th overall

LB Chris White

Sixth-round players and below are usually expected to compete on special teams—and that’s exactly what White did for two years in Buffalo, seeing the most special-teams snaps for the group in 2012 alone. After Kevin Kolb lost his battle against a rubber mat in 2013 however, White was traded to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Thad Lewis.

Verdict: Minor Miss

If White wasn’t traded, there is a chance he could have emerged as a stalwart special-teams player and captain if given the chance, but as it stands he was another player who wasn’t given much time in Buffalo before being shipped off.

Round 7
206th overall

CB Justin Rogers

Rogers managed to stick on the back end of the Bills’ roster for three years, but whenever he was forced into action—like during 2013’s Week 3 game against the New York Jets, he seemed to get abused by the opposing receivers. After his third year, it seemed like the coaches had seen enough and released him during the bye week.

Verdict: Minor Miss

You’d think a seventh-round draft pick receiving a decent amount of snaps in his first three years in the league would be a good thing, but unfortunately Rogers’s performances were poor enough to earn an exit from the team and the notoriety of Bills fans.

Round 7
245th overall

OG/DT Michael Jasper

Like a supergiant star, Michael Jasper burst onto the radar of Bills fans once he was selected with Buffalo’s final pick but burned out just as quickly as the short-lived stars. The massive 450-lb lineman got down 375 lbs at the behest of Chan Gailey and tried to make the team as both a defensive tackle and guard in his rookie training camp, but was eventually released during final cut down. Signed to the practice squad, Jasper was given another chance during the 2012 training camp, but was cut on August 13th.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Selecting a physical outlier like Jasper was always going to be a gamble, but that’s what the last few picks in the draft are for.