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Buffalo Bills NFL Draft Retrospective: 2012

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Buddy Nix’s best draft?

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 third draft for the Buddy Nix regime, one that resulted in an equal distribution between players on offense and defense. The team was changing defensive schemes after canning George Edwards and moving to the 4-3 alignment preferred by Dave Wannstedt.


Round 1
10th Overall

CB Stephon Gilmore

Immediately stepping in as the team’s number-one cornerback from the word ‘go,’ Gilmore’s rookie season playing in Dave Wannstedt’s defense was a bit of a bumpy ride for the rookie. He seemed to give up too many big plays on the back-end and didn’t come up with too many on his own, with only a single interception to his name in 2012. Unfortunately, those two issues seemed to dog him throughout most of his years in Buffalo. It should be stressed though that being a full-time, man cover corner has to be one of the most difficult jobs in the NFL, and that the former Carolina Gamecock did earn a Pro Bowl nod during the 2016 season playing in Rex Ryan’s defense.

Verdict: Minor Hit

Bills fans were not kind to Gilmore throughout his time on the team, which I consider to be an injustice. He played through some terribly coached defenses that were particularly hard on cornerbacks. On the field, he was physical, dependable and even chipped in well against the run. Only a change in defensive scheme is what ultimately forced Gilmore to leave for greener pastures, where he has flourished.


Round 2
41st Overall

OT Cordy Glenn

The buzz on Glenn pre-draft was where exactly he would fit along the offensive line. He had spent most of his snaps at Georgia playing guard and only made the transition to tackle late in his college career. Glenn immediately won the starting job over Chris Hairston and proved any doubters wrong by entrenching himself as a quality starting left tackle for six seasons with the team. Although he was never selected to the Pro Bowl, Glenn was a steady presence for years along the line, before injuries limited his participation in the 2016 and 2017 seasons—and the team traded him for assets in the subsequent offseason.

Verdict: Major Hit

To get not only a starting left tackle, but an above-average left tackle, in the second round of the draft is a rarity in this day and age of the NFL. Teams are starving for quality play from their younger tackles and are forced to watch them take their lumps before successfully developing them. Glenn was a massive exception to that rule and was tremendous value as a result.


Round 3
69th Overall

WR T.J. Graham

A track star in college, Graham was considered underdeveloped coming into the draft and was graded by analysts as a Day 3 selection. The Bills must’ve liked his potential though, and drafted him with their third pick. Despite starting 11 games his rookie year and being targeted 58 times, Graham only caught 31 passes for 322 yards. That 53% catch percentage fell to 39% during his second year. The Bills released him following training camp in 2014.

Verdict: Major Miss

Seen as a developmental prospect, Graham never developed into a complete receiver who could do more than simply run a ‘Go’ route. His lack of strength and routing nuance doomed his chances of being a long-term answer at the position and by his third season he lost his spot to rookie Marquise Goodwin.


Round 4
105th Overall

LB Nigel Bradham

An athletic but unpolished prospect coming out of Florida State, Bradham was one of the key victims of Buffalo’s constant switching of defensive schemes. Suited to be a 4-3 outside linebacker, Bradham started eleven games his rookie year and didn’t look out of place. Unfortunately, a switch to Mike Pettine’s hybrid 3-4 scheme and the drafting of Kiko Alonso ensured a backup role for him in 2013. His luck began to change the next year, though, which saw a move back to a 4-3 scheme and Alonso tearing his ACL. Thrust into a starting role, Bradham rewarded the team with 104 tackles (six for losses), an interception, and 2.5 sacks. Yet another switch, this time to Rex Ryan’s hybrid defense, led to a dip in production and effectiveness, and Bradham was forced to follow Jim Schwartz to the Philadelphia Eagles during 2016 free agency.

Verdict: Minor Hit

When placed into his preferred 4-3 scheme, Bradham developed into starter for the team—an impactful starter at that. It’s just too bad that by switching schemes the team would be forced to wave goodbye to a young, talented player in free agency.


Round 4
124th Overall

CB Ron Brooks

A versatile, physical corner, Brooks was able to establish himself as one of the team’s primary backups at cornerback and a valuable special-teams contributor over his four years in Buffalo. When forced into starting snaps defensive, he didn’t necessarily look out of place—but by no means did he deserve an expanded role. After his rookie contract was up, Brooks was another player to follow Jim Schwartz to Philadelphia.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Considering the grading curve for third-day picks, Brooks wasn’t that much of a miss, but it spoke volumes when Doug Whaley chose to not pursue re-signing him in free agency. A mediocre backup at corner shouldn’t be all that hard to find.


Round 5
144th Overall

OT Zebrie Sanders

Sanders entered training camp his rookie year only to tear his right labrum, landing him on injured reserve. He then tore his left labrum two months later. He came back and competed during the subsequent training camp, but did not make the team and was waived.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Expected to be the team’s “Swing-tackle of the future” Sanders’s health problems and long recovery forced the Bills to give up on him.


Round 5
147 Overall

LB Tank Carder

Seemingly drafted to be a special-teams phenom, Carder didn’t impress the team at all during his first training camp, and was quickly released after final cut downs. Claimed by the Cleveland Browns, he has carved out a role as a replacement-level player.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Buffalo was looking for at least something from their second fifth rounder, even it was just on special teams. He spent less than four months as a member of the Bills. Not good.


Round 6
178th Overall

OG Mark Asper

A huge former tackle who would make the transition to the interior, Asper joined Tank Carder in being cut after his rookie training camp. He did later re-join the Bills’ practice squad after stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars, but was later signed by the New York Giants.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Another late rounder who didn’t amount to much, Asper just didn’t seem to take to his move inside.


Round 7
251st Overall

K John Potter

Known for having a big leg and ostensibly drafted to be a kickoff specialist, Potter never cemented that role for himself and the team was quick to move on from him following his rookie season.

Verdict: Minor Miss

This pick was kind of doomed from the start as using up a roster spot for a second kicker is not really an effective team-building strategy.