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Buffalo Bills NFL Draft Retrospective: 2015

GM Doug Whaley forced to make do with limited resources

Indianapolis Colts v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

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 Doug Whaley’s second draft as ggeneral manager, where he was forced to deal with a limited amount of picks due to the previous year’s trade up for wide receiver Sammy Watkins. At the time, defensive guru Rex Ryan had been anointed as the team’s newest coach and was looking to transition the defense back into a hybrid 3-4 scheme and the offense into a heavily run-reliant unit helmed by Greg Roman.

Round 2
50th overall

CB Ronald Darby

With an aging Leodis McKelvin and a defensive scheme that demanded a lot from its corners, Whaley took a chance on Darby with his most valuable pick of the draft. Darby immediately acquitted himself well in training camp and was given the starting role opposite Stephon Gilmore. While the Bills’ defense was a middle-of-the-road unit, ranked 15th overall, Darby’s rookie season was a revelation. Placing second to Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting, he had a whopping 21 passes defensed and was rarely beaten for big plays. The following year led to some struggles for the former Florida State Seminole, who put forth notably poor efforts against the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks. With Ryan’s firing and Sean McDermott’s ascendance in 2017, Darby was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick, which later became tackle Harrison Phillips.

Verdict: Minor Hit

Several cornerbacks were drafted before Ron Darby, but there is an argument to be made that he should have gone before any of them. His 2016 season was marked with inconsistency, but given that the entire defense regressed that year, it is perhaps understandable. His 2015 season showed what he can be: a quality starting outside corner.

Round 3
81st overall

OG John Miller

One of the few standout guards in a weak class, Miller’s selling point coming out of college was his pure strength at the point of attack. That made him a fantastic fit for Greg Roman’s rushing offense. Earning the starting right guard spot in his rookie preseason, Miller’s first two seasons with the team were decent, if unremarkable. After the team hired McDermott and Miller was forced to adapt first to Rick Dennison’s scheme and then Brian Daboll’s, his play took a major nosedive. Forced into a competition with Vlad Ducasse, Miller struggled for the final two seasons of his rookie contract, before bolting to the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Miller’s career trajectory is puzzling for Bills fans, who saw him lock down the right guard position only to then become a liability.

Round 5
155th overall

RB Karlos Williams

Most scouting write-ups for Williams were likely titled “Talented but Character Issues,” something that now seems prophetic. Williams impressed during his rookie preseason, and quickly became the team’s second option behind LeSean McCoy. Despite seeing limited action, Williams had multiple 100-yard games his rookie season and scored nine touchdowns, tying an NFL record for consecutive touchdowns by a rookie, in the process. The next offseason things started to go downhill. First, he showed up for OTAs, minicamp, and training camp massively overweight. Then, he was suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. That infraction probably led to his release from the team in late August.

Verdict: Minor Miss

A tale of lost potential, it’s not wrong to say that Karlos Williams ate himself out of the NFL. Sometimes, character is just as important a trait in a prospect as athletic talent.

Round 6
188th overall

LB Tony Steward

Tearing two ACLs in College, Steward was an injury risk, but might’ve been one worth taking if he could stay healthy. Things didn’t necessarily work out that way however, with Steward dealing with an MCL injury and being placed on IR with a back injury in December. The team decided to release the backup linebacker in only his second year.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Sometimes, injured players stay injured. In a league where your best ability is availability, Steward’s body may have been just too far gone from the start.

Round 6
194th overall

TE Nick O’Leary

A productive but athletically dreadful tight end, O’Leary made the team through his adaptability for Greg Roman’s scheme and sheer grit. His role as the team’s primary backup to Charles Clay ensured a steady amount of snaps, with a culmination in 2017. That season, he contributed 22 receptions for 322 yards and two touchdowns. In 2018, with undrafted free agent Jason Croom being a superior option in the passing game, O’Leary was cut in training camp.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Seeing at least some production throughout his Bills career, the sixth-round selection of O’Leary wasn’t exactly as wasted as some of the previous names on this list.

Round 7
234th overall

WR Dezmin Lewis

Immediately touted as a seventh-round steal, the 6’4”, 214-lb Lewis was expected to carve out a backup role for himself after some development. After an essentially redshirt rookie year, Lewis exited 2016 OTAs and minicamp with a lot of hype from both reporters and coaches. He never delivered on that praise in training camp though, inevitably being cut and relegated to the practice squad. The team brought him in to compete again in 2017, but he never was able to crack the roster.

Verdict: Minor Miss

Guys that are Lewis’s physical dimensions always deserve a shot in the late rounds. This time, it didn’t work out for the team, but it was a risk worth taking.