To say the least, the Buffalo Bills have not been known for their draft prowess in recent seasons. The names of J.P. Losman, Mike Williams, John McCargo and others still haunt Bills fans every draft weekend. Refreshingly, the general consensus (both according to the experts and our fan poll) is that Buffalo did pretty well this past weekend in the 2011 edition of the draft.
But what does the staff here at BuffaLowDown think? Here’s our opinions on the draft, Marcell Dareus, and if we the Bills could have done better this weekend. (Our friend Jesse Bartolis, lead editor over at nflmocks.com, was also nice enough to share his thoughts.)
*Edit: We’ve added the thoughts of our newest staff writer, Josh Baker. Welcome Josh!
Question 1: What do you think about the selection of Marcell Dareus with the #3 pick? Right call there?
Kevin Haley, Staff Writer: Absolutely the best pick. Dareus was my number one player in the draft. He was the safest pick and at position of need. He should instantly improve the league’s worst rush defense. He has experience in a “pro-style defense” with complex packages playing every single position on the line. In my opinion there were no other possible choices for the Bills at #3. The more you learn about Dareus and the hardships he has endured over the course of his lifetime the more you want to like the guy and see him succeed. I think he will be a dominant force on the field and in the Buffalo community.
Matt Cooper, Staff Writer: While I preferred LSU’s Patrick Peterson (who I viewed as the most talented guy in the class), Marcell Dareus was a great selection for the Bills. He has all the intangibles and he fills two needs: he’s a run stuffer and can also get after the quarterback. His intangibles make him a relatively “safe pick,” because you know he’s going to bring his lunch pail to work everyday. Dareus is the type of guy that shows up when it’s prime time. He was the defensive MVP of the Natty two seasons ago and he was a dominant force in the Capital One Bowl this season. You need a meat-and-potatoes guy in the trenches like that.
Brad Andrews, Editor: Can’t argue with this pick. The Bills are never going to be competitive until the run defense approaches decent, and Dareus was a huge step in the right direction. He’ll fit well in 3-4 and 4-3 looks and will help anchor the Buffalo line for years to come. Peterson was really the only other possible choice, but while he’s a huge talent I think Buffalo made the right call.
Jesse Bartolis, Lead Editor – nflmocks.com: I think ultimately it was the right call because the Bills really need to improve their run defense first and foremost, but it was far from being a sexy pick. A.J. Green and Patrick Peterson were enticing at #3 overall. Had the Bills drafted Peterson at #3 overall they could have gone with a Rush Outside linebacker like Brooks Reed, or better yet even Akeem Ayers. The Bills last year signed Dwan Edwards, and drafted Torell Troup and Alex Carrington in back to back picks. You have to let those guys develop into starters so I was solid with the pick, but would have enjoyed seeing the Bills go with Peterson or Green at 3rd overall.
Josh Baker, Staff Writer: Marcell Dareus is a guy that nobody saw coming until the combine. Before the combine the top three guys people were talking about were AJ Green, Daquan Bowers and Nick Fairley. After seeing him perform on the line drill, he immediately flew up my board and into the #1 overall talk. I knew that he was a perfect fit for the Bills and I was equally sure that Ron Rivera (Panthers Head Coach) or John Elway (Broncos GM) would draft him and we would be stuck with Cam Newton (project QB) or Von Miller (Another pass rush specialist?). Best case scenario for me was that we would break the mold and draft Patrick Peterson. Then, like a ray of sunshine coming from the heavens, people started talking about the Panthers drafting Cam and the Broncos drafting Miller. Still, I wasn’t convinced, with my typical Buffalo pessimism. 8:15 comes around and I’m dancing in my living room. In short, yes Dareus is the best pick. Look at the successful 3-4 defenses in the league. Pittsburgh, 49ers, Patriots… What do they all have? A great NT! Casey Hampton, Aubrayo Franklin, Vince Wilfork. Dareus gives us the foundation to finally have the dangerous, unpredictable defense that we’ve always been one piece away from. Dareus is that piece.
Question 2: Overall, what did you think of the Bills’ draft?
Kevin Haley, Staff Writer: For the most part I was pleased with the Bills draft. They didn’t seem to reach on any players while addressing the their biggest need with the majority of picks. Although I would have loved to see the Bills take Brooks Riley in the 2nd round, I do see the value in Aaron Williams. One of the things I liked about this draft was the guys the Bills did not draft, mainly a QB. My stance is that if you don’t believe the QB you would select has Franchise QB potential then you do not draft him. Good players are available in the 5th, 6th, and 7th and I would rather gain depth at need positions or try to find a small school gem than take a “flyer” QB.
Matt Cooper, Staff Writer: I felt that the Bills had a very solid draft this year, really the best in years. The team addressed pressing needs with good value along the way. Aaron Williams is a guy that needs to develop a bit more consistency, but he should become a very good nickel back at the very least. Kelvin Sheppard has to prove he can overcome his lack of speed, which is why I graded him out to be a good depth pick. However, his passion and instincts may be enough to overcome it and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start down the road. He provides some beef in the front seven, checking in at 250 pounds. Chris Hairston has some upside, especially if he ends up being shifted inside to guard. He’s competitive and intelligent on the field, but doesn’t have the quickest feet or maul on a consistent basis. [For a complete rundown of my analysis, click here.] A recurring theme was that the Bills targeted players with instincts, a competitive nature, and a passion for the game. It appears the Bills are trying to establish their identity.
Brad Andrews, Editor: As Matt said, the Bills seemed to be trying to establish an identity with this draft. The Bills brought in a lot of high-effort, blue collar defensive players, and I loved it. I thought every pick was a solid player (or in the case of final pick Michael Jasper, a worthy risk) at a need position. My one gripe with the draft is the lack of a true pass rusher. Right now the only two rush linebackers who are any sort of threat on the team are Shawne Merriman and Arthur Moats. Yikes.
Jesse Bartolis, Lead Editor – nflmocks.com: Overall it was an interesting and pretty decent draft. As I wrote when I broke it down pick by pick in our 32 teams in 32 days draft grade series, I love the first and third round selections, but some of the picks were a little off for me. I can’t believe they didn’t address an OLB, perhaps they feel very comftorable with where Shawne Merriman’s knee is and maybe even got him in a “special diet” for his training regiment (too cheap a joke?). In any case, I would have approached things a bit differently, but all in all I had a better feel about this draft than most Bills drafts in awhile.
Josh Baker, Staff Writer:
With this draft, Buddy Nix finally lived up to the hype that we all expected when he was hired. In 2010, I for one had visions of LT and Drew Brees dancing through my head. 2010 draft comes along and I’m thinking 9- OT Anthony Davis or DE Jason Pierre-Paul. Nope, CJ. Alright, well then they’ll trade back into the first by trading Marshawn. Nope (traded during the season for a fourth). Alright second round pick. 340 lb DT Terrence Cody. Nope… DT Torell Troup (who we could have gotten even if we’d traded down into the third. I walked away last year shaking my head and thinking that we should have hired Buddy Nix earlier. Buddy Nix seems to have finally gotten into his groove in Buffalo, drafting valuable football players who will fill immediate needs, add depth to critical positions and will make the team better, instead of all diamond-in-the-rough players like last year. I also love the fact that I did not hear Ralph Wilson’s name once throughout the draft process. It hearkens back to the Marv Levy days when Ralph had guys he trusted to make the right decisions and who could take care of the media without him.
Question 3: Excluding Dareus, what do you think was Buffalo’s best pick in the draft?
Kevin Haley, Staff Writer: I really like the selection of Kelvin Sheppard. In his time at LSU the two words I would use to describe him are “tackling machine.” He has good instincts in diagnosing plays and finding a way to the ball carrier. He has the ability to get through the wash and get to the ball. On another note, I don’t know if he is the best pick but Michael Jasper is certainly the most interesting. He has the size to be a great Nose Tackle but the most impressive thing about him is his athletic ability. This video gives fans an idea of his athleticism.
Matt Cooper, Staff Writer: While I liked all three of the aforementioned players, Hairston was probably the best pick. I had him as a 3rd round talent and we received good value for him. Ironically, in going through interviews, Hairston’s coach at Clemson described him as “our Spiller up front,” referencing his football intelligence. He knows his assignments well and he hates losing. I think he has the potential to eventually start.
Brad Andrews, Editor: I liked most of Buffalo’s picks, but I think Johnny White was a steal for Buffalo in the 5th round. (Todd McShay agrees with me.) Running back wasn’t a huge need, but White will contribute on special teams right away and is excellent insurance if Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller struggles or gets hurt. I also think White could earn time as a 3rd down back.
Jesse Bartolis, Lead Editor – nflmocks.com: Kevlin Sheppard in the 3rd round. Some people believe he was a reach, I do not. I think that was good value. He’s also a leader and a good run defender. I think he and Poz (if resigned) could make a very nice run stopping combination. I like Sheppard. Johnny White was one of our favorite sleepers at NFLmocks and probably the best value pick in the Bills draft.
Josh Baker, Staff Writer: I really liked the Aaron Williams pick. CB of need for us and I think Aaron Williams has what it takes to be a big play cornerback. Some people have projected him as a safety, and with Terrence McGee, Drayton Florence, and Leodis McKelvin as our top three CBs, it could play out that way. With him and Jairus Byrd playing safety, we could see a spike in interceptions and broken up passes. On the other hand, we could see one of our CBs traded away or maybe see him provide second down breathers to our other CBs. Steve Mariucci had him on his show called “Game Changers” with Prince Amukamara and at one point in the show Amukamara was praising Williams’ abilities. His body control and playing the ball were his brightest spots and his coverage skills were fantastic. Fantastic Value in the second round.
Question 4: How about worst pick or something you didn’t like about the draft?
Kevin Haley, Staff Writer: The Bills really did not make a move to get any type of edge rusher. Yes, Dareus will help to collapse the pocket, but the Bills are lacking in the pass rush department as well. All great 3-4 defenses have a guy who can get to the QB. As it stands now this is an area the Bills are lacking. However, with free agency after the draft (assuming there is a signing period) this may be an area for the Bills to address.
Matt Cooper, Staff Writer: I believe our worst pick will prove to be inside linebacker Chris White from Mississippi State. Buddy wanted to keep adding some size to our corps, but I don’t feel White was a draftable talent. Despite his build, I feel he’s not as tough as he looks. He’s disappointing to watch on tape, because you expect him to be a much more physical player.
Brad Andrews, Editor: I wasn’t wild about the Da’Norris Searcy or Chris White picks, but I don’t think either selection was awful. Depth was needed at safety, so the Searcy pick is understandable. White is lucky our inside linebackers are so bad, or he might not make the squad. Both guys will get their opportunity though, so we’ll see how it goes.
Jesse Bartolis, Lead Editor – nflmocks.com: I didn’t like the second round pick of Aaron Williams. I’m not that high on him, and I also think they left a lot of other good players on the board. They do need to upgrade at cornerback but the deepest position in the draft was cornerback and at that point I thought there were better values. I would have preferred the Bills to take Brooks Reed, or Akeem Ayers and possibly even Jabaal Sheard, who were all 1st round caliber (I’m actually not a Brooks Reed is a first round talent guy).
Josh Baker, Staff Writer: There was one guy we could/should’ve have gotten that we didn’t and one I would have liked to see us trade up for. I wanted us to trade back into the second round or one of the early third round spots to go up and get Dontay Moch out of Nevada. This guy was one of most fiery, high motor players who could play the run, rush the quarterback and drop back into coverage equally well. I understand that they coached up Kelvin Sheppard in the Senior Bowl and that they were drafting for value (keeping picks), but I still would have liked to see us get this fantastic player.
I also think that we should have gotten Virgil Green with our sixth pick instead of LB Chris White. Virgil Green had a fantastic career at Nevada both as a blocker and as a dangerous receiver. He broke tackles, made big third down receptions and blocked like a lineman. In the sixth round, he would have been fantastically valuable to the Bills’ organization, especially since the Bills highlighted this position as one that they were going to fill and the fact that they had scouted him heavily.
Question 5: All things considered, what grade would you give the Bills for their 2011 selections?
Kevin Haley, Staff Writer: Overall I say this draft is a B+. This BIlls did not reach or take a project pick in the first round, which has been something that has killed their draft classes in recent years. I am not a fan of the Da’Norris Searcy selection in the 4th round. I think that with Williams in the 2nd round the defensive backfield was covered or at least could have waited a few more rounds. Clint Boling and Sam Acho were both available to the Bills in the 4th round. The fourth round pick was the only pick I had an issue with and I hope that Da’Norris proves me wrong.
Matt Cooper, Staff Writer: I’d give the Bills an B+. While they passed on talented players with what I view to be some questionable picks in Da’Norris Searcy and Chris White, they really had a handful of good picks over the course of the three-day event. There is some real potential to start down the road for a few of the picks and the class includes a handful of guys who should contribute early. One of my favorite picks is the one the team didn’t make, in not forcing the issue and taking a QB for the sake of it. I’m still very high on now #2 QB Levi Brown and I’m excited about the opportunity that looks to be presenting itself for him this season. He’ll get significantly more reps and experience as the main backup.
Brad Andrews, Editor: A solid B from me. None of these players will make the Bills contenders on their own, but I love the type of players most of these guys are. The Bills desperately needed a shot of toughness on the defense, and I think the team got it. Another positive is that I feel almost every draftee will have a shot to be a major contributor this season. The 7th round selection of Michael Jasper has the possibility (a remote one, I admit) to make the Bills look like absolute geniuses. If not, I’d like to thank the Bills for drafting him anyway, as his selection sent a flood of traffic to this site as people looked for information on him. Thanks!
Jesse Bartolis, Lead Editor – nflmocks.com: B+ I think. But that’s because I’m a player who values value over needs and I’m kind of a tough grader. I liked the Dareus pick, the Kevlin Sheppard pick and the Johnny White pick. I also liked the Chris Hairston pick which I haven’t mentioned yet. That was a good pick. I disliked the Williams pick and the Searcy pick.
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