Gilmore's jersey will be #27 with the Bills. (Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE)

Grading The 2012 Buffalo Bills Draft

Apr 27, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix and first round pick cornerback Stephon Gilmore and head coach Chan Gailey hold a jersey during the press conference at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

Time to grade out this year’s draft by summarizing each pick… Did the Bills draft wisely or did they take a step back by going with Nix’s “best player available” approach.  Let’s take a look!

Round 1 –  Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina.  For 3 years, Buddy has been clear to all of us that his intentions with the first pick are the best player available that can come in and contribute right away.  In this year’s draft, Gilmore was that guy. With the WR and TE talent inside the AFC East, in my opinion, Gilmore was a no brainer. Mike Mayock’s take, “This is one of my favorite players in the draft.”   Gilmore will turn into our #1 cover guy more sooner than later. Grade A

Round 2 – Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia.  Nix got “his” guy in the second round when many mocks had him pulling the trigger with the 10th pick.  The prognosticators all see Glenn as a massive guard with excellent potential.  Mayock states, “I don’t think he’s got left tackle feet, and he could be a Pro Bowl guard if the Bills ever decide to move him inside.”  Nix and Gailey will start him out at left tackle.  The best choice in my opinion.  Grade A-

Round 3 – T.J. Graham, WR, N.C. State.  The first surprise of this year’s draft.  Nix made it clear he believed this year’s draft was deep in WR talent.  By this time, WR’s were coming off the board at a fast rate.  Nix traded a 7th rounder to move up two spots to grab Graham.  He is “lightning quick” in the same mold as Roscoe Parrish.  Roscoe could never stay healthy and Gailey loves a fast slot receiver to create mismatches.  Mayock says, “I had him going in the 7th Round. He can fly though.”  Grade B-

Round 4 – Nigel Bradham, OLB, Florida State.  Desperate for linebacker depth, Nix and the Bills drafted Bradham.  At 6’2″, 241 lbs., he gives the Bills the opportunity to groom a player behind Morrison.  Just like the Bills did last year with Kelvin Sheppard.  Bradham led Florida State in tackles for 3 years and with 4.64 speed, could very well keep up with the likes of Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Keller.  Good value with this pick.  Bucky Brooks’ thoughts, “Bradham will compete for playing time.  He brings speed and explosiveness as an outside linebacker.”  Grade B

Round 4 – Ron Brooks, CB, LSU.  With the immense amount of CB talent at LSU, Brooks had a difficult time getting on the field until his senior year.  Fortunately for the Bills, even with a small body of work, Nix saw enough to make him the second pick in the 4th round.  He may only be 5’10″, but with 4.37 speed, Brooks could be a “diamond in the rough” in the Justin Rogers mold.  Bucky Brooks says, “Brooks is an underrated cover corner.  He possesses movement skills to handle slot receivers.”  Grade B-

Round 5 – Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State.  Nix stays consistent with large offensive linemen in the 5th round.  At 6’5″ and 320 lbs., Sanders has a good chance to unseat Sam Young as the Bills swing tackle.  Bucky Brooks’ thoughts, “He has the experience on both sides of the line and that could enable him to get a jersey each week as an active player.”  Grade C+

Round 5 – Tank Carder, ILB, TCU.  Buddy and Chan liked Tank so much that they brought him to 1 Bills Drive in April as one of their allotted 30 pre draft visits.  They obviously liked what they saw.  Versatile player that can play all three linebacker positions.  I really like this pick.  He will bring his passion to the field every day in practice and on Sundays.  Bucky Brooks’ take, “He actively hunts runners between the tackles and his fantastic feel for the game could give him a chance to find a role in Buffalo’s defense.”  Grade B-

Round 6 – Mark Asper, OG, Oregon.  Did I mention earlier about Nix’s love for large offensive lineman?  At 6’6″ and 319 lbs., Nix is attempting to create the largest pound for pound offensive line in the NFL.  With his advanced age (27 years old) and experience at 4 positions on the offensive line, this pick was an easy choice.  Nix loves offensive linemen who can step in at several positions.  Bucky states, “Asper flashes the ability to move defenders off the ball, but he is at his best when working at angles.”  Grade C

Round 7 – John Potter, K, Western Michigan.  I completely understand that Buddy likes to create competition at all positions in training camp, but we just resigned Rian Lindell to a lengthy and expensive contract.  If Potter has a strong leg and we have a spot on the roster for a kickoff specialist in the December winds at the Ralph, I’m content with this compensatory pick.  Bucky says, “If he outshines the competition, Potter could earn a role as a specialist.”  Grade C-

Overall, I graded the Bills draft at a B.  Nix and Gailey made a point this year to work on depth at weak positions.  After a 5-2 start last year, injuries proved to be costly with a 1-8 finish.  I appreciate that we have a management group that acknowledged that and made strides to fill the backup holes we had last season.

What do you think Bills Fans?  What grade would you grade the draft this year?

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  • LifetimeBillsFan

    For Now, I Give Nix An A-
    A week ago, a lot of Bills fans here and elsewhere were arguing about whether the Bills should use the # 10 pick in the 1st Round to pick Cordy Glenn over Reilly Reiff, et al if Matt Kalil was off the board already. Call it luck if you will, but Buddy Nix and the Bills made their decision between Glenn and Jonathan Martin at # 41 in the second round. When you get a guy that you were debating about taking in the first round in the second round you’ve done well.
    The same could be said of getting Zebrie Sanders in the 5th round. A lot of people were projecting Sanders as a guy that the Bills might end up picking in the second round if they took either a DB, LB or WR in the first round. True, Sanders is a raw prospect who will need work in order to develop into a NFL starter at OT, but to get a guy with that much physical talent and potential in the 5th round is a coup.
    Nigel Bradham and Tank Carder were two OLBs that people were talking about as possibilities for the Bills in the 4th round if they addressed LT, CB and WR with their first three picks (regardless of the order). Getting one of the two would have been seen as a good move. If that was the case, then, getting both of them can’t be seen as anything other than very good.
    The fact that it appears that Nix reached on T.J.Graham in the third round to fill the team’s need at WR, however, has to be given major consideration as a possible negative. And, my initial reaction—not having been able to watch the draft—was to see it as a major negative. But, then I did a little ‘homework’ on the guy and on the way that the draft progressed and my negativity lessened a fair amount.
    In many ways, Graham is like Cordy Glenn and Zebrie Sanders: a guy with outstanding physical capabilities and a lot of potential who is still raw and developing at his position, but has the potential to develop into a big-time player if he can learn how to better use his physical abilities at the NFL level, but still can help the team if even as he is developing. Ross Brooks falls into this category as well. Graham is also a lot like David Clowney—when he came out of college and perhaps even now.
    Like Clowney, even if he doesn’t catch a pass—or only catches half the passes thrown to him, Graham has the kind of speed that defenses have to respect. Having seen what Clowney did for the Jets when he was with them—opening up the underneath routes for J. Cotchery and the middle for B.Edwards even though he wasn’t a major factor as a target himself—a guy like Graham can help the Bills immediately, even as he is developing as a receiver himself. And, now that he’s not going to be a track-man, there’s a pretty fair possibility that Graham will actually be able to develop more as a WR. At this point, he can help the team and has a lot of upside.
    Looking at the way the draft progressed, I’m not sure that the Bills could have done better in addressing their need for a speed receiver by the time that they picked in the 3rd round. I know that Graham was projected as a 6th or 7th round pick. But, by the time the Bills picked in the 3rd round, I’m really not sure that there was a speed receiver left on the board with as much upside as Graham. Yes, there were some more polished receivers and even some other speed receivers still available, but none with the same kind of speed as Graham who weren’t already nearly finished products that were that much more productive on the college level. If a raw prospect and a nearly finished product have roughly the same speed and production, which one has the greater upside? The raw prospect. And, in this case, it was Graham who Mel Kiper told the Buffalo News recorded a 4.35 40-yard time at The Combine–which is seriously fast for a WR.
    Could Buddy Nix gotten a better WR prospect? Yes. But, only by either passing on Glenn in the second round or by trading up into the late second round. Did Nix panic in trading up for Graham? Maybe. But, when Jairus Wright of Arkansas was taken by Philly, Graham was the best speed receiver left on the board in terms of upside. M. Sanu might have been rated higher, but I watched a lot of Sanu at Rutgers and wasn’t impressed with his potential as a “game-breaker”—I have as many questions about Sanu’s hands as others have about Graham’s. Greg Childs of Arkansas and Tommy Streeter of Miami? More polished, but not really more productive. Who else?
    So, I still mark-down Nix on the Graham pick, but not as much as I would have otherwise. And, the half point deduction that I give him for the Graham pick is offset by getting Glenn, Bradham and Carder and Sanders at a discount value-wise.

  • LifetimeBillsFan

    My take on the Brooks pick was similar in some ways to my take on the Graham pick with one big exception: Buddy Nix did make the point that the DBs from Alabama and LSU are particularly well-trained when he was talking about CBs before the draft. He has a point. And, Brooks, like Graham, is a former track-man with superb speed (4.37 40-yard time). Cornerbacks with that kind of speed are an asset, especially when they are coming from a system that trains them well. Brooks could be an excellent addition, with a year under his belt, as a possible third or fourth cornerback after McGee and Florence are gone. I certainly can’t argue with that and don’t mark-down Nix for making this pick.
    If the draft had ended there, I would have given Buddy Nix and the Bills an A for their efforts. But, it didn’t. And, I had some, slight objections to their picks in the last two rounds.
    I can see taking an additional offensive lineman in the 6th round—especially one from Oregon, which had a good offensive line and has produced some decent NFL offensive linemen—although I expected and would have preferred that the Bills address a different position there. The way I interpret this pick is that Buddy Nix is concerned about the future of the interior of the Bills offensive line—more concerned perhaps than many Bills fans are. And, I can’t argue with his concern: with Wood’s injury history, the Bills are one play away from being very thin at center and it’s going to be very hard for the Bills to keep Levitire, Wood, Urbik and Rinehardt over the next two offseasons—it’s likely that they will lose at least one, if not two of those four interior linemen to free agency. So, even if Sanders or Glenn ends up playing inside and/or Micheal Jasper develops into a decent offensive guard, the Bills will still need more depth in the interior offensive line. So, while I don’t love this pick, I also don’t absolutely hate it.
    I was far more upset with the 7th round pick because I was really hoping that the Bills would use it on Kellen Moore. A kicker? Why?! The more I thought about it, though, the less I came to hate it. Rian Lindell has developed into an excellent kicker for the Bills, but he is coming back from injury. And, while it would be hard for a rookie kicker to beat out a fully healthy Lindell, it’s hard to know just how the injury might have impacted Lindell, not just physically, but mentally. Then, I read that this kid booms the ball into the end zone regularly on kickoffs. In today’s NFL, that’s a huge asset—because if you can consistently force the opposition to start drives at or inside the 20, statistically the odds are very favorable for your defense. And, Lindell has never been great at forcing touchbacks on his kickoffs. Can the kid match a post-injury Lindell’s accuracy on field goals and extra points? Who knows. But, given the strength of his leg on kickoffs, I guess it’s worth giving him a chance to show whether he can—or at least get close enough to force the Bills to keep him over Lindell. We’ll see. But, given the Bills’ record in developing players taken in the 7th round in recent years, I still have to mark Nix down a bit for this pick.
    So, all told, I mark down Buddy Nix and the Bills a half point for their 6th and 7th round picks and give them the A-.
    The fact that the Bills didn’t take a QB, even in the later rounds, tells me that they’ve decided to build the strongest team that they can before bringing in their QB of the future. Some teams draft a QB and build their team around him. That approach has worked for a number of teams. Other teams build up the team first so that it can better support a rookie QB when they finally draft their franchise QB. That approach has worked for teams as well. There’s no “right way” or “wrong way” to do it so long as you get a true franchise QB when you draft one. But, the second way is safer because there have been more than a couple of cases of capable young franchise QB prospects being ruined by not having a good offensive line or supporting cast around them and being a wreck by the time the team gets strong enough to finally start winning.
    It’s obvious now that the Bills have chosen to go this second route. With this draft, the Bills are now in position to have a pretty strong team this year. With an additional year of experience, the team is still young enough to be ready to have a young franchise QB come in and still be able to compete as he “gets the kinks out” of his game.
    I thought that the Bills would wait until next year to draft their QB of the future before the draft. The fact that they didn’t even take a QB prospect in the late rounds of this draft tells me that the Bills will look to take their potential franchise QB in next year’s draft. There are at least four QBs who should be in next year’s draft who enter this season with more potential than Ryan Tannehill has now. Depending on what happens during the course of this college season, there will be at least three potential franchise QB prospects in next year’s draft and possibly even more.
    If the Bills have the kind of season that we expect them to have, they will have to trade up to get one of them in next year’s draft, but it may actually cost them less to get the third or fourth of these prospects than it cost Washington to move up a couple of spots to get RGIII. And, they will end up with a better prospect than Tannehill or any of the other QBs taken after him in this year’s draft. [NOTE: that’s no guarantee that the prospect they get will end up becoming a true franchise QB in the NFL—because no one knows who will become a true franchise QB until they play in the NFL for a couple of seasons—it’s just a matter of how they are rated as a prospect coming out of college]
    So, I can’t and didn’t mark down Buddy Nix for not drafting a QB in this year’s draft. I know that a lot of Bills fans wanted the team to upgrade the position and are unhappy that they didn’t in this draft. But, I think I understand what Nix is doing and how he’s approaching things and I can’t disagree with what he has done either. Now, if the Bills don’t look to take a QB in next year’s draft, well, that will be a different story…..
    For now, though, I think that Buddy Nix did a pretty good job with this draft. The players he selected should make the team stronger and a couple of them could become real big-time players if they continue to develop once they get to the NFL.