The Buffalo Bills, on paper, just pieced together the best draft class I can ever remember.
For a team that, over the last decade, has been infamous for draft blunders and general failure, I couldn’t be happier with the group of 2012 selections.
I’m still in utter disbelief with some of the prospects that were available when the Bills went on the clock in each round, and I’m happy with the positions the team addressed.
Let me expand on the surprising and unfamiliar state of relief I’m in following a Bills’ draft.
First, Stephon Gilmore, cornerback from South Carolina. While you’ve likely read a few scouting profiles on him and know the little things that make him apparently great, I’m more enamored by the entire package.
He started 40 straight games for the Gamecocks in college football’s best conference. He’s got ideal size at 6’0” and 193 pounds. He’s an aggressive and experienced blitzer. He’s competitive fighting for the football in the air and had eight interceptions during his three year career—a respectable number. He loves contact and excels against the run. No injury history.
Gilmore seems like a down to earth football player—a guy worried about becoming the best he can be more than anything else.
With Gilmore, everything you’d want in a complete cornerback checks out.
No, cornerback wasn’t the direction I would have gone in Round 1, but Buffalo deemed he was the best available player and made him the pick.
I’m fine with that.
Then, inexplicably, Georgia offensive tackle Cordy Glenn fell to the Bills at No. 41 in the second round. I’ve been adamant that the media has created Buffalo’s dying need for offensive line talent, but I was never against the Bills taking a player who had franchise left tackle potential.
At 6’5” and 345 pounds Glenn has ideal size to play on the edge and still has upside to become better and more dominating than he was in college.
Some people had Glenn to Buffalo at No. 10 overall.
I even thought it was a distinct possibility.
The value was through the roof.
Yes, he struggled at left tackle at the beginning of the season for the Bulldogs in 2011, but by all accounts, he significantly improved by season’s end.
The T.J. Graham pick in Round 3, on the surface, was a bit of a reach. The concept of a reach is a little iffy to me, but I understand why people may think taking a relatively raw wide receiver so early was a little questionable.
However, we can all agree the Bills needed to add speed to their wide receiving corps, right?
Well, that’s precisely what Graham brings to the field.
I’m not the only one that thinks so.
Respected draft guru Greg Cosell tweeted the following about Graham:
"Graham most vertically explosive WR in draft. Both short area burst + top end speed"
I’ll take it.
I would have liked the Bills to get a receiver earlier with legitimate No. 1 wideout potential, but settling for “the most vertically explosive WR in the draft” is good by me.
Obviously Cosell’s opinion isn’t the only opinion that counts, but even if he’s slightly exaggerating Graham’s strengths, it’s quite obvious that Buffalo now has a guy to stretch the field and threaten opposing secondaries deep.
I was hoping for outside linebacker depth sometime between Rounds 3-5 if the team didn’t snag Luke Kuechly in Round 1, and they did so with Nigel Bradham from Florida State.
He seems to be an ultra athletic guy who’s good in coverage and isn’t afraid to lay the lumber when delivering hits.
His instincts aren’t off the charts, but for a fourth-rounder, I like his promise.
Ron Brooks, the cornerback from LSU, might be my favorite pick in the 2012 draft class. He played in the shadow of Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu with the Tigers, but really has what it takes to be a great cornerback in the NFL.
Well, he’s 6’0” and 190 pounds, so the size is there. He’s got NFL bloodlines, as his dad played wide receiver for the Chicago Bears.
Because he wasn’t a primary starter, his stats don’t jump out at you, but he exudes athleticism. Brooks ran a 4.40 40-yard dash at this year’s combine and had a 38-inch vertical.
He had three interceptions during his career with the Tigers and returned them all for touchdowns.
I was stunned he lasted until Round 4.
Again, great value.
Then, Zebrie Sanders, the offensive tackle from Florida State, in the fifth round. He’s not a Day One starter, but you aren’t typically going to find those in Round 5. I love his size, (6’6”/320 pounds) experience and long arms.
Buffalo has a history developing offensive tackles, but none have had the overall skill set Sanders possesses.
Then Tank Carder, the linebacker from TCU.
He’s the two-time defending Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, and provides linebacking depth—something I always believed the Bills desperately needed.
Mark Asper, the offensive guard from Oregon, was the team’s sixth-round pick. Interesting story here. I’ve got a friend who’s an avid Oregon fan that filled me in on this guy.
He’s quick by collegiate linemen standards due to the up-tempo zone scheme employed at Oregon, but my buddy told me he’s actually one of the bigger and slower guys the Ducks had last season. However, he also said he’s a smart football player and can play any position besides center.
Round 6 seems like the perfect time for a swing offensive lineman.
If there was any doubt about the team’s offensive line depth, that doubt’s been erased.
There was a little frustration on Twitter over the kicker in Round 7, and although I’m not a huge fan of actually drafting a kicker, Buffalo needs one. Rian Lindell rarely kicks the ball into the end zone on kickoffs which can’t be overlooked.
The Bills need teams to start on their own 20 more frequently.
If this Josh Potter kid can do that more often than Lindell, it’s a good thing.
This was all a shock to me because I’ve grown accustom to Buffalo making picks on guys with obvious flaws at positions they don’t need.
Not this year.
They got quality talent at positions that needed upgrades or added depth.
Graham’s the wildcard.
I truly believe Gilmore, Glenn and Brooks will become productive starters.
If Graham can mature as a route-runner and get off press coverage (Stevie, help him out) to become a legitimate deep threat, the Bills draft will go from really good to great.
Did I just write the Bills had a really good draft?