NFL Draft 2012: Breaking Down Buffalo Bills' Draft Luncheon Press Conference
GM Buddy Nix shared some thoughts regarding the Bills’ draft plans and philosophy, while Assistant GM and Director of Player Personnel Doug Whaley and Director of College Scouting Chuck Cook offered insight on some of this year’s top prospects.
Here is a quick recap and some analysis of today’s presser.
*Note: all quotes and references come from the press conference video link, which can be found here.
On Trading Down from Pick 10
Buddy Nix didn’t surprise anybody by stating the obvious—that it takes two to tango, so to speak, when it comes to trading down in the draft. Though he did not rule out the possibility, it might not happen if there’s a playmaker still on the board.
According to Nix, the Bills will be targeting a difference-maker at pick 10. He acknowledged that his and Chan Gailey’s draft philosophy isn’t necessarily to find a starter at 10, but rather to acquire a player who can be a game-changer.
This statement echoes the draft selection of running back C.J. Spiller, whom the Bills took at ninth overall in 2010. Buffalo already had Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch at the position, but that didn’t matter. Bills brass decided to nab the former Clemson star because they felt he could be a dynamic weapon in Gailey’s offense.
Nix said that the team feels no pressure to get a “starter” at No. 10, and the Spiller pick adds credence to that.
On Offensive Tackles
When asked about the Bills’ left tackle situation, Nix stated that a high percentage of the NFL’s top left tackles are drafted in the Top 10. He noted that most of the starters and Pro Bowlers in the league come from those high draft picks.
Considering the lack of depth at the position on Buffalo’s current roster, it’s no secret that Nix and co. will be looking to add players.
However, while Nix conceded that offensive tackle is a position of need, he also gave Chris Hairston a vote of confidence. Per Nix, the Bills believe in Chris Hairston, and he went on to say the following: “He may not be the prettiest foot athlete, but he’s got so much length that he can protect the back side. We feel like he can do that.”
Buffalo will likely try to add two more tackles considering Sam Young is coming off a knee surgery.
Furthermore, there’s no reason to rule out a left tackle at pick 10, as Nix stated that left tackles do qualify as playmakers. The reason for this, he said, is that blindside blockers are often left out on an island to fend for themselves, so they have to step up and make plays under pressure.
Doug Whaley offered his opinion on some of the top options for Buffalo. He is high on Jonathan Martin’s intelligence and versatility; he values the system at Iowa and believes Riley Reiff should be tried at left tackle initially; and he loves the size and athleticism of Cordy Glenn.
Whaley went on to discuss what the team values in left tackles versus right tackles. On the left side, he looks for players with length and range who can handle fast rushers off the edge. On the right side, the blockers are usually more physical and aggressive, and they excel in run blocking more than pass protection.
On Drafting Quarterbacks
Nix said that, ideally, he would like to draft one quarterback every season, although he admitted that doing so is a luxury. Teams need to be stable and deep across the board to be able do so, but he believes the team is getting closer to that stage.
With so much value placed on the position, Nix feels that it’s important to take a signal-caller every year to see if one of them can blossom into a potential star. He and Chuck Cook were asked about a few of this year’s prospects in particular.
Regarding B.J. Coleman, Nix said that he saw him in high school, so he certainly has somewhat of a history with the Chattanooga product. Coleman has prototypical size and a strong arm for the position, and Nix suggested that he believes he has the ability to make a run at being a franchise quarterback.
Cook seemed high on Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler, highlighting his advantageous height and solid arm. With subdued excitement, he said the team likes what it sees in Osweiler, who doesn’t have a great body of work but has the tangibles to be a good prospect with a lot of upside. It’s worth mentioning that Cook singled out the quarterback’s “ability to see the field” as one of this strengths.
On the other side of the spectrum is Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson. Unlike Osweiler, Wilson is quite short but he does boast a pretty impressive resume and body of work. There aren’t many passers under 6’0” in the NFL, but Cook admits sometimes it comes down to heart, which Wilson has.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see any of these players taken by the Bills in next week’s draft.
On the Linebacker Position
With Buffalo moving to a 4-3 base defense, Nix admitted that if a player can play one outside position he can probably play the other. Usually, players with more height line up on the strong side while players with more speed take the weak side, but Nix made it clear that those criteria aren’t set in stone for the Bills.
It looks like veteran Kirk Morrison will get the early nod to start at Sam, while Kelvin Sheppard will take the middle and Nick Barnett will handle the Will. But behind these guys, Buffalo needs quality depth.
According to Nix, the Bills think Boston College’s Luke Kuechly can play all three positions in the 4-3.
Kuechly highlights this year’s linebacker class, and he’s received a lot of praise from evaluators and analysts like Mike Mayock, among others. With such a versatile and well-rounded skill set, it’s safe to say that the linebacker certainly fits the criteria of Buffalo taking a playmaker at No. 10.
Other linebacker prospects that were mentioned included Nebraska’s Lavonte David and Miami’s Sean Spence. Doug Whaley noted that in the 4-3, size isn’t necessarily a huge factor, though size has been a big factor for both of these prospects in the offseason.
David is an exceptionally instinctive outside linebacker, according to Whaley. He offers an “added bonus of detaching from the box” and an ability to cover receivers and tight ends.
Spence, on the other hand, plays stronger in the box, and if he were two inches taller he’d probably best fit as Mike ‘backer. The former Hurricane stops the run very well and is “a heck of a football player.”
Overall, David appears to have higher marks in coverage while Spence grades out better in stopping the run. We’ll see if either of these guys end up bringing their talents to Buffalo.
On the Wide Receiver Position
The wide receiver position is very deep in this year’s draft. However, it’s also a pretty deep position on the current roster.
Buffalo has a lot of intriguing options already hoping to step up as the answer to the No. 2 wideout problem, but they all come with question marks.
David Nelson is penciled in as the slot receiver. Meanwhile, Donald Jones, Marcus Easley, Ruvell Martin, Derek Hagan and David Clowney all have talent and downfield ability. But none has proven it with consistent play.
As a result, the Bills want to add competition at wideout with someone who can challenge those guys to step up (or to step up himself) and be that outside complement to Steve Johnson they’ve been lacking.
The team’s goal, which probably goes without saying, is to get to the point where there isn’t a drop off between the first-team guys and the second-team guys. In other words, the position should be deep enough and consistent enough that if one player goes down, the machine and momentum can keep going on offense.
A couple of players were brought up in the press conference, namely Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd and Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill.
Chuck Cook described Floyd as big, physical, strong-handed receiver who has great body control and a lot of upside. In general, these are the things most fans have been hearing about over the last few weeks.
Meanwhile, the scouts and coaches were all very impressed with Stephen Hill and his rare physical abilities. The speed he offers at 6’4” is uncommon, and his athleticism offers a lot to an offense. The challenge here, according to Cook, is trying to balance Hill’s physical abilities with the fact that those abilities were not fully utilized in college. He didn’t really have a chance to be “running the route tree,” but he does have the potential to do it at the next level.
Floyd is widely considered to be a Top-10 pick, while Hill has boosted his stock into first-round territory with an impressive offseason.
But with a deep class, Buffalo could wind up taking someone else later in the draft.
On the Cornerback Position
Another deep position in this year’s draft is cornerback. And it’s a good thing, because Nix acknowledged that the team is looking to add depth by using one or two of their 10 picks on addressing the secondary.
But Buffalo not only wants depth; it also wants to find a shutdown guy.
While the improved defensive line should help the Bills’ pass defense next year, there’s still a need to improve the team’s group of defensive backs. Nix admitted that veteran Terrence McGee’s injury history plays a part in that, since there is a big drop-off if someone like him goes down.
Leodis McKelvin’s contract situation (being in the final year of his rookie deal) adds to the need, too, though Nix stated he hopes the former first-rounder plays “lights out” in 2012—perhaps a reference to Shawne Merriman.
South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore was one player discussed at the luncheon. Chuck Cook called him “a good, strong, sturdy corner that can press, run in the hip pocket and make plays.”
On Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, Cook pointed out that the 6’2” corner comes from a great scheme where a solid front seven helps the secondary take more gambles. In addition, the team likes that Kirkpatrick is physical and can support well at the line.
Josh Robinson is another name that came up, as Cook claimed he “ran like a deer” in pre-draft events. Though Robinson has upside and showed flashes of dominating at Central Florida, he’s still developing as a sure-fire starter at the next level.
Finally, Cook was asked about Brandon Boykin out of Georgia, who offers kick return ability along with a physical style of play. He said the former Bulldog has a great chance of being a solid contributor in the NFL.
With a lot of depth in the middle rounds of the draft, Buffalo would still be able to find some quality corners if they decide to not to address the secondary in Round 1.