In recapping and trying to come up with a grade for the performance of the Bills in the 2012 NFL Draft, I have set aside my personal preferences and looked at it from either a team's need or best player available standpoint. In order to do this, I used what I consider to be the most trustworthy source of information, Pro Football Weekly's 2012 Draft Preview, along with what I may have seen during the 2011 College Football season. This is what I've come up with.
Round 1: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina.
I really felt had he been there, the Bills would have taken Luke Kuechly, the LB out of Boston College. Regrettably, Carolina made that point moot by taking him one pick before the Bills at No. 9. The selection of Gilmore made sense, for two reasons. One is that the Bills had a need at the position. The other is that playing in a division where in order to ascend, Buffalo will have to be able to defeat New England and nullify Tom Brady, you have to have a good secondary.
As I have said here before, I much prefer the Giants' proven blueprint to success against Brady, which is to pressure him and knock him down repeatedly, using only the front four and an occasional blitz. But having solid corners is important as well. So although I would've preferred either Dontari Poe or Fletcher Cox, I can't argue with the merit of the pick. For Round 1, I give the Bills a solid A.
Round 2: Cordy Glenn, OLG-OLT, Georgia
No argument, Buffalo desperately needs a Left Tackle. But the pick of Glenn is a gamble, even though as a prospect, Pro Football Weekly graded him as the third best offensive lineman available in the draft. So why is he a gamble? Well, Glenn has trouble with speed rushers. Look back at how he fared against Boise State last September. He didn't do very well.
There are scouts who say Glenn could be more suited to move inside to guard, or perhaps play right tackle in the NFL. Buffalo already has a right tackle and doesn't need another guard. I would have loved either Mychal Kendricks, the LB out of Cal, or Jerel Worthy, the DE out of Michigan State, based on defeating the Bills' chief tormentor, Tom Brady. Still, the need for a left tackle looms large over the Bills, and Glenn was rated as a first-round talent. Thus, I give Buffalo a B+ for Round 2.
Round 3: T.J. Graham, WR, North Carolina State
This is the first pick where my immediate response was, "Huh? What?? Why'd they trade up for him?" Graham is a blazer, no disputing that, with a 4.39 40-yard dash to prove it. But he's slight of build (5' 11 3/8'', 188), has very questionable hands and is a poor route runner. Sure he potentially could have a huge impact in the return game, which is why Buffalo drafted him for, but this high, I do not like the pick at all.
A player who graded out as a possible Top-50 pick, Brandon Thompson, the DT out of Clemson, was still on the board. After all the injuries on the Bills' D-line last year, would a little more depth have hurt? Not to mention this would have been the spot to take Russell Wilson, the QB out of Wisconsin. Top it all off with Graham being rated as a late draftable pick, and you have to wonder if this isn't a questionable reach. I give the Bills an F for Round 3.
Round 4: Nigel Bradham, OLB, Florida State
In Round 4 of any draft, teams are going to be looking for depth, gems and special teams players. Any real names left on the board at this point generally have serious injury or personal background questions. Thus, the selection of Bradham is a fit in terms of the latter two categories, depth and special teams.
Bradham is a guy who loves to hit people, and indeed possesses the ability to blow them up. Instinctively as a position player, he is a bit lacking, but that might be something he could be coached on. Still, a player who was rated as having Top-50 potential, Bobby Massie, the OT from Mississippi, was still on the board. Given the Bills' need at that position, I would have liked to have seen Massie as the pick. Passing on that kind of a player is questionable to me, and for that reason I give the Bills a C for Round 4.
Round 5: Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State
Probably fair to say that offensive linemen drafted at this point are projected to be backups, projects or camp bodies. Where Sanders is concerned, having seen him be regularly beaten and rag-dolled a few times at Florida State, I'd say a camp body is about all anyone is going to get out of this guy. With two picks in the round, this is a place to get quality depth and core special teams players.
Someone I liked a lot was Terrell Manning, the OLB out of North Carolina State. He has decent size, plays a position where some depth would be an asset and shows promise as a special teams player. I also liked Shaun Prater, a CB out of Iowa, who could possibly move to safety in the NFL and also possesses the skills and mindset to be an asset on special teams. When a player is picked who represents a project at best and is unlikely to contribute much of anything over guys who could at worst be core special teams players, I'm not satisfied. The Bills receive a D for their first pick in Round 5.
Round 5: Tank Carder, ILB, TCU
Carder brings some of what I like to the table. He has solid football character with good special teams mentality and traits. But he doesn't tackle well, and his durability is questionable. Still, I like going after someone who has a mentality for special teams because those types of players can potentially win a game or two a season. I can't completely overlook the fact that both players I mentioned in grading Sanders were still available at this pick, and both offer a better potential return. For the special teams implications of the pick, I will give the Bills a C for their second pick in Round 5.
Round 6: Mark Asper, ORG, Oregon
All I could say was, "Really?? Seriously?? You've gotta be kidding me, right?" Yes, he helped pave the way for LaMichael James when he led the nation in rushing in 2010 and has outstanding football character, but he is only an average athlete that lacks the ability to reach full potential at the NFL level. Asper is a camp body, nothing more.
B.J. Cunningham, a WR out of Michigan Sate who I liked a bit, was still available. Another available player was Kellen Moore, the QB from Boise State. Marvin McNutt, the WR from Iowa, was also out there. He is raw but talented and could turn out to be a good pro with an opportunity to be coached up. Again, it is a question of whether or not there may have been better talent left on the board at this point of the draft. Better talent was still there, so I am giving the Bills my second F of the draft for Round 6.
Round 7: John Potter, PK, Western Michigan
Once again, I was compelled to ask, "Who?" Potter has a big leg and can produce touchbacks, but with kickoffs having been moved up, touchbacks weren't exactly a rarity in last season's games. Potter also has questionable accuracy from long-distance. I understand Lindell is going to be 35 and is coming off a season-ending injury, but to take a guy who wasn't considered to be anything better than a potential free-agent acquisition with Kellen Moore still available is simply insane to me. Add to the equation his accuracy issues from long distance and the Bills receive their third F from me for Round 7.
Now we come to the final grade. I realize that grading any draft immediately after it takes place is at best ludicrous and at worst invites ridicule. I don't know what any of these players will do when they get NFL coaching. It may bring out qualities in some players that no one thought they had. Some may have been badly misjudged in terms of their talents and abilities while others may turn out to be far less talented than initially believed. However, all anyone who hazards grading a draft at this point in time has to go on is what is presently known about the players in question.
Based upon the averages of the individual grades my overall grade for the Bills 2012 draft is a D+. Some of the draft experts out there have been far more complimentary of the Bills draft than I am being. I am also aware that the majority of the opinions here are far more positive, and that many Bills fans are going to look upon this negatively. To those I will simply respond with this: I am and always will be, for at least as long as they call Buffalo their home, a Bills fan, but I am not going to allow my allegiance to influence me to call anything with my team any other way than as I see it.
With that, I both welcome and invite all your responses and opinions.