Buddy Nix took over as general manager for the Buffalo Bills in time to pilot the 2010 draft and took it on the chin for adding an entire class that has done little to help the team win games outside of a good month by CJ Spiller last year—and he was a top-10 pick. The 2011 class was a major recovery, with Marcell Dareus, Aaron Williams and Kelvin Sheppard all looking like stalwart starters in the making entering their second season. What can we learn about what Nix learned by looking at the 2012 class?
Nix Trusts His Talent Evaluators
Which makes sense, because he was originally hired by the team as a national scout in 2009. This is apparent in the selection of Cordy Glenn at No. 41, strictly as a left tackle. The draftnik community was split on whether Glenn would be better as a guard or right tackle, but very few had left tackle as his optimal position.
T.J. Graham has speed, but his football skills were subject of great debate in the draftnik community. Nix saw Graham as adding the much-needed element of speed to the wide receiver corps and took him three or four rounds before most had him going.
The Bills Like the Security of Taking Players From Big Schools
Every single player they chose was from a BCS big six conference, except for a seventh-round kicker and Tank Carder, a linebacker from TCU, which is arguably one of the premier programs in the country. The SEC was the source of three of the first four picks, including Gilmore, Glenn and fourth-round cornerback Ron Brooks, who didn't even start at times while at LSU because of the presence of top-10 picks Morris Claiborne and Patrick Peterson.
Looking back at the successful 2011 class brings this into focus. The three big successes came from Texas, Alabama and LSU, three of the biggest pro player factories in college football.
Nix Values Role Players Highly
Gilmore and Glenn project as every-down starters, but the next three picks were players that will perform specialized roles for the team. Graham will likely stretch defenses in three and four-wide sets in addition to providing speed in the return game. Fourth-round linebacker Nigel Bradham projects as a new breed coverage linebacker who takes the field mainly on passing downs. Brooks projects as a classic slot corner.
The Bills are far from alone in embracing the movement towards specialists versus having 22 players who almost never leave the field, but the big investment in players who may never even start shows the importance of specialists, especially those that can defend the pass in a division that has been ruled by Tom Brady for over a decade.