Stephon Gilmore has plenty to smile about after his 2012 rookie season.
High expectations are the key to everything.
With their first season in the books, the Buffalo Bills' 2012 rookie class can look forward to 2013.
As they approach their first offseason, every member of the rookie class has something to work on or improve upon in 2013.
The draft class itself turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag. The first six picks of the draft all made the team in some capacity. The next two picks, Tank Carder and Mark Asper, were cut by the team in late August.
Buffalo's last pick in the 2012 draft, John Potter, was originally cut and then re-signed to the team. He was able to stay on the roster until early November when the team parted ways with him for good.
In regards to the six players that did make the roster, their expectations in 2013 will differ based upon where they were drafted as well as their level of play in 2012.
The rankings will go in reverse order, starting with the last pick to make the team in some capacity, Zebrie Sanders, and ends with the team's first-round pick, Stephon Gilmore.
You'll find that each player that participated in a regular-season game will have basic stats provided as well as stats from Pro Football Focus. This site gives advanced statistics and should help you further your knowledge of the 2012 Buffalo Bills' rookie class!
Zebrie's No. 1 goal for 2013 should be to make the 53-man roster.
Zebrie Sanders didn't have a great training camp for Buffalo, but the team felt as though Sanders had the potential to be a swing tackle in the NFL. For that reason, the team stashed Sanders on its injured reserve.
By his 2012 play, or lack thereof, the bar is set pretty low for Sanders. In 2013, the former Florida State Seminole's goal should be to make the 53-man roster.
Ron Brooks did not get to play much in 2012 due to an injury.
9 GP, 2 GS, 19 tackles, four passes defensed
PFF Stats: -4.0 overall ranking, -2.8 run defense, +1.3 pass coverage, -2.4 penalties
Ron Brooks had an outstanding training camp for the Buffalo Bills but needed surgery after a teammate stepped on his foot during a practice on August 28th.
Brooks was placed on the injured reserve on September 4th but returned following the Bills' bye week in a game against the Houston Texans.
Once Brooks returned, his level of play was sporadic. He did get to start two games, with his best statistical output coming in a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Brooks started the game and recorded 10 total tackles and three passes defensed.
According to his stats at Pro Football Focus, Brooks tends to be a bit too aggressive. He saw three penalties called on him in the aforementioned game against the Jaguars.
In 2013, the expectation for Brooks should be to play in every game for the Bills. Brooks has an excellent opportunity in his second season to win the job as slot cornerback for the team.
Besides Brooks, the 2013 Buffalo Bills cornerbacks may consist of Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Justin Rogers, Terrance McGee, Crezdon Butler and T.J. Heath on the roster. The latter three names aren't likely to make the roster.
Brooks only saw 162 snaps in 2012, so he is still wet behind the ears. However, due to the lack of depth and talent on the roster, look for Ron Brooks to get an opportunity to prove his worth as a third cornerback on the team.
Bradham's best four performances of the season came in the last four weeks.
16 GP, 11 GS, 57 total tackles
PFF Stats: -0.2 overall, -0.6 run defense, -0.6 pass defense, +0.1 pass rush, +0.9 penalty
Nigel Bradham improved thoroughly with each passing week in 2012. He was an upgrade over Arthur Moats at SLB and his play against the run late in the season was noticeable.
Bradham had an up-and-down season in his rookie campaign, but according to Pro Football Focus, his top four performances came in the last four weeks of the season.
His best overall ranking came against St. Louis, where his overall score was a +2.0 with a +1.7 in run defense.
Against the Jets in Week 17, Bradham had an overall score of +1.7 with a +1.4 in run defense.
In Week 15, Bradham scored a +1.1 overall with a +1.7 in run defense.
Finally, in Week 16, Bradham scored his highest total in pass defense with a +1.2.
In 2013, Bradham's first expectation from fans should be to start all 16 games for the Bills. Linebacker is an especially weak position for the Bills, and it could be argued that he is the best starter between himself, Kelvin Sheppard and Nick Barnett.
Bradham seemed to be hitting his stride for the Bills toward the end of the season, and in 2013 he'll be expected to pick up right where he left off—especially against the run.
Bradham does need to work on improving in coverage, but Bills fans should feel pretty optimistic about Bradham going forward.
Speed kills, but T.J. Graham's overall play was brutal in 2012.
31 receptions, 322 yards and one touchdown
PFF Stats: -15.2 overall, -12.1 pass game, -1.7 blocking, -1.2 penalties, 18.42% drop rate
T.J. Graham was probably the most underwhelming pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 2012 NFL draft.
The Graham pick seemed like a major reach by the Bills in the third round of the draft. The team was desperate to add speed to its roster, but Graham was thought of by many as a late-round pick.
According to Pro Football Focus, T.J. Graham ranked last in the league (105th) for WRs that were on the field for at least 25 percent of a team's snaps.
Graham's overall ranking score was a -15.2, with a -12.1 in the pass game. He also received a -1.7 for blocking and a -1.2 for penalties. It should be noted that Graham also had a drop rate of 18.42 percent, good for 81st in the league.
If you compare those stats to PFF's top WR, Andre Johnson, you'll see just how poorly Graham played. Johnson had an overall ranking of +31.2, with a +28.9 in the pass game.
No one was expecting Graham to play like Andre Johnson, but to score so poorly across the board is worrisome.
Much like Zebrie Sanders, T.J. Graham set the bar extremely low for himself heading into 2013.
Next season it's very likely that Graham will have a rookie signal-caller throwing the ball his way. In 2013, Graham needs to work on just about every aspect of his game. His dropped-pass rate needs to drop significantly if he hopes to become a playmaker in the NFL.
Graham has speed that many players in the league envy, so for that reason he is still a very valuable player to Buffalo.
In 2013, Bills fans should expect to see Graham making more big plays. In 2012, Graham only had two plays that went for over 25 yards. His big-play ability should also help him improve upon his receiving yards in 2013.
Cordy Glenn was an absolute steal for Buffalo in Round 2.
13 GP, 13 GS
PFF Stats: 6 sacks allowed, 9 hits allowed, 17 hurries allowed, 94.4 pass-blocking efficiency rating
Cordy Glenn had a pretty solid rookie season for the Buffalo Bills at LT. Glenn started in every game he played in 2012. Glenn missed three games this season after suffering an ankle injury against the New England Patriots in Week 4.
Glenn's 94.4 pass-blocking efficiency comes from a weighted formula that combines hits, sacks and hurries in comparison to the total number of snaps he played.
Glenn played 453 total snaps in the 2012 season, and his 94.4 ranking was good for 36th-best in the NFL. I'll be the first to admit that 36th-best OT doesn't sound great, but in first place was Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns with a 97.9 pass-blocking efficiency.
It seems that the Buffalo Bills were able to find great value in Glenn in Round 2 of the 2012 NFL draft.
Glenn needs to continue to build upon his strong rookie season in 2013. Barring injury, Bills fans should expect Glenn to start all 16 games for Buffalo and protect the quarterback's blind side.
Glenn should look to improve upon the number of hurries, hits and sacks he allowed in 2012, but this may be a challenge.
One aspect of Chan Gailey's offense in Buffalo was for Ryan Fitzpatrick to get rid of the ball quickly. Doug Marrone, the Bills' new head coach, may not stress such a quick release, which means that Glenn will have to block for longer periods of time each snap.
That said, fans should feel very confident in Glenn's abilities going forward as he held his own against many solid pass-rushers in 2012.
Gilmore needs to work on being less aggressive down the field.
16 GP, 16 GS, 61 tackles, 3 FF, 1 INT, 16 passes defensed
PFF Stats: -4.3 overall, +3.7 coverage, -1.8 against the run, -6.2 penalties
Did you know that Stephon Gilmore played a total of 1,082 total snaps in 2012? This ranked as the sixth-highest number of snaps for a cornerback. That alone should tell you all you need to know about Buffalo's woeful defense in 2012. It simply couldn't get off the field.
That said, Gilmore was one of its few bright spots. He certainly had an up-and-down season, but overall his play was strong for a rookie.
Overall, Pro Football Focus ranked Gilmore as the 79th-best CB in the NFL last season. His overall ranking was a -4.3, with +3.7 in coverage, -1.8 against the run and -6.2 in penalties. Clearly his penalty rank is what hurt his score the most as he had 14 penalties called against him in 2012, one of which was offsetting or declined.
The positive coverage score should encourage Buffalo's fanbase greatly as Gilmore was assigned to each team's best WR multiple times throughout each of the team's 16 games.
Gilmore was certainly overaggressive at times in 2012, but most fans agree that it's better to have a cornerback that is physical than one that plays tentatively. If Gilmore can improve upon limiting his contact beyond five yards, his overall cornerback ranking will soar in 2013.
The former Gamecock has all of the intangibles to make him a potential lockdown cornerback for many years to come. He did a great job of running stride for stride with opposing WRs and he showed great ball-awareness.
One area where Gilmore needs to improve is in terms of interceptions. There were many games where Gilmore had passes bounce off his hands that should have been intercepted.
Bills fans should feel confident in Gilmore's ability as a cornerback, and he is an absolute lock to start all 16 games for the Bills in 2013 and for many years to come.