The 2009 NFL Draft is in the books and now it is time to take stock of what the Buffalo Bills did in two days to help improve the team. I offered my thoughts on Day One for the Bills in an earlier article, so I will not focus too much on those four players except in an overall look at the draft's impact on the team. Most of the focus will be on the second day.
Starting off Day Two in the fourth round, the Buffalo Bills selected Shawn Nelson, tight end from Southern Mississippi. He belongs to the group of tight ends who play the game like a wide receiver in a bigger body, yet he has shown the potential to be a very good all-around tight end.
Mike Mayock in his Senior Bowl notes referenced Nelson's willingness to block during the week's practices.
With some of the draft expert predictions about Nelson, getting him in the fourth round is an incredible value pick at a needed position.
In round five, the Bills turned to another versatile player, a very important theme of this draft, in Oklahoma Sooner Nic Harris. He played safety mostly for the Sooners, but his slow forty time leads many to project him as a linebacker, which is a need of the Bills.
He is a very physical player, loves playing around the line of scrimmage, and was a leader in the defensive backfield for the Sooners. If he can make the transition, this will be an incredibly valuable pick in terms of linebacker play and special teams.
Rounds six and seven saw two cornerbacks come to the Bills. The sixth rounder was Cary Harris out of USC, a very tough and physical player. The seventh rounder was Ellis Lankster from West Virginia. Lankster is another versatile player who can play either corner or safety. He is good in man-to-man coverage and a good open field tackler.
So how do the four picks from Day One and the four picks from Day Two change the dynamic of the Buffalo Bills? I see three major impacts of the 2009 NFL Draft.
The first impact is on the offensive line. Many experts predicted the Bills would select an offensive tackle to replace Jason Peters. The decision makers for the Bills had other plans however. With the addition of Eric Wood and Andy Levitre, the offensive line now has a new identity that has been sorely lacking.
These two offensive linemen bring a physical presence and a mean streak to what was the NFL's biggest offensive line, but was one of the most ineffective especially in the run game. Watching the game tape shows that all the yardage earned by the Bills' running backs were truly earned in spite of the line.
Wood and Levitre will help solidify the middle of the line and should have an immediate impact in the run game.
The second impact is in the pass rush with the acquisition of defensive end Aaron Maybin. Watching the game tape on him is awe-inspiring for me. Mayock talks about Maybin's first step and he is not exaggerating. I do not think I have ever seen anyone with a quicker burst off the snap.
He should come in and provide some serious firepower for the defense on passing downs.
The third impact is a new approach to choosing personnel. More than half the players selected during the weekend are going to be very versatile with the ability to play multiple positions on their side of the field.
Between Wood and Levitre, they have the ability to play any position on the offensive line. Great if anyone gets injured.
Jarius Byrd was a cornerback at Oregon who projects to free safety due to his lack of speed, but could still play corner in a zone formation. Nic Harris was a safety who projects to linebacker, but also could play safety in some zone formations. Lankster also looks to have the ability to play both corner and safety.
This philosophy of getting players who can play multiple positions will be a big benefit once the pads are put on and injuries start occuring. It will allow a nice degree of flexibility for the coaching staff with sub packages and getting players a breather when necessary.
I think that the 2009 Draft appears on paper to be a successful draft for the Bills. We will see once rookie camp and then training camp begins. Hopefully the Bills will be able to make some positive noise this season and not suffer a collapse like last.