The 2010-2011 season will be one of new beginnings for the Buffalo Bills—a new GM in Buddy Nix, a new head coach in Chan Gailey, and a completely revamped 3-4 defensive scheme.
The 2009 Draft was a successful one, and the Bills added quality players that all proved they are worthy of being mentioned in the Buffalo Bills future plans.
Second round pick Jairus Byrd, out of Oregon, came in second place for the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award after taking the league by surprise and intercepting nine passes.
Both guards Andy Levitre and Eric Wood found their way to the starting lineup, as did fourth round tight end, Shawn Nelson.
The Bills built on top of their 2009 draft success by filling out the positions needed for the transition to the 3-4 defense that new defensive coordinator George Edwards is installing this offseason.
The Bills now have a lot of quality young talent on their roster, and this slideshow overviews the 10 players that are the future of the team.
Eric Wood had a successful rookie campaign, anchoring down one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Wood's progress is imperative to the Bills having a solid interior up front.
Wood suffered a freak, season-ending leg injury late in the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and was placed on injured reserve. He is reportedly making good progress, and hopefully he can get in pads within the next month or so.
Coming out of James Madison as a 6'0", 250 lb defensive end, Arthur Moats wasn't exactly the guy most fans were expecting the Bills to draft. However, Chan Gailey and George Edwards think Moats has the versatility and run stopping skills to play inside linebacker in the 3-4.
Kawika Mitchell is entering his eighth season and newly acquired Andra Davis entering his ninth, so Moats will have seasoned veterans to learn from before he eventually takes over the job.
Alex Carrington was selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and has an extraordinary combination of size, speed, and strength. That makes him a perfect fit to be groomed into the Bills defensive end of the future.
Carrington was also highly overlooked in the draft, coming out of Arkansas State, but he is raising eyebrows in training camps and is expected to be a big contributor for years to come.
The Bills haven't had a serviceable tight end in ages, and Shawn Nelson looked like he was ready to make an immediate impact last season as a rookie, catching the first touchdown pass of the Buffalo Bills 2010 season. But his season was cut short due to injury.
Nelson is a big and physical receiving target, with the speed and strength to be strong not only in the passing game but also as a blocker.
Leodis McKelvin was taken in the first round of the 2008 draft, had a decent rookie season, and appeared ready to turn it on for the 2009 season.
Instead, McKelvin opened up the season by fumbled a kickoff in the 4th quarter of the opener against the New England Patriots, eventually costing the Bills the game.
However, McKelvin is a VERY talented defensive back with great instincts and huge potential. Assuming Terrence McGee is healthy by the season's start, McKelvin and McGee will be an extremely dominant cornerback tandem.
The biggest question concerning the Buffalo Bills this offseason regarded who who would be playing the nose tackle position in the new 3-4. For those who aren't familiar with a 3-4 scheme, the nose tackle takes the place of two defensive tackles in a typical 4-3 defense.
Instead of selecting highly rated prospects such as Terrence "Mount" Cody, Brian Price, or Cam Thomas, the Bills took a chance on Central Florida product Torrell Troup.
At UCF, Troup often was containing two blockers, as the Golden Knight's defensive line—if not the whole defense—relied on his ability to crush the pocket.
He will get about 25 percent of the snaps this season, but after putting on some mass look for Troup to be one of the top nose tackles in the NFL.
Bills fans were disappointed, to say the least, when Byrd was selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft. But by midseason, Byrd was the buzz of the Bills.
Recording multiple interceptions in three consecutive games, Byrd was a complete ballhawk, and managed nine interceptions on the season while only receiving the starting nod for six games.
If Byrd can improve his tackling skills, he might be the last piece of the puzzle to make the Bills' secondary one of the elite in the National Football League.
If you've had the opportunity to watch any of C.J. Spiller's highlights from his days at Clemson, his playmaking ability is pretty obvious.
Spiller racked up thousands of all-purpose yards in one of the toughest NCAA Conferences, the ACC, and has the speed to break an 80-yard rush at any given time.
With Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch also on the depth chart, Spiller will undoubtedly be squeezed into as many various backfield packages coach Gailey will fit in the playbook. I wouldn't be surprised to see a little wildcat this season.
As much as I will get bashed for this, Aaron Maybin is the future of the Buffalo Bills franchise.
To have a great team you need a dominant pass rusher, a shutdown corner, a left tackle, and a quarterback. The skill positions can be filled at the end.
Maybin had an awful rookie campaign, yet this season he is moving to a more natural position for a player of his specific skill set. Maybin is VERY young and has explosiveness, but lacks the size to play defensive end in the 4-3, let alone the 3-4.
Still, I expect Maybin to have at least 10 sacks this season and be a prominent member of the Bills defense for years to come.