2011 NFL Draft Grades: Evaluating Each of the Buffalo Bills' Picks

Matt CContributor IIIMay 1, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses for a photo with Marcell Dareus, #3 overall pick by the Buffalo Bills, as Dareus holds up a jersey during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images


With the 2011 NFL draft officially in the books, the Bills are in a much better position than they were last Wednesday.

The focus on the draft was clearly to reinforce the defense and continue make the 3-4 transition as quickly as possible.  The Bills focused on a similar type of player and appear to be establishing an identity as a football team.

In brackets are the picks I was making right along when the Bills were on the clock, with my explanation of the pick in brackets as well.


Third: Bills pick DE/DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama [My pick: CB Patrick Peterson, LSU]

GRADE: 9.3

Despite my pining for Patrick Peterson, I’m still very excited about the addition of Dareus.  I love his passion for the game and his penchant for showing up when the lights are brightest. Dareus gives the Bills a great, young building block for our front seven.

[Teams are supposed to be built inside out and Dareus will improve our run defense and our ability to rush the passer.  I opted for Peterson because I believe he’s the most talented guy in the class and that corner is an underrated need.  It’s also just so difficult to find elite cornerbacks.]

As far as how Dareus fits, Marcell has the skill set to really contribute Day One.  He will most likely start at the 5-technique opposite Dwan Edwards in our 3-4 base packages, with Alex Carrington rotating in.  When we employ our heavy formation, he can shift inside to the 3-technique and be darn good there as well.  His versatility is a huge asset for him.


Here’s my scouting report:

§  Played DE in high school

§  Grew up idolizing Warren Sapp

§  In July 2010, he was investigated by the NCAA regarding whether or not he paid his own way for a party in Miami.  The party was hosted by an agent.  He was ruled ineligible for two games

§  MVP in BCS National Championship against Texas.  He shows up in big games, including the Capital One Bowl as a junior

§  The guy is a competitor.  He’ll come after you and try to inflict pain.  Marcell is even nasty as a blocker on takeaway returns

§  Fired up guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve.  Loves the game of football

§  Sheds one-on-one blocks with ease.  Uses his hands well to manipulate lineman

§  Athletic for a big guy.  He moves fluidly and the weight is stuck to him.  His extra pounds aren’t bouncing around.  He’s dropped into coverage

§  Can rush the passer. He can get low and just take interior linemen for a ride

§  He’s quick and relentless, but there are some stretches were he can disappear for a bit

§  Tries to make too many big plays and can be a liability at times

§  He could play all over the defensive front.  He should be productive somewhere.  The guy has rare pass rushing ability for such a big guy.  He’s said in the past that he likes moving around, such as playing the nose

§  He has very good athleticism for a 5,3, or 1-technique. Marcell is also just a good person, with the intangibles you love.  If he can find some more consistency, he could become one of the league’s best.   At the very least, he should become a pretty good starter at the next level.


34th: Bills pick CB Aaron Williams, Texas [My pick: OLB Justin Houston, Georgia]

GRADE: 8.4

Williams was somewhat of a surprising pick.  As I mentioned, corner was an underrated need for the team. He has the bloodlines, with his uncle Ken Taylor being a defensive back for the Bears.  He’s very athletic and has a passion for the game, but his inconsistencies prevented me from giving him a starting grade. 

He’s not a great tackler, but he’s willing to throw his body around to try and bring guys down.  His lack of production is surprising (four picks in three years), because when you watch him play, he shows pretty natural hands.  He adds punt return value and can probably make the transition to free safety if asked to.  Despite his athleticism, he’s not overly fast and can get taken deep.  He also has a tendency to trust his ability a bit too much and can get burnt by it.  

Much like the Bills’ first pick, Williams is remembered for bringing an end to a quarterback’s career prematurely.  Williams lick on then-Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford sent him packing for the NFL.  Dareus’ hit on Colt McCoy in the BCS National Championship took him out of his final game for Texas.

Williams just looks like a football player, and I have a feeling he can become a solid player when it’s all said and done.  It just might take a little time.  The raw ability is there, but he needs some polishing.  I feel that, at the least, he should become a very good nickel back (which he has done before with the Longhorns).

[Hindsight is 20-20 and apparently Houston was a reach at 34, but I felt that Houston falling to that pick was a gift.  I had him graded as a late first-round pick and filled a huge need in Buffalo’s lineup.  Buddy said he wanted to get bigger at LB, but he passed (actually twice) on the 270-pound former Bulldog who amassed 20 sacks in 32 career games in Georgia.  He’s still raw in coverage, but we’d be asking him to rush 90 percent of the time anyway.  I guess his marijuana use and what some believe to be an inconsistent motor was enough to totally scare us away from him.   I would’ve taken a shot on a potential Pro Bowler at that critical position.]

Despite the heat Seattle is taking, I would’ve liked Alabama’s James Carpenter the most with that 34th pick.  He’s a very underrated tackle and, honestly, don’t be surprised if he ends up moving to left tackle and Okung shifts to right (a la the Rams and Jason Smith) down the road.


My report on Williams:

§  Solid height for the position

§  Nicknamed A.J.

§  Has the ability to return punts

§  UT’s Athletics Director’s Honor Roll

§  His uncle, Ken Taylor, was a DB for the Chicago Bears

§  Loves the game of football

§  He doesn’t have a lot of history taking away the football, snagging zero as a senior and only four the two seasons prior.  That being said, when you watch some of the ones he did snag, he actually has good hands and can catch passes away from his frame

§  Athletic guy that can contort his body to make plays

§  Ran a pretty bad 40, but he has football speed

§  Not a great tackler, but he’s willing.  He gets physical, but he just doesn’t have much to him to bring bigger ball carriers down

§  Has the ability to play the nickel as well

§  Williams is gifted with athletic ability, but he trusts it too much at times, allowing for receivers to get by him at times.  Williams has all the raw tools, he just needs polishing.  At this point, he’s too inconsistent to call him a starter.  He’s at the very least a very good nickel back with the potential to become a good starter.  I have a feeling he can become a solid guy at the next level, but it might take a little time.


68th: Bills pick ILB Kelvin Sheppard, LSU [My pick: NT Jurrell Casey, USC]

GRADE: 8.3

With both Martez Wilson and Sheppard still on the clock, I figured that one of them would be the Bills’ pick at this spot.  True to form, the Bills opted for an instinctive and gritty player who can beef up the inside linebacker corps.

Sheppard is a guy who I felt lacked the range to go sideline-to-sideline, but Chan sounds convinced that that is a fallacy.  In evaluating Shep, his game was somewhat reminiscent of current Patriots’ linebacker Brandon Spikes.  While both players lack elite speed, they show the emotion and football intelligence to be productive at the next level.  While I’m not ready to say that he’s on the same level of Spikes, he may prove to be down the road. 

He had a presence in that LSU locker room and was a leader for them.  If he can overcome his speed with all of his intangibles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kelvin eventually starting for us.  At this point, he’s good depth and can be a special teams dynamo.

[I feel that Casey is one of the most underrated prospects in this class.  I had him graded as a mid-first-round pick and I just couldn’t pass up the value at 68, despite being of similar size to Kyle Williams.  He’s probably a better fit in the 4-3, but I feel he can be as effective as Kyle is at the nose and would’ve provided some excellent depth to the rotation (possibly supplanting Kyle in the future).]

My report on Shep:

§  Has good size, listed at 6'3" 240 (weighs 250 now)

§  His favorite player is Patrick Willis

§  LSU defensive coordinator says “As long as I’ve coached this game, I don’t know that I’ve coached a young man smarter than Kelvin Sheppard.  He absolutely knows the game inside and out.”

§  He’s a leader and the guys rally around him

§  Struggles to get leverage at times

§  Sheppard lacks great sideline-to-sideline speed.  He can’t run with guys when put in coverage situations.  He’ll struggle in a 4-3 alignment

§  Can bait the QB into making dumb throws

§  Kelvin can shed blocks.  He’s hit or miss though.  Sometimes he’ll hold up the lineman until he can drop the back.  On other occasions, he’ll get shut down

§  Pretty good tackler.  He can wrap up in space

§  Physical guy.  If he can put a lick on you, he will

§  Kelvin lacks great NFL speed and athleticism, but he makes up for it with his instincts, leadership, and passion for the game.  Kelvin’s a guy who has the potential to become a starter.  At the very least, you get a good backup that can be a dynamo on special teams.


100th:  Bills pick S Da’Norris Searcy, UNC [My pick: TE Luke Stocker, Tennessee]

GRADE: 6.9

Well, I wasn’t a big proponent of this pick.   You can’t help but fall for him as a person, but as far as football ability is concerned, I think he’s a project.  He should be a solid special teamer, with the potential to be more if he can overcome his lack of great game-speed and one year of production.

I graded him out to be a sixth-round prospect.  The recurring theme for Buffalo’s picks is that they have been guys who are passionate about the game (stay tuned, this continues).  You know he’s bringing his full effort to the table.  More often than not, though, I felt that he seemed to be a shade too late getting to the play.  He did have a solid four-interception campaign last season, but he had only one pick in his entire career prior.  I obviously really hope I’m wrong on this one, but I can’t believe we passed up a legitimate tight end prospect in Luke Stocker. 

[Stocker may not wow with his speed, but he can get after it while run blocking and has strong hands.  To give an NFL comparison, I thought of a slightly more athletic Heath Miller.  He went a few picks later to the Bucs.]

Searcy’s quick synopsis:

§  Has punt return value

§  Missed three games while the NCAA and university determined his eligibility status

§  Wears 21 in honor of his grandma being born that year

§  Favorite team is the Atlanta Falcons

§  Outgoing and open-minded (self-described)

§  Loves the game of football

§  He’s a bit slow for a safety

§  Physical player that tries to fly around the field (if he can get there in time)

§  His lack of big plays is a direct result of his lack of speed

§  You love all the intangibles, but he’s a bit too slow to play at the next level.  He’s a project.


 122nd:  Bills pick OL Chris Hairston, Clemson [My pick: RB Allen Bradford, USC]

GRADE: 8.2

In Hairston, Buddy Nix and Co. opt for the top offensive lineman left on my board.  For the most part he’s a physical guy, which allows for him to make an impact opening up some running lanes.  Unfortunately, the consistent effort isn’t always apparent with Chris, and there are some downs where he’s not cleaning up his blocks.

He might be a bit too hulking to stay at tackle, because he doesn’t have the quickest feet.  I think you can maximize his potential with a shift inside to guard.

He’s a very competitive and intelligent ball player, and definitely has the upside to start.

[I’m honestly not a USC homer, I just kept taking the guys my board gave me.  I felt that Bradford has been unheralded all season, and I couldn’t pass up his value at this pick.  Bradford has been dogged by injury and circumstance at USC, but he has shined in his limited opportunities. The Bills needed a bigger, short-yardage back and Bradford probably would have taken over for Fred Jackson in two years.  The Bills seemed to agree this was a need, but addressed it in a different direction.]


Hairston’s report:

§  Has big size (listed at 6-7 325)

§  Treats every snap like a battle

§  Can really knock his guy around when run blocking.  He doesn’t consistently drive them off the ball, though.  Hairston doesn’t always finish his man off.

§  He’s more strong then quick, which applies to his pass blocking as well.  He doesn’t have great feet, but when he gets his paws on the guy, the guy’s not moving

§  Not sure he’s quick enough for the next level.  A shift inside to guard would probably best suit him.

§  Hairston: “Accolades are fine, but I just want to win. I’m not worried about anything afterwards, I just hate to lose” 

§  He gets lost in space at times, which is why he’s best suited in a man blocking scheme 

§  Clemson coach Dabo Swinney: "He's improved tremendously since he's been here," Swinney said. "He's a very cerebral player, a high football IQ guy. When he gets a minus, it's usually physical; he rarely has a mental bust. He's kind of our Spiller up front." 

§  He has all the intangibles you would want in a player and he has a decent skill set to go with it.  Not sure he’s athletic enough to handle NFL defenders consistently, but he has the upside to eventually start.  At this point, he’s a contributor. 


133rd:  Bills pick RB Johnny White, UNC [My pick: DE Pernell McPhee, Mississippi State]

GRADE: 7.2

Trying to fill our void of a situational back, the Bills decided to go for the former Tar Heel in the fifth round. 

White is a downhill runner who isn’t overly elusive in the open field.   He won’t really blow you away with his initial burst either, but once he starts accelerating watch out.  He gets faster the longer his runs go, and he starts to pull away downfield.  Johnny has deceptive speed.

He has solid vision and can cut back to find some daylight.  I like how he finishes his runs by extending his body after contact.   Combining that with his running style, he usually maximizes the carry.  He doesn’t miss too many opportunities by dancing.

His ability to pick up blitzes is inconsistent.  There are some downs where he puts his helmet into the chest of the defender and stuffs him.  On others, he attempts just extending his arms and whiffs. 

He’s a funny guy when it comes to catching passes.  He doesn’t really have great hands, being more of a body-catcher.  That being said, he doesn’t let too many get away from him, whether it’s a screen or a wheel route.

If he works to find a bit more consistency with his blitz protection, White looks like a solid third-down back that fills out our running back depth.

[As for my pick McPhee, he had a bit of a disappointing year and he fell off the radar.  I feel he has the potential to blossom into a starting 5-technique, a position he has extensive experience playing as a Bulldog.]


169th:  Bills pick ILB Chris White, Mississippi State [My pick: S Deunta Williams, UNC]

GRADE: 4.3

The Bills add another big interior linebacker with this pick.   Unfortunately, I feel that White has a lot more bark than bite. 

A JUCO transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast, White was the guy making the calls on that defense.  He’s a tank, listed at 6'4", 245.  For a guy his size, though, he’s a disappointing player.

He prefers to wrap up and pull down from behind as opposed to being a hitter.  He’s also not as strong as you would like taking on blocks.  I just don’t view him as a really physical player.

I wish him the best, but I think he may have an uphill battle in front of him.  I don’t feel he’s NFL-caliber.

[My pick was a bit of a gamble, but I liked a different Tar Heel safety.  Deunta Williams flashed a lot of potential in past seasons (12 picks from ’07-’09), but he broke his leg this past year (having surgery in January).   Williams, a converted WR, shows the ball-skills to be a playmaker at the next level.   I wish he had a bit more speed, but it’s functional.  He wears his emotions on his sleeve and he’s a good kid, being active in community service. ]


205th:  Bills pick CB Justin Rogers, Richmond [My pick: WR Darvin Adams, Auburn]

GRADE: 6.7

I figured the secondary was a need, and the Bills thoroughly addressed it in days two and three.  Rogers is more of a potential pick in the sixth round.

He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he can match up with most receivers.  He has some history taking away the football, averaging around 2.5 picks a season the past three years.  He also has the ability to be dangerous returning kicks.

The biggest question mark with Rogers is whether or not his ability will carry over now that he’s playing against such a jump in competition.  I feel it’s a solid value pick for the Bills, though.  I felt Rogers was worth taking a flier on earlier than this, giving him a mid-sixth round grade

[Darvin Adams is flying under the radar, mostly because he is so raw at this point in his development.  He’s not a very good route runner and he needs to get bigger.  However, he can elevate to the football and make spectacular catches.  My favorite quality of Adams’ is his penchant for making clutch plays.  He continuously made the big play when Auburn needed it over his career.  His coaches say that he gets a “look in his eyes” when the team is in a tight situation, a look that calls for the ball.]


245th:  Bills pick DT Michael Jasper, Bethel (TN) [My pick: ILB Orie Lemon, Oklahoma State]

GRADE:  6.4

This could be the second-coming of Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb.  When then-PR director of the Rams Pete Rozelle ran into a stationed marine with an enormous body and no college football experience, he just wanted to get him on the field and see what he could do.  It turned out all right for the Rams, with some suggesting Lipscomb should be in the Hall of Fame.

In the case of Jasper, he at least has been playing college ball, but it sounds as if the theory is the same.

According to Buddy Nix, Bills regional scout Matt Hand has had his eye on Jasper for a while now.  He played last season at 6-4, 430 pounds!  He’s since “slimmed down” to 375.  Presumably, the Bills are planning on lining him up at the NT position to just be a space-eater. 

I’d be lying if I said I’ve pored over crates of game film on Jasper.  From the very little I’ve seen on him, though, he appears to be surprisingly athletic for such a big man.  While there were more established picks available, I like the idea of taking a chance on this guy.  He’s worth a shot, but I’ll call him “Big Papa” Jasper instead to be (somewhat) original.

[I feel that Orie Lemon has a lot of sleeper potential at inside LB.  A former high school QB, Lemon had moved to LB and become the quarterback of that defense.  He plays much faster than his timed speed and flows to the football.  Despite blowing up his ACL in 2009, he looks like he hasn’t lost a step and would’ve been a good pick in the seventh.]


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