2011 NFL Draft Results: Evaluating the Buffalo Bills Draft Class
The Buffalo Bills completed their 2011 draft yesterday, so it is now time to look at what kind of a job that Bills General Manager Buddy Nix and his staff did.
Coming in to the draft, there was no secret that the Bills still had a large number of holes that need attention and they would not be able to address all of them in this one single draft. They could however, attempt to add some starters to a defense that needed an infusion of new blood and talent. They could also take advantage of the exposure they had to the South team at the Senior Bowl and add some key seniors from the draft class.
The Bills also had the chance to add some versatility and depth to the team, when it came time for such picks in the latter stages of day three. We will go through the draft class and address all of these issues in this presentation.
For a comparison standpoint, we will also list the five immediate picks that went right after each of the Bills selection, for posterity sake.
Marcell Dareus, Round 1 Third Overall Pick
For a detailed breakdown of the Marcell Dareus draft pick, refer to the link for an article I wrote after his selection.
Dareus is 6'3" and weighs 320 pounds. He is going to be making a huge difference in how the Bills can handle tough, physical teams by helping to neutralize and control the line of scrimmage. His selection should result in the Bills not being pushed around like they were in 2010. The run defense will be better and the pass rush will also be better. He was a home run of a draft choice for the Bills from both a short term and long term perspective.
As a result of adding Dareus, life just got easier for Kyle Williams and the linebacking corps. It also means that Alex Carrington will probably be reduced to coming in as more of a rotational guy, unless the Bills are going to a 4-3 look.
Dareus will require double team blocking, which frees up other defenders to make plays at the line of scrimmage or to reach the backfield and blow plays up back there. He is a team player and will put the needs of the team and defense ahead of his personal needs. This is exactly the kind of player the Bills needed to continue their path and growth to become a winning team.
Next 5 That Went: A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Aldon Smith and Jake Locker.
Aaron Williams, Round 2 Overall Pick 34
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Aaron Williams is a 6'0" tall, 204 pound cornerback from Texas University. Williams was rated as a late first round draft choice by people like Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper. When day one ended and the Bills regrouped to see who was still out there, they were pleased to see that Williams was on the big board.
With the advanced age of Terrence McGee, combined with his recent injury history, you know the Bills were going to need to find a high level corner sooner than later. But we don't want to limit Williams to becoming a cornerback only. He offers versatility, because he can play as a nickel corner or as a safety. The fact that he is as versatile as he is, is a central theme that keeps popping up throughout this draft class.
Williams ran the 40-yard dash anywhere from 4.55 to 4.60 seconds. He had a vertical jump of 37.5". At the University of Texas, Williams recorded 46 tackles in 2010, five for a loss, and forced three fumbles. In his career, he picked up 106 tackles, had four interceptions and blocked five kicks, which is a great asset for the Bills special teams unit.
What Williams offers the Bills is a degree of flexibility with free agency. Buddy Nix said that it was not a given that Drayton Florence would sign elsewhere when free agency starts. But between the potential vacancy of Florence and the tenuous potential negotiations with Donte Whitner, Williams allows the Bills to rotate him through the secondary as needed. He will definitely be an asset on special teams.
Next 5 That Went: Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jabaal Sheard, Ryan Williams and Akeem Ayers.
Kelvin Sheppard, Round 3 Overall Pick 68
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When the Bills were on the clock with the pick at 68, not one inside linebacker had been drafted yet. They had their pick of the entire draft class, so they opted to go with Kelvin Sheppard over Martez Wilson, who then went four picks later to New Orleans. It will be interesting to see how the two of them progress in their NFL careers.
Kelvin Sheppard, the inside linebacker from LSU, is 6'2" and weighs 250 pounds. This is the kind of size that Buddy Nix was envisioning at inside linebacker. Sheppard was the inspirational leader of the LSU defense and was their leading tackler for the past two years. Sheppard was the first senior drafted from this draft class and he is 23 years old. He played for Chan Gailey on the South team in the Senior Bowl game.
Sheppard ranks 9th on the all-time LSU career list for tackles with 311. He was a 1st team All-SEC selection at linebacker. Sheppard will come in and challenge Andra Davis for one of the inside linebacker spots, assuming that the Bills re-sign free agent Paul Posluszny. If negotiations with Posluszny break down, then you are looking at Davis and Sheppard to start on the inside.
Ran the 40 yard dash in 4.7 seconds. He can chase down the ball from sideline to sideline. As per NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock: "Sheppard is savvy and tough. He comes to play every week." Sheppard made at least 110 tackles in each of his final two years at LSU. He picked up 4 sacks in 2010 and made 11 tackles for loss.
Next 5 That Went: Rob Housler, Justin Houston, DeMarco Murray, Martez Wilson and Stevan Ridley.
Da'Norris Searcy, Round 4a Overall Pick 100
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The Buffalo Bills had one more chance to regroup at the end of the third round, which marked the end of day two. Buddy Nix and his staff came back to their war room to start day three, they knew they had the third overall draft pick at 100, and had a chance to rearrange their draft board.
When you consider all of that, you realize that the Bills really must have wanted Da'Norris Searcy badly. Searcy was a strong safety at North Carolina, and with the status of Donte Whitner up in the air, the Bills bought some insurance with this pick, not to mention some needed depth. Searcy is 5'11" and weighs 223 pounds. He also played in the Senior Bowl, but played for the North team.
The NFL Network asked Butch Davis to come in to do some guest analysis work during day three of the draft. He happened to be on the set when the Bills selected Searcy. For his reaction to the pick and analysis of Searcy, go to this link. Apparently, they rotate players all over at North Carolina, because during his years there Searcy came in as a running back, was converted to safety, and also returned punts and kickoffs. He was a starter for his last two years at North Carolina.
Searcy is a strong kid. He benched 225 at the Scouting Combines 27 times. He is tough and physical. His flexibility to be a starter on defense, or a big special teams contributor is one of the reasons the Bills drafted him. It is conceivable that he will pair up with Jairus Byrd to form a safety tandem down the road.
Next 5 That Went: Clint Boling, Jordan Cameron, Sam Acho, Luke Stocker and Roy Helu.
Chris Hairston, Round 4b Overall Pick 122
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The partial answer to the question of, Who did the Buffalo Bills get from Seattle for Marshawn Lynch, is Chris Hairston and a question mark. The question mark is because the second draft choice we obtained doesn't happen until 2012. So, if you view it like that, Hairston better make an impact with the Bills. Maybe not scoring a big touchdown in the playoffs like Lynch did, but playing a solid right tackle would be a good way to start.
After four straight draft picks on defense, the Bills finally addressed some of their needs on offense, by drafting Hairston, who was a college teammate of C.J. Spiller at Clemson. Hairston said that he is looking forward to blocking for C.J. again. Even though he played left tackle at Clemson, he will be a right tackle for the Bills.
Hairston is strong. He benched 33 reps at the Scouting Combines. He has 35 1/4" arms, which is considered long, but a very good thing for a tackle in the NFL. He stands 6'6" and weighs 326 pounds. The feeling is that Hairston can become a prototypical NFL tackle.
For a more detailed scouting report on Hairston, you can find that here. He should be able to offer some solid competition to Mansfield Wrotto and Erik Pears for the right tackle job, so may the best man win.
Next 5 That Went: Tandon Doss, Owen Marecic, Taiwan Jones, Bilal Powell and Rashad Carmichael.
Johnny White, Round 5 Overall Pick 133
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The Bills owned the second overall pick in the 5th round, and decided to go with a little more offense, by drafting running back Johnny White. ESPN Analyst Todd McShay called White the most underrated player in the draft and the biggest sleeper. Chris Brown at Buffalo Bills.com had some quotes from Todd McShay that you can find here.
White is another player that offers flexibility and has multiple uses. He can come in as a third down running back who can run the ball between tackles, catch passes out of the backfield, or pass block. He can return punts and kickoffs, and excel at special teams.
If you noticed the earlier link to Butch Davis on the Da'Norris Searcy slide, Davis also assessed the selection of White on that link as well. White is a 23 year old senior. He has an explosive burst and may prove to be the kind of third down back that New England has employed for so many years that always seemed to hurt the Bills.
Next Five That Went: Robert Sands, Ricky Stanzi, Anthony Sherman, Buster Skrine and Marcus Cannon.
Chris White, Round 6 Overall Pick 169
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The Bills returned the focus to their defense when they hit round six. With the pick at 169, the Bills found another member of the South team from the Senior Bowl, when they drafted linebacker Chris White from Mississippi State.
White is 6'3" and weighs 240. Again, this is the trend that the Bills wanted to go in, identifying bigger inside linebackers. White seems to be in competition for a reserve linebacker spot with Danny Batten. Depending on how he does on special teams may determine his fate.
For a detailed scouting report on White, you can find that here. White had 105 tackles last year, so jhe is like Kelvin Sheppard in a way. Between Sheppard, Posluszny (assuming he is back), Andra Davis and Danny Batten, it looks like the Bills will have a healthy competition at camp for the inside linebacker spots. They should also have good depth for once, which is always nice to see.
Next 5 That Went: Mistral Raymond, Quan Sturdivant, Brandon Fusco, Byron Maxwell and Charles Clay.
Justin Rogers, Round 7 Overall Pick 206
When Chan Gailey was asked to assess Justin Rogers at the post-draft press conference, Gailey stated: "You can never have enough corners. When in doubt, draft another corner". That sums up Rogers neatly enough.
The Bills returned to their smaller school traditions in round seven with both their picks in this round. They found another corner to add with Justin Rogers, who is from Richmond. He is 5'11" and weighs 180 pounds.
Very fast kid, as he ran the 40 in 4.35 seconds. How is it that Al Davis didn't draft him? Rogers will probably contribute on special teams and try to work his way into nickel or dime packages and try to continue going up from there.
For a detailed scouting report on him, you can find that here.
Next 5 That Went: Korey Lindsey, Greg McElroy, Johnny Culbreath, Andrew Jackson and Bruce Miller.
Michael Jasper, Round 7b Overall Pick 245
Jasper is one of these huge guys where their weight fluctuates greatly. He is known to have played last year over 400 pounds. Right now, we are listing him at 6'4 1/2" and weighing in at 378. Despite the huge body, he can do a vertical jump of 28" and can make a broad jump of 9'. He is said to be able to dunk a basketball with either hand. He runs a 40 time of 5.53. But he is also strong, benching 225 33 times. He is an athlete.
Jasper played guard in college, but the Bills are thinking about him as a nose tackle. Might be a good guy to bring in on third and short, fourth and short, and goal line situations. It might be interesting in camp to see him square off against Kellen Heard (355 pounds) and see which guy is able to move the other.
Next 5 That Went: Jay Finley, Jeremy Beal, Eric Hagg, DeMarco Sampson and Curtis Holcomb.
Pros and Cons of the 2011 Bills Draft Class
Pros - The Bills were tired of seeing their defense being carved up by the running game. Between the addition of Marcell Dareus, Kelvin Sheppard, Da'Norris Searcy and Chris White, the Bills brought in reinforcements to bolster the defense. New inside linebackers coach Dave Wannstedt will have two new pups to work with in Sheppard and White.The Bills defense now has a face, and that face is going to be Marcell Dareus for many years to come.
The Bills helped their offensive line with the addition of Chris Hairston.
Bills definitely helped their special teams with the picks of Williams all the way down to Rogers.
Bills also helped their defensive secondary depth with Da'Norris Searcy, Aaron Williams and Justin Rogers.
Cons - Where is the tight end and the quarterback? Nowhere to be found. As we said up front, the Bills had more holes than they could fix with this draft. The Bills still have free agency, (whenever that begins), to hopefully find a tight end that can come in and play at a level above Shawn Nelson. It also means that they will have to go with a veteran QB to come in and back up Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Another con might be viewed as Buddy Nix's inability to trade down. With all kinds of draft pick movement happening all over the league, Nix is unwilling to take on any degree of risk to acquire more picks. Since he believes in building a team through the draft, you would think he understands why it is vital to have more picks. This is the one thing that still bugs me personally about the last two drafts under Nix.
Bottom Line on the 2011 NFL Draft
In reviewing the entire draft class, it appears there were very few reaches. The one exception might be Kelvin Sheppard, who many felt would go in the 4th round. Outside of that, it looks like Nix stuck to his draft board, and continued to pick the player that addressed needs that Chan Gailey wanted to fix.
Gailey and Nix continue to work well together. Gailey was open to fixing the defense, and even though he is an offensive guy, he recognized that the Bills had to improve the defense for the team to ultimately succeed. The Bills continue to advance their rebuilding effort with a solid draft. This will allow the team to continue to grow and build in a positive fashion. I like the job that Nix and his staff did.
Here is the list of the Bills 2011 NFL Draft Class:
1) Marcell Dareus, Defensive Lineman Alabama 6'3" 320 pounds Junior
2) Aaron Williams, Cornerback Texas 6'0" 204 pounds Junior
3) Kelvin Sheppard Inside Linebacker LSU 6'2" 250 pounds Senior
4) Da'Norris Searcy Strong Safety North Carolina 5'11" 223 pounds Senior
5) Chris Hairston Tackle Clemson 6'6" 326 pounds Senior
6) Johnny White Running Back North Carolina 5'10" 209 pounds Senior
7) Chris White Inside Linebacker Mississippi State 6'3" 240 pounds Senior
8) Justin Rogers Cornerback Richmond 5'11" 180 pounds Senior
9) Michael Jasper Guard/Nose Tackle Bethel 6'4" 378 pounds Senior