Buffalo Bills: Expectations for Each Rookie in 2012
The head brass at One Bills Drive added significant depth across the board in the 2012 NFL Draft at key positions of need. The Bills' outspoken head coach, Chan Gailey has made it clear that he expects each and every one of the nine draft picks to come in and make a difference.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey expects a lot of his team. Here’s what he wants to see from his rookie class as they get ready to take the field with the veterans when OTAs begin Tuesday.
“I want them to be themselves. I want to see if they can fit in, if they know what to ask,” said Gailey. ”They need to be able to be accountable to themselves, not to me. So I want to just see how they handle things as they go forward dealing with veterans
Entering the offseason, the need for a pass rusher was dire, but after adding defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the Bills were able to go in a completely different direction in their selections.
So what are the expectations for the Bills' 2012 draft class? Lets find out.
Round One, Pick No. 10: CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
When the Bills selected Stephon Gilmore with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, it was instantly known that he was going to have a solid chance to compete for a starting role in the Bills' secondary.
A standout at South Carolina, the former Gamecock's abilities quickly adjusted to the National Football League level, in OTAs at least. According to Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News, Gilmore had three interceptions in his first four practices as a professional football player.
Coach Chan Gailey seemed impressed with Gilmore's ability as well:
"He is a big, long corner that can run and has a great feel for the game. He did a very good job during the weekend," Gailey said.
Gilmore will definitely have a chance at a starting job, with veteran Terrence McGee battling nagging injuries and Leodis McKelvin's declining play. We can expect to see him playing in the nickel position at least twice a year, as Buddy Nix believes Gilmore can make a difference in covering the New England Patriots' dynamic duo of tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
“We would like to be able to match up against those two guys,” said Nix. “Even though you’re not as big as they are these guys with speed and they’re big enough that they can’t knock them around and push them away from them. It’s a lot harder for them against these bigger corners. Yes, we think he can do that.”
Round Two, Pick No. 41: LT Cordy Glenn, Georgia
The Buffalo Bills selected Georgia's left tackle, Cordy Glenn, with the No. 41 overall pick in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. While many pundits saw him as a better fit for the guard position, general manager Buddy Nix clearly sees him as a left tackle:
"We've been trying to get a guy that we thought was good enough to be a starting left tackle in this league, and we thought Cordy Glenn was that guy from the start..."
Glenn played 50 games for the Bulldogs, seeing time across the whole offensive line, with 28 starts at left guard, 18 starts at left tackle and four starts at right guard.
Last year, with Demetress Bell often injured, then-rookie tackle Chris Hairston made seven starts on the blind side and performed fairly well. However, he hasn't seen any first-team reps throughout OTAs, and with right tackle Erik Pears signed to a new deal, Hairston seems like the odd man out.
Coach Chan Gailey has had nothing but praise for the massive 6'6" 346-pounder.
"He’s done a good job. He’s got some things to learn,” said Gailey. ”The speed of this game is so different. So he’s got a lot of learning to do. He’s got physical talent and he’s got ability. He’s got a work ethic that will allow him to get there. He just needs as many reps as he can possibly get between now and the first game of the year.”
Glenn has taken every first-team rep throughout the entire offseason workout program, and the second rounder is the front runner to protect Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Round Three, Pick No. 69: WR T.J. Graham, North Carolina State
The Bills selected T.J. Graham out of North Carolina State with their third-round pick, even moving up a few spots to take him. Graham ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, and has drawn comparisons to Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Mike Wallace. He is strictly a deep threat receiver, and utilizes his blazing speed to get down the field on go routes.
Last year in 13 games, Graham caught 46 passes for 757 yards, scoring seven times. He averaged 16.5 yards per catch.
Graham's biggest attribute is his speed, and will serve as the vertical threat that Coach Gailey asked Buddy Nix for.
"Chan said from day one he'd like to have a guy with really good vertical speed outside, so we got that."
Coach Gailey has said that he catches the ball well, yet he needs to work on his route running:
"I'm anxious to see how he'll develop as time goes on."
As of now, he is mainly a go-route, deep threat that can make the big play. If he wants to see significant playing time in 2012, he needs to work out his routes.
Round Four, Pick No. 105: LB Nigel Bradham, Florida State
Bradham is a hard-hitting 'backer that is familiar with all three positions, playing outside for his first three years at Florida State, before switching to middle linebacker for his senior season. As of now, he will serve as a backup and special teams player, but he has high upside.
Bradham prides himself on his special teams play, according to an interview with BuffaloBills.com.
“I always took it as being the first play of defense, usually from punt or kickoff. Pretty much I just felt like that was important, that was my first play on the field. I took it as that’s the first play that I am going to play and I got to go out there and set a demeanor, set the tone,” said Bradham.
However, Chan Gailey has reiterated that Bradham has a lot to learn, but he is progressing. Look for him to be a force on special teams, and to see very limited playing time on defense.
Round Four, Pick No. 124: CB Ron Brooks, Louisiana State
After being overshadowed by cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne throughout his collegiate career at Louisiana State, a talented corner fell into the Bills' lap in the fourth round. Brooks has great athleticism, and can be a threat on special teams as well.
At LSU, Brooks spent most of his time covering the slot, but his size could be an issue, standing at 6'0" and just 177 pounds. However, he has some tenacity in him that will earn him a spot as a special teams gunner, according to assistant special teams coach, Stan Kwan.
“He’s going to help us on all four special teams units. But he’s a good punt return blocker. You should see how many blocks he has. He will lay you out. He’s a tough kid, he’s fast and has a nose for the ball.”
Round Five, Pick No. 144: OT Zebrie Sanders, Florida State
The Bills made it clear that they would add two offensive tackles in the 2012 NFL Draft, and Buddy Nix stayed true to his word, selecting Zebrie Sanders in the fifth round.
However, with fellow rookie Cordy Glenn at left tackle and Erik Pears penciled in at right tackle, with Chris Hairston fighting with Glenn, it's highly doubtful that Sanders sees any playing time this year, barring injury.
Sanders has seen second team reps at right tackle throughout OTAs, but with some development, he could eventually be a solid reserve swing tackle option.
Round Five, Pick No. 147: MLB Tank Carder, TCU
In the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Bills took another linebacker in Tank Carder.
Carder played middle linebacker for a stout TCU defense, recording 228 tackles, 25 of those for a loss, 5.5 sacks, four interceptions and a forced fumble. Even more impressive were his 23 pass breakups, which displays his ability to be at the right place at the right time.
While he is a bit undersized at just 237 pounds, he will initially see time on special teams, due to Sheppard’s presence in the middle.
Unfortunately for Carder, the Bills finally have depth at all linebacker positions, so he will be used on special teams for his rookie year.
Round Six, Pick No. 178: G/C Mark Asper, Oregon
With the incumbent starter at center, Eric Wood's, injury history, it made sense for the Buffalo Bills to address the center position in the draft. They did so by selecting 27-year old, Mark Asper, from Oregon.
After playing mostly tackle at Oregon, Buddy Nix has stated that the team will use him primarily at center:
“We wanted to get another center,” Bills general manager Buddy Nix said. “This old boy is as big as a house. He can play center and guard. He’s really a better player than people think. He’s a smart guy. He should give us some help.”
It will be hard for Asper to see the field this season, with the depth on the interior line, but his development could allow flexibility with the impending free agents at the guard position at the end of the year.
Round Seven, Pick No. 251: K John Potter, Western Michigan
To close out the 2012 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills selected the strong-legged kicker, John Potter, out of Western Michigan. While he needs some work in his accuracy, (he's made 26 of 34 kicks (74.7 percent) in the past two seasons, and hasn't missed a single PAT) he will primarily be used as a kickoff specialist.
“This guy is a kickoff guy,” said Nix. “He kicked through the uprights kicking off. If you kick the ball in the end zone and make them start on the 20 it gives you a much better chance defensively.”
On the other hand, kicker Rian Lindell just signed a four-year deal to remain with the Bills, so it isn't too clear if the team wants to have two kickers on a game day roster.