Buffalo Bills Rookie Review

With another season in the books another rookie class has gotten their start in the league.  The Bills held the third pick in the draft last year and alternated between the 2nd and 3rd pick in each round last year.  They added the Seattle Seahawks 4th round pick for running back Marshawn Lynch and a comp pick in the 7th round.  They say that you’re not supposed to grade a draft class until after 3 years so call this a pre-grade.  The grades are based on what they contributed relevant to their draft slot so a 4th or 5th rounder will get a good grade even if say they were only a special team contributor, albeit a really good one:

1st Round Pick, DT Marcell Dareus

1st Round Pick (3rd Overall) – Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama – Dareus came from the best defense in college football and had a dominating performance in his sophomore year against Texas in the National Championship Game.  The 6-3, 340 lb. defensive lineman did not disappoint in his first year with the Bills.  Dareus finished the year with 43 tackles and 5.5 sacks in his rookie campaign.  His 5.5 sacks was a team high, the first rookie to achieve that accomplishment since Aaron Schobel did so in 2001.  He made a huge play in the Bills’ 38-35 win against the Patriots in Week 3 of the season when he tipped a Tom Brady pass in the air and landed in the hands of cornerback Drayton Florence for a pick 6.  He started all 16 games for the Bills in his rookie year and he went the last 11 without having former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams next to him.  Dareus was the Bills’ best defensive lineman in Williams’ absence and should make for quite the formidable duo with big Kyle in the foreseeable future (Williams just signed a 6 year contract extension).  All in all the Bills expected a lot from their #3 overall pick, their highest pick since they took Bruce Smith #1 overall, and they got what they were looking for.  Dareus looks to be a rock that the Bills defense can be built around for years to come and he should be even more productive next year when he will have Kyle Williams in addition to another likely high draft pick to play next to him on the end.  After the Mike Williams bust at the #4 pick in 2002 the Bills needed this one and it appears that they got it.  Pre-Grade: A

2nd Round Pick, CB Aaron Williams

2nd Round Pick (34th Overall) – Aaron Williams, CB, Texas – Williams had an up-and-down rookie year for the Bills, mostly because it was plagued by injuries.  He was thrust into action on opening day when Terrence McGee went down with an injury and held his own as the nickel back for the first two weeks.  After a rough start to his third game of the year against the Patriots he suffered a scary chest injury and had to be carted off the field.  Williams missed the next 6 games and came back in Week 10 against the Dolphins.  Williams was inserted into the starting lineup the next week against the Jets and he started every game for the rest of the year except the game against the Chargers, which he missed due to injury.  When healthy Williams was easily one of the top two cover corners on the team along with Drayton Florence.  He finished the year with 32 tackles and 5 passes defensed.  He forced a fumble on a nice strip of Reggie Bush in the game against the Dolphins in Buffalo and got his first career interception on Christmas Eve day off of Tim Tebow.  The injuries are a bit of a concern but when Williams is healthy you can pencil him in as a starter.  It’s not too bad to get 6 starts out of the 34th pick in the draft, particularly since he missed 7 games due to injury.  He only really struggled in two games, the two against New England, but who can fault a rookie going up against a future Hall of Fame QB.  Just keep him away from the tight ends next year.  Let him match up with receivers like he did at Texas and hopefully he will perform as good as he did in the other 7 games he played in.  Obviously he will need to start playing better against the Patriots but let’s start with a consistent 16 game season.  Pre-Grade: B

3rd Round Pick, ILB Kelvin Sheppard

3rd Round Pick (68th overall) – Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, Louisiana State – The Bills went back to the SEC for the second time in their first 3 picks.  Sheppard literally started paying dividends right away for the Bills when he recovered a fumble on the opening play of the season against the Chiefs.  For the first month Sheppard pitched in on special teams until Week 5 against the Eagles when he started playing more with the defense.  He had a big play in that game when he put pressure on Michael Vick and forced an errant throw that was picked off by fellow ILB Nick Barnett and returned for a TD.  Sheppard worked his way into a starting role by Week 8.  He started the final ten games for the Bills at inside linebacker.  He was up and down, he had trouble in coverage at times, but was solid overall.  In all he finished with 70 tackles including one for a safety when he tackled Reggie Bush in the end zone in Miami.  He had more than a few rookie moments but he looks like he’s a guy that can contribute for the Bills.  One thing that he will definitely have to improve on playing in the AFC East is his coverage, the tight ends ate him up.  He was a 3rd round pick though and you can’t sniff the production and potential that he gave you this year and you hope some coaching up will help him perform even better in his 2nd year in the Buffalo defense.  Pre-Grade: B-

4th Round Pick, SS Da'Norris Searcy

4th Round Pick (100th Overall) – Da’Norris Searcy, SS, North Carolina – The Bills stayed in the south in the 4th round picking two ACC guys.  The first was Searcy, a hard hitting safety from UNC.  Searcy was a solid special teams player early in the season and record his first career INT in Week 2 when he picked off Jason Campbell’s hail mary pass at the end of the game to seal the win for the Bills.  Searcy was pressed into action at safety in Week 10 in Dallas when starter George Wilson was injured and started the next three games.  He held his own, recording 23 of the 34 tackles he had as a rookie in that 3 game stretch.  He looks like a stud special teams player and dependable second string guy.  Good value at #100.  Pre-Grade: A-

4th Round Pick (122nd Overall) – Chris Hairston, OT, Clemson – Another southern college guy and another guy who contributed starting time for the Bills.  He was the swing tackle going into the season, the first guy off the bench on either side.  He got into the lineup in Week 4 against the Bengals when the oft-injured Demetrius Bell went down.  He went on to start the next two games before his own ankle injury kept him out of the lineup for 3 games.  He returned to the lineup and started 4 games before Bell came back from injury until he was injured again in Week 17.  Hairston had the 7th start of his rookie season in Week 17 against New England.  He had trouble against edge rushers but was great in the running game.  He will likely start his 2nd year the same way that he started his first, as the swing tackle for both positions.  He doesn’t seem totally ready to take over that left tackle position and Erik Pears in entrenched on the right side.  If the Bills decide to resign Bell and go with the same tackle trio next year Hairston could see more significant time at left tackle.  Pre-Grade: B

5th Round Pick, RB Johnny White

5th Round Pick (133rd Overall) – Johnny White, RB, North Carolina – The Bills took their 2nd Tarheel with their 6th pick.  White was not too great rushing the ball.  He had 38 yards on 12 carries in his rookie campaign, 8 of those carries came in garbage time Week 1 vrs. the Chiefs.  He did contribute on special teams but he had a chance to get some snaps when Fred Jackson went down.  Since the coaching staff didn’t have enough faith in him to help C.J. Spiller carry the load they went out and grabbed Tashard Choice off of waivers.  White might have trouble sticking with the team this year when Jackson, Spiller, and Choice are all healthy.  Pre-Grade: C

6th Round Pick (169th Overall) – Chris White, ILB, Mississippi State – White, like Sheppard, paid immediate dividends when he forced the fumble that Sheppard recovered on the first play of the season.  After that White gave them 8 tackles on special teams before suffering a season ending injury Week 10 against the Cowboys.  He seems like a solid enough special teams player and should make the team next year as a back-up.  Pre-Grade: C+

7th Round Pick, CB Justin Rogers

7th Round Pick (206th Overall) – Justin Rogers, CB, Richmond – Rogers maybe gave the Bills the most bang for their buck.  The 7th round pick saw extensive time late in the season when Terrence McGee was injured and Leodis McKelvin fell out of favor with the coaching staff.  He saw action is the final 7 games and recorded 16 tackles and had 4 passes defensed.  Like Williams he recorded his first career INT off of Tim Tebow in Week 16.  He was also the best kick return the Bills had this season.  He will surely make the team next year but the Bills will likely look to upgrade the position in light of possibly cutting ties with McGee and McKelvin.  Pre-Grade: A

7th Round Pick (245th Overall) – Michael Jasper, DT/OT, Bethel – Jasper is a huge prospect (literally), almost 400 pounds but he never made it to the main roster until the final week of the season, seeing no action.  You can’t fault him for not making the squad in light of him being moved from defense to offense during the season so we’ll go easy on him.  He did stick with the practice squad for the duration of the season.  Pre-Grade: C

Notable undrafted free agents – SS Joshua Nesbitt, Georgia Tech (On roster for final 7 games), WR Kamar Aiken, Central Florida (On roster for final 6 games), OLB Robert Eddins, Ball State (On roster for 1st game of the season)

Since it takes three years to fully evaluate a draft class tomorrow I will look at the draft class from three years ago (Hint – their 1st pick is going to get an F).

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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