Buffalo Bills 3 year draft review

They say that you should wait to grade a draft class after they’ve played three seasons so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  We’ll take a look at the Bills’ 2009 draft and take a look at what Dick Jauron accomplished in his final draft with the team.  Remember that current GM Buddy Nix was brought on as an adviser for this draft after leaving San Diego.  Anyway, here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Bills 2009 draft, starting with the ugly:

1st Round Pick, DE Aaron Maybin

1st Round Pick (11th Overall) – Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB, Penn State – Ouch.  That about sums up the Bills taking Maybin with the #11 overall selection in the 2009 draft.  The Bills were desperate for pass rush after they struggled when Aaron Schobel went down with an injury in 2008.  Jauron was obsessed with smaller, faster players and Maybin’s measurables were off the charts.  The worst part about this pick is that Maybin only had one good year at Penn State, his red-shirt sophomore season.  Him and his agent apparently guessed that there would be a coach or GM who would jump on his potential and they guessed right.  Maybin was a colossal failure in Buffalo.  In two seasons he couldn’t manage a sack and recorded only 24 tackles.  He was cut during the 2011 preseason and signed with the Jets.  After being cut by the Jets before the season began he was re-signed when veteran LB Bryan Thomas was lost for the year.  He managed to get 6 sacks and 11 tackles for the Jets but disappeared in the last month when the Jets were fighting for a playoff spot.  The fact alone that Jauron and co. left Brian Cushing, Brian Orakpo, and Clay Matthews on the board at this pick means that this pick should get the lowest possible grade.  The fact that he produced with the Jets last year makes the pick even worse.  Grade: F-

2nd Round Pick, C Eric Wood

1st Round Pick (28th Overall) – Eric Wood, C, Louisville – The Bills acquired this pick when they traded Jason Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles.  Wood started the first 10 games of his career at right guard but suffered an unfortunate injury in the 10th game of the year against Jacksonville when he broke his leg.  Wood came back into camp near 100% for the 2010 season and started 14 of the 16 games that year.  During the season he transitioned to the center position, which he played back in Louisville.  Wood’s production picked up as he recovered from his leg injury and as he eased into his transition from guard to center.  He was playing at an above average level by the end of the season.  He was penciled in as the starting center for the start of the 2011 season and his play went from above average to elite early on.  He was playing like one of the best centers in the league but unfortunately his season was cut short due to injury for the 2nd time in his 3 year career.  He suffered a torn ACL in the Week 10 game against the Cowboys when he attempted to make a tackle on an interception return.  He missed the last 7 games of the season.  Injuries are part of the game and Wood’s two injuries were fluky yet serious damage has been down to his legs already.  When healthy he looks to be an elite center for the Bills.  If he can come back strong from his second season ending injury in three years, a big if of course, then he will set the Bills up at center for years to come.  Grade: B+

2nd Round Pick, FS Jairus Byrd

2nd Round Pick (42nd Overall) – Jairus Byrd, FS, Oregon – Byrd was a hybrid cornerback/safety at Oregon and didn’t seem to be a huge need for the Bills where they drafted him.  Nevertheless Byrd was penciled in as the starter for the Bills at free safety from day 1 and turned in a rookie season that garnered him 2nd place in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.  He had 45 tackles along with 9 interceptions and 11 passes defensed.  He got a Pro Bowl spot for his success in his rookie year.  Byrd was back in 2010 and started all 16 games at free safety.  He did not fair nearly as well in his 2nd season however.  He was a liability in the run game and was disappointing in the pass game.  He finished the year with only 1 interception and 2 passes defensed to go along with his 89 tackles.  Byrd make a big leap forward in the 2011 season, returning to form in the passing game and becoming an even bigger presence in the run game.  He finished the season with 98 tackles, a sack, 3 interceptions, 8 passes defensed, and 3 forced fumbles.  Byrd was as productive a defensive player as you could be and would have received All Pro honors if it wasn’t for established guys like Eric Weddle and Ed Reed getting the votes.  Byrd looks to be a fixture in the Bills defensive backfield if the Bills can extend his contract by the end of next season when he becomes a free agent.  Grade: A-

2nd Round Pick, G Andy Levitre

2nd Round Pick (51st Overall) – Andy Levitre, G, Oregon State – The Bills traded a 3rd and 4th round pick to move back to the 2nd round to get Levitre and I’m sure that they are glad they did.  Levitre started at left guard from day one with the Bills and has literally not stopped since.  He has started all 48 games thus far in his pro career.  He started 16 games as a rookie and was probably the Bills most consistent offensive lineman in his rookie year.  He came back in 2010 and started 16 more games, including a few at left tackle when they grew thin there.  He again appeared to have a very good year yet head coach Chan Gailey apparently didn’t see the fire he wanted to in Levitre so he demoted him a few times during the 2011 preseason.  Despite that Levitre came in and once again started all 16 games for the Bills.  He started a few games at left tackle again and had to fill in at center for one game.  Levitre’s best work came at left guard.  He is one of the premiere pulling and screen blocking guards in the NFL already in only his third season.  He would have likely been a surefire Pro Bowler if he played for a winning team.  Again he is the anchor of the offensive line and could make a premiere trio with Eric Wood and Kraig Urbik if the Bills can secure Levitre with a long term contract.  Grade: A+

4th Round Pick, TE Shawn Nelson

4th Round Pick (121st Overall) – Shawn Nelson, TE, Southern Mississippi – Nelson looked like a huge value pick at the time but he just couldn’t pan out for the Bills.  He was active for 12 games in his rookie season, catching 17 balls for 156 yards and a touchdown.  He didn’t come close to matching that in his sophomore effort (after being suspended for the first 4 games due to a failed drug test), catching only 3 balls for 25 yards in the 5 games that he was active in 2010.  He didn’t make it out of camp for the Bills in 2011 and like Maybin he caught on with the Jets for a few weeks but couldn’t last the season there either.  Grade: D+

5th Round Pick (147th Overall) – Nic Harris, LB, Oklahoma – Harris lasted just his rookie year before being cut by the Bills.  He was picked up by the Carolina Panthers for the 2010 season but was out of the league by the start of this season.  Not a good 5th round pick by any stretch.  Grade: F

6th Round Pick, CB Cary Harris

6th Round Pick (183rd Overall) – Cary Harris, CB, USC – Harris’ biggest claim to fame will probably be intercepting Peyton Manning twice on the last day of the Bills 2009 season.  He was converted to safety and saw sporadic action in his two seasons with the Bills, tallying 6 tackles and 2 passes defensed to go along with the 2 INTs.  He was cut by the Bills after 2010 and was signed by the Giants but was not active for any games this season.  Grade: C-

7th Round Pick (220nd Overall) – Ellis Lankster, CB, West Virginia – Lankster saw action in 10 games for the Bills in his rookie season.  He had 5 tackles and a pass defensed.  Lankster sat out the 2010 season and was brought back in 2011 by, you guessed it, the New York Jets and was active for 7 games and recorded 6 tackles.  Grade: D

All in all when you get past the Maybin disaster the Bills did well to secure three high end starters with the ensuing three picks.  Nelson looked like he had potential but could never put it together and it was disappointing that at least one of the last three defenders taken couldn’t stick around for at least three seasons.  Next year we will see how the 2010 draft class, Buddy Nix’ first as GM, matures as the Bills look to get into the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

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

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