Making the Grade: Buffalo Bills 2012 Draft
After an already exciting and successful off-season, the Buffalo Bills and their fans began the draft with anticipation and eagerness not felt around the team in years. GM Buddy Nix did a fantastic job of waiting for value in nearly every round and hitting almost every team need with potential starters. For the first time in years Buffalo appears to have a unified direction, headed toward relevancy and perhaps a playoff appearance.
Stephon Gilmore , CB (10): B+
The Bills continue the retooling of their defense, picking the 4 year starter out of South Carolina. Gilmore has tremendous size and speed, showing both at the Combine. He is tremendously physical and like previous Bill Antoine Winfield, is not afraid to make tackles at the line of scrimmage. Gilmore can be stiff in the hips at times, but is able to rely on his athleticism to help his shortcomings there. The defensive backfield in Buffalo really struggled in 2011 and Gilmore should be able to make an immediate positive impact.
Cordy Glenn, OL (41): A+
As a Bills fan, I found myself cheering this pick out loud immediately after the announcement. Glenn is a 1st round talent, was considered as 10th overall pick by the Bills themselves, that somehow slipped to them in the 2nd. Glenn did not play tackle until his senior season at Georgia (leaving some to question his viability there), but GM Buddy Nix thinks otherwise. Early tape in 2011 showed Glenn struggling, but made tremendous progress as the season progressed. Versatility is a plus, but the Bills see the massive Glenn protecting the Amish Rifle's blindside for years to come. Bills fans everywhere should be ecstatic about them getting Cordy Glenn in the 2nd round, without having to move up to get him.
T.J. Graham , WR (69): C
This pick surprised basically everyone, especially Bills fans. Graham was a 5th round grade for most, but Buffalo traded up a couple spots to land the speedster out of NC State. A track star, Graham can fly and according to GM Buddy Nix, will play opposite Stevie Johnson (although, the fan in me envisions Marcus Easley's return in 2012). There are questions surrounding Graham's small frame and whether or not it'll hold up in the NFL, but tape shows surprising yard after contact numbers. Graham drew comparisons to the Steelers' Mike Wallace from the Bills' front office. A real shocker in the 3rd, but faith has been placed in Gailey's ability to find the right pieces for his offense.
Nigel Bradham, OLB (105): B+
Buffalo fills another need in the 4th round, finding nice value in outside linebacker Nigel Bradham. Bradham has great closing speed, a tremendous work ethic and started in his last 39 games for Florida State (playing in all during his collegiate career). Much like Kelvin Sheppard in 2011, Bradham could find himself in the starting lineup in 2012.
Ron Brooks, CB (124): A-
Another great pick by the Bills in the 4th round. Overshadowed by Pat Peterson, Morris Claiborne and Tyrone Mathieu, Brooks did a tremendous job for the LSU defense. Had the Bills gone away from Gilmore in the 1st, many had Brooks for Buffalo as high as the 2nd round. Like Gilmore, Brooks loves playing near the line of scrimmage and is not afraid to attack the running game. Brooks will probably fill the nickel spot for Buffalo as Aaron Williams and the aforementioned Gilmore lock up the outside. Bills fan have to be excited about the way the defense is shaping up under Dave Wannstedt.
Zebrie Sanders, OT (144): A
Sounding like a broken record at this point, but Buffalo steals another guy they had their eye on much later than they thought they'd be able to take him. Sanders fits the Buddy Nix mold: massive with athletic upside and will start as a depth guy, but could easily see the field in his rookie season and may not relinquish it once he is given that spot. Like 2nd rounder Cordy Glenn, Sanders' versatility is a huge plus along with durability that saw him starting 36 consecutive games. Buffalo hoped to find 2 serviceable tackles in the draft, but even they have to be beyond pleasantly surprised with Sanders and Glenn without having to give up picks to get either. Come 2012, the Bills will be much stronger in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Tank Carder, LB (147): B
An injured shoulder limited Carder in his senior season, causing a slip in this year's draft and made for a nice value for the Bills in the 5th round. More than likely a special-teamer in 2012, Carder provides some depth for the line-backing corps with potential to eventually sneak into the starting lineup down the road. Carder's intangibles are through the roof, but he has a tendency to loose gap responsibility because of his aggressive reads and urgency to get into the backfield. Aggressive and hungry, the Bills would like to see Carder get stronger and become more of a force to couple with that aggressiveness. Carder must find a way to pick his spots better if he hopes to become a staple on defense. For now, however, Carder's drive and work ethic will be an asset on special teams with starting upside potential in his future.
Mark Asper, OG (178): D
As a Bills fan, this is where I found myself let down. Asper is a practice squad body, who many did not consider even sign-able as an undrafted free agent. Asper does not fill any need for the Bills and is unlikely to make the 53 man roster. Buffalo is still in need of a backup (Thigpen is not) QB and I would have liked to see the Bills give an opportunity to Kellen Moore here.
John Potter, K (251): F-
What a wasted pick. Rian Lindell is the Bills' kicker for the 2012 season, so ostensibly there is no way Potter makes the team barring injury. Again, have to wonder why Buffalo would throw away picks (their last being a kicker) and not draft literally any other eligible non-kicking player (Kellen Moore not worth a flier here either?!?). A team cannot hit every round, but as a fan you hate to see a team throw picks away.