All things considered, the last couple of years haven’t been too hard on the Buffalo Bills. An encouraging end to 2010, followed by a big step forward in 2011 and landing the prize free agent this offseason, Mario Williams.
Suddenly the Bills are a team on the rise with a lot to look forward to.
How has this happened? Good coaching? Good drafting? Good free agent pickups? Well, we’re going to look at one of these areas, as we put the Bills 2008-2010 draft classes through the Draft Grader, giving each pick a grade between +2.0 and -2.0 (in 0.5 increments) that depends upon:
• Where they were drafted
• Their performance
• Their contribution (how many snaps their team got out of them)
• Other factors such as unforeseen injuries and conditions that could not have been accounted for
Let’s take a look at how Buffalo drafted.
+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round
They didn’t, but they do at least get to watch Tom Brady twice a year. Oh right, that’s a bad thing.
+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!
Stevie Johnson, WR (224th overall pick in 2008): 2010 was the breakout year for the former seventh round pick, who broke the 1,000 yard receiving mark (a feat he would do again a year later). There have been some low moments, but Johnson has done a great job of bouncing back to become one of the leagues’ better receivers, and one of the few to get the better of Darrelle Revis.
Jairus Byrd, S (42nd overall pick in 2009): One of those strange careers, where Byrd was somewhat overrated as a rookie on the back of his interceptions, but has gone onto become one of the best safeties in the league. Third in our rankings in 2011, Byrd has the kind of athleticism to play the single high safety role while at the same time making his presence felt in the run game.
+1.0: The scouts nailed it!
Andy Levitre, G (51st overall pick in 2009): One of the league’s better young guards, Levitre’s versatility has been to his own downfall at times. If he’d spent his entire career at guard, then who knows just how well he could have performed. As it is, we’ve seen enough to be convinced of his talents.
+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor
Demetress Bell, T (219th overall pick in 2008): Buffalo stuck with Bell through early struggles, and looked to be rewarded with a talented left tackle on the back of his start to 2011. Injury meant we didn’t get to see how he would perform over an entire season, and now Buffalo won’t get to see their development rewarded after he left in free agency. Still, a find in the seventh round.
Eric Wood, C (28th overall pick in 2009): If Wood hadn’t dealt with severe injuries and played so often at guard, he’d likely receive a higher grade after taking a huge step forward in 2011 when playing at his natural center position. Bills fans must be hoping for a healthy 2012.
C.J. Spiller, RB (9th overall pick in 2010): Spiller may never be an every-down player, but he’s a real danger with the ball in his hands as his +11.2 grade from 2011 shows. You get the impression the Bills may have only begun to scratch the surface with what they can get out of him.
Arthur Moats, DE (178th overall pick in 2010): Moats has seen a decent amount of time as a specialist pass rusher (332 pass rushes over the past two years), and produced in that time: a very healthy 42 combined sacks, hits and hurries.
0.0: Nothing ventured, nothing gained (It could have been worse)
Reggie Corner, CB (114th overall pick in 2008): A below average corner, the former fourth round pick has at least provided the Bills with a dime back who doesn’t look completely out of his depth on the field for four years.
Derek Fine, TE (132nd overall pick in 2008): Injury played it’s part, but in two seasons, Fine didn’t turn his 589 snaps into the kind of reasoning for the Bills to stick with him.
Alvin Bowen, LB (147th overall pick in 2008): Would Bowen have been able to make an impact if not for tearing a knee ligament as a rookie? We’ll never know.
Xavier Omon, RB (179th overall pick in 2008): It was always going to be hard for Omon to crack a deep backfield, and the 20 career snaps he managed prove that.
Shawn Nelson, TE (121st overall pick in 2009): Nelson saw considerable time as a rookie, but his Bill’s career was derailed by a suspension and some lingering concussion effects that had him missing plenty of time. A change in schemes later and he was surplus to requirements.
Nic Harris, LB (147th overall pick in 2009): The college safety come NFL linebacker had a knack for making tackles, but after recovering slowly from a knee injury that ended his rookie year, the Bills waived him.
Cary Harris, CB (183rd overall pick in 2009): Lasted over a year with the team without seeing the field on defense, though he did record four special teams tackles.
Ellis Lankster, CB (220th overall pick in 2009): Lankster saw some snaps (27) as a rookie while adding two tackles on special teams.
Marcus Easley, WR (107th overall pick in 2010): Impossible to evaluate, Easley missed his rookie year with a knee injury and then his sophomore season with a heart ailment that could jeopardize his career.
Ed Wang, T (140th overall pick in 2010): Something of a developmental project that didn’t work out, Wang got on the field for eight snaps, spending more time in the trainers room with various injuries.
Danny Batten, LB (192nd overall pick in 2010): Got on the field in 2011 for 226 plays, but struggled to make an impact when the Bills got him rushing the passer.
Levi Brown, QB (209th overall pick in 2010): Actually got on the field for five snaps as a rookie, after initially being cut and not offered a spot on the practice squad.
-0.5: That pick was not put to good use
Leodis McKelvin, CB (11th overall pick in 2008): After a tough rookie year, Bills fans must have been looking forward to seeing McKelvin in Year 2–only for injury to limit him to 135 snaps. Since then, the former first round pick hasn’t been terrible when on the field, but you expect more out of a cornerback drafted where he was.
Kennard Cox, CB (251st overall pick in 2008): An experiment of a pick, Cox was cut and not re-signed to the practice squad after four months with the team.
Torell Troup, DT (41st overall pick in 2010): Viewed as a reach at the time, Troup hasn’t exactly disproven that theory. It’s not just a lack of playing time (397 snaps), but a lack of production (-9.7 grade) that leaves him needing to take a huge step forward to justify his drafting.
Alex Carrington, DE (72nd overall pick in 2010): Carrington did flash some talent as a rookie, but his sophomore year was hugely disappointing where he struggled to have an impact in either the run or pass game.
Kyle Calloway, T (216th overall pick in 2010): A waste of a pick, even in the seventh, Calloway was among the first waive of cuts in his rookie year.
-1.0: What a waste!
Chris Ellis, DE (72nd overall pick in 2008): 128 snaps spread out over three years, with just five combined sacks, hits and hurries. Yep, that’s a waste.
-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!
James Hardy, WR (41st overall pick in 2008): Someone who just couldn’t translate his physical skill set to the NFL, Hardy looked atrocious in the 308 NFL snaps he managed. His -7.4 grade in that time was earned by catching just 10 balls with the Bills for 96 yards.
-2.0: You just drafted the love child of Jamarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!
Aaron Maybin, DE (11th overall pick in 2009): Maybin may not have been the Russell/Leaf hybrid, but given what the Bills got out of him he may well have been. 332 snaps, 201 spent rushing the passer which yielded just two QB hits and nine QB hurries.
The 2010 class has some questions over it, but you get to see why the Bills have made such strides in recent years when you look at some of their draft classes. Buffalo has done a good job finding value throughout the draft, and an especially good job of finding talent on the offensive line and developing it. It speaks volumes for the coaching that they’ve also had success where other teams have failed, and it’s a testament to the patience of the staff that they didn’t give up on players who struggled early in their careers.