Pre-Draft Needs: OLT, WR (speed), OLB, CB, DE
Round 1-Stephon Gilmore/CB
Round 2-Cordy Glenn/OT
Round 3-T.J. Graham/WR
Round 4-Nigel Bradham/LB
Round 4-Ron Brooks/CB
Round 5-Zebrie Sanders/OT
Round 5-Tank Carder/LB
Round 6-Mark Asper/G
Round 7-John Potter/K
OLB, DE, QB
The Bills put together an outstanding free agency period, but various needs from both sides of the ball remained as they entered April’s NFL Draft.
While cornerback wasn’t a big need as some others, the Bills needed to add competition and depth to the position. First-round pick Stephon Gilmore will not only add depth, but he’ll be expected to start this season. Gilmore was easily one of the top-three cornerbacks available for this draft, so the Bills should have a starter for many years to come. And what’s best about him as he’s capable of playing inside or outside.
Second-round pick OT Cordy Glenn will compete right away against second-year OT Chris Hairston for the LT job. Glenn isn’t a prototypical LT in body type, but he has good enough size for the position. However, he may have to lose a bit of weight to stay up with the speed rushers in the NFL. Some personnel evaluators projected Glenn to play inside at guard, but the Bills are solid there with Kraig Urbik and Andy Levitre.
The one big issue on offense for the Bills for many seasons has been finding speed at wide receiver. They addressed that issue with the selection of T.J. Graham in the third round. Graham might be a little raw at this point in his career, but he can flat out fly. And while he enters the learning stage of his career this season, Graham could challenge for a role as a special teams returner.
The Bills addressed the lack of depth at linebacker with the selection of fourth-rounder Nigel Bradham. Bradham is capable of playing inside or outside at linebacker, but projects to play at either outside position at the NFL level. With the transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive scheme this season, Bradham might project best to WLB. With former first-round pick Leodis McKelvin on the final year of his rookie contract and seemingly unlikely to be offered a deal to return in 2013, the Bills addressed depth at cornerback in the fourth round with Ron Brooks. Brooks only had one year of starting experience at LSU, but his tape last season was good enough to warrant a longer look. Brooks projects as a third or fourth cornerback at the NFL level because of his lack of experience at the position. He came to LSU as a wide receiver.
Fifth-round pick Zebrie Sanders played right tackle in college. And when looking at depth at the position, it makes sense to put him in back of veteran Erik Pears, where the team has no true backup. Sanders did also have experience at left tackle as a senior, so it’s possible they get him some snaps in training camp on that side. Fellow fifth-rounder Tank Carder is capable of playing all three linebacker positions for the Bills’ 4-3 scheme, but is projected to play on the outside. While he has better than average coverage skills for a linebacker, he may not have enough bulk to play on the strong side.
Sixth-round pick OL Mark Asper has a big body and is capable of playing guard or right tackle. The guard position lacks depth for the Bills, so it makes more sense to keep him inside.
The selection of seventh-round pick K John Potter was kind of surprising considering the Bills re-signed veteran K Rian Lindell through 2015. However, the Bills are looking at the rookie as a potential kickoff specialist.
The Bills should get at least two starters out of this year’s NFL Draft. And looking at what they did in free agency, you could certainly make a case that this is the strongest roster they’ve put together in many years.