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Bills’ draft a snooze, but successful nonetheless

Offseason trades make draft less than thrilling, but Bills add depth to their roster


With no first round pick and a busy offseason of trading and acquiring free agents, the NFL draft was destined to be a bit dull for the Buffalo Bills.

After making waves with pick-ups like running back LeSean McCoy, guard Richie Incognito, wide receiver Percy Harvin, tight end Charles Clay and quarterback Matt Cassel, the Bills didn’t have as many pressing priorities to address in the draft – which came as a relief, since the team traded away their first round pick to acquire wide receiver Sammy Watkins last year.

General Manager Doug Whaley needed to improve the team’s depth, and his picks reflected a priority not on fulfilling the team’s roster needs but on acquiring the best personnel available.

With their first pick, at the 50th spot overall, the Bills selected Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby. Though his name may be slightly tarnished by his role in the sexual assault case against FSU quarterback Jameis Winston – both Winston and Darby were cleared of any responsibility by FSU – Darby is a promising pick.

The Bills aren’t lacking in depth at cornerback, but Darby brings impressive speed and ability in press coverage, and having played at high-profile FSU, will likely experience little difficulty in his transition to the grandeur of the NFL.

However, in three seasons at FSU, Darby made only three interceptions, so the Bills and fans alike will be looking for improvement in that regard.

After adding to a long list of competent cornerbacks, the Bills tried to fill a gaping hole in their roster – the gap on their offensive line.

Last season, the Bills couldn’t find a suitable left guard with Kraig Urbik, Chris Williams or Cyril Richardson, but their third round pick of John Miller from Louisville may not be the answer either.

Though an aggressive player, Miller is undersized at 6-foot-2, which will prove troublesome in blocking larger opponents.

Ideally, Miller would be the Bills’ new starter in this position, and fulfill a pressing need for a team. Not only are the current options for guard subpar, the Bills will also be playing with a shaky quarterback – either Cassel or E.J. Manuel – so effective protection is vital in helping make plays.

The Bills’fifth round choice made less sense than the need-based Miller pick, as they selected yet another running back. Karlos Williams, from Florida State, joins McCoy, Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown.

Though Brown’s fumbling issues could make him replaceable, this pick is still questionable given Williams’ off-field issues, as he’s been investigated for domestic violence and a drug-related robbery.

Bringing troubled players onto the roster is always a risk – and an ethical dilemma – but it’s even more questionable when there’s no guarantee that they’ll make the plays to justify the extra attention they require off the field.

With their last three picks, the Bills continued to add depth, and chose Tony Steward, an injured linebacker who could boost the team’s depth at that position if healthy, tight end Nick O’Leary, who could be a good fit in the Bills’ offensive scheme and wide receiver Dezmin Lewis, predicted to play on the practice squad.

It’s clear there’s a glaring absence of a certain position among these picks – the Bills chose not to pick up a quarterback to develop this year. Though Whaley has said the team is still open to acquiring a quarterback, it’s understandable that they give Cassel and Manuel a fair shot.

If the Bills’ quarterback woes continue – if neither Cassel nor Manuel proves to be the answer – they’ve got all their picks next year.

But hopefully, their number one selection will come late in the first round.

The editorial board can be reached at editorial@ubspectrum.com


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