Last Bills rookies unfortunately played like rookies

By Anthony Bialy  |   Tuesday, May 26, 2009  |  Comments( 61 )

Buffalo Bills
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It might not be fair to judge last year’s Buffalo Bills draftees just yet. But it’s the only evidence available regarding general manager/marketer Russ Brandon’s record. He won’t be convicted for success based on what this team got from the players he added: The squad didn’t get an immediate surge from his initial class. Optimistically, that just means they can contribute starting now; unfortunately, the group doesn’t offer much inspiration for this year’s class, at least not this year.

Leodis McKelvin just needs time. The cornerback looked more comfortable in late-season action, and he found a way to contribute on special teams, but it’s the pick and not the player that’s most troublesome. The Bills could have addressed their need at defensive end with that 11th selection. Instead, they had to wait until last month to add Aaron Maybin; this team is a year behind its needs.

This defense could have gone into 2009 relying on Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer at cornerbacks, a pair that would be playing together for the seasons ahead. Instead, the Bills let Greer depart, leaving a developing McKelvin to fill his spot maybe this year or next. He looks promising as an eventual value, but the full payoff is a season or two away.

At this rate, wideout James Hardy similarly needs even more time to develop. He at best displayed occasional semi-flashes of aptitude, and his 87 yards means he had the equivalent of a good game over the season. He needs to start making better use of his height, and everything else he has, this camp.

Bills fans may be surprised to learn that third-rounder Chris Ellis was on their team last season. It says on his NFL page that he played in seven games, but nobody remembers any of his three tackles. The necessity of nabbing Maybin at April’s event was evidence that Ellis was a weak pick last year, even as a rookie stationed at a challenging spot.

Tight end Derek Fine had to cope with an injury before he could cope with opposing defenses, and his wonky thumb means he gets an incomplete grade. His 10 receptions for 94 yards over 10 games still doesn’t provoke confidence that this team is set at tight end, and even a healthy Fine would be better off starting as a backup. Fine’s status depends on how soon rookie Shawn Nelson is ready for action.

As for a maybe third-stringer, 179th pick Xavier Omon has more attempts than carries, although he doesn’t have many of either. His six rushes for 5 yards are low even by rookie sixth-rounder standards, and he’s going to have to beat out veteran Dominic Rhodes for a roster spot, much less that seventh handoff.

On the other hand, Reggie Corner did well for a fourth-round defensive back, racking up 22 tackles and four defended passes; he’s on track for at least some nickel package time this season.

Unfortunately, linebacker Alvin Bowen never got the chance to impress after he sadly lost his entire season to a busted knee; as previously noted, he’s currently taking his first strides back.

The team’s most impressive picks may be two late ones. Demetrius Bell is blessed with raw potential, and the Bills can’t lose regardless of whether he backs up at tackle or works his way into the mix at guard. Similarly, fellow final-rounder Steve Johnson has impressed as a fifth receiver, and even if he plateaus it wouldn’t hurt the Bills. Conversely, final selection Kennard Cox is on his third team, and we hardly knew him.

Of course, there’s promise among last year’s draftees even if they didn’t deliver in a hurry on the whole. But the lack of a quick learner hurt a team that could have used a pleasant surprise. Bills fans must hope Brandon did a better job last month of adding players who can contribute now for a team that must win now. The broader dream, namely that this franchise will hire a general manager to be general manager, will have to wait.
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About Anthony Bialy

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CommentsComments: 61  |  Sign Up  View all comments
06:20 AM
To sum it up, last years draft pretty much sucked dead moose you know what. i know you have to wait 3 years before you make...
09:00 AM
Leodis looks like he will be an excellent player for years to come----will he be the first DB the Bills give a large contract too...
09:05 AM
To this point the draft looks very average. In regards to McKelvin, he returned kicks well but I wish he would stop doing that...
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