Buffalo Bills add depth, not starters, in draft

Tony Callens, Staff Writer

The 2015 NFL Draft has come and gone, and as the only team without a first round pick but many positions to fill or at least add depth to, it was interesting to see what the Buffalo Bills would do.

General Manager Doug Whaley told the media that the team, which only had five draft picks total this year, would draft for depth and in certain cases draft the best player available in spite of certain team needs and that is exactly what he did.

With their first pick, 50th overall in the second round, they selected Ronald Darby, a cornerback out of Florida State. Darby was projected by some draft pundits to go at the end of the first round, but generally projected to be a second or third rounder. He is a good cover corner who thrives in press coverage and has blazing speed. His skill set against the pass is unquestioned, but that is not the case with his run coverage abilities. He’s not a big hitter and, while he has outstanding athleticism, his toughness has been questioned.

With all that being said, Darby will fit in as a nickel corner on passing situations. He has tremendous upside, could be an eventual starter, and fits new head coach Rex Ryan’s defensive schemes perfectly. This pick may signal the end of Leodis McKelvin’s tenure as a Buffalo Bill.

In the third round, 81st overall, Buffalo selected John Miller, a guard out of Louisville. Miller fills a need for depth on the offensive line that ranked a league-worst 32nd in run blocking. He will have an opportunity to compete for a starting role in training camp this August. His athleticism is questionable, but he was praised by scouts for his vice-grip-like ability to block. He excels at locking his hands in on defenders and manipulating their movement.

The Bills did not have a fourth round pick and selected two of Darby’s college teammates at Florida State in the fifth and sixth rounds respectively. In the fifth, 155th overall, the Bills selected running back Karlos Williams. Williams will be able to contribute right away on the special teams unit due to his background as a former defensive player.

With Fred Jackson being the oldest running back in the league at 34 years old, Williams could possibly become the second running back in the rotation behind LeSean McCoy when Jackson retires. Williams’ selection also means that Bryce Brown could be in the mix for training camp cuts.

In the sixth round, the Bills had two picks that they used on Clemson linebacker Tony Steward and Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary.

Steward was taken due to his potential upside, but two ACL injuries in college hurt his draft stock and ultimately led to his fall to the sixth round. O’Leary came to national prominence as a favorite target of number one overall pick Jameis Winston. He has a unique skill-set as a tight end, characterized as an H-back or a tight end-fullback hybrid. His hands are impeccable and he is comparable to a player like former Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark.

With their final selection, the Bills selected wide receiver Dezmin Lewis out of Central Arkansas, who some draft pundits saw as a potential fourth round talent. Lewis gives the Bills a big-bodied receiver that they were lacking before at 6’4”. He is seen as a project, but again, like so many players in this year’s draft, has great potential upside.

The Bills came into this year’s draft looking to add pieces to an already formidable roster. They didn’t add any “franchise” players, but selected to fill needs and drafted players with potential. Doug Whaley has shown in his tenure as general manager that he has a plan and has stuck to it as the team and the community looks for great things to come in 2015.

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