The Bills needed help at cornerback, left offensive tackle and wide receiver. Their first three picks? A cornerback, a tackle, a wide receiver and all have the potential to make an impact as rookies.
The Bills, coming off a 6-10 season and entering their third year of rebuilding under the eyes of general manager Buddy Nix and coach Chan Gailey, are still a land of opportunity for draft picks.
First-rounder Stephon Gilmore, labeled the most complete cornerback in the draft, could grab a starting spot from Drayton Florence or Terrence McGee and the door is wide open at left tackle for second-rounder Cordy Glenn. Wide receiver T.J. Graham fills a need for deep speed in the mix of prospects opposite Stevie Johnson, but will need time.
Offensive tackle Cordy Glenn: With the loss of Demetress Bell to the Eagles and with only second-year pro Chris Hairston on board, the large, nimble Glenn should start as a rookie. With any luck, he'll anchor the critical left side job for a decade.
Linebacker Nigel Bradham: With the top edge rushers off the board, the Bills did well to land Bradham, who led Florida State in tackles for three years and can run in coverage.
A closer look at the Bears' picks:
Round 1/10 - Stephon Gilmore, CB, 6-0, 193, South Carolina
With veteran corners Drayton Florence and Terrence McGee at that uncertain age, the Bills found a player who could step into their starting lineup at some point as a rookie. Gilmore has the speed (4.38) to cover deep and the aggressiveness to come up and help against the run, a complete player with few flaws.
Round 2/41 - Cordy Glenn, OT, 6-5, 348, Georgia
Glenn has been on Buffalo's radar for awhile and they were thrilled he was there in round two after a run on tackles. While some teams viewed him as a guard, he's a tackle in their eyes and his nimble feet and huge wingspan make him a candidate to start right away.
Round 3/69 - T.J. Graham, WR, 6-0, 180, North Carolina State
The Bills liked Graham so much they gave a seventh-round pick to Washington to move up two spots but this may have been a reach this high. Track star does fill need for deep speed and he's ACC's career kickoff return leader.
Round 4/105 - Nigel Bradham, OLB, 6-2, 241, Florida State
Led FSU in tackles for three years and recorded 21.5 tackles for loss to go with 9.0 sacks. Good speed (4.64) for the job but a bit stiff.
Round 4/124 - Ron Brooks, CB, 5-10, 190, Louisiana State
Bills added even more speed (4.37) to cover deep. Brooks had only three career starts but he's a good value pick here. Played in shadow of No. 6 overall pick Morris Claiborne (Dallas).
Round 5/144 - Zebrie Sanders, OT, 6-5, 320, Florida State
More of a project player than Glenn, can play both right and left side. Dropped after a poor Senior Bowl week.
Round 5/147 - Tank Carder, ILB, 6-3, 237, Texas Christian
Colorful, tough athlete, very instinctive, stock rose with good workouts. Depth candidate who can play every linebacker spot.
Round 6/178 - Mark Asper, OG/C, 6-7, 325, Oregon
Massive road grader who played mostly right guard his senior year on one of nation's top offenses, Bills see him as backup center.
Round 7/251 - John Potter, PK, Western Michigan, 6-2, 209
With new kickoff rule, Bills like his ability to put the ball consistently through opponent's end zone as potential kickoff specialist.
--With Terrence McGee's injury history, Drayton Florence's aging legs and Leodis McKelvin's unfulfilled potential, cornerback was a position of a need on the backburner if not front burner for the Bills heading into the NFL Draft.
And while help for the offense in the form of a left tackle or wide receiver would've been prudent and hard to argue against, general manager Buddy Nix continued his prudent offseason effort to upgrade Buffalo's 26th-ranked defense, using the 10th overall pick on South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore during Thursday night's first round.
"We talked about needing a corner with size and adding speed to our team and I think we did both with this guy," Nix said. "This guy has been a 40-game starter in a pretty good league. He's got good ball skills and he's got great speed. He's a good tackler. He was high on our draft board from the start. When the corners started going I thought there might be a chance he wouldn't be there. We were fortunate I think to get him and he'll help our football team."
And in a division where Tom Brady is still king for Super Bowl runner-up New England, a team can never have enough good corners. McKelvin was the last cornerback selected in the first round by the Bills, 11th overall in 2008.
In the 6-0, 193-pound Gilmore, Buffalo lands a three-year starter who possesses deep-coverage speed (4.38) with the size needed to help fill against the run and long arms to play either press or zone coverage. He and last year's second-round pick, Aaron Williams, are the team's future.
"We think he's a good strong sturdy corner that can press, can run ... and he makes plays," said Chuck Cook, the team's director of college scouting, said of Gilmore. "We like his physicalness in coming up in (run) support."
The Bills were major players in free agency, landing two premiere defensive ends in Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, solving -- on paper -- their lack of a pass rush. They were 27th in sacks last year.
Stopping the run was another concern -- Buffalo ranked 28th -- so if Gilmore can contribute as a nickel corner as a rookie, his impact will be instant, and he could challenge for a starting role. He also has blitz skills coming off the edge.
Although just a junior, Gilmore logged 40 starts for the Gamecocks, finishing with eight interceptions, seven sacks and 15 tackles for loss. He also has fine return skills, although the Bills are deep there.
"We're just trying to upgrade our defense where we think it needs upgrading the most," coach Chan Gailey said of taking a defensive player first overall in two of his three seasons as coach (Marcell Dareus was picked No. 3 last year). "Both of us (Nix) sat down and identified pass rush was our No. 1 need. That was the one thing we had to address whether free agency, draft, somehow, somewhere, we had to address that. We were fortunate to be able to address that in free agency so it really freed us up in the draft to be able to look at a bunch of different positions and pick the best football player that fit our team quickly."
Is Gilmore good enough to challenge for a starting job as a rookie?
"No question about it, yes," Gailey said.
After Morris Claiborne, the draft's top-rated corner, went to Dallas at No. 6, Buffalo's war room had its pick of all the next best cornerbacks, including Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick. Before the draft, Cook said it was a "tossup" picking between Kirkpatrick and Gilmore but gave an indication that Kirkpatrick benefited from a great scheme at Alabama and he could gamble a bit more in coverage because of a good pass rush.
He also had some off-field question marks where Gilmore's character is unstained.
It was no secret that the Bills coveted Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, but he went one spot ahead of them at No. 9 to Carolina. There were five trades in the Top 10 but Nix wasn't biting to move up and take Kuechly, or the best offensive tackle available -- Matt Kalil of USC who went No. 4 to Minnesota.
The Bills were linked to tackles Riley Reiff of Iowa and Cordy Glenn of Georgia along with wide receiver Michael Floyd of Notre Dame. All were still on the board. In the end, the Bills stayed true to their rankings and were elated to take Gilmore.
In the long run, an improved defense makes their offense better as they try and end a 12-year playoff drought. They will address tackle, receiver and linebacker in the draft's later rounds.
Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.