Reviewing the Bills 2009 Draft

Posted on January 25, 2010 by Paul Seebald

Anyone who’s paid attention to my discussing this year’s Buffalo Bills rookie class can distinguish my belief of it being premature to judge the path each career is heading on. It’s impractical to discern if injuries are an unlucky occurrence or a lingering part of their career (e.g. Jairus Byrd, Eric Wood).

No one knows how a player might respond to a different position, such as a certain first-round draft pick moving to a 3-4 outside linebacker role. Does a feeble rookie season mean the draft pick was wasted and all hope should be given up?

For the purpose of this exercise, I will not be handing out grades for each draft pick based on 2009 performance only. I’ll infuse my comments about their future in the league, but it’s certainly no time to be issuing report cards.

Round 1, Pick 11: Aaron Maybin

Despite being a rabid fan of both Penn State and Buffalo, I was never terribly excited about Maybin coming here. Conventional wisdom, or so I thought, told me Buffalo would go with a more experienced player at defensive end in the first round. Buffalo selecting Maybin this high brought me to the realization Dick Jauron had no inclination that he would soon be collecting an exuberant unemployment check.

Why else would Buffalo choose a 21-year old, one-year college starter and overall project at 11th overall? Jauron needed to win immediately, yet he picked someone who’d at best be able to help a couple years down the road. It didn’t make sense at the time and makes little more now.

I don’t wholeheartedly blame Maybin for his lack of 2009 success. I have heard great things about his work ethic. In fact, nothing I’ve heard over the past three years makes me believe he’s a slacker, mentally inept, or uncompetitive.

That the Bills chose him so high in round one doesn’t negate the reality that he was, and still is a project. He’s much more suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker than a 4-3 end. Most everyone else could see that, but for reasons unknown the Bills did not.

But let’s not make too many excuses for Maybin. It’s disappointing he didn’t put up any sacks or big defensive plays whatsoever in his limited playing time, especially under the tutelage of Bob Sanders, one of the better line coaches Buffalo has had in a long time.

At this point I’m still optimistic he can become a decent 4-3 end if the Bills don’t switch schemes with a new coordinator. I hope for the best, but expect little.

Round 1, Pick 28: Eric Wood

Wood was a good foundational pick. He showed the inconsistencies generally associated with rookies, but also flashed dominance early on especially in the run game. It’s still somewhat upsetting Buffalo did not take an offensive tackle in this spot, but looking to the future is nice knowing the interior of the line appears to be set.

The injury at the end of the year was devastating then and still hard to relive today. He is a tough, nasty kid that the people of Buffalo could certainly end up loving. We just have to anticipate he fully recovers.

Round 2, Pick 42: Jairus Byrd

The only negative about this pick is that he didn’t play enough. Byrd was put on injured reserve for the last two games, probably because of peer pressure (everyone was doing it, after all). He ended up playing in 14 games and started 11 during the season, mostly due to injuries in front of him.

Byrd was one of five rookie Pro Bowlers this year, and the only one not to have been drafted in the first round. He shared the league lead for interceptions (9) with three other players, and those three players have a combined 32 years of experience in the NFL.  Byrd is all of 23-years old.

I’m not sure the organization could ask for more from a rookie, especially considering his circumstances coming into the NFL. He had many things working against him including transitioning from corner in college to free safety in the NFL. He also had late finals that forced him to miss all pre-training camp work.

When he finally got to training camp, an injury caused him to sit out a couple weeks. If his rookie season is a harbinger of success, Bills fans at least have one thing to be ecstatic about.

Round 2, Pick 51: Andy Levitre

Levitre’s most important contribution this year may have been staying healthy. One of only two Buffalo offensive linemen to play all 16 games, he was used at left guard and tackle with the plethora of injuries to teammates.

The Bills’ ignorance of the tackle position is a black mark on this pick. Levitre was a decent guard prospect, but there were two very good OT prospects left on the board: Phil Loadholt and William Beatty.

On the bright side he was one of the Bills’ more consistent linemen and could easily be a fixture on the line for years to come. This year, Levitre’s versatility was especially valuable, but it hopefully won’t be needed at all next season.

Round 4, Pick 121: Shawn Nelson

Picking Shawn Nelson was a great value find in the fourth round. The fact it was a position of need makes it even better.. As it stands, however, Nelson had some injuries this year and ended up being Buffalo’s 6th-best receiver in terms of yards.

He also only had one touchdown, in the first game of the season, after being billed as a big red-zone target. The production wasn’t the best, especially since the depth chart had plenty of injuries, allowing him to move into the starting position early on. I’d expect him to progress into a more reliable passing game threat in 2010.

Round 5, Pick 147: Nic Harris

He may have been a safety transitioning to linebacker in the pros, but it’s still disappointing that he barely got on the field until late in the season despite a slew of injuries in front of him. However, maybe that was partially Jauron and his tendency to play veteran street free agents at linebacker ahead of draftees.

Most of my concerns about this pick are larger issues than simply Harris. Primarily, I’d love to rant about Buffalo’s refusal to pick a LB before the fifth round with Keith Ellison as an incumbent.

But without digressing too much, Harris may be able to come into his own as a linebacker and his versatility was nice when our depth at multiple positions was tested. However, if the Bills change their defensive system at all, I don’t see Harris as being much of a fit for any position.

Round 6, Pick 183: Cary Harris

Hopefully readers notice a pattern with these explanations; it was nice to have him around after our depth chart was ravaged by injuries. However, considering he should never have been on this roster, I don’t see much value in two interceptions in a utterly meaningless season finale.  He doesn’t appear to have much of future here on a team deep at corner unless he happens to develop into another Jabari Greer on the practice squad next year.

Round 7, Pick 220: Ellis Lankster

Lankster obviously didn’t get much playing time, but I’m having a hard time dumping a seventh round pick that played well enough to make the roster. He seems to have the ability to develop into a nickel back.

I’ll go as far to say he has a shot at being a fixture on the team, but a new coaching staff may see things differently, especially with a roster loaded with cornerbacks. I would personally like to see him play free safety behind Byrd as Lankster is also perceived to be a ball hawk. We got a glimpse of that in the preseason.

♦ Overall, I like the 2009 draft. It seemed to have brought in quite a bit of talent, and it was evident there was a focus on completely shoring up the interior of the offensive line and the secondary. The defensive back picks were also much better than previous years mainly because they went for ball hawks rather than just raw prospects with too much unrealized potential.

Regarding impact, it’s not often you find a rookie Pro-Bowler in the second round. A lot of these players have potential to contribute heavily down the road, including Maybin. My prediction is this draft will be even more valuable to the Bills two years down the road, with a core of good, young talent.

Of course, we had a similar theory in 2006 with Donte Whitner, John McCargo, Ashton Youboty and Ko Simpson.

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11 Comments on Reviewing the Bills 2009 Draft

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  7. Matt

    Maybin is a huge flop yet this team promoted the head scout, Nix, to GM and kept Modrak around after 8 years of pathetic drafts…….no reason to expect anything better in 2010! Remember, eventhough Old Buddy had the asst. GM title in SD, he did not pick players and worked out of his house in Tennessee…….how involved could be be working remotely with Smith when Smith didn’t trust Old Buddy due to his relationship with Smith’s enemy - Schottenhemier!

    JUST SELL THE TEAM RALPH!

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    [...] Reviewing the Bills 2009 Draft : Buffalo Sports Daily“Overall, I like the 2009 draft. It seemed to have brought in quite a bit of talent, and it was evident there was a focus on completely shoring up the interior of the offensive line and the secondary. The defensive back picks were also much better than previous years mainly because they went for ball hawks rather than just raw prospects with too much unrealized potential. Regarding impact, it’s not often you find a rookie Pro-Bowler in the second round. A lot of these players have potential to contribute heavily down the road, including Maybin. My prediction is this draft will be even more valuable to the Bills two years down the road, with a core of good, young talent.” [...]

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