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Bills Get Defensive In Draft
Players taken at suspect times hurt draft.
by Steve Saslow
May 1, 2006

NFL Draft 2006 The Bills may have found their nucleus for the future on defense as they selected six of nine picks on that side of the ball. The other three were all offensive linemen meaning no skill position players were picked. A far cry from the last two drafts under Tom Donahoe where 10 of the 12 picks were on offense, eight in the skill positions. This draft more than anything shows the new philosophy in the Marv Levy/Dick Jauron era. The team drafted players of high character, intelligent, smaller, and faster with high motors always taking them to the ball. Will this translate into a good future? Time will tell.

Everyone knows my feelings on the draft by now, the Bills should have been able to add a pick rather than lose one in trades and they still would have had their top two picks in Donte Whitner and John McCargo. Whitner was projected as a mid to later first rounder, and with Matt Leinart on the board they should have been able to trade down easily and still would have got their man. Trading up for McCargo was even more troubling. He surely would have been there in the 2nd round when they picked as he was slated for a late 2nd to early fourth round pick. Levy said he didn't want to risk losing out on the last first tier defensive tackle they had graded. While these picks may work out in the future, Levy showed he was out of touch with the modern day draft and was probably hoodwinked into thinking both players would have been taken if they moved down early and stayed put in the 2nd round.

I'm not one of those that thought the Bills should have chucked their game plan and picked Lienart and number 8. Yes, he's a charismatic figure who would give the team a buzz and put it back on the map while selling tickets to boot. The real problem is, it would not help move the team forward. They have a lot invested in J.P. Losman, even though he was the previous regime's pick, they still invested three picks in him. QB may not be star quality on this team yet, but it is filled. Not filling a need with that high of a pick would have been a crime on a team with so many needs.

That being said, the Bills seemed to rebound and get high value for their mid round picks. Third rounder Ashton Youboty was slated as a late first or early second round pick. Fourth rounder Ko Simpson and fifth rounder Kyle Williams were each slated as first day selections. Their final four selections of Brad Butler, Keith Ellison, Terrance Pennington, and Aaron Merz are development projects but there is upside in all of them.

The Bills said they needed to sure up a porous defense that was the victim of neglect the past two years, they seemed to do it but differently than most thought. Everyone thought they would take either Brodrick Bunkley or Haloti Ngata with their first pick but instead of building the defense from front to back, they decided to build it from the back to the front. That is why three of their first four picks were defensive backs. Whitner will start immediately and replace Lawyer Milloy. Free agent signee Matt Bowen is a nice player but he's more of a backup. The Bills may have found a solid safety tandem for years to come if Whitner and Simpson develop. Simpson needs more polishing but he'll get that learning from Troy Vincent. The man who's Bills career may be over thanks to this draft is Coy Wire.

The pick of Youboty in the third round may be a message to Nate Clements that the team is willing to make him play under the franchise tender and let him go after this season as Youboty can be groomed as his replacement. The team can go a step further and remove the tag from Clements. I think the opposite will happen, Clements will agree to a longterm deal and remain leaving Youboty as the nickel back for the foreseeable future. This isn't a bad thing, you need three solid corners in any defense, especially the cover two defense.

The Bills did plug the middle of the defense with the picks of McCargo and Williams. The one thing puzzling about the McCargo pick besides the fact that they moved up to get him was where he projects. He is a three technique guy just like Larry Tripplett who was the Bills biggest free agent signee. Look for the Bills to find a way to use both of them together while grooming McCargo to play on the nose. If that fails, then Williams may be the nose tackle of the future for the team.

The Bills finally addressed their offensive line woes with three of their final four picks, taking two towering tackles in Butler and Pennington and big behomoth guard in Merz. These guys are all development projects and will have to learn this year. Butler is strictly a right tackle while Pennington can play both sides. Merz may end up as a center in the pros. If the Bills hit on two of the three then they will have done alright.

Ellison adds depth to all three linebacking positions because of his versatility. The team may be hoping he develops fast to possibly be the replacement for London Fletcher or Jeff Posey after this year. They are both free agents and Posey is sure to be gone while Fletcher may also go for greener pastures.

When we graded the draft we called it a D, not because needs weren't met because of the way they didn't know how to play the draft. They could have got more picks and should have, that was sloppy. The bottom line is if these players succeed in filling the holes in a few years nobody will remember how they blundered which slots to take each player. For more on each pick, take a look at our draft capsules on our draft page.


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