Two more rounds in the books and Buffalo just continues to diligently address their needs with quality in the 2012 Draft. After taking the soft-spoken, yet tenacious Stephon Gilmore to shore up the defense, Buddy Nix and the Bills turned to offense in the second and third rounds, giving their "franchise" quarterback first some protection, then some speed on the outside.
First, with pick #41, the Bills were delighted to still find four-year Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn untouched and totally available, a player they fell in love with after he came to visit One Bills Drive. Glenn may have played guard for several years in the SEC, but he played at left tackle in 2011 (the position of most need for Buffalo) and looked more than capable in the switch. Nix himself said he was, "shocked [Glenn] was there" in the second round, agreeing wholly with Coach Chan Gailey's assessment that Cordy "is a starter" in his post-Draft comments, going on to say that he will definitely compete with Chris Hairston for the starting left tackle job in 2012. The word "wingspan" kept falling out of Gailey's mouth throughout the press conference, as Glenn measures out at a 35 3/4" arm length, which, when combined with his size (6'5", 345 lbs) and speed (5th fastest lineman at the Combine with a 5.15 40-yard dash), makes it quite a chore for defenders to get around him to the quarterback. This is something sorely needed on the Buffalo O-line, especially with how often defenders found their way into the backfield towards the end of 2011.
Though he could be more physical at the line of scrimmage, Glenn is that rare combination of size, length, and athleticism, matched with a versatility showcased in his playing several positions on the line well against the top SEC defenses. In 2011, the Bulldogs put up 244.5 yards per game through the air, owing largely to Glenn's move to protecting the weak side against teams ranging from Florida to LSU. Perhaps slightly better in pass blocking owing to his just massive size, he will develop that run blocking aspect as he is seen as totally coachable, even when it comes to his rather hefty (and slightly concerning) weight. According to Buffalo scout Darrell Moody, "if we want [Cordy] to be 325 he'll be 325, he's that type of kid", showing how malleable and adaptable Glenn should be for the Bills' coaching staff. Though perhaps a little top heavy at times, that also translates into great strength, as he put up 31 reps in the Combine bench press (8th overall). A big favorite of the coaching staff and the front office in Buffalo, Nix showed how badly they were hoping to snag him when he joked, "...we tried to spread the rumor that he's a guard so no one would take him.". Looks like that worked.
Next, the Bills traded with the Redskins to move up two picks in the third round, giving up pick #71 and #217 (their first of two seventh rounders) to take the #69 pick and using it on Wolfpack wide receiver, T.J. Graham. Honestly, I didn't really see the need to move up to get Graham, but if Buddy was worried he wouldn't be there two picks later, at least he didn't give up too much to ensure they got who they wanted. Though still a solid choice and value, this one wasn't as praise-worthy a find as Glenn. However, Graham is still one of the top ten receivers on the board for 2012, no doubt about it. A little light at 180 lbs, he's got a speed that is just not found on the Bills currently and though he was projected to play slot by many "experts" (HA!), Coach Gailey stated that they would be using that speed on the outside as a field stretcher first and foremost. Nix concurred, stating how much he "liked the speed" and mentioned that opposing DBs will have to "cover deep" to keep from getting burned by Graham in the passing game.
In truth, T.J. will be stepping in to the role Buffalo had always projected would be played by recently departed (and always injured) Roscoe Parrish in the offense, both a return man and a fast option on the outside to pair with Steve Johnson. Though the Bills might not use him in the return game right off (they have several other options from CJ Spiller to Brad Smith to Leodis McKelvin), Graham spent four years as the man returning punts and kicks at North Carolina, has the all-time ACC leader in kick returns actually with 3,103 yards, and has 4 return TDs to go with it. In the passing game, his track background (he set several school records and ran a 4.39 at the Combine) has quickly been transitioning into solid football talent playing at receiver.
In 2011, T.J. led the team in receptions with 46, in receiving yards with 757, and scored 9 TDs. For a career, he's got 99 catches for 1453 and 12 TDs. Buffalo loved his jets and his potential to grow into a James Lofton-esque receiver (maybe not as good, but...) as a guy who uses an impressive track background to become a viable deep threat in the NFL. A shifty route runner, good at adjusting on the fly, and a solid north-south runner after the catch with great separation ability, Graham will stand out in 2012 amidst a large group of Buffalo receivers vying for field time.
Two more rounds, two more needs addressed. Though I still question losing one of their ten picks for such a silly two spot move, the Bills are overall drafting smart and taking the right pieces to fix their gaps from 2011. With more depth hopefully coming on the last day, Buffalo really is starting to look like a complete team for 2012. Buddy Nix has spent the first two days doing much the same as he did in free agency this off season, finding playmakers and immediate impact guys to improve the Bills next year and make them the contenders they flashed at being the first seven games of 2011.
It seems like they're actually not far off now, we'll see what happens in rounds 4-7, but nice work so far boys. Give the Cordy Glenn pick an A-, as he was an absolute steal, worthy of being taken in the first round. As for T.J. Graham, a C+, not so much based on his potential, but based on the fact that they felt the need to trade for him.