During his introductory press conference on Dec. 31, new Bills general manager Buddy Nix emphasized how critical the draft process is in developing a quality roster that can compete for championships. As Nix takes control of a team that disappointed in 2009, he at least has something for the club to build around: its most recent draft class.
From what we hear, the Bills are excited about the group of players they brought in last April after getting a chance to see them play this season. VP of college scouting Tom Modrak has found quite a few productive players during his time in Buffalo, but this might be his best overall collection of talent yet.
The star of the '09 class appears to be FS Jairus Byrd, who was elected to the Pro Bowl. Despite being hindered by injuries all season and missing the final two games after having been placed on injured reserve, Byrd tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions and had 45 tackles. A second-round pick, the ballhawking safety outplayed just about all expectations in Year One and looks like a star in the secondary for years to come.
Buffalo also did well for itself with the two offensive linemen it grabbed, first-rounder Eric Wood and second-rounder Andy Levitre. We're told Wood, a Day One starter at right guard, was the Bills' best O-lineman this season before a knee injury ended his campaign after 10 games. Meanwhile, Levitre started all 16 contests, mostly at left guard, and allowed just three sacks. The pair should help anchor the middle of the line for the long haul.
Fourth-round TE Shawn Nelson turned out to be a quality find, as well. Although his numbers weren't off the charts, he started 12 games and showed flashes of becoming an impact pass catcher down the road. Seventh-round CB Ellis Lankster also made some plays and could wind up being a steal.
The player who could make or break the class, however, is first-round selection Aaron Maybin. A defensive end at Penn State, Maybin proved to be undersized at the position and showed very little during his rookie year. It's possible that a new coaching staff could move him to linebacker, which might be a more natural position for him in the pros. Progress by Maybin would go a long way toward solidifying a middling "D."
PFW has launched its brand-new NFL Draft Newsletter series, with the second issue now ready for mailing. Produced by PFW's player personnel department under the direction of Nolan Nawrocki, the series consists of four information-packed issues. For more info or to subscribe — click here for PDF e-pub or here for print format.