A Review of the 2009 Buffalo Bills Draft Class


Estimated reading time: 9 minute(s)

After a weekend that saw some pretty bold moves by their division rival, the New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills lone first-day trade to move up to the second round to pick Andy Levitre seems a bit lackluster. Time will tell, of course, how the brazen moves by the Jets will pan out on the field, but with a glut of wide receivers, and nine picks heading into the weekend, it seemed the Bills might be a bit bigger wheelers and dealers.

Instead, the Bills were somewhat predictable, and their typical completely unpredictable selves.

Aaron Maybin’s name had been thrown out there as a possible first round pick for the Bills. So that was not too much of a surprise. But most felt that OT was one of the more glaring, pressing needs for the team, and they didn’t draft a single player who was primarily an offensive tackle.

On the other hand, the Bills have a core of four really solid CBs on their roster, yet they chose to spend their first pick in the second round, and their fifth round selections on more cornerbacks? Really?

They did address the TE position by landing a fairly highly rated player in Shawn Nelson, but must not have found who they were looking for at LB, as the only player they found at that position actually played safety in college.

Well, let’s take a look at each guy the Bills added, and their potential fit with this roster.

1 – DE Aaron Maybin – Penn State

At the scouting combine, defensive coordinator, Perry Fewell, hinted that the Bills might not necessarily be looking for a starter at defensive end, but more likely a pass rushing specialist. He emphasized that the NFL game is very specialized nowadays, so you can afford to spend draft picks on specialty players.

And that is just what the Bills did.

The Bills anticipate Maybin being a third down/passing situation specialist, coming in to add some pressure on the quarterback—something the Bills have been pretty bad at for a few years now. They’re hoping to get 10 sacks or so out of Maybin, plus having a healthy Aaron Schobel back (plus Stroud and Williams in the middle, as well as a healthy rotation of other players on the D-line). They see Maybin as a “piece of the puzzle.”

They needed pass-rushing help on the defensive line, and they are hopeful they found it in Maybin, a player they had their eyes on at the top of the draft.

Read more on Aaron Maybin at BuffaloBills.com

1 – C Eric Wood – Louisville

This one was perplexing. OT Michael Oher—a great story, and most feel a great player, at a position the Bills really need—was still available only a few picks earlier. The Bills could have moved up to get him. OT Eben Britton was still available. Lots of tackles were still available. Instead, the Bills draft a player listed as a center, which is a position they already addressed (first signing, I believe?) in free agency with Geoff Hangartner. Very strange move indeed.

Can look at this a few ways. First, Eric Wood is a very good, solid lineman. He will be a good player. We could use more good offensive linemen, to be sure. So, perhaps he was just the best option available. The Bills were definitely looking to get some more help at guard, but not necessarily center. So, it’s still perplexing.

Maybe Hangartner was not their first choice as a center? Competition is always good… maybe they just wanted to make sure they had two guys they could count on to push each other at the center position? Maybe.

If you take the Bills at their word, they just really liked Wood, and they like the fact that he’s both a center and a guard. At 6’4″ 310, he’s a pretty big fella. They intend to play him at guard (presumably left guard, vacated by the released Derrick Dockery) but really like that they can use him at center if they need to.

OK, I buy it.

My favorite part about Eric Wood (besides the fact that he’s from Cincinnati, land of my genealogical roots) is the following quote:

“It’s all about flipping the switch when you go out on the field,” said Wood. “You can do things on the football field that are severely illegal on the streets. I just kind of flip that switch and try to take it to people on the field. I’m a finisher. The fun part is knocking people down and punishing the guy you’re going against. That’s the joy of football to me.”

Read more on Eric Wood at BuffaloBills.com

2 – CB Jairus Byrd – Oregon

OK, I’ll admit it. This one floored me. At least as much as when they chose Donte Whitner at the 8th spot overall. The jury is still out (at least a little) on our friend Donte. Perhaps most evident in the fact that they are moving him to a different position this year, to see if that’s a better fit. I’ll admit it turned out better than I thought, but a CB?? With their second round pick???

If you read my previous articles you’ll see that CB was specifically one of the positions that I said would be a “shocking” choice should the Bills choose to go that way. Well, they did, and I was.

Upon reading further, I discovered that they intend to use this college cornerback as a safety on their roster. That put my mind a bit more at ease as the safety position is a bit more in flux. But still, what about the left tackle?

The thing I like so far is that he is a playmaker. Had 17 INTs in his college career. The Bills are looking for playmakers, and I guess they feel they found one in Byrd.

Read more on Jairus Byrd at BuffaloBills.com

2 – OL Andy Levitre – Oregon

In their most exciting move of the draft, the Bills traded their third round pick and one of their fourth round picks to move back into the second round at pick #51 and selected… an offensive lineman! Good move!

And, he’s even listed as a G/T! (That is almost like drafting a tackle!)

The Bills obviously like this guy as they gave up two picks to get him. He has decent size, 6’3″ 305. (But more suited to playing guard in the NFL.)

And what I’m noticing even more is that they are really into this “two for one” concept. So far, the Bills have drafted a CB who is a S, a C who is a G, and now a T who is a G (and a T). (Perhaps they feel the more letters they can list next to a player’s name, the better he will be?)

Read more on Andy Levitre at BuffaloBills.com

day TWO

4 – TE Shawn Nelson – Southern Miss

Most are rating this pick one of (if not the) best values of the 2009 draft class for the Bills. Nelson was projected to go in the second or third round, so the Bills being able to land him late in the 4th round was quite a good deal. Especially considering the vacancy they apparently had at TE by releasing last year’s starter, Robert Royal.

Nelson is a pass-catching TE whom Bills scouts say should be able to help the passing game immediately. He’s got good size at 6’5″ 240, but needs work on his blocking. The Bills were really lacking a TE in the passing game, though, so Nelson seems like a pretty good fit. Good pick up at round four.

Read more on Shawn Nelson at BuffaloBills.com

5 – S Nic Harris – Oklahoma

And, here they go again. Now, as I said earlier, I expected the Bills would look to add a safety at some point in this draft. So, that part is not unexpected. BUT, adding their second S is pretty unexpected.

Until you remember this is the “Year of the Utility Player”.

This college safety is projected to play linebacker in the NFL, and that’s just what the Bills intend to do with him. Linebacker is a position of need for the Bills, so again, this seems to be a good fit for their needs. But why are they drafting these guys who have more experience at a different position than the Bills plan to use them in? Perplexing.

Harris has speed, smarts, and is a good tackler. The Bills are counting on him also being a quick study at his new position. Don’t expect him to be the other starting LB opposite Kawika Mitchell, but he has enough upside to add some depth to the unit.

Read more on Nic Harris at BuffaloBills.com

6 – CB Cary Harris – Souther Cal

OK, this is getting weird. Not only are the Bills drafting players who are not experienced at their positions (hoping they’ll “pick up” the position they want them to play) they are also STILL DRAFTING DEFENSIVE BACKS! I really don’t understand this pick.

First of all, this Harris (unrelated to the previous Harris, as far as I know) is only 5’11” 187. Do we need another smurf on the team?? Second… he’s a cornerback!!! He doesn’t have great speed, there are questions about his “durability”… I honestly don’t know what he has, or why we picked him when we already have Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, Ashton Youboty, Reggie Corner, Drayton Florence, and now even Jairus Byrd from earlier in the draft.

“He’s an ultra competitive kid. He really paid his dues playing in a big time conference,” said Bills scout Rashaan Curry. “He started over 30 games and is a really competitive kid. He’s probably average size, but he’s of a tougher brand”

Ooohh… That’s why.

Read more on Cary Harris at BuffaloBills.com

7 – DB Ellis Lankster – West Virginia

OK, at this point, it’s either a really bad joke, or, the Bills staff knows something we don’t know about the current group of DBs on our roster. Regardless, with their final pick of the draft, the Bills selected another defensive back. That makes four. (The Bills are calling it three, but that’s because they are counting Nic Harris as a LB already. Even though he’s not yet.)

Are they planning to not renew Terrence McGee’s contract? Is McKelvin a bust? Youboty? I know Dick Jauron was a defensive back, but… enough already!

This selection is as baffling as the previous one in that Lankster is 5’9″ 191 pounds, and they are going to ask him to cover guys like Randy Moss. Nice.

Read more on Ellis Lankster at BuffaloBills.com


One thing that I did consistently see in all of the selections the Bills made (at least, their scouts’ reports about the selections) is that they were looking for smart players, with good instincts who are also good tacklers. And, throw in a competitive mean streak as well. That seemed to be how they described most of the guys. They were not too concerned with the “measurables” as they call them. They just wanted good football players, whatever position.

If I had to grade this draft, just based on finding players to fill positions of need, I’d give it a C- at best. At best.

I hope I’m wrong, and these players turn out to be just what the Bills need. I like Wood. I didn’t at first, since he’s listed as a center, but I think he’s a good fit. I think I like Maybin… will have to see him play at the NFL level. And I like Shawn Nelson. I think he’ll help the offense right away from the sounds of it.

Overall, even though Trent Dilfer says the Bills were big draft winners, I don’t see it. I don’t like taking guys who didn’t play the position, hoping they’ll work into it. I don’t like not getting another OT. I don’t like taking four DBs (mostly CBs!) when you already have 5 on your roster, four who are pretty good (one unknown). Mostly, unfortunately, I don’t like it.

Time will tell, of course. And, I can’t wait to see it all actually play out on the field.

Rookie mini-camp this weekend, then some more OTAs… training camp will be here before you know it!

Bring it on!