By Joshua Bauer (Football Nation):
It wasn’t sexy, but it wasn’t a worthless pick by any means.
As the Bills already had their front pass defense fixes from free agency, they started the 2012 Draft by addressing the backfield. Part of their continued effort to improve their 19th ranked pass defense (you thought it was all fixed after free agency?), Buffalo takes 6’0″, 190lb cornerback Stephon Gilmore, a physical blocker, smart player, and definite plus down the road, if not immediately for the Bills. With Keuchly, Claiborne, and Barron already gone, Buffalo took the best available player for their needs (they could have traded down in my opinion, but Nix said they just didn’t want to do it). Gilmore was a three year SEC starter at South Carolina (played in all 40 games) and will likely be competing to start against annually injured Terrence McGee, Drayton Florence, who too often lets receivers by, and a severely underperforming Leodis McKelvin. Even if Gilmore is primarily seen in the nickel for 2012, with several cornerback contracts expiring in the next couple years (McKelvin in 2013, Florence and McGee in 2014), he’ll get his time in the near future, especially if he can improve his slight backpedal and strength issues.
Look, Gimore played boundary corner at Carolina, often required to cover the best receiver on the field (in the SEC no less), and still led the team in tackles in 2010 (79 tackles that year, along with 3 INTs and 3 sacks). Gilmore was the playcaller in the defensive backfield, is an aggressive, clean tackler, and has great ball skills. He also has great footwork for his size and plays great up on the line of scrimmage, though does occasionally lose a receiver and, when he does, has some problems recovering. However, Buddy Nix stated, “…we are fortunate to get him and I think he’ll help our football team… he has the talent to crack the starting line up”, praising Stephon’s success in the “best league” in college and his abilities to play off-man, saying he was one of the best in that area. Though not the best pick out of all options (those guys were already gone), it still fits Buffalo’s needs for future success (think of Aaron Williams on the left and Gilmore on the right in 2013), even if it isn’t the flashy pick many fans were hoping for.
Post-pick, Buddy Nix said, “We’d like to take two corners in this draft and now we’ve got one”. Coach Gailey followed by stating, “This gives us the opportunity to have two good corners to work with.”. With the Bills showing a continued dedication to improving the defense (Nix and Gailey have averred it was the most pressing offseason need), this is just another step in that direction. With the depth remaining in offensive line, wide receiver, and linebacker, Buffalo should have no problem further fixing their other needs later in the Draft, but this is definitely a good move towards fixing that 371.1 yards and 27.1 points allowed, as well as their abysmal 29 sacks last year. For his career, Gilmore has 173 tackles, 7 sacks, 8 INTs, and a TD.
We’ll give Buffalo a solid “B-” here, as it may not have been exactly what we thought the team wanted, but very well could turn out to be what it needs to succeed the next few years. (…though Stephon didn’t seem exactly ecstatic when he was taken… Doesn’t he know Buffalo’s a good landing spot these days? Geez, what does a team have to do to get some respect around the NFL? Oh yeah, start winning again.)