The Buffalo Bills finished their three-day rookie minicamp on Sunday. The coaches got a chance to see their draft picks, undrafted free agents, and try-outs get quality reps before they are thrust into full-team workouts where reps come at a premium. The Bills fielded 39 players for the minicamp including their main focus, their six draft picks. There were some undrafted free agents who made a splash at minicamp but the six picks were definitely the concentration of rookie camp. The drill producing the most info on the potential of each player was 7-on-7 and despite the top players facing other rookies, the coaches were able to use the drills to see a glimpse of what they are hoping will be a strong draft class.
Buffalo didn’t have a first-round pick after trading it to Cleveland to move-up for Sammy Watkins in 2014 so their second-round pick, Ronald Darby is the leader of the class. Darby, a 5-foot-11 corner drafted out of Florida State, saw a wealth of snaps in 7-on-7 but wasn’t tested often and faced limited talent at wide-receiver. Darby’s size isn’t ideal but his speed is what caught the attention of Rex Ryan and the coaching staff.
The Bills’ third-round selection John Miller, an offensive-guard out of Louisville, is receiving high-praise and is prematurely slotted-in as a starter my must analysts. Unfortunately, the Bills’ rookie camp didn’t feature 11-on-11 so no real evaluation to make of Miller just yet.
The Bills also didn’t have a fourth-round pick so after Miller in the third the Bills took running-back Karlos Williams in the fifth, another Florida State prospect. Without the use of the O-line Williams didn’t have much opportunity to shine but his size and speed did catch the eye of the media.
The Bills used their two sixth-round picks on Tony Steward and Nick O’Leary. O’Leary, an undersized but productive college tight-end, joins teammates Darby and Williams as Florida State prospects. O’Leary shined among the rookies in camp receiving a large number of targets in drills but will have an uphill battle for playing time after the Bills signed Charles Clay in free agency. Steward showed he could play both the strong and weak-side linebacker spots but didn’t do anything to standout.
The final pick for the Bills was used on Central Arkansas’ Dezmin Lewis, a wide-receiver most experts think could be a staple in the NFL moving forward. The 6-foot-4 receiver looks huge amongst the other rookies but didn’t have any memorable catches. Lewis will be battling a loaded receiving core for playing time touting two former first-rounders in Watkins and free agent signee Percy Harvin and second-rounder Robert Woods.
The only non-draftee to make a real splash in rookie minicamp was University of South Florida product, Andre Davis. The 6-foot-1, 211 pound receiver made a terrific catch over Darby during 7-on-7 drills that clearly caught the attention of the coaching staff. Other rookie free agents got numerous reps but failed to standout.
Rookie minicamp doesn’t usually make or break the youngsters but is an opportunity to see where players are in terms of comparisons to fellow rookies. There are the few who capitalize on the limited exposure like Davis but usually most players finish camp about the same standing with the coaches as when they were drafted or signed.
The Bills’ draft class has been criticized for reaching on players and for drafting players to positions that weren’t in need but has received some praise for other picks like Miller and Lewis. Despite the recent announcement of the Tom Brady suspension for “deflategate” and the huge offseason pickups of LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay and Percy Harvin, experts’ opinion of Buffalo hasn’t changed much with predictions of a middle-of-the-pack finish for the Bills as presented by bookmakers with Gambling.com.