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Bills bolster depth on final day of NFL draft

Posted Apr 28, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - When it came to adding depth to their revamped defense on the final day of the NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills couldn't pass up the opportunity to pick a Tank.

That's exactly what they did with their second of two fifth-round picks on Saturday, by selecting Tank Carder, a highly decorated play-making linebacker out of TCU.

Though undersized by NFL linebacker standards at 6-foot-3 and 237 pounds, Carder is coming off an accomplished college career in which he was a two-time Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year. He also earned defensive MVP honors in the 2011 Rose Bowl.

Carder helped key a 21-19 win over Wisconsin by breaking up a potential game-tying two-point conversion with 2 minutes left.

``I'm just excited to be at the point I'm at right now and just make the best of out of every opportunity,'' said Carder, a former world and national BMX champion, referring to a past that's as colorful as his first name. ``I kind of live life in the moment. I don't dwell on the past.''

Bills scout Shawn Heinlen smiled when asked about Carder's background.

``Yeah, you're not going to find many like that,'' Heinlen said. ``He is a competitor in everything he does.''

Selected 147th overall, Carder was the second of two linebackers the Bills drafted on Saturday after opening the day taking Florida State's Nigel Bradham with the 105th pick.

Buffalo also drafted LSU cornerback Ron Brooks (124th), and added a pair of offensive linemen: FSU tackle Zebrie Sanders (144th) and Oregon guard/center Mark Asper (178th). The Bills closed the draft taking Western Michigan kicker John Potter with the 251st pick.

The players the Bills selected over the final four rounds are expected to compete for backup spots, adding necessary depth to a team that's raised expectations this offseason after signing defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year $100 million contract in free agency.

They're coming off a 6-10 season in which a rash of injuries and lack of depth were blamed on the team losing eight of its final nine games to miss the playoffs for a 12th straight year.

The latest additions come after the Bills filled key needs in the first three rounds by selecting South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore with the 10th pick, Georgia tackle Cordy Glenn (41st) and North Carolina State receiver T.J. Graham (69th).

``We were able to fill everyone (spot) that we set out to fill,'' general manager Buddy Nix said in assessing the draft. ``We wanted two corners, two tackles, we wanted a wide receiver. We wanted two linebackers, and we were able to get those guys. We got bigger. And we got faster. I just hope it was in the right spots.''

Of the six players Buffalo picked Saturday, Carder's selection raised the most interest.

There was his success in BMX racing before he gave up the sport because he wanted to try something new. Then, as a 13-year-old, Carder overcame serious injuries sustained in a car crash, in which there were questions of whether he would ever walk again.

Formally named Ricky Carder Jr., he picked up ``Tank'' at 18 months, when a family friend started calling him that because of Carder's hefty 33-pound frame.

And he played like a tank at TCU, where he started his final 39 games despite having several operations to repair shoulder injuries, and breaking a finger last season.

``He's a tough guy,'' Nix said. ``He brings that kind of temperament to us, and you like to add those kind of guys.''

Though Carder needs to build strength to play at the NFL level, he's regarded to have good instincts in reading plays, and is fast on his feet.

Bradham, the FSU linebacker, is a three-year starter and became the first Seminoles player to lead the team in tackles for three straight seasons since Marvin Jones did that from 1990-92. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 241 pounds, he's a solid hitter and has shown a capability of dropping back into coverage.

Brooks adds depth to the Bills defensive backfield after being overshadowed at LSU, where he was part of a star-studded defensive secondary that featured Morris Claiborne, who was selected by Dallas with the sixth pick of the draft, and junior Tyrann Mathieu.

``My focus wasn't being one of the guys to get all the publicity and get all the shine,'' Brooks said. ``It's not about me being in the limelight. I'm just one of those guys. I'm all about winning for my team.''

Brooks did make the most out of his limited playing time, showing he was capable of covering receivers, defending against the run and pressuring quarterbacks. He had 5 1/2 sacks, 12 1/2 tackles for losses, three interceptions and five forced fumbles in 53 games, including three starts.

Sanders, the Florida State offensive lineman, is listed at 6-foot-5 and 308 pounds. He started 50 of 53 games, and has experience playing both tackle positions.

Asper, listed at 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds, was a three-year starter at Oregon, splitting time at guard and tackle. He was part of an offense that ranked third in the nation in scoring and fifth in rushing last year.

Potter completed his four-year career with 333 points, to set a school record among kickers. The Bills already have a veteran kicker in Rian Lindell, but Nix said the team would consider using Potter on kickoffs because of his strong leg. Potter had 36 touchbacks alone last season. He becomes the first kicker the Bills have selected in the draft since picking John Nies in 1990.