Though their first pick on day three of the 2011 NFL draft again went to the defensive side of the ball, Buffalo added some talent for the offense at positions where depth was needed.
After taking North Carolina strong safety Da’Norris Searcy with their first pick in round four, the Bills made two straight selections for the offensive side of the ball taking offensive tackle Chris Hairston out of Clemson and Searcy college teammate Johnny White, who played primarily at running back for the Tar Heels.
Searcy (5’11” 223), spent a good portion of his time in the box for North Carolina as a safety and even played a hybrid linebacker role in subpackages, but has cover ability in the eyes of the Bills.
“The way you play safety now with the way offenses play, the offense can make your strong safety play free safety and make your free safety play strong safety,” said Bills National scout Darrell Moody. “So as a result of it, he’s played both. If you had your ideal situation, he would be a strong safety.”
Evidence of Searcy’s athleticism came in his ability to make plays on the ball as he led the Tar Heels with four interceptions despite missing the first three games in 2010. But it’s clear that Searcy relishes the physical part of the game.
“I love it because I have a linebacker background,” he said. “I played linebacker all through high school, so I still have a little bit of the mentality in me. Being able to come up and support the run is very important to me.”
Searcy also offers return ability having returned both kicks and punts at North Carolina and averaged an impressive 12.57 yards on punt returns and a respectable 24.2 yards a return on kickoffs.
From there Buffalo's focus shifted to offense. The Bills added a pass protector on the edge in Clemson offensive tackle Chris Hairston with the 122nd pick in round four. A three-year starter, Hairston (6’6” 326) played left tackle for the Tigers, but projects to right tackle in the NFL.
“He is extremely big, long, good player, good athlete, productive in both phases for them,” said Bills scout Tom Roth. “He’s more of an in-line guy than a space player. Athletically for us, I think he fits more on the right (side).”
Hairston’s best competition may have come in practice in his four-year college career where he faced some of the best pass rushers in the ACC the past few years.
“I was able to go against great defensive ends,” said Hairston. “My freshman year we had Gaines Adams there. I went against our scout team and we had Da’Quan Bowers come in, played a few years with him. We had Ricky Sapp, I went against him my freshman year, so that’s something that really came along throughout my career.”
Buffalo added some valuable depth with one of the bigger sleeper picks in the draft taking North Carolina running back Johnny White off the board at the top of round five.
White (5’10” 209) did a little bit of everything at North Carolina. After beginning his college career at cornerback, White moved over to the offensive side of the ball where he was lined up at running back, but injuries and suspensions at the receiver position forced him into a pass catching role. Eventually he returned to the running back position, which is where White believes he’s best suited.
“I played my high school career at running back and I came in as a running back to Carolina,” said White. “And then I just got switched around a little bit when I was there. But I feel comfortable at running back.”
White, who has 4.55 speed, likely would’ve had a 1,000-yard rushing season his senior season were it not for a broken collar bone that forced him to miss the last four games of the year. He finished the 2010 season with 720 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.
“He got injured late in the year, but his versatility is the big thing with him,” said Roth. “He runs hard, in between the tackles he runs very hard.”
His greatest asset might be his hands as he could be a weapon out of the backfield as a receiver early in his career. White had 47 catches for 510 yards and a touchdown in his Tar Heels career including 24 receptions for almost 300 yards last season.
“On my high school team, a few years I was a leading receiver as a running back on the team,” said White. “Even when I first got to Carolina I always had decent hands and I felt like that’s helped me throughout my career.”
White is seen simply as a football player capable of serving several different roles on a football team having filled in at multiple positions, while also playing as a gunner and returner on special teams.
“He’s got good speed and very good hands out of the backfield and a very good special teamer,” said Roth. “Complementary back, that’s Johnny.”