At the pre-draft luncheon last week, Bills GM Buddy Nix listed safety as one of the deepest positions in the 2013 NFL Draft. After taking University of Nevada safety Duke Williams in the fourth round, the Bills once again took advantage of the position's depth when they selected Clemson University safety Jonathan Meeks 143rd overall in the fifth round.
Meeks co-captained the Tigers defense as a senior, starting every game and playing 835 snaps, which were the most of any defensive player. Despite his prominent role in Clemson's defense, Meeks has flown under the radar.
Buffalo's selection of Meeks may seem like a bit of a surprise, but Bills scouts see a versatile prospect whose statistics are not representative of his play, but instead a product of playing out of position due to a lack of secondary depth at Clemson.
Bills scout Darrell Moody explained the situation and described Meeks' wide range of skills shortly after the selection was made.
"Yes, I think he can be a strong safety or free safety," said Moody. "I think he has got good size and good range. He has got a good 40-time. I think he can be explosive. The thing is his stats are probably not as good as some other people because of the system that they played at Clemson this year. He was more of a free safety than the strong safety because the other safety did not run real well."
As a result, Meeks, who the Bills clocked at 4.49 in the 40, went largely unnoticed and did not receive an invite to the 2013 NFL Combine, which left a chip on the South Carolina native's shoulder.
"I feel like there was and still is [a chip on my shoulder]," said Meeks. "They say the Draft is definitely not the end; it is the beginning and I haven't been able to express that the chip is still on my shoulder. Things happen for a reason so that is just going to make me more hungry as a player and as a person as well."
The Bills showed early interest in Meeks, meeting with him at the 2013 Raycom College Football All-Star Classic, and later inviting him to One Bills Drive for a pre-draft visit.
While in Buffalo, Meeks received a taste of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's system and he looks forward to more.
"I feel like it will work well for me," Meeks said of the Bills defense. "We had a chance to go over some plays, where he drew up some plays. I just fell in love with the defense within one day and coach as well. It is just a smart, aggressive defense and as a player that's what you love."
Moody described Meeks' potential fit in Pettine's defense and why it will be more suitable to his skillset.
"Well he is going to be closer to ball," explained Moody. "When you are closer to the ball you have a chance to make a lot more plays. Where he was in [Clemson's] system sometimes he would be 15 yards deep. He may end up being 15 yards deep but he will not start off initially over 15 yards in this scheme"
The Bills saw enough in the tapes to believe Meeks can find success in the NFL.
"You had to look at a lot of film to see him around a lot of plays," said Moody. "I think he has tremendous upside and when he did have a chance to hit people, he hit people. He showed good hands and good ball skills."
Bills fans can expect Meeks to find early time with specials teams as he competes for snaps in the secondary.