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Bills draft class: roles for 2015 and beyond

Legendary Russian actor Constantin Stanislavski is credited with the quote:

"There are no small parts—only small actors."

The fact is, when it comes to the Buffalo Bills 2015 draft class, there may be only bit parts for some of the six new players in their rookie season, thanks mostly to the talent level already on the roster.

It's not hard to imagine only one or maybe none of the 2015 draft picks in the starting lineup against the Colts September 13. But the half-dozen selections in the Bills draft are likely to have roles to play this season and beyond.


Darby is a solid addition to an already deep and talented group at cornerback. In fact, Rex Ryan and new Defensive Coordinator Dennis Thurman are on record as being impressed by the Bills returning veterans at the position, including Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, and Corey Graham.

But McKelvin and Graham will be 30-years old by the start of the season. Gilmore is locked down through the 2016 season only, with the Bills expected to try to extend his deal.

Watching video of Darby at FSU, it's clear he has a knack for big hits and physical play. That might mean the Bills would get a look at him as a slot corner in 2015, even though he's been mostly a boundary corner in his college career.

Darby should be pressed into service on special teams this season. With his rare speed and defensive instincts he could be an effective coverage man on punts and kickoffs.

"I'm going to compete," he told reporters at One Bills Drive. "I've been in a program that has shown that. I believe it was 26 or 29 and one. I'm not used to losing so I get it stuck in me to prepare. I'm going to come prepared, I'm going to come with skills, speed—something that's hard to come across, and just going to try to contribute from day one."


Of all six Bills draft picks, John Miller might have the best chance of cracking the starting lineup this year. He's used to being a starter. Miller started 47 of his 48 career games for the Cardinals, all of them at left guard.

"Being able to come in and compete for a starting position with the Buffalo Bills is great so that's exactly what I wanted to do," Miller said moments after being picked. "Come in and compete for a starting position and make an impact."

Through one week of the voluntary veteran minicamp, the Bills have made no secret of the fact that they're looking at a number of different starting lineups for the offensive line. And if Miller comes out of the box strong, he could find himself lining up with the first team.

GM Doug Whaley says he'll get a shot. "We will find out," Whaley said. "Mentally, we had him in on a visit, he's sharp that way. And again, I was just talking to Rex [Ryan], we're going to throw those guys in there and get them reps with the second team, the first team, and just see what combination works best for us to get out there and produce."


Given his background at FSU, Karlos Williams has a chance to make an instant impact on the Bills special teams. He's a former standout high school safety who played some linebacker and safety for the Seminoles before converting to offense.

"That's what's exciting about him right away because he is so fast and he is physical," says Jim Monos, the Bills Director of Player Personnel. "He's 230 pounds, ran 4.46 and he used to play defense. That's his whole mentality even as a runner so he will find a way."

After looking at a crowded depth chart at running back for the Bills, Williams seems to already have picked up on the fact that special teams are his best chance to carve out a role in 2015.

"I believe kick-off is the most explosive play in football," he said after being picked by the Bills. "Kick-return can also be a very explosive play."

"I played on every type of team you can coach on kick-return, punt-return, kick-off, and punt-coverage so I believe I can come in right away, learn the schemes, and contribute offensive on special teams but more in the back field."

There may be work in the offensive backfield down the road for Williams. But it figures to be tough to wrest touches away from a talented RB group that includes the likes of LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, and others.


Steward has a chance to see some playing time in 2015, largely because of the Bills limited numbers at the linebacker position. There are only six players on the roster currently listed as LBs, and with the Bills expected to employ elements of a ¾ defensive front, they're in need of more numbers at the position.

He was a valuable special teams coverage man at Clemson, especially early in his collegiate career. He led the Tigers with 12-special teams tackles in 2012 and was the special teams player of the game several times.


Like Steward, O'Leary has the good fortune to play a position where numbers are needed as the Bills head into minicamps. While free agent signee Charles Clay figures to eat up most of the reps, Buffalo only had three other players at the position behind him: Chris Gragg, MarQueis Gray and Chris Manhertz. And Greg Roman's Bills offense is expected to employ multiple tight end sets.

"We looked at this as a sixth round pick with a chance to come in and play a lot for us, that's hard to beat," Player Personnel Director Jim Monos said about O'Leary.

In the future, the Bills would love to see O'Leary develop more as a blocker to go along with his pass receiving skills. That would likely mean adding more bulk to his 6-3, 247-pound frame.


What's missing from a deep and talented Bills WR depth chart that includes the likes of Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Percy Harvin, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan, and others?

How about size?

At 6-4, Dezmin Lewis becomes the tallest receiver on the Buffalo roster. It's hard to imagine him cracking the game-day lineup at the position for the Bills, especially given his small college background and limited experience. But down the road, his size and skill set may put him in a position to make big contributions to the offense.

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