Buffalo addressed their secondary for the first time in the draft in round two using their 42nd overall selection on Oregon defensive back Jairus Byrd. Second all-time in Oregon history with 17 career interceptions, Byrd also ranked fourth in school annals with 53 pass breakups.
"We're very excited about this young individual," said Bills defensive backs coach George Catavolos. "He's an excellent technician. He's been very productive at Oregon. He's got excellent ball skills, he's very instinctive, he's a good tackler, a very intelligent young man and football's very important to him."
Byrd played virtually his entire college career at left cornerback, but many NFL talent evaluators projected him to safety in the NFL. The Bills plans are to try him at safety initially, but will keep their options open with the defensive back.
"We're looking at trying him at free safety," said Catavolos. "He can play a number of positions for us. I think that he can be a productive free safety. He's got excellent ball skills, he reads the quarterback well, he plays the ball well in the air. So this is a flexible athlete for us."
Another option the Bills are considering is using him as a nickel cornerback on the slot receiver in subpackages, a role that was held by Ashton Youboty last season before an injury knocked him from the lineup. Free agent cornerback Drayton Florence also figures into that competition.
Byrd is just looking forward to getting on the field no matter where it might be in the secondary, but he believes his experience on the corner will serve him well in the middle of the field.
"Most of my college career came at corner, but I think just my ball skills will make me an even better safety," said Byrd. "Just having played corner I'll have the footwork, and the ability to go out and play the different coverages. And now I can translate that over to a safety, so I think that only makes it better. I'm excited just to learn and soak everything up."
But Byrd already has a good knowledge of the game having a father that played in the NFL in Gill Byrd a former cornerback for the San Diego Chargers (1983-1992) and two-time Pro Bowl selection.
"Talking to him at the combine and meeting him there he's very analytical in everything he does from how he steps and how he plays the receiver," said Catavolos. "He's a very impressive individual."
Byrd will also see a familiar face when he arrives at One Bills drive in Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. The rookie defensive back grew up in the St. Louis area when Fewell was an assistant coach with the St. Louis Rams.
"Coach Fewell and I go back to high school," said Byrd. "He watched me play in high school, so he definitely knows what I bring to the table and the type of player that I am. And I'm just thankful for the opportunity to come and show what I can do and play. I'm ready to go."