It was the plan all along, but sometimes the draft board doesn't always cooperate in the way it falls, but for Bills GM Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey their defensive haul in the 2011 NFL draft is certain to make a unit that was subpar statistically in 2010 significantly better.
"What we think we got were guys that can have a chance to upgrade our football team," said Gailey. "There are no guarantees, but they have a chance. They have athletic talent, they have intangibles to upgrade our team to make us a better overall team. Each one of them have positional skills that give them a chance to be very successful."
Buffalo used seven of their nine total draft choices on defensive players the most in one class since 2001, when seven of their 12 picks went to the defense. The Bills first four choices went to the defense, with a brief interruption late in round four and round five with Clemson offensive tackle Chris Hairston and North Carolina ‘do everything’ running back Johnny White.
After that Buffalo closed out day three of the draft with sixth-round pick Chris White an inside linebacker from Mississippi State, Richmond cornerback Justin Rogers and Bethel nose tackle Michael Jasper.
White (6'4" 240) was a player the Bills has inside knowledge about as both Gailey and Nix were familiar with White's junior college coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast community college.
"We think he's an inside (linebacker) and he's got some natural instincts," said Gailey. "That's probably one of the things that is to his advantage is natural instincts playing inside there. We heard what this guy was made of and knew that he did have some of those natural instincts. You could see it on film, but to hear another coach say it helps you."
"Whatever position they want me to play, and I know I'm going to come in there and have to play special teams which I'm okay with that," said White. "Just come in there, work hard and just try to get better every day."
White was one of three picks from the SEC conference with three others from the ACC and one from the Big 12 conference. It wasn't until round seven that the Bills mined some talent from some smaller programs like Rogers from FCS (Div. 1-AA) Richmond. He earned All-American honors all four years of his college career.
"He's got good speed, good quickness," said Nix. "The guy is a good cover guy and he has excellent ball skills."
Rogers had 12 interceptions in his college career three of which he returned for touchdowns.
Buffalo then closed out their 2011 draft class with a man that has 50 pounds on top pick Marcell Dareus. Bethel lineman Michael Jasper played his senior season at 430 pounds, but the 6'4 ½" prospect has shed over 50 pounds and is now at 378 and eager for his shot at an NFL career.
"This is a blessing. I didn't think it was going to happen," said Jasper. "It's a dream come true. It's where I wanted to be so I'm just ecstatic."
Jasper transferred from Tennessee-Martin to Bethel and played both offensive and defensive line during his time in college, but the Bills intend to make him a nose tackle, where Jasper said he feels most comfortable.
"This is an amazing kid now," said Nix. "He vertical jumps 32 inches and he long jumped like 9'5" and dunks a basketball with both hands and his body fat is not real high. He's an exceptional athlete. We would've signed him as a free agent so we just drafted him and we're going to see if we can see him play."
In the end Buffalo's defense added at least a pair of players at every level of their defense with two defensive linemen, a pair of linebackers and three defensive backs now in the fold.
"We went for where we thought 'A' we needed players and 'B' the best players on the board that we needed to improve our football team," said Gailey. "We're always just looking to improve our football team whatever it takes. We needed help on defense a little bit more this year in some spots so we went there."