Checking up on Buffalo Bills' rookies

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
11:15
AM ET
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Through four days of practice, Sammy Watkins has stolen the show among Buffalo Bills rookies. But how are the team's other six draft picks performing?

Here's our player-by-player update on the Bills' 2014 draft selections:

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
AP Photo/Bill WippertFirst-rounder Sammy Watkins has been one of the stars of training camp early on.
Watkins, first round: He's been everything as advertised so far. We've seen Watkins excel in the screen game, intermediate area, and deep part of the field. He has good size, very good speed, and excellent hands. Unlike organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp, where we felt EJ Manuel was more comfortable throwing to Robert Woods, Manuel has clicked best with Watkins in training camp. That's what the Bills need, so the reviews are overwhelmingly positive here.

Cyrus Kouandjio, second round: Kouandjio, who turned 21 earlier this week, has yet to receive reps with the first team in training camp. Instead, 32-year old Erik Pears has held down his starting job at right tackle to this point. There's a long way to go until final cuts -- when the Bills will need to make a decision on Pears' $2.75 million base salary -- but for the moment it looks like Kouandjio will need more time to adapt to the NFL. "The closer you are to the ball, the tougher it is to play in this league," coach Doug Marrone said Wednesday of Kouandjio. He's the heir apparent at right tackle but that transition might not take place until next season.

Preston Brown, third round: Brown built a head of steam in OTAs and minicamp, stepping in with the first team when Kiko Alonso and Brandon Spikes had their reps limited. The reviews were positive but we haven't seen Brown with the first team much, if at all, in training camp. Instead, it's been veteran Nigel Bradham, who Marrone said has a renewed focus this season. Brown still has plenty of time to leapfrog Bradham on the depth chart and still figures to have a role in sub packages and on special teams. Aside from Watkins, he projects to be the Bills' top rookie contributor this season.

Ross Cockrell, fourth round: The Duke product has flown under the radar mostly because of the depth the Bills have built at cornerback. Unless there's an injury to starters Stephon Gilmore or Leodis McKelvin, or to sub package pieces Nickell Robey and Corey Graham, Cockrell won't have much of a role on defense this season. His performance through four practices hasn't stood out either way. As a rookie, he'll look to make his mark on special teams.

Cyril Richardson, fifth round: Richardson has been part of the Bills' second-team offensive line and remains on a developmental track as a rookie. Without publicly available film to review, offensive linemen can be tough to assess from the sidelines of a training camp practice. The best opportunity is in one-on-one pass-rushing drills. The Bills held their first round of those Wednesday but our focus was on a red zone passing drill at the other end of the field. We'll try to check in on Richardson and the rest of the O-linemen the next time they go one-on-one with defensive linemen in practice.

Randell Johnson, seventh round: Johnson remains on the active/physically unable to perform list. He's been spotted walking the track area around the practice field but there hasn't been any update on when he may return to practice. The Bills are a little thin at linebacker, carrying eight in practice this week, so Johnson's return will be welcome.

Seantrel Henderson, seventh round: The Bills have chosen to throw Henderson into the fire, inserting him with the first-team at left tackle in place of Cordy Glenn. His performance has been up and down. Henderson left the first practice of camp with a hip injury and was brought to the cooling tent after the third practice, so his health and conditioning have been in the spotlight. Like Richardson, we'll have a better chance to hone in on him when the Bills hold their next one-on-one pass-rush drill.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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