Thursday, January 9, 2014
Bills positional review: Cornerbacks
By Mike Rodak
Back in September, we broke down the Buffalo Bills' 53-man roster, position-by-position. Now that the Bills' season has ended, we'll review those grades:
Position: Cornerback (preseason grades)
Leodis McKelvin -- 81.0 percent
Stephon Gilmore -- 56.6 percent
Nickell Robey -- 53.2 percent
Justin Rogers -- 26.5 percent
Ron Brooks -- 3.7 percent
Brandon Burton -- 1.5 percent
Preseason take: Robey deserves credit for making the Bills' 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent and looked generally solid in his debut Sunday. But for the Bills to thrust a player like him into a major role (he was the fifth defensive back on the field, an increasingly important position in the NFL) speaks to their other options at the position. The greatest lack of depth here is at No. 2 and No. 3, not as much at the bottom of the depth chart. Look for the Bills to draft a cornerback next season, and for Rogers, Brooks, and others to battle for that last spot. Grade: D+
Postseason review: The Bills showed confidence in Robey as early as training camp and it paid off. He may have been undrafted, but Robey played like an early-round pick, holding down the ever-important slot role all season. His emergence, along with a career season from McKelvin, shored up the No. 2 and No. 3 spots on this depth chart. The top spot is still a question mark after a shaky season from Gilmore, but one could argue that McKelvin is the Bills' top cornerback entering next season. That may not preclude them from drafting another cornerback, but it lessens the need. Rogers, as predicted, was shaky in extended playing time before he was released. The bottom of the depth chart is what now needs an upgrade. Still, this grade should have been higher.
Preseason take: There's some experience here, especially with McKelvin, but it remains one of the younger positions on the Bills' roster. Four of the top five options are currently injured or were injured at some point during training camp, and the remaining player, Robey, is a rookie. It's a combination of injury history and lack of experience that earns the position this grade. When the game is on the line, nobody really knows how these players will fare. Grade: D
Postseason review: Given the circumstances -- an undrafted rookie taking on a major role in the defense -- this grade was accurate at the time it was assigned. But looking back, who would have thought Robey would have locked down that spot? Who saw McKelvin bouncing back from five up-and-down years? There was a lot of youth at this position and even though the first half of the season was rough, things pulled through by the end. It's a good bet that this grade is much higher entering next season.