Buffalo Bills: Grading the Team's First Round of 2012 NFL Draft

Josh CembellinCorrespondent IApril 27, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina holds up a jersey as he stands on stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was selected #10 overall by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The wait is finally over for Buffalo Bills fans. On Thursday night, the team selected South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore with its first-round draft pick.

Snatching up Gilmore is a safe, smart move for the Bills, who certainly needed help in the secondary. He is a 6’1”, 190-pound defensive back with high character skills and a “stellar reputation,” according to Rotoworld.com.

But more importantly, he possesses all the skills Buffalo needs in a quality corner.

At the combine, the former Gamecock logged a 4.44 40-time, flashing the natural athleticism that teams later found in his game tape. He consequently climbed up draft boards, and a report from NFL Network even had him graded higher than LSU’s Morris Claiborne, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Sitting at pick 10, the Bills were faced with a tough decision between Michael Floyd, the wideout from Notre Dame, or Stephon Gilmore.

Ultimately, GM Buddy Nix and the front office opted to take one of this year’s best cover guys to shore up a position of big need. The selection of Gilmore was not a reach, and in fact it was a great value at the No. 10 spot.  

During the draft, ESPN’s Jon Gruden spoke highly of Gilmore, claiming that he puts in a ton of time in the classroom and plays each snap with an unmatched competitive and aggressive style. Though he noted the cornerback needs to work a little bit on his backpedal, overall he and Mel Kiper loved the pick and felt Buffalo got a heck of a player.  

With his rare combination of size and speed at the position, Gilmore should compete for a starting job from day one with the Bills.

He’ll improve a secondary that desperately needs some young energy. Terrence McGee will be 32 this year and has struggled to stay healthy. Meanwhile, veteran Drayton Florence did not impress in 2011, and former first-rounder Leodis McKelvin is entering the final year of his rookie contract.  

Now that Gilmore is on board, pairing him with last year’s second-rounder Aaron Williams seems to be a dynamic duo for the future.

The draft choice is further evidence that the Bills remain committed to building up the defense. With free-agent pass-rushers Mario Williams and Mark Anderson joining Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus on the defensive line, the pass rush figures to be much improved in 2012. That will only help the secondary, and it will give Gilmore a chance to shine in his rookie year.

While the Bills may have passed on the sexier pick in Michael Floyd, they landed a huge playmaker in the secondary who will immediately strengthen the defense.

And it’s no surprise Buddy Nix targeted the SEC to find that player.

So where do the Bills go from here?

Round 2 features a lot of great talent. Still available are players such as Cordy Glenn, Jonathan Martin, Stephen Hill, Rueben Randle, Lavonte David, Coby Fleener, Courtney Upshaw, Andre Branch and Alshon Jeffery, among others.

From the looks of the board and considering team needs, it’s probable that Buffalo will target the best available wide receiver or offensive tackle with their second-round pick. Guys like Hill, Randle, Martin and Glenn each make a lot of sense.

Depending on which position they target in Round 2, the Bills will likely address the other position in Round 3 or look for a linebacker.

After that, don’t be surprised to see the Bills go after another corner later in the draft. The team wants depth as it looks to turn over a new leaf in the next couple of seasons, and there are a lot of quality corners in this year’s class.

Overall, the selection of Stephon Gilmore gets an honest A.

As for the remaining team needs, the Bills will likely address offensive tackle, linebacker, wide receiver, cornerback once more and possibly center.

So far, a successful first night for the Bills.