Bills stock up on Florida State Seminoles in NFL draft
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) General manager Doug Whaley joked the Buffalo Bills could have saved some money on scouting by simply targeting Florida State players.
After all, three of the six players the Bills selected in the NFL draft this weekend wound up being Seminoles.
”Shortly after the Pegulas bought the team, they came to me and said, Doug, we spent $1.4 billion on this so we’re going to have to cut somewhere,”’ Whaley said with a smile on Saturday, referring to new owners Terry and Kim Pegula.
”Nah,” he added before explaining how Buffalo is suddenly turning into Tallahassee North.
”They’ve what, lost one game in two years,” Whaley said, referring to the Seminoles 27-1 record, which includes winning the 2014 National Championship. ”There’s talent there. It just so happens that we picked a lot of it, and deservedly so.”
The Bills closed the final day of the draft by using two of their final four picks on Seminoles players. Buffalo selected FSU running back Karlos Williams in the fifth round and then tight end Nick O’Leary with the second of its two sixth-round selections. They join Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby, who was selected in the second round on Friday.
”It almost feels at home being in Buffalo,” Williams said.
The Bills could use any edge they can get. Their 15-season playoff drought is the NFL’s longest active streak, while their 9-7 record last year matched their best in a decade.
Buffalo’s current roster now counts six former Seminoles, rounded out by quarterback EJ Manuel, linebacker Preston Brown and long-snapper Garrison Sanborn.
The Bills rounded out the draft by selecting Clemson linebacker Tony Steward in the sixth round, and Central Arkansas receiver Dezmin Lewis in the seventh.
Of the four late-round selections, O’Leary has the best chance to make an immediate impact in a tight-end friendly offense being installed by new coordinator Greg Roman.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, O’Leary won the John Mackey Award last season, which is presented to the nation’s top tight end.
In four seasons, he set the school record among tight ends with 114 catches for 1,591 yards and 18 touchdowns, including one rushing.
”He’s not the fastest. He’s not the tallest. He’s not the most athletic,” Bills player personnel director Jim Monos said. ”But then you watch him and all he does is make plays on one of the best teams in the country.”
Williams, selected 155th overall, played both safety and linebacker during his first two seasons at FSU before switching to running back. He scored 11 touchdowns rushing in each of his past two seasons, and is also an adept special teams player.
Williams joins an already crowded backfield after the Bills acquired LeSean McCoy in a trade with Philadelphia. He will compete with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon for a No. 3 spot behind backup Fred Jackson.
Williams, like Darby, ran into off-field trouble at Tallahassee, Florida. In November, a police investigation into a domestic battery assault against Williams ended without charges being filed because the alleged victim declined to speak to police.
Darby was cleared of any wrong-doing after acknowledging he witnessed sex between quarterback Jameis Winston and a woman who accused Winston of raping her in December 2012. Winston, who was selected with the No. 1 pick in the draft by Tampa Bay on Thursday, was never charged and was cleared by the school.
The two join a team that also signed offensive guard Richie Incognito in January. Incognito missed 15 months of football after being a central figure in the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal in 2013.
Whaley said the Bills were comfortable in drafting Darby and Williams after investigating what happened and asking both players about it during pre-draft meetings.
”We do that on any issue, be it domestic violence, any indiscretion,” Whaley said. ”We’re going to dig as deep as we can and can. And sitting down and looking at someone in the eye for me is a telltale sign. Is the guy remorseful? Did he do it?”
Domestic violence concerns have become a major issue in the NFL. The league recently suspended Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy for 10 games after concluding there was credible evidence he roughed up his former girlfriend.
NOTES: Steward overcame injuries to both knees in high school and his freshman college season to record 4-1/2 sacks and 13-1/2 tackles for losses in 38 games. … Lewis is listed at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, and had 197 catches for 2,618 yards and 24 touchdowns in four seasons at Central Arkansas. … O’Leary is golfer Jack Nicklaus’ grandson. .
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