Cornerbacks that Fit the Bills’ Archetype

The Need:
The Bills may have found their scheme fit at cornerback in RD1 of the 2017 NFL Draft. They traded down 17 slots, past Marshon Lattimore, picked up the Chiefs’ RD1 in the coming draft, and still nabbed a top CB in Tre’Davious White. Tre was tested early and often out of the gate as a rookie. He broke up 11 passes before the Bye Week, but only 2 since then. Why? Offensive coordinators have been throwing away from the reliable rookie. White’s 13 passes defensed still remains 5th among NFL corners, ahead of the CBs drafted before him (Adoree Jackson 11 PBU, Marshon Lattimore 9 PBU). White is still in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year, despite what NFL Network says. The Bills are 5-2 with both Tre’Davious and EJ Gaines in the lineup, but is he healthy enough and good enough to be the number two corner? A nickel corner may be a good Day Three pick, as well.

 

The Archetype: 

Says Sean Payton: “Tre’Davious is someone we liked a lot in the draft, and I think [the Bills] drafted a real good player. He is very comfortable, though, up in press coverage, and I think he understands exactly what they are doing scheme-wise.” Added Ted Ginn: “Good feet. He’s been in that SEC where guys throw the ball around. He’s seen speed, so he’s pretty confident in what he does.”  White elected to return for his senior year to refine his skills and improve his draft stock, giving him four years of work at corner, whereas Lattimore and Marlon Humphrey had only two years of college experience. Jackson and Conley had three. White added special teams value as a successful kick returner, and tackles well. White and Marlon Humphrey hailed from the SEC, whereas Jackson (PAC-12) and Conley (Big10) did not. White had more career passes defensed (34) at LSU than Conley (15) and Humphrey (13) combined. Multiple visits by scouts to games seems to be a pattern of Brandon Beane’s carried over from Carolina, so I’m posting the number of credentialed Bills-scouted games for each player below. I’ll also share INTs plus Passes Defensed for each Scheme Fit player in parentheses, and will only include players with at least 3 years of play.

 

Who are the best position fits at CB for the Bills?

Iman Marshall CB/FS USC (3 games scouted, RD2#27 on my Big Board)
6-0, 205, 4.53 (32 PD+INT career, 35 games)
One of the three CB names in the draft that commentators bastardize,  “ee-MAHN” will tackle successfully in the run game, something the Bills have been missing since the Bye Week. With ideal  size and athletic ability to disguise whether he’s a CB or a FS, he has the versatility the Bills look for. In fact, over his high school and college career, Iman has played every position except kicker. Another 4-year player who is technically sound from the get-go, Marshall could challenge EJ Gaines for a starting spot in summer camp. His work ethic is outstanding, so he’s a fit right away. Marshall stays after practice daily. Think of Marshall as a value pick in the second round. [Iman Marshall Video] Position Fit With Bills: A+

 

 

Carlton Davis Auburn (2 games scouted, top player at that school, RD2#37 on my Big Board)
6-1, 195, 4.28 (32 PD+INT career, 34 games)
While he has another year of eligibility, Carlton Davis has the size GMs and coaches covet. Should he declare early, the speedy Davis will be one of the defensive backs with the fastest forty at the Combine, which might inflate his draft stock. However, should the SEC defender drift into RD2, perhaps the Bills’ first pick there would be a good value. Davis is a good technician who is adept at using his hands and long arms to tackle and break up catches. Hopefully, Davis’s injuries are a thing of the past. [Carlton Davis Video] Position Fit With Bills: A+

 


Quenton Meeks
Stanford  (2 games scouted, 2nd-highest on my Big Board at that school,  RD4#137 on my Big Board)
6-1, 195, 4.53  (20 PD+INT career, 33 games)
The Bills could even reach a bit for Meeks and take him with their lone RD3 pick. The time would be right to address the defensive backfield, given the Bills’ other needs at DL, LB, QB, RB, and WR. The Bills scouted Stanford twice, likely looking at RB Bryce Love and Meeks. You could argue that Meeks played a key role in every Stanford start. Meeks held Josh Rosen and DeShone Kizer to 47.45 QBR; without him in the lineup, those QBs’ ratings were 88.95. [Quenton Meeks Video] Position Fit With Bills: A

 


Anthony Averett
Alabama  (2 games scouted, RD3#96 on my Big Board)
6-0, 183, 4.49  (16 PD+INT career, 28 games)
Perhaps the best CB in zone coverage, Anthony Averett forced incompletes on 23.2 % of targets in 2016, per PFF. He keeps the play in front of him extremely well, and that’s exactly what McDermott’s defense demands. Averett is #2 behind Minkah Fitzpatrick in yards allowed per coverage snap played (0.83 yards). In addition to strong zone coverage ability, Averett is No. 9 among all draft-eligible CBs in tackling efficiency with 87 career tackles. He’s from the SEC. The only flies in the ointment are the lower number of games played compared to the others listed, and his butterfingers; Averett has only 1 INT in his entire career. [Anthony Averett Video] Position Fit With Bills: A-

 

 

Jaire Alexander* CB/PR Louisville  (1 game scouted, RD1#13 on my Big Board)
5-11, 188, 4.43 (21 PD+INT career, 28 games)
Don’t pronounce it Jerry. “Jye-ear” earned Pro Football Focus’ 2016 title as best CB in college football, and with Averett, may get a team to reach for him. Alexander had those two INTs against Clemson. We’ll give him a tick upward on the McBeane-O-Meter for special teams play; he was Louisville’s punt returner for 2 years with a 9.6 yards per return, and the Bills rank 10th with a 9.1 ypr. With Bills’ needs elsewhere, they won’t likely trade up to get Alexander, but he’s a value pick if he somehow falls to them. He doesn’t have the experience that others on this list do, isn’t from the SEC, and is 5’11”. Let’s face it; the Bills were at the Louisville game to watch Lamar Jackson. [Jaire Alexander Video] Position Fit With Bills: B

 

 

Brandon Facyson CB/FS Virginia Tech (1 game scouted, RD1#20 on my Big Board)
6-1, 191, 4.52 (44 PD+INT career, 49 games)
Another name that commentators butcher regularly, Facyson (pronounced “FAY-sun”) has 50 games played over 5 years as of this writing, so he is tied for the most experience, and that seems to have drafted Tre White. Facyson is versatile, although he lacks the NFL body for a Free Safety out of the gate. He’s deferring a career in medicine (cardiology) to take a shot at the NFL, so you know he has the smarts. The 43 passes defended in his career are impressive (second in the ACC to Stewart, below), but he’s had ZERO INTs over his last 4 years, so another butterfingers along with Averett. However, Facyson has the longevity, likeability, and work ethic that McDermott looks for, and the med staff will make sure his injuries are behind him (Dr. Facyson will know what they’ll ask). While he’s pretty high on my board, he realistically might last until the Bills’ RD2A pick. [Brandon Facyson Video] Position Fit With Bills: A

 

 

Darius Phillips CB/KR/PR W Michigan (no games scouted, RD3#78 on my Big Board)
5-10, 191, 4.52 (47 PD+INT career, 46 games)
Obeying the McBeane-required 4th year with team, Phillips is a converted wide receiver, so you know he’s athletic and has the hands. As punt and kick returner, Phillips also has the special teams chops to make the Bills’ short list — short being the operative word at 5’10”. He led the country in INT return yardage, so he’s opportunistic with the ball in his hands. Phillips took 4 INTs back the other way for 263 yards and three touchdowns, and he looked like a player against USC and Michigan State this year. Missing are the scout visits. Not for nothing, but he’s sure on social media a lot.  [Darius Phillips Video] Position Fit With Bills: A+

 

 

M.J. Stewart CB/PR/KR North Carolina (no games scouted, , RD3#68 on my Big Board)
5-11, 200, 4.53 (47 PD+INT career, 49 games)
Who knows how many Tarheel games Beane has unofficially scouted? Stewart has the longevity that Bills took in the last draft in Tre White (4 yrs), he’s versatile, he’s on special teams, and he’s a good blitzer off the edge, as McDermott defenses sometimes do. His INTs show a “my ball” mentality, and his special teams TDs make him versatile. I like Stewart’s range, and McBeane will  factor in his precise technique up at the line of scrimmage. Stewart is UNC’s all-time leader in passes broken up, he has the ACC’s most passes broken up since 2005, and he’s a sure tackler. He’s a valuable pickup in RD3, even worth the reach up to RD2B.  [M.J. Stewart Video] Position Fit With Bills: A+

 

 

Day Three Prospects:

Jamar Summers CB/FS Connecticut   (no games scouted, RD4#122 on my Big Board)
6-0, 185, 4.44  (33 PD+INT career, 46 games)
Summers is a top-shelf zone CB who keeps play in front of him. This makes him ideal for the Buffalo defense. Summers is versatile, as he possesses the toughness and body type to even make a successful switch to safety. He tackles well. Two criticisms: Summers will sometimes focus more on the QB’s eyes than he should, losing his man. He also had inconsistencies in his team’s play from year to year, and Beane and McDermott tend to look for upward trends that say, “I’m becoming better”.  [Jamar Summers Video] Position Fit With Bills: B+

 

 

Greg Stroman CB/PR/KR/WR  Virginia Tech  (1 game scouted, RD5#184 on my Big Board)
6-0, 180, 4.50  (24 PD+INT career, 47 games)
Experience? Check; Stroman’s been in 47 games at Virginia Tech. Special teams? Check; Stroman had 3 career punt returns for a TD . Can he run with the big receivers? Check; he notched 13 PD in 2016, and 3 games with successive INTs this year vs Miami, Georgia Tech, and Pittsburgh. Versatile? He has great hands from his days as a WR. Slender but physical, Stroman’s able to turn on a dime, allowing him to disguise coverage a bit, a staple of McDermott defenses. Stroman has the makings of a Bills zone-system corner. He plays with eyes up on the QB, but doesn’t lose his man or responsibility like Summers tends to do. Nice fit. [Greg Stroman Video] Position Fit With Bills: A+

 

 

Sean Chandler CB/FS  Temple   (no games scouted, RD6#208 on my Big Board)
5-11, 190, 4.52 (30 PD+INT career, 47 games)
Another four-year player, senior captain Sean Chandler has the versatile balance. He first played 2 years at CB, then he moved to FS. He’s been productive at both, covering like a corner but hitting like a safety. He can play the box Safety role well, up closer to the line of scrimmage to defend the run. McDermott will like that. [Sean Chandler Video] Position Fit With Bills: A

 

 

Rashard Fant NCB Indiana     (no games scouted, RD5#156 on my Big Board)
5-10, 175, 4.49  (57 PD+INT career, 46 games)
Lightest CB listed here, Fant is promising as a productive nickel cornerback. In 2016, Fant was 3rd in Passes Broken Up (exceeded only by T Thompson RD4#111, A Witherspoon RD3#66).  Fant is tops in his class this year with 17 PBU, 1.6 Pass Defenses Per Game. The overachieving Fant has very nice speed, and high-points the ball well. QBs have a dismal 55.3 QBR against him. He’d be a nice addition, but at 5-10, 175, he’s not likely your #2 corner. You’d rather keep Gaines over there than go with a guy the size of Nickell Robey. [Rashard Fant Video] Position Fit With Bills: B+

 

 

 

 

 

 

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