Although it is very difficult to evaluate a rookie class after just one season, the Buffalo Bills had some up and down performances from their 2014 rookies. Multiple players made starts throughout the duration of the season, some playing surprisingly well, while some made little to no impacts at all. In some cases, it can take a player many years to fully develop; however, in the the NFL, if your a high pick, you’re expected to make an instant impact. Here are the final grades of the Bills rookies from the 2014 season.
Sammy Watkins: Grade B+
To say the least, Sammy Watkins had a very productive season, as he hauled in 65 catches for 982 yards and six touchdowns, despite sub-par quarterback play. The reason Watkins only gets a B+, is simply due to the fact the Bills had to give up two firsts and a fourth round pick to land him. Watkins was the first receiver selected in the draft, but was outplayed by multiple fellow rookie receivers selected after him. Watkins has a great set of hands and is a solid route runner, but doesn’t possess the size to be a physically dominant receiver. With better quarterback play, Watkins numbers should improve, but he has to be more consistent come the 2015 season.
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Cyrus Kouandjio: Grade F
In the second round, the Bills selected monster tackle Cyrus Kouandjo out of Alabama. He was expected to compete for the starting right tackle job come training camp, but unfortunately was severely out of shape, and constantly would get embarrassed during one on one drills. In fact, half way through the season, coach Doug Marrone decided it was better if Kouandjio would make the switch to guard. Despite having monstrous size, Kouandjio lacks quick feet, and has very stiff hips and knees. He was unable to make any sort of impact in his rookie season. For the Bills sake, hopefully he can pan out as a guard come training camp.
Preston Brown: Grade A-
One of the steals of the 2014 draft, Preston Brown provided great value for the Bills, after he was selected in the third round out of Louisville. Brown would start 14 out of 16 games for the Bills, recording 109 tackles, to go along with a fumble recovery and an interception. Brown was a player who thrived under Jim Schwartz’ system, and was the teams leading tackler. Brown has solid size at 6’1’’ and 251 pounds. He showed that he can be both physical and can be affective when dropping into coverage. Brown, along with Kiko Alonso, represent a key part of the future to the Bills defense.
Ross Cockrell: Grade D
Picked 109th overall in the fourth round by the Bills, cornerback Ross Cockrell failed to see the field until late in the season, where he would find himself on special teams. Cockrell has solid size for a corner, but simply just wasn’t given an opportunity to play defense. Cockrell will need to have a solid training camp in order to solidify his spot on the Bills 53 man roster.
Cyril Richardson: Grade C
Despite being drafted in the fifth round, guard Cyril Richardson started four games for the Bills as a rookie. Although his play didn’t overly impress, Richardson showed a high level of compete, and the type of attitude that new head coach Rex Ryan likes with his players. Richardson has very good size, and with a consistent performance at training camp, will be in the mix for a starting guard position.
Randell Johnson: Grade D+
Due to the Bills depth at linebacker, sixth round pick Randell Johnson was unable to find the field until the end of the season where he would record a tackle and fumble recovery on special teams. Johnson has ideal size for an outside linebacker at 6’4” and 245 pounds, and has very good speed to go along with it. Johnson is still relatively raw, so it will be smart for the Bills to let him learn for another season, and then see what he can do. Johnson will have to impress during camp, but with a solid performance, should find himself on the 2015 roster.
Seantrel Henderson: Grade B
Yes, seventh round pick Seantrel Henderson had his fare share of struggles during his rookie season, but he started all 16 games for the Bills, and showed some signs of improvement throughout the season. It is very rare to see a seventh round pick start in all 16 games. When the Bills drafted Henderson, there were many questions as to whether he could keep his nose clean off the field; however, he proved all his critics wrong. Henderson will continue to develop his game, and should find himself starting at right tackle once again come the 2015 season.
It is very difficult to grade a draft class just one year into the NFL, as certain players develop at certain rates. The Bills were able to find themselves some gems this past draft; however, they need to get more out of there first two picks. There were too many games during the season where Watkins was held under 30 yards, and was practically invisible. The Bills need him to play more consistent football. Finally, it is essential that Kouandjio can amass into something. Whether he is at tackle or guard, the Bills need him to make an impact, it will be another early pick turned to waste by the Bills.
The 2014 draft was a solid one for the Buffalo Bills, as they were able to find three players who had a major impact at their positions. It will be interesting to see how this draft develops during the 2015 season, and hopefully they can get more production out of players who weren’t able to make an impact during their rookie season.
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