Ranking Bills Rookies on Immediate Impact

Which rookies have the best chance to make an immediate impact with the Bills?

The Buffalo Bills’ 2015 draft class is joining a roster that is very talented and deep at multiple spots. That doesn’t mean that the rookies can’t make an immediate impact this season, but certain players have better opportunities than others. Here’s a look at Buffalo’s rookie class as well as a look at which players have the best chance of making an impact in 2015.

6. Dezmin Lewis

At 6’4,” Lewis gives the Bills a potential red zone threat. He had a terrific career at Central Arkansas, but his competition was lacking. Unfortunately for Lewis, his chances of making an immediate impact this season don’t look likely due to the depth at the wide receiver position. Buffalo’s top three spots are locked up between Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin and Robert Woods. Chris Hogan has to be a near-lock after his 2014 season as well. Marcus Easley, one of the best gunners in the NFL, is another likely option and at that point, the Bills may only carry 1-2 other wide receivers. Lewis would have to battle Marquise Goodwin for the sixth wide receiver spot. It’s possible the team carries seven receivers, but even if they do, it’s unlikely that Lewis sees much of the field barring injuries.

5. Tony Steward

Defensively, Steward could have trouble getting onto the field in 2015. The linebacker will play behind the likes of Nigel Bradham, Preston Brown and Ty Powell. That said, Steward could earn a roster spot due to his ability to play special teams. Steward was Clemson’s Special Teams Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

4. Karlos Williams

Whereas Lewis and Steward aren’t roster locks, I’d be stunned if Williams wasn’t on the team’s 53-man roster in September. Buffalo has terrific depth at running back between LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown, but Williams is likely to beat out one or maybe two of them upon the depth chart. Bryce Brown is only signed through the 2015 season and Anthony Dixon isn’t a lock to be the team’s third running back. Williams is a big back that generally falls forward and could get an opportunity as the team’s short yardage back. In addition to this, Williams has a chance to make an impact on special teams. Williams is likely to be on the coverage units and could even compete for a job as a returner in 2015.

3. Ronald Darby

Buffalo’s second round pick finds himself behind two players the Bills drafted after him in the 2015 draft. This isn’t a knock on Darby. It’s all about the team’s current situation at cornerback. The problem for Darby is that Buffalo has a lot of depth at cornerback. Stephon Gilmore is locked in as the team’s top corner. Leodis McKelvin and Corey Graham are two veteran options who have a terrific chance of starting opposite Gilmore. Then you have Nickell Robey who has thrived as a slot cornerback. Darby should be ahead of Ross Cockrell and Ron Brooks on Buffalo’s depth chart, but the position overall is pretty loaded. It’s a good problem to have but it may lessen Darby’s immediate impact in 2015. Darby could move up this list if the Bills move Graham to safety (a legitimate possibility).

2. Nick O’Leary

Greg Roman apparently loves H-Backs. O’Leary joins a tight end group full of H-Backs in Charles Clay, MarQueis Gray and Chris Gragg. Clay is far and away the best tight end on Buffalo’s roster, but O’Leary has a good chance of being the team’s second tight end. O’Leary really improved upon his blocking ability in 2014 and you won’t find many tight ends in the league with better hands. He’ll catch anything he gets his hands on. If O’Leary shows that he can create some separation, he should find himself on the field quite a bit in 2015. He could be a terrific safety valve for EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel or Tyrod Taylor. O’Leary has a terrific shot of making an immediate impact based upon the depth at the tight end position.

1. John Miller

No one should be surprised to see John Miller as the rookie who has the best chance to make an immediate impact in 2015 for the Bills. Buffalo has a lot of question marks along the offensive line and Miller has a great chance of starting immediately in Week 1 at left guard. The only situation that could keep him from starting immediately is if Cyrus Kouandjio and Seantrel Henderson have terrific camps. If both of Buffalo’s 2014 draft picks step up, they could be the team’s starting duo at tackle, allowing the Bills to move Cordy Glenn to left guard. That’s far from a guarantee, so it’s likely that Glenn stays put at tackle. That leaves Miller competing against Chris Williams and Cyril Richardson for the starting job at left guard. Bills fans should like Miller’s odds in that case. The rookie out of Louisville is a powerful force who will be looked at to open lanes for LeSean McCoy and company this season.

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