The Buffalo Bills had six picks in the 2015 NFL draft. One year after being selected, it’s time to look back on their careers before joining the Bills, their rookie seasons, and what’s in store for them in year two.
The Buffalo Bills didn’t have a first round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, but Ronald Darby was a first round talent that Buffalo was able to select with the 50th overall pick. In just one season, Darby established himself as one of the NFL’s best young cornerbacks.
Before the Bills
In three seasons at Florida State, Darby recorded 78 total tackles, two interceptions, and 16 passes defensed. The cornerback’s junior season saw him start in 13 games. That season, Darby had four passes defensed and 43 total tackles.
What the Analysts Said
"The Bills are already pretty stacked at corner. They have Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore. Darby is a quick-footed, fiesty corner. However, he has struggled to find the football with his back to the quarterback."
“Cover corner with average size and outstanding speed. Has shown the instincts to play off coverage and the athleticism to play press. It is a bit of a concern that scouts and even opposing coaches have commented on Darby's toughness, but he doesn't have very many missed or broken tackles on his docket and his cover skills should be prioritized over his run support regardless. He clearly has starter's ability at the position.”
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
“A smooth, athletic, explosive cornerback with the skills to play in the slot or on the boundary, Darby has the potential to be a Chris Harris-like corner in the pros.”
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report
“Darby has the skills to eventually become a solid number two corner. He needs to improve his ball skills and tackling but that shouldn’t be a problem. He will most likely get drafted early in the second round. I have heard that some clubs that have a first round grade on him.”
-Greg Gabriel, National Football Post
Ronald Darby came into Buffalo and immediately impressed the Bills coaching staff. In early August, Rex Ryan said he’d be comfortable starting Darby with Stephon Gilmore. In the preseason Darby took his lumps, but he looked like a completely different cornerback when the regular season began.
Darby was nothing short of outstanding as rookie. He recorded 15 starts and had 68 total tackles, 21 passes defensed, and two interceptions in 2015.
Despite playing 914 snaps as a rookie, Darby only gave up four touchdowns all season. Pro Football Focus said the following on Darby after naming the cornerback as their Defensive Rookie of the Year:
Darby allowed just 660 receiving yards throughout the year, he was tied for fifth amongst cornerbacks with 13 pass breakups, and finished the year with the ninth-highest coverage grade for corners.
When the actual Defensive Rookie of the Year award was given, Darby was named as the runner-up behind Marcus Peters.
Darby is coming off of an outstanding rookie season and his play in 2016 could play a role as to whether or not the Bills re-sign cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Gilmore is entering the final year of his rookie contract and it’s unknown whether or not the Bills will reach a long-term deal with the cornerback before the start of the season. If Buffalo chooses not to sign Gilmore before September, the play of Darby could dictate whether or not the Bills shell out large money to his running mate.
A strong second season by Darby could ultimately lead to Buffalo deciding against re-signing Gilmore. Buffalo would obviously love to have two No. 1 cornerbacks on their roster, but the team may have to think long-term about their salary cap. Tyrod Taylor will be given a large contract if he continues his strong play at quarterback and Cordy Glenn just signed a lucrative deal of his own. At the end of the day, Buffalo may decide against paying Gilmore top dollar for his services if Darby proves that he’s among the best cornerbacks in the game in 2016.