The Bills have a nice future, and they’ve acquired some good talent over the last three years. But judging from the top-ten prospects in their organization, it’s talent that will need time to develop, as four of the top-ten were drafted in 2009.
In determining the top prospect in the Bills organization, it came down to who brings the most impact on the field and potential game changing opportunities for the team. And the player who brings that level of excitement is cornerback Leodis McKelvin. McKelvin brought playmaking ability to the Bills last season as a rookie. In 2008, he played in all 16 games, starting six and finished with 36 tackles, two interceptions; one in which he returned for a 64-yard touchdown. He was also a standout on special teams and demonstrated his elusiveness in the open field by averaging 28.2 yards per kick return.
Even though Donte Whitner is entering his fourth year in the league, he fits the classification as a prospect since he’s only 23 years old (he turns 24 on July 24th). Whitner was the Bills first round choice (8th overall) in 2006 and was a questionable selection at the time. But he’s proven all of the doubters wrong and has been a steady performer, despite his numbers dropping off over the last three years. As a rookie, Whitner had a tremendous year collecting 105 tackles and an interception. In his second year, Whitner was consistent and ended up with 89 tackles and an interception. But last season, Whitner’s production suffered when he played in 13 games [starting all 13] and finished the year with 61 tackles. With that said, he’s still the second best prospect on the team and deserves his rightful recognition.
Marshawn Lynch has the potential to be the No. 1 prospect in the organization, but his off the field issues and nonchalant approach to the game drops him down to No. 3. The Bills first round pick in 2007, Lynch has put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and has promise as a receiving threat out of the backfield. He’s been banged up a bit during his two-year career, but when he’s healthy, he’s shown flashes of brilliance. Lynch was suspended for the first three games of the ’09 season for violating the league’s conduct code.
The fourth rated prospect in the Bills organization, quarterback Trent Edwards has had an up-and-down career thus far, mainly due to injuries. Edwards was a third round pick of the Bills in 2007 and has ascended into the starting quarterback. While under center for the Bills, there have been two problems: 1. Not enough weapons surrounding him and 2. The amount of protection he’s received in the pocket. Edwards has prototypical size, an above average arm and the ability to ultimately become a standout quarterback in the league. But his success depends on his health and the arsenal of weapons he has to work with.
As a rookie in 2007, Paul Posluszny was named the starting middle linebacker for the Bills and was on his way to a promising season. But in Week 3 against the Patriots, he suffered a broken left forearm that ended his year. With uncertainty surrounding him for his second season, the aforementioned No. 5 prospect in the organization rebounded with a huge year where he registered 110 tackles and an interception. A blue-collar type of defender, Posluszny isn’t the greatest athlete, but he plays with a high motor and is extremely intense. He has a chance to elevate his status further up the list with another productive season.
The rest of the list includes four players (Eric Wood, Aaron Maybin, Jairus Byrd and Shawn Nelson) that were drafted this past April and one player, James Hardy, a second round pick in 2007, who’s recovering from a torn ACL. All five players have a bright future, but they’re still untested and have a lot to prove.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.