Every year, in the hour or so leading up to the end of the draft, teams start to contact players that they would like to sign that don’t look to be drafted by the finale of the 7th round. Once the draft ends, those players can choose to sign with whichever team gives them the best option for playing time – or any other criteria they may have – out of a selection of offers that they have received.
In recent years, the Buffalo Bills have not been relatively active in the signing of undrafted free agents. This season, they had over a dozen reported signees within a 24-hour period of the draft’s end. The Bills’ approach with this matter is that it’s all speculation until they make it official, and they never do so until the player has been to OBD and signed their initial contract. We’ve signed over a dozen by this point, with one (OC Kyle Mutcher) being released already. Let’s take a look at a few of these guys with the best chances to make the 2010 roster – not exactly a tough feat considering the weak team we have here at the moment.
Joique Bell, RB Wayne State [5’11” – 220 lbs.]
Bell, the small-school product and star tailback from Wayne State University in Michigan is not as much of a long shot to make this roster as one might think. Over the past four seasons, he compiled 6,728 yards and 88 touchdowns rushing as well as 918 yards and 8 scores receiving – including two seasons over 2,000 yards and three over 20 touchdowns. Take into consideration that he did this against low-level opposition, but they are impressive numbers, nonetheless. Bell is a no-nonsense runner who has a good mix of speed and size and has impressive ability to shake tackles and gain extra yards. He has very good vision behind the line and has good instincts to see and shift to the best hole for him. He needs work as a receiver – route running is the worst part of his game – and a blocker, and those would be his best bet to make the team. He also struggles with holding onto the ball at times – if he can work on these few problems and strengthen himself up to assist in breaking tackles he could make the team and develop as a nice power-running complement to CJ Spiller down the road. His road to make the team was just shortened by the release of fellow runningback Walter Mendenhall, but also impeded with the addition of Chad Simpson from Indianapolis.
Naaman Roosevelt, WR Buffalo [6’0″ – 187 lbs.]
In a wide-open battle for roster slots and depth chart positioning, Roosevelt (as well as fellow UDFA wideout David Nelson, next on the list) has a very high chance of making this roster with even a moderate showing leading up to the 2010 season. He is well known for his route running and sure hands, but his size was one of the biggest determining factors in his going undrafted in 2010. He is just an eighth of an inch over six feet and needs to hit the weight room to be able to absorb an NFL hit and keep going. In four years at Buffalo, he amassed over 3,500 yards and 28 touchdowns with a 13.1 YPC average – breaking school records in 2008 with QB Drew Willy (Indianapolis Colts) with 1,402 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had what some considered a down year in ’09 with the loss of Willy to the NFL and runningback James Starks to injury, yet still came close to 1,000 yards and another 9 scores. Naaman is a quick receiver, could work great in the slot, and is very intelligent – especially when it comes to making decisions in open space. He does need to, as said, hit the weight room and bulk up a bit as well as improve his blocking skills. Coming from the MAC to the feisty AFC East will be no easy task for him, but with a strong camp and a positive attitude Roosevelt has a real chance to make it on to the most jumbled wide receiver depth chart in the league for 2010.
David Nelson, WR Florida [6’5″ – 217 lbs.]
Nelson, like Roosevelt, benefits from the unknown commodity that is the Buffalo Bills receiving corps. A receiver with good size, Nelson was never good enough to see significant playing time on a powerful Gator offense. He ran fairly slow – 4.63 and 4.57 – at his pro day, and isn’t polished in any one attribute of his game. He’d be a developmental project to bring along for sure, moreso than Easley or Roosevelt, and it may be a bit before he sees the field on offense. Nelson had been running with the second team in minicamp, however, and by all accounts seemed to be doing well. It’ll be interesting to see how he does going forward. He doesn’t have as good a chance to make it on the team as Roosevelt, but again, with the weak corps we have, anything is a possibility.
Jorge Guerra, OL Texas A&M Kingsville [6’3″ – 302 lbs.]
Guerra was a 4-year starter at left tackle for the TAMUK Javelinas. He came to the school as a walkon and earned second team All Lone Star Conference (South Division) honors in 2009 after 45 consecutive starts throughout his career. Being from such a small school against low end competition, not a lot is known about Guerra, but NFL clubs can always use more talented offensive linemen and Guerra is a worthy body it seems to compete for a roster spot throughout camp.
Antonio Coleman, OLB Auburn [6’2″ – 260 lbs.]
A five-year player and three-year starter, Coleman was a dominant force at linebacker for the Auburn Tigers in his tenure there. In his three years as a starter, he racked up 45.5 tackles for a loss along with 24.5 sacks, showing a knack for getting into the backfield. He lead the entire SEC in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (16.5) in 2009, earning him first-team all SEC recognition. Coleman does a great job in pursuit of a ballcarrier, flowing from sideline to sideline with fluidity and aggressiveness. He is a little slower than many would like, and that helped, along with his smaller-than-average size and injury history, to bring him to undrafted status. He isn’t very strong and has a hard time against mauling blockers, and his skills – or lack thereof – against the run leave a lot to be desired. Still, as a situational pass-rusher early on, he could shine. Antonio is a smart player with a vast repertoire of pass-rush moves that will help him to get into the backfield early and often. He had a history of ankle, shoulder, and wrist injuries throughout his collegiate tenure, causing many durability concerns to rise, yet he has been considered a steal already by those who have been able to see him work in minicamp. So long as he is willing to learn and stay focused, Coleman has a great chance to latch on as part of George Edwards’ new-look defense in the Queen City – solid play throughout OTAs and training camp could very well get him over Danny Batten on the depth chart. If Aaron Schobel does indeed retire, that would make him the fourth outside ‘backer behind Maybin, Kelsay, and Ellis. For an UDFA with his natural skills, that’s not a bad position to be in.
So there you have it, my top five most-probable undrafted free agents to make the Bills’ 53 man roster in 2010. This may change as we approach the season depending on who preforms and who disappoints, so be on the lookout. For any subscribers, apologies for the long break in between articles (and, admittedly, lackluster quality), but I will be back to normal soon and hope to have another article out later this week. As always, thanks for reading – please subscribe and continue to spread the word.