The Buffalo Bills wheeled and dealed their way through the final four rounds of the NFL Draft on Saturday.
The Bills pulled off two more trades on the last day of the selection process, acquiring running back Bryce Brown from the Philadelphia Eagles in addition to four more players to complete their 2014 draft class.
“We made five trades in the last three days to really change the complexion of our organization and our roster moving forward,” Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon said. “It’s all about preparation. We as a group are very prepared. This is an ‘all-in’ process and what I mean by that is the cohesiveness and the togetherness of this organization from the coaching staff, the personnel department and management has never been at a higher standard than it is right now.”
To acquire Brown, the Bills traded a conditional draft pick, based on what they receive from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for receiver Stevie Johnson.
If Johnson meets undisclosed performance criteria, the Bills will receive a third-round pick in 2015. If not, it will be a 2015 fourth-rounder – that pick would in turn be sent to Philadelphia.
If the Bills do get San Francisco’s third rounder, the pick they send to the Eagles will be a 2016 fourth-round pick. However, if Brown meets certain performance critera, the Bills will send their 2016 third-round pick to the Eagles.
“I was definitely surprised by it, but I think it’s a great opportunity for me to come in and be able to contribute in any way that I can,” he said. “I’m excited about the journey and I can’t wait to get started.”
Brown, 22, is a 6-foot-, 220-pounder is entering his third NFL season. The seventh-round selection from Kansas State played in all 32 of Philadelphia’s games, starting five.
He rushed for 564 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. In his first two career starts, he ran for 178 yards and 169 yards, with two touchdowns in each.
Brown ran for 314 yards and two touchdowns last season.
“I remember watching him at Tennessee, and he was unbelievable as a freshman,” Bills Director of Player Personnel Jim Monos said. “He had some problems, went to Kansas State and the Eagles got him in the seventh round. They gave him the ball a little bit in 2012 and you can see some real ability. This guy has size, speed and he is an explosive playmaker.”
Brown struggled with fumbles as a rookie, losing three in 128 touches. He did not fumble in 2013, however, on 83 touches.
“I run hard and I run with a lot of effort,” Brown said. “I think that speed is kind of my thing. I really rely heavily on my speed.”
Bills running back C.J. Spiller hosted Brown on an official college visit at Clemson.
“He’s been a running back I’ve looked up to for a long time in college and in the time he’s spent in the pros,” Brown said. “So I look forward to learning as much as I can from him and seeing what he does well and hopefully applying it to my game.”
The Bills also made a trade with Tampa Bay. Buffalo sent its original fifth-round selection, No. 149 overall, to Tampa Bay for a seventh-round pick (No. 221 overall) and the Buccaneers’ 2015 fifth-round pick.
Here’s a look at the four players Buffalo drafted on Saturday:
• Duke CB Ross Cockrell, fourth round, 109th overall: Cockrell has been graduated since December 2012, finishing his degree in political science in 3ø years, and is one of only 17 four-time Academic All-Atlantic Coast Conference picks in league history.
“He’s off the charts smart,” Monos said.
Cockrell, 6-foot and 190 pounds, started 49 games, finishing with 233 tackles, two sacks, 12 interceptions and 42 pass break-ups.
“That’s what jumps out right away, is his size. You love his size,” Monos said. “He’s played there, competed well every year there. ... Every guy we’ve taken so far has been part of a winning program. That’s a big thing we’re stressing.”
Last season, the Blue Devils went 10-4, losing to Texas A&M, 52-48, in the Chick-fil-a Bowl. Despite the loss, Cockrell played well against Aggies receiver Mike Evans – who was chosen seventh overall by Tampa Bay – limiting him to four catches for 72 yards.
“Personally, it was great. I wish it would have been better for the program, as well. It would have been a great win for us,” Cockrell said. “But I think it opened up a lot of eyes that, you know, this guy from Duke can actually play a little ball and compete at the next level.”
Cockrell was a two-time team captain, and first-team All-ACC choice the past two seasons. He ranks first in career passes defensed at Duke (54) and sixth in interceptions.
“I think the word that comes out with Ross is he’s always consistent,” Monos said. “He’s a very instinctive, intelligent guy. Picks it up real quick. ... Guys gravitate to him. He is the leader of that group.”
Monos said he expects Cockrell to contribute on special teams right away.
“I played gunner. I did some hold-ups. I played basically every special team while I was there, so I have a lot of experience on that,” Cockrell said. “They talked to me about it a lot. It’s obviously something you have to do at the next level, especially if you want to make a team and be a part of a team, and that’s something that I want to do.”
• Baylor guard Cyril Richardson, fifth round, 153rd overall: “He’s a big, mauler-type guard,” Monos said. “We just love his power and his strength. ... I was joking about, ‘best guy on the board,’ but this was another guy we all really liked the whole year. He fits what we’re looking for in terms of size and strength.”
Richardson, a fifth-year senior, checks in at 6-5 and 329 pounds. He won the Jim Parker Award as the nation’s top offensive lineman, and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy, which goes to any interior linemen. He’s a two-time Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year, and unanimous All-American.
All of which begs the question ... why was he still on the board in the fifth round?
“I think what happened a little bit, the Senior Bowl, during the week, he may have not had the best practices and stuff like that,” Monos said. “But when the game was on, he came right back and played like he’s capable of. Maybe that turned some people away, but we’re not afraid of him.”
Baylor’s offense led the nation in scoring (681 points, 52.3 points per game) and total offense (8,044 yards, 618.8 yards per game). Richardson was credited with 83 knockdowns and 12 blocks down field. Baylor gave up only 22 sacks in their up-tempo approach.
“He’s experienced getting up and down on the ball,” Monos said.
Richardson said he’s excited to play under Bills coach Doug Marrone, a former offensive lineman.
“I’m glad to be a part of this. It’s a great institution,” he said. “I think it’s a great fit.”
• Florida Atlantic outside linebacker Randell Johnson, seventh round, 221st overall: Johnson played in 12 games in 2013 for the Owls, making seven starts. The fifth-year senior finished with 41 tackles, including 7.5 for loss, and 2.5 sacks. In his career, Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound Miami native, made 30.5 tackles for loss.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect this,” Johnson said. “I don’t really know anything about Buffalo at all, so I was surprised.”
Johnson said the Owls “used him everywhere” defensively.
“They used me for blitzing, stopping the run, for coverage. In all types of schemes, I was everywhere,” he said.
• Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, seventh round, 327th overall: Henderson is the Bills’ latest character-reclamation project.
The 6-7, 331-pound behemoth was suspended at least three times during his career with the Hurricanes, which he admitted to teams at the NFL Scouting Combine was for marijuana use.
Henderson also flunked a drug test at the combine, according to ESPN, after again testing positive for marijuana.
“We’ve talked to Seantrel and he knows that he’s got one shot. We’re saying ‘we’ll give you this one shot,’ “ Bills General Manager Doug Whaley said. “He’s been dealing with some demons. Hopefully those demons are out of his life and why not give somebody ... a chance.”
Henderson started 26 of 43 career games at Miami. He was a third-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference coach’s selection as a senior.
“Everybody pretty much knows about my past and I was very truthful about my past,” he said. “I am just looking forward to moving on and going on and becoming a professional.”