With the NFL Draft now over, I thought now would be a good time to look at the Buffalo Bills roster and try to forecast who will make the 53-man roster for 2012. In this article, I have placed every player currently with Buffalo (either currently under contract or drafted) in one of four categories. That being said, let's get to it.
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick - 2011 starter will be looking to improve upon a disappointing second half of the season, though at least part of that can be attributed to a rib injury sustained in a win against the Redskins.
RB: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller - Jackson and Spiller are both integral to the success of the Bills, and will be seeing a more even split of carries in 2012 to keep both players fresh and healthy.
WR: Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, T.J. Graham - Johnson is the team's #1 receiver, Nelson provides a solid pass-catcher over the middle and Graham was a 2012 third round pick, and will be be a slot receiver for the team when they go with 4 or 5 WR sets.
TE Scott Chandler - The only receiving threat at the position in 2011, and is a solid blocker as well.
OT Cordy Glenn - Glenn was Buffalo's 2nd round pick this year, and the team believes he'll be a starter at left tackle down the road.
OG Andy Levitre - Arguably the team's best lineman, Levitre has been durable and productive since his rookie season.
C Eric Wood - Wood is seemingly always hurt, but when healthy, he approaches Pro Bowl-caliber play.
DE Mario Williams, Mark Anderson - The team's two biggest free agent acquisitions, both will be relied on heavily to reinvigorate the pass rush.
DT Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams - Dareus had a very solid rookie season (5.5 sacks), while former Pro Bowler Kyle Williams should be completely recovered from a Lisfranc injury cost him most of the 2011 campaign.
LB Nick Barnett, Kelvin Sheppard - Barnett will be shifting to outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt's 4-3 defense, leaving Sheppard as the man in the middle.
CB Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams - Both Gilmore and Williams should see consistent playing time, and one or both could crack the starting lineup by midseason.
S Jarius Byrd, George Wilson - Both played at near Pro Bowl levels last season, and are solidly entrenched as starters heading into the season.
FB Corey McIntyre - While Buffalo rarely utilizes the fullback, McIntyre is a key special teamer for the Bills.
WR Donald Jones - Jones was the Bills #2 receiver last season, but will need to improve his route running and catching to become a more complete receiver.
OT Erik Pears - Pears was steady at right tackle in 2011, and should be a starter at either right or left (if Glenn slides to RT) tackle in 2012.
OG Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart - Urbik was a surprise starter last season, and actually played very well, including at center after the injury to Eric Wood. Rinehart was the third guard, but held his own when called upon.
DE Chris Kelsay - Kelsay doesn't do one thing great, but has a high motor, works hard and is a well-respected veteran in the locker room.
DT Alex Carrington - Initially drafted as a five technique DE, Carrington has the athleticism and size to enter the mix as a rotation defensive tackle.
LB Nigel Bradham, Kirk Morrison, Bryan Scott - Bradham will push Morrison for the starting strong-side job, while Scott is a solid passing down linebacker who can also back up at both safety positions.
CB Ron Brooks, Terrence McGee - Brooks has the short-area quickness and speed to project as a sub package DB, while McGee (along with his restructured contract) is still a steady player when healthy.
S Da'Norris Searcy - Searcy had some bumps when forced to fill in for George Wilson. With a full offseason under his belt and the lack of true competition, Searcy seems like a safe bet to make the roster.
K Rian Lindell - The team drafted John Potter to help with kickoffs, but it's unlikely Lindell will be beat out for the placekicking job.
P Brian Moorman - Moorman regressed just a bit in 2011, but is a team captain who is still an above average directional punter that gets very good hang time on his punts.
LS Garrison Sanborn - Sanborn is a great long-snapper, and there's nobody on this current roster who could take his spot.
QB Tyler Thigpen, Brad Smith - Both have relatively expensive contracts, and neithe was particularly great in 2011. With Buffalo working out Vince Young on Wednesday, I think it's likely only one of these two makes the team in 2012.
RB Johnny White, Tashard Choice, Chris Douglas - Choice was a late-season signing that leap-frogged White (who largely played on special teams) to back up Spiller. Douglas is a bit of a sleeper pick, and neither White or Choice were so impressive that they couldn't get beat out for a roster spot in 2012.
WR Derek Hagan, Marcus Easley, Ruvell Martin - Hagan showed well after injuries hit the receiving corps. Easley has had season-ending injuries in each of his first two seasons, but has the physical tools to become the team's #2 receiver if he can stay healthy. Martin is largely a special teams standout, and also is a solid run-blocker when split out.
TE Lee Smith - A solid pass-catcher, but even if he makes the team,will likely see limited action because of the amount of 3+ WR sets Chan Gailey runs.
OT Zebrie Sanders, Chris Hairston - Hairston started about half the 2011 season in place of the injured Demetress Bell, but will be pushed by Glenn for his starting spot. Sanders is a talented player who will need to add bulk before being able to push Pears for playing time.
OG Mark Asper - Asper played both tackle and guard at Oregon, and has also shown the ability to play center. He'll be compeing with Colin Brown for a roster spot.
DE Spencer Johnson, Shawne Merriman - Orginally a defensive tackle, Johnson actually played largely 3-4 outside linebacker last season, and would likely be a short-yardage sub that could slide inside if necessary. Merriman had just one sack before an Achilles injury cut his 2011 short. If healthy, Merriman could provide the team with another "plus" pass-rushing specialist.
DT Dwan Edwards, Torell Troup - Edwards will make around $4 million this season, which is a lot for someone who's likely ceiling with the team is a rotation tackle. Troup has battled a bad back his first two seasons, and could be a run-stuffing DT if he's healthy.
LB Tank Carder, Chris White - Carder and White will likely be competing with each other for a reserve linebacking/special teams role in 2012.
CB Drayton Florence, Justin Rogers - Florence is in his 30's, and his play was largely inconsistent in 2011. Rogers showed flashes of being a solid nickel corner when given the opportunity in 2011. With Gilmore, Williams and likely Brooks all young players in front of him, he'll likely need either Florence or McGee to get cut to make the final roster.
K John Potter - Potter will need to show the big leg on kickoffs to make the team, as he's likely not as accurate a placekicker as Rian Lindell.
QB Aaron Corp - I actually like Corp a lot, but with only limited playing time in college he'll likely spend the 2012 season on the practice squad.
WR Kamar Aiken, David Clowney, Naaman Roosevelt - Roosevelt is a great route runner with spectacular hands, but his lack of size or ability to separate makes him a longshot to make the team. Aiken has the physical tools, but lacks the polish or consistent hands to make a true push for the final roster. Clowney is a burner who had a better shot to make the roster until the team selected Graham in the third round.
TE Kevin Brock, Mike Caussin, Fendi Onobun - The team likely won't carry more than two tight ends on the roster, but Caussin is a good enough pass catcher to warrant consideration for the practice squad.
OT Paul Madsen - Madsen is simply caught in a numbers game at tackle, and would need at least one injury in front of him to make the roster.
OG Jake Vermiglio, Keith Williams, David Snow, Michael Jasper - Jasper could end up on the team's practice squad again this season. Vermigilo, Williams and Snow are all longshots for the roster, but its not impossible someone on this group beats out Mark Apser for a roster spot.
C Colin Brown - Brown was serviceable as a reserve interior lineman last season, but is likely a little bit behind sixth round pick Mark Asper right now.
DE Danny Batten, Lionel Dotson, Robert Eddins, Kyle Moore - With the team signing two elite pass-rushers to go along with players like Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman, it's unlikely someone cracks the 53 man roster. Eddins and Batten could both be practice squad players.
DT Jarron Gilbert, Kellen Heard, Jay Ross - A bit of a numbers game, as the team is carrying about eight players capable of seeing time at tackle.
LB Scott McKillop, Arthur Moats, Garrick Williams - Switching to a 4-3 means the team is likely to carry fewer linebackers, so no more than one of them will likely make the roster.
CB Leodis McKelvin, Prince Miller, Cris Hill, Ian Wild - McKelvin has largely been disappointing in his time with the Bills, and with the infusion of young talent, Buffalo could cut him loose to develop some of their other corners. Miller, Hill and Wild are all candidates for the practice squad.
S Nick Sukay, Delano Howell, Josh Nesbitt - Should Brad Smith be cut, Nesbitt would be a nice niche player to take over the Wildcat, as he was an option quarterback in college, and has the physical tools to develop into a serviceable safety. I like Sukay to potentially push Searcy for a spot, but could be destined for another team's practice squad.
P Shawn Howell - Unless Moorman's regression continues another season, Howell won't be on the team in 2012.
My Final 53
QB (3): Fitzpatrick, Thigpen, Smith
RB (3): Jackson, Spiller, Choice
FB (1): McIntyre
WR (7): Johnson, Nelson, Graham, Jones, Hagan, Easley, Martin
TE (2): Chandler, Smith
OT (4): Glenn, Pears, Hairston, Sanders
OG (3): Levitre, Urbik, Rinehart
C (2): Wood, Asper
DE (4): M.Williams, Anderson, Kelsay, Merriman
DT (4): Dareus, K.Williams, Carrington, Edwards
OLB (5): Barnett, Bradham, Morrison, Scott, C. White
ILB (2): Sheppard, Carder
CB (6): Gilmore, McGee, Williams, Florence, Brooks, Rogers
FS (1): Byrd
SS (2): Wilson, Searcy
K (2): Lindell, Potter
P (1): Moorman
LS (1): Sanborn
Practice Squad: DE Eddins, WR Aiken, QB Corp, RB Douglas, TE Caussin, LB G. Williams, CB Hill, OG Jasper