With rookie mini-cap underway, BillsMafia.com decided to take a look at which players have the most to prove in the short period between Offseason Training Activities and the final game of the preseason.
These players aren’t necessarily fighting for a job on the roster, but if they prove themselves to the new coaching staff, they could easily move their way up the depth chart in a hurry.
Note: No rookies were meant to be featured in this piece
5. WR Kevin Elliott
The Buffalo Bills signed wide receiver Kevin Elliott in mid-December of last season and quickly signed the former 6’2” 220 pounder to a two-year deal. Elliott has the prototypical size and speed necessary to compete as an outside receiver, but after the Bills added Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Da’rick Rogers and Kevin Norrell in the draft and free agency, Elliott needs to showcase his ability.
Elliott is a physically imposing target that displays excellent athleticism and ball skills necessary to make plays that other receivers would typically struggle to make.
The wide receiver position will boil down to a numbers game, but Elliott is a sleeper that could earn a spot on the final roster.
4. LB Arthur Moats
With the Bills transitioning to a hybrid 3-4 defensive front, Arthur Moats projects well to the strongside pass rusher role he will likely be playing. However, the Bills signed Manny Lawson, a more experienced veteran that plays the same position in free agency.
In the Chan Gailey era, Moats appeared in 43 games, but started just four. This was due to Moats being moved everywhere from defensive end to inside linebacker and outside linebacker. In his three seasons with the team, Moats recorded 87 tackles and five sacks.
With players like Lawson and Mario Williams that will likely see their share of time at the pass-rushing outside linebacker position, Moats needs to make the most out of this offseason and prove that he’s worthy of garnering significant playing time in 2013.
3. S Da’Norris Searcy
Da’Norris Searcy began to see an increase in playing time last year, appearing in roughly 23% of the snaps at the strong safety position. Following the release of veteran safety George Wilson, it appeared that the front office had big plans for Searcy heading into the 2013 season.
However, the team announced they were moving former cornerback Aaron Williams to safety, while double dipping at the position in the draft, selecting Nevada strong safety Duke Williams and a versatile defensive back in Jonathan Meeks out of Clemson.
While Searcy clearly has the upper hand in terms of experience over the rookies selected in the draft, he still needs to prove that he’s worthy of a full-time role in Mike Pettine’s defense.
2. S Aaron Williams
Aaron Williams is a big and physical defensive back that just couldn’t cut it at the cornerback position. The former second round pick out of Texas has been moved to safety, where his range and ability to react to developing plays will allow him to be a more productive player in the secondary.
At the cornerback position, Williams just didn’t have the fluidity to consistently match up with opposing wideouts, but in Pettine’s hybrid defense, he will be allowed to play both strong safety and play over the top, where he will be able to utilize his skill set to match up with tight ends and slot receivers, while adding run support.
Williams is a solid tackler that could really produce in the right system. Still, he hasn’t played the safety position in a few years and with several players at the position currently on the roster, Williams needs to play well in camp to prove that he was worthy of his second round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.
1. WR TJ Graham
Selected with the third round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, T.J. Graham is a small, but explosive wide receiver. Coming out of North Carolina State, Graham had exceptional speed, but was raw in terms of route running ability and awareness.
Graham managed to haul in 31 passes for 322 yards and a score, but his hands were questionable, as he dropped seven passes last year according to ProFootballFocus.com. Being targeted 58 times, Graham had the second-highest “drop rate” in the National Football League among 82 qualifying wide receivers
In the 2013 NFL draft, the team selected Marquise Goodwin, another small speedster that seems to fit the same role that Graham was brought in to fill. Graham now has a full professional season under his belt and with another couple months of offseason training, he should have a bit of an advantage over Goodwin for now.
Graham has the speed to be a deep threat as an outside receiver, but he will have to match Goodwin’s quickness and agility to compete with him for snaps at both the “X” (split end) or the “H” (slot) role.