Last April, the Buffalo Bills began their rebuilding project under coach Chan Gailey and General Manager Buddy Nix by selecting nine players in the NFL draft.
The full impact of that class won't be felt for another year or two, but several rookies -- including some undrafted free agents -- made contributions of varying degrees that were bright spots in an otherwise dismal 4-12 season.
The Bills went into the season with nine rookies, four of them undrafted, on their 53-roster. By the end of the season, 12 rookies had played in 116 games with 22 starts. While there wasn't huge production in any particular area, the promise shown by many of the rookies have the Bills encouraged about their futures.
"I felt like that those guys, the guys that played, they all made progress this year," Gailey said. "Nobody leveled off, nobody took a step back. They got better as the year went on and so I thought that we made strides with the rookie class. Nobody did anything unbelievable like the year before with Jairus [Byrd] and things like that, but I thought it was a good group and I think it has a chance to be a very good group before it's over with."
Here's a look at the Bills' Rookie Class of 2010:
*RB C.J. Spiller (1st round, ninth pick): See separate story on Page B2.
*NT Torell Troup (2nd, 41st): This selection was a bit of a surprise with more highly touted Terrence Cody of Alabama and Cam Thomas of North Carolina still on the draft board. But Troup had a better rookie season. Used primarily as a backup to Kyle Williams, Troup appeared in 15 games and started twice when the Bills opened in a four-man front. The Bills hope the 6-foot-3, 314-pounder will develop into the kind of space eater that will help shore up a porous run defense.
"I got to experience a lot of different things," Troup said. "I'm so excited looking towards the offseason and what I've got to work on to come back and be a dominant player. I've got to get on the field more and the way to do that is getting stronger and having a better feel for the defense."
*DE Alex Carrington (3rd, 72nd): Inactive for seven of the first nine games, Carrington got steady playing time in the defensive line rotation after starter Dwan Edwards went down with a season-ending hamstring injury and flashed some pass-rush ability (one sack). With Marcus Stroud entering the twilight of his career, the Bills may let him go to open up more playing time for Carrington.
*WR Marcus Easley (4th, 107th): Easley was poised to have a role on offense before a knee injury in training camp ended his season. His size (6-3, 210) and playmaking ability make him an intriguing prospect.
*OT Ed Wang (5th, 140th): A thumb injury ruined half his rookie year and stopped his development. The Bills experimented with him at guard, but decided tackle is his best position. Is he the answer to the Bills' revolving door at right tackle?
*OLB Arthur Moats (6th, 178th): No rookie made a greater improvement over the course of the season. After being miscast as an inside linebacker, Moats was moved outside. That was a better fit for the college defensive end because it allowed him to display his natural pass-rushing talent. He started the last four games and brought steady pressure off the edge.
Moats got a lot of national attention for his hit on Brett Favre that ended the quarterback's NFL-record starts streak. But Moats hopes to be remembered more as a guy who can make plays in all situations.
"It's cool for the hit on Favre to be a footnote, but I want people to remember the hit because it forced a turnover and not that it ended his streak," said Moats, who finished with 2 1/2 sacks. "The Bills picked me up here to make plays. I felt like I had a little success at that. I just want to build on this and continue to get better."
*OLB Danny Batten (6th, 192nd): Placed on IR after shoulder surgery during training camp. He may be moved to inside linebacker after spending much of his recovery time learning the position.
*QB Levi Brown (7th, 209th): He was cut at the end of the preseason, but returned after Trent Edwards was released in Week Three. Brown served as the Bills' third quarterback until make his first appearance in the season finale, finishing with two completions and one interception in three passes. Regardless what the Bills do at quarterback, Brown has some physical tools the team might want to continue developing.
*OT Kyle Calloway (7th, 216th): Cut during the preseason.
The list of undrafted players starts with WR David Nelson: The University of Florida standout was the biggest revelation of the rookie class, winning the fourth receiver spot with solid hands and route-running. He was the Bills' fourth-leading receiver with 31 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games (three starts). He should continue to grow as a reliable possession slot receiver.
*WR Donald Jones: His role was limited to special teams for the first half of the season, but injuries gave him expanded playing time. He started five of 15 games and finished with 18 catches for 213 yards and one touchdown. He also impressed as a blocker.
*OLB Antonio Coleman: Made the team on the strength of his impressive quickness as a pass rusher. Will need to get bigger and stronger to earn a roster spot again.
*G/T Cordaro Howard: He made three starts at right tackle and one at right guard. A late-season shoulder injury slowed his progress, but he gives the Bills depth moving forward.
*WR Naaman Roosevelt: The former St. Joe's and University at Buffalo star was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster in Week 12. His nine catches and 139 yards came in the last three games, including a four-catch, 74-yard performance against New England.
"Making plays at wide receiver or on special teams, anything to help the team out," he said. "You have to stay confident in this league. If you're not confident you're not going to make plays."
*WR Paul Hubbard: He was activated from the practice squad in Week 10 and again for the finale, in which he was one of three healthy starting WRs. He caught one pass for 8 yards.