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Ryan defends Bills’ background checks on draft picks

Rex Ryan says the Buffalo Bills removed “several players” from draft consideration after doing “due diligence” on their backgrounds.

As for what those transgressions would have to involve for the Bills to pass on a player – a pertinent question when considering the team’s draft class – Ryan refused to elaborate.

“I’m not going to say that,” the Bills’ coach said Wednesday, speaking to the media for the first time since the draft. “But I can tell you this: When we go through the process, there were some players that we … never felt good about as far as being Buffalo Bills. ... Clearly the people that we took, we feel good about. We’ll stand by that. I’ll certainly stand by that.”

No NFL roster contains 53 choirboys. But Ryan was asked whether the Bills’ willingness to take on players perceived to come with red flags was putting more pressure on himself.

“I had the benefit of meeting most of these players, and I feel great,” he said. “No player that we have in that locker room is perfect. Everybody’s had something in their lives they’re probably not proud of. I know certainly I’ve had more than my share.

“But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad person or whatever. These guys, I know for a fact, will respect the people in the locker room, and that’s all I ask – that we all respect each other, and play your butt off. And that’s what they’re going to do. As far as outside, in the community, I expect them to be respectful of people. … I believe we’ll have that.”

Fifth-round running back Karlos Williams comes to the team with the most significant questions about his background – which includes being investigated for suspicion of domestic abuse and being implicated in a drug deal that ended in armed robbery. Williams refused to speak to police regarding both situations. He was never arrested.

Second-round draft pick Ronald Darby is also accused of witnessing a rape in a civil suit that’s pending against former teammate Jameis Winston. Darby has also not been charged with any crime.

“We absolutely feel good about our process,” Ryan said of the vetting the Bills do with their potential prospects. “We’re very thorough in our evaluation of all players – not just those two individuals, but all players that we bring in here. If we don’t think that these young men will be successful on the field and in our community, we wouldn’t take them. They wouldn’t be here.”

Like General Manager Doug Whaley over the weekend, Ryan was long on explanations, but short on specifics as to what actually goes into those investigations. The coach admitted to not meeting Darby until he arrived in Buffalo on Saturday after being selected in the second round.

Part of that was strategy, according to the coach.

“He was a guy that we wanted to leave under the radar, and I thought he was,” Ryan said. “He was a second-round pick, but he was higher than that on our board.”

Ryan said Darby has all the “traits that we look for in a man-cover corner.”

“I love the fact that he was criticized for not being thrown at,” he said. “That was pretty interesting to me. This just in, but you usually don’t throw to a guy that is covered.

“I like that about him. Can he improve? Yeah. I think he will. When you have the secondary coaches that we have with Dennis Thurman and Tim McDonald and Donnie Henderson, that’s a pretty darn good group. There are some things he can get better at and I’m confident he will.”

Darby has the one thing that can’t be coached, though, and that’s “world-class speed,” according to Ryan.

“He can stay up with anybody,” the coach said.

The first player Ryan mentioned when discussing the 2015 draft class as a whole was Louisville guard John Miller, the Bills’ third-round choice. After pointing out how deep the team’s roster is – and thus how the draft is primarily a tool to add depth – Ryan indicated Miller is a player who could make an immediate contribution.

“He’s a young man that we really targeted,” Ryan said. “We’ll put him right in the mix and see what he does. We were really impressed with him. He came in for a visit and he kind of blew us away when we got him on the board and our coaches were talking to him.

“Mentally, it’s a big challenge … when you come from college to the NFL, especially as an offensive lineman. This young man seems to have the aptitude for it and that’s going to allow his physical talents to where he can showcase.”

Just two of the Bills’ six picks play defense, which reminded Ryan of his first draft as coach of the New York Jets in 2009 – when the team’s only three picks were on offense.

“We’re trying to get improvement throughout this team – offense, defense and special teams,” he said. “If we can do that, I think we’ve got a pretty darn good chance to be successful.

“I think we had an excellent draft. It’s not as flashy as some of the other teams, we had no first-round pick, never had a fourth round pick, but overall I thought it was a really good draft for us.”

email: jskurski@buffnews.com

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