Nobody could have been happier about the Buffalo Bills' 2005 draft than J.P. Losman.
The Bills spent their most important picks over the weekend giving their quarterback a better chance to succeed in his first season as starter.
A young quarterback needs to get the ball out of his hands quickly. With their first two picks, the Bills gave Losman a slot receiver and a tight end they think will be instant targets.
Top pick Roscoe Parrish should create separation from defenders and be a weapon on third downs. Tight end Kevin Everett, the Bills' third-round pick, supplements a tight end position that was woefully underutilized last season.
"We just felt we're trying to get better on offense, and one of the ways you do that is with some playmakers," said Bills President and General Manager Tom Donahoe. "Roscoe and Kevin give us some speed at those positions and help with our transition with a young quarterback."
The Bills addressed their offensive line in the fourth round by taking center Raymond "Duke" Preston of Illinois. He brings a stout, big frame in the middle of the line and could get a chance to start at some point in his rookie season.
The big question mark on the roster still is left tackle. Coach Mike Mularkey said Mike Gandy, an unheralded free-agent pickup, and Jason Peters, the converted tight end, will vie for the job, and center Trey Teague "would get some snaps over there as well."
Five of the Bills' six picks were on offense.
"Usually, young quarterbacks get thrown in on bad teams and it complicates their adjustment period," Donahoe said. "But J.P. has some good people around him. Hopefully, he won't feel, and the coaches won't feel, that it's all on his shoulders."
The draft represented a vote of confidence for last year's third-round draft pick, Tim Anderson. He and Ron Edwards will vie for Pat Williams' starting defensive tackle job. It was a glaring vote of no confidence in slot receiver Josh Reed, despite Donahoe's predraft statements. Reed probably will have a battle just to win the fifth-receiver spot and make the team.
Here's a capsule look at the Bills' picks, by round:
2. Roscoe Parrish, WR, Miami: Parrish was an exciting playmaker for the Hurricanes, averaging 16.1 yards per catch and 16.2 yards per punt return. He keyed a big comeback win against Virginia with a 62-yard punt return for a TD and a 25-yard TD reception. His small size (5-foot-9, 168) means he will work exclusively out of the slot. Bank on this: Parrish will get open. He could give the Bills a Wayne Chrebet or Santana Moss type threat. He's faster than Chrebet, not quite as talented as Moss. Despite his stature, he showed toughness going over the middle in college. The Bills ranked fifth in the NFL on punt returns last year, yet Parrish may upgrade the job. He's the favorite to be the No. 1 punt returner, ahead of two good incumbents, Nate Clements and Jonathan Smith.
3. Kevin Everett, TE, Miami: Everett projects as the long-term starter at tight end, and he should get the chance to play in some passing situations as a rookie. He doesn't look ready to step in and start right away because he started only one year for Miami. He has good hands and the athleticism to be a downfield receiving threat. While he needs to get stronger, he probably has the best blocking potential of any tight end in the draft. Everett was the third tight end taken in a lean year at the position. Assistant General Manager Tom Modrak said if the Bills did not take him at No. 86 overall, there would not have been another tight end they really liked the rest of the draft. Everett adds insurance because Mark Campbell and Tim Euhus are recovering from knee surgeries. They aim to be ready by training camp.
"Right away in the pass game he will be hard to cover, either at the line or put him in the slot, flex him out a little bit in motion," said Marc Ross, Bills national scout. "As a full-time guy, I don't know about that right now."
4. Duke Preston, C, Illinois: At 6-5 and 311, Preston has a prototypical body and is the Bills' center of the future. He has a thick lower body with big thighs, a wide waist and a big butt. He needs to improve his strength. When he does, he could be a stout force against the likes of the Patriots' Vince Wilfork and the Jets' Dewayne Robertson. Preston is smart. He graduated with a 3.0 grade-point average and had the third-best Wonderlic intelligence test score (33 out of 50) among centers at the scouting combine. With Teague entering the last year of his contract, Preston has the chance to play in Buffalo. The Bills may not want to start a rookie center in front of Losman. But fifth-round pick Dan Koppen started as a rookie for New England. It's not out of the question if Teague shifts to tackle.
"This is a guy that we've liked for a long time," said Doug Majeski, coordinator of college scouting. "He has a very big lower body, he's very strong. . . . We think he's very athletic. He's got good movement."
Preston was the fourth center drafted. He's the first true center the Bills have taken since Tom Nutten in 1995, and it's the highest the Bills have taken a center since Leonard Burton in the third round in 1986.
5. Eric King, CB, Wake Forest: The Bills are five deep at cornerback considering safety Troy Vincent could shift over if needed. Kevin Thomas and Jabari Greer are good backups behind Clements and Terrence McGee. But teams can't have enough corners. King is only 5-8 1/2 , 185, but he has good speed. He was timed at 4.45 in the 40-yard dash. He projects as a nickel corner in the NFL. He's graduating this spring with a degree in communications.
"He has a really good burst," said Bills Southeastern scout Joe Haering. "Anytime he does get beat a little bit he really has a burst to the ball to recover. He has good ball skills and can jump. . . . We liked that he came up big in the big games for them and played well against their best opponents."
6. Justin Geisinger, G, Vanderbilt: A smart, aggressive, blue-collar blocker with a big body. Geisinger started for four years at left tackle but because of his relatively short arms and average feet projects as a guard in the NFL. He sounds like a Ross Tucker type. His addition will prompt the Bills to shift Justin Bannan from guard back to defensive tackle, his natural position, according to Mularkey. Geisinger graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average in a pre-med curriculum and is taking master's degree courses. The Bills have watched him a long time. He played in high school at Pittsburgh's Mount Lebanon for the nephew of Haering.
7. Lionel Gates, RB, Louisville: Gates is a physical, hard-running, between-the-tackles runner. If Travis Henry is not on the team, the Bills will want one of the backups to Willis McGahee to fit that mold. Louisville used three backs last season. Gates had 109 yards on 13 runs with two TDs versus Miami.
2005 Bills draft /round-by-round
Rd. No.* Player Pos. Ht. Wt. College
2 55 Roscoe Parrish WR 5-9 1/2 168Miami (Fla.)
3 86 Kevin Everett TE 6-5 241Miami (Fla.)
4 122Duke Preston C 6-5 311Illinois
5 156Eric King CB 5-8 1/2 185Wake Forest
6 197Justin Geisinger (left) G 6-3 1/2 322Vanderbilt
7 236Lionel Gates RB 6-0 223Louisville