In his first interview, just minutes after being drafted third overall by the Bills, Marcell Dareus offered some boastful words from the stage of New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
“They say it’s too cold (in Buffalo),’’ the Alabama defensive lineman said. “Well, I’m going to bring some warmth there.”
Several minutes later, inside the media room at One Bills Drive in Orchard Park, Buffalo coach Chan Gailey offered some boastful words, too.
“I think we got better today,’’ he said. “I think we are a better team than we were at 8:08 tonight.”
With both of them.
I like this pick; like it a lot.
A 6-foot-3, 320-pounder with the agility of a dancing bear, Dareus addresses a huge need. Teams had their way running against the undersized Bills defense last year, gashing Buffalo for more than 200 yards eight times. Though Dareus will start out as a defensive end, he is a versatile lineman, who can line up inside and wreak havoc there, too.
“He gives you a lot of versatility,’’ Gailey said. “We’ll play him at defensive end at first. But I can see him lining up at a lot of different spots for us. He’s a force to be reckoned with.”
The last time Buffalo drafted this highly was in 1985 when it chose a guy by the name of Bruce Smith. We all know how that turned out – Bruce wound up racking up more quarterback sacks than any player in NFL history on his way to the Hall of Fame.
That fact was brought up to Dareus during his conference call with the Western New York media. “Well, there’s always time for another one,’’ said the young man, who clearly doesn’t lack for confidence.
Bills fans will be happy if he just helps shore up the league’s worst run defense and gives Buffalo something they’ve been lacking for nearly a decade – a player other offenses have to game-plan around.
In 33 games with ‘Bama, Dareus made 71 tackles and had 11 sacks. He was involved in numerous huge plays throughout his career. The one that caught every scout’s attention and spoke to his remarkable agility occurred against Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who was taken No. 1 overall by the Carolina Panthers. The nimble Newton ran left and attempted to juke Dareus out of his jockstrap. But the big lineman didn’t bite. He forced Newton to head back toward the pocket, then yanked him to the ground.
“How many 320-pounders can do that?’’ marveled Bills general manager Buddy Nix.
One of the things Nix and others really like about Dareus is his relentlessness.
“He tries to make a play every play,’’ Nix said. “He doesn’t take plays off. He doesn’t quit on the long chase.”
Nix admitted the Bills would have looked at quarterback had the Denver Broncos chosen Dareus instead of linebacker Von Miller. And Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert likely would have been their choice.
Fortunately, it didn’t turn out that way because Gabbert at 3 would have been a reach. I still wonder if he has the arm strength to handle the winds at the Ralph.
Dareus clearly was a safe pick. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Safe picks often are the most productive picks.
Asked during the conference call what he meant when he said he was going to bring some warmth to Buffalo, Dareus’ trademark confidence surfaced again.
“The fan base is crazy,’’ he explained. “I’m going to put a little light up under everybody and warm it up up there.”
So on the first day the Bills got their man.
But that’s just a start. They have to get another starter out of the 34th pick on Friday and some immediate contributors with the 68th and 100th selections, too.
Scott Pitoniak is the author of 14 books, including five about the Buffalo Bills. This is 27th NFL draft he has covered.