Bills rookie head coach Sean McDermott filled a need in Buffalo’s backfield and added two valuable picks in overseeing his first NFL draft.
In using the 27th pick to select LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White on Thursday, McDermott also believes he addressed the issue of character he’s been attempting to instill in what had been an undisciplined team in the three months since replacing Rex Ryan.
Citing character as being “part of our evaluation process,” McDermott noted White’s background as a high school valedictorian and team leader at LSU. Over the past two seasons, White wore No. 18, which is awarded to the Tigers player who best exemplifies the program on and off the field since 2003.
“There’s a lot of unknowns in the draft, there’s a lot of unknowns in life in general. And so you try to close that gap as much as much as you can,” McDermott said. “And certainly with the character in this case that Tre’Davious White has, we felt good about that person off the field.”
White can also play.
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds, he was a three-plus-year starter who finished with six interceptions in 48 games. He showed a capability of playing both inside and outside positions, and had added versatility as a punt returner.
White will be given an opportunity to compete for a starting job on a defense that lost starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who signed with AFC East rival New England in free agency, and also cut No. 3 cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.
“I feel 100 percent confident,” White said, regarding making the jump to the NFL.
And the Bills had such confidence in the 22-year-old White that they took the calculated risk of passing up a shot to select Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore with the 10th pick and instead move down 17 spots in making a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs. In exchange, Buffalo acquired the Chiefs’ third-round pick, 91st overall, and their first-round pick next year.
For McDermott, the trade addressed a short-term goal in allowing Buffalo to increase its number of selections to eight in this year’s draft. And it filled a longer-term objective in providing the Bills two first-round picks next year, which could prove to be valuable assets.
Buffalo could chose to either use both picks on drafting players or incorporate them into trade assets should the team elect to address other needs, including the team’s most unsettled position of quarterback.
“Yeah, all the options that may be on the table,” McDermott said.
He said the Bills had preliminary talks with the Chiefs of a possible trade once the cornerback free-agent market began to dwindle.
Kansas City expressed interest in moving up for a quarterback. Upon making the trade, the Chiefs drafted Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
McDermott turned to his mentor, Chiefs coach Andy Reid, for the deal. A defensive specialist, McDermott spent his first 12 NFL seasons working his way up the coaching ranks with the Reid-coached Philadelphia Eagles.
In Buffalo, the detail-oriented 42-year-old McDermott is attempting to place his stamp of structure and discipline on a franchise that is in the midst of a 17-year playoff drought — the longest active drought in North America’s four major professional sports.
By placing an emphasis of character in selecting White, the move was a departure from some more questionable picks the team has made in recent years.
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus has had several off the field issues, and missed the first four games of last season serving an NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The Bills also cut running back Karlos Williams last summer after he was also suspended by the NFL and reported to camp out of shape.
A spotty drafting record and concerns over discipline have raised questions about general manager Doug Whaley’s long-term job security.
McDermott deflected a question regarding Whaley saying he’s focused solely on the remaining two days of the draft.
“That’s what’s in front of us right now,” McDermott said. “If we’re focused on anything else, we’d be making a mistake right now. That’s where our focus is.”
The Bills enter Friday with three picks — a second-round selection (44th overall), and a pair of third-rounders (75th and 91st). Expect them to address several pressing needs at receiver and linebacker.