BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot
A candidate to get playing time at safety, or a candidate to be cut?
That’s the million dollar question with Jonathan Meeks. The Buffalo Bills’ fifth-round pick (No. 143 overall) in the 2013 NFL draft, Meeks didn’t make much of an impact in year one, and with plenty of competition at safety, his roster spot is far from guaranteed.
Making the Team
In 2013, there was plenty of uncertainty surrounding Jairus Byrd, then the team’s starting free safety. A holdout was expected and Buffalo needed to cover all their bases, so they selected safeties in the fourth and fifth round of the draft. Meeks, from Clemson, was the second safety selected.
Meeks played in 50 collegiate games and started 24. His experience, size (6’1″) and speed (4.49 40-yard dash, unofficial time according to BuffaloBills.com) made him an intriguing prospect according to Bills scout Darrell Moody:
“Yes, I think he can be a strong safety or free safety,” Moody told BuffaloBills.com. “I think he has got good size and good range. He has got a good 40-time. I think he can be explosive. The thing is his stats are probably not as good as some other people because of the system that they played at Clemson this year. He was more of a free safety than the strong safety because the other safety did not run real well.”
Meeks appeared in the Bills’ first six games of the season, in which he played primarily on special teams and recorded one tackle, before suffering an ankle injury in Week 6.
Marrone: S Jonathan Meeks (IR-Return) has an ankle injury. Out 8 weeks, can practice in 6.
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) October 14, 2013
Buffalo used its one IR-Return designation on Meeks, who was activated Dec. 10 and returned to play the final two games of the year. He recorded another tackle in Buffalo’s final game of the season.
Aaron Williams currently has one of the Bills’ starting safety spots locked down. The free safety spot is wide open following Byrd’s departure, but Meeks will likely have to wait his turn to get an opportunity. Da’Norris Searcy is the frontrunner to start opposite Williams, while Duke Williams—the safety selected in the fourth round of last year’s draft—likely also projects ahead of Meeks at free safety.
Besides the two Williams and Searcy, Meeks may find competition with undrafted free agent Kenny Ladler. The safety from Vanderbilt had a terrific collegiate career and held his own against SEC competition. Ladler, a diamond in the rough of sorts, may have the best chance of landing a roster spot among all of Buffalo’s undrafted free agents. The Bills also added two other undrafted free agent safeties, Deon Broomfield (Iowa State) and Derek Brim (Buffalo), who could factor into the competition.
There’s also the chance that the Bills move Corey Graham or Ron Brooks to safety. Graham is currently competing for the nickel cornerback job with Nickell Robey, but when he was signed as a free agent in March, Doug Marrone said Graham could be “in the mix” at safety. As for Brooks, there hasn’t been any talk of moving him to safety, but some teams reportedly liked him as a free safety when he was a draft prospect in 2012.
If Meeks makes the 53-man roster, he is likely to backup Aaron Williams at strong safety and spell him at times during games. He would have to continue to contribute on special teams as he waits for an opportunity to get onto the field.
In the 5th round of the NFL draft, you look to add depth to your roster. That’s exactly what the Bills did when they added Meeks.
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