Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Whitner Rookie of the Year

By Chris Brown
January 17, 2007

"The Bills reached with both of their first-round picks. They could have traded back a few spots to accumulate more choices and still drafted Whitner."
-Charles Robinson - Yahoo Sports

They overreached by taking Ohio State safety Donte Whitner at No. 8 overall, when they could have traded down and still gotten him.
-Ron Borges -

"Overall, the Bills reached on both of their first-round picks."
-Mel Kiper - ESPN

These comments no doubt revive your memories of the barrage of criticism Buffalo's front office and scouting department received shortly after their 2006 draft class was assembled. Most of the NFL draft gurus took umbrage with the choices the Bills made in the first round, most notably top pick Donte Whitner.
Whitner heard the talk that he was a reach and wasn't shy about responding to it.

"The only reason people say they don't think I should have been the number eight pick is because a lot of those guys don't really know what I can do on the football field," said Whitner shortly after the draft. "They just know what they hear and haven't really watched me on film. They don't know what type of person or player I am. After the season we'll see what guys they say were reaches and what guys they say were busts."

Now almost a year later the comments of the so-called draft experts ring a bit hollow, and Whitner's seem almost prophetic. Appearing in 15 games and making 14 starts Whitner stepped onto the field and contributed immediately in 2006 and never looked back.

In his first NFL game he made a potential game-changing fourth quarter interception on a pass from Tom Brady and returned it for what likely would have been a game-clinching touchdown. But it was called back on a controversial block in the back penalty.

When the season was over Whitner was the team's second leading tackler (107) and contributed five pass breakups along with that interception in week one.

Buffalo's coaching staff knew there was a possibility that they would have to rely on a good number of players from the 2006 draft class early and Whitner was the linchpin. They also prepared themselves for a lot of growing pains which often come with young players.

Though there were some areas of his game that lapsed at times, overall Whitner was a solid player in Buffalo's secondary.

"I think Donte had to fit into our plans early, but he came through and did a nice job for us." said defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

"He's talented, he's fast," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He likes to play the game and he'll hit you. Those are all things that translate well to our sport. He's still learning how to play, but one of the reasons we did like him is because he likes football. He likes to talk about football, look at it, study it and he likes to play. He's going to work out well for us because I see him improving all the time."

And Bills fans saw it too which is why he is their Rookie of the Year.

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