By John Wawrow
The Associated Press
The Buffalo Bills aren't done rebuilding the defense after selecting South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore with the 10th pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night.
The 6-foot, 193-pound Gilmore was a three-year starter and left college after his junior season. He's got considerable speed after being timed at running the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds. And he's regarded as an explosive hitter.
The NFL Draft Report called Gilmore "The Most Complete Cornerback."
In 40 games — all starts — with the Gamecocks, Gilmore finished with eight interceptions, including four last season, seven sacks and 15 tackles for a loss.
Gilmore's expected to immediately compete for a starting job on what's becoming an aging defensive backfield in Buffalo. Drayton Florence, a nine-year NFL veteran, is in the final year of his contract. Terrence McGee, also a nine-year veteran, has been injury prone.
His selection comes after a busy offseason in which Buffalo made one of the biggest splashes in free agency by signing defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year, $100 million contract. The Bills then continued improving their pass rush by signing Mark Anderson in free agency.
Upon hearing his name announced, Gilmore had a blank reaction, failing to smile as he made his way on stage.
Gilmore becomes the first cornerback the Bills have selected in the first round since drafting Leodis McKelvin with the 11th pick in the 2008 draft.
The defense continues to be a big offseason priority in Buffalo, for a team that's coming off a 6-10 finish and missed the playoffs for a 12th straight year — the NFL's longest active drought.
The Bills defense has ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in yards allowed in six of the past seven years. That includes last year, when Buffalo finished 26th, while allowing a franchise-worst 5,938 yards. The 434 points the Bills allowed were the second-worst in franchise history.
Buffalo began overhauling its defense last year when it selected defensive tackle Marcell Dareus with the third pick in the draft. The team eventually used if first four draft picks and seven of nine on defensive players, including defensive tackle Michael Jasper, who has since been converted to offense.
After spending two years of playing a 3-4 scheme, the Bills are making the switch back to a four-linemen, three-linebacker style under Dave Wannstedt, who takes over as coordinator after George Edwards was fired in January.
Barring any moves, the Bills are done drafting in the first round, and have nine more picks over the final two days. They're currently scheduled to have the 41st and 71st picks in the second and third rounds of the draft on Friday.