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Hoping to bloom

Bills get defensive help from Flowers, Tillman, Moore

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Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 12:58 AM

  The Bills plan to surround Erik Flowers with talent to give him a chance to succeed. Otto Greule Jr./Allsport

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - The Buffalo Bills addressed their defensive needs, beginning the long process of replenishing their depleted roster in the first three rounds of Saturday's NFL Draft.

The Bills began by taking Arizona State defensive end Erik Flowers with the 26th overall pick. They followed that up by selecting Georgia Tech free safety Travares Tillman in the second round. The team capped the day drafting Virginia Tech outside linebacker Corey Moore 89th overall.

"We still have a couple of more holes to fill, but we sure shored a lot of them up," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said.

Buffalo has five more picks in the draft, which resumes Sunday. This is considered a critical draft for the salary cap-strapped Bills who are expected to lose as many as 16 returning players.

Flowers, a late-bloomer in college, became the first defensive end the Bills have taken in the first round since selecting Bruce Smith No. 1 in 1985.

Bills First-Round Draft Picks
Year  Player  Pos  School 
2000  Erik Flowers  DE  Arizona State 
1999  Antoine Winfield  CB  Ohio State  
1998  NO PICK       
1997  Antowain Smith  RB  Houston 
1996  Eric Moulds  WR  Miss. State 
1995  Ruben Brown  Pittsburgh 
1994  Jeff Burris  DB  Notre Dame 
1993  Thomas Smith  DB  North Carolina 
1992  John Fina  OL  Arizona 
1991  Henry Jones  DB  Illinois 
1990  James Williams  CB  Fresno State 
1989  NO PICK       
1988  NO PICK       
1987  Shane Conlan  LB  Penn State 
1986  Ronnie Harmon  RB  Iowa 
1986  Will Wolford  Vanderbilt 
1985  Bruce Smith  DE  Virginia Tech 
1985  Derrick Burroughs  CB  Memphis St. 
1984  Greg Bell  RB  Notre Dame 
1983  Tony Hunter  TE  Notre Dame 
1983  Jim Kelly  QB  Miami 
1982  Perry Tuttle  WR  Clemson 
1981  Booker Moore  RB  Penn State 
1980  Jim Ritcher  N.C. State 
1979  Tom Cousineau  LB  Ohio State 
1979  Jerry Butler  WR  Clemson 
1978  Terry Miller  RB  Oklahoma State 
1977  Phil Dokes  DT  Oklahoma State 
1976  Mario Clark  DB  Oregon  
1975  Tom Rudd  LB  Nebraska 
1974  Rueben Gant  TE  Oklahoma State 
1973  Paul Seymour  Michigan 
1973  Joe DeLamielleure  Michigan St. 
1972  Walt Patulski  DE  Notre Dame 
1971  J.D. Hill  WR  Arizona State 
1970  Al Cowlings  DE  USC 
Since 1970
X -- No. 1 pick

Smith was released by Buffalo in February and has signed with Washington.

Bills' general manager John Butler, however, stressed that the team doesn't expect Flowers to fill Smith's shoes entirely.

"We told him he doesn't have to be the savior. We're going to surround him with other talent and the talent that's already there," said Butler.

Flowers is speedy and strong. And the Bills like him for his pass-rush abilities. As a senior, the 6-foot-4 Flowers had a breakthrough season. His 10 sacks were tied for third in the Pac-10 conference, while his 18 tackles for a loss were tied for fourth. Flowers also forced two fumbles and was named the MVP in the East-West Shrine Game.

Along with using him in passing situations, the Bills expect to insert Flowers into their defensive end mix, rotating him in and out with starters Phil Hansen and Marcellus Wiley.

"We've liked this guy from the word go," director of player personnel Dwight Adams said. "You talk about a late-bloomer, and all of that. Guys don't get to be good football players overnight. They either are or they're not."

Raised in Texas, Flowers was a highly touted high school player, but attended Trinity Valley Community College because of academic problems.

He spent the last two years at Arizona State, where he was the team's captain last season.

Flowers said he feels no pressure coming to Buffalo on the heels of Smith's departure.

"When Arizona State signed me, people expected me to replace Derrick Rodgers, their former defensive end," Flowers said over the phone from his home in San Antonio. "There was a lot of talk, 'Can this guy do it?' I'm very competitive and I look forward to the challenge.

"Obviously, you can't replace Bruce Smith. Bruce Smith is a legend."

In Tillman, the Bills like the senior's versatility, having played cornerback and both safety positions.

A three-year starter at Georgia Tech, Tillman can cover plenty of ground, is considered a solid open-field tackler, and fits in with the Bills' roaming defensive backfield scheme.

Tillman, a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference second team selection, is expected to challenge Keion Carpenter and Darryl Porter for the open free safety job left vacant by Kurt Schulz's departure.

"That's perfect for me," Tillman said, aware of the potential job opening. "I'd love to go in and be a starter. That'll put a challenge into me."

Adams said a second-round run on safeties forced the Bills' hand to snag Tillman.

"We had to have a safety and he was the best safety available on our board," Adams said, adding that Tillman has a chance to start.

Moore, who played a rush end position in college, is the most-decorated athlete in Virginia Tech history. Last season he earned unanimous All-American first-team honors and was named the Big East's defensive player of the year.

The Bills are in need of outside linebacker help, having lost backup Dan Brandenburg and expected to lose starter Gabe Northern.

The only knock against Moore is his size -- he's 5-foot-11.

That doesn't matter, Cottrell said.

"You give that guy that much more, give him a couple of more inches, and he's long gone [in the draft]," Cottrell said. "Everybody sees 5-11. He'll prove everyone wrong. ... This guy is something else."

Said an excited Moore: "They gave me an opportunity and I will not disappoint."

Team owner Ralph Wilson, on hand for the draft, called it an important weekend for his franchise. "We have lost a lot of players as everybody knows. But having been associated with the scouting staff for all these years, I've got a lot of confidence," Wilson said.

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