The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is one part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player for the 2013 NFL season on each NFL team (rookies don’t count). For the Buffalo Bills, that player is cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
When Stephon Gilmore declared for the NFL draft as a junior out of South Carolina, he certainly had the profile of a top draft pick. After committing as a 4-star recruit and the #2 recruit from the state of South Carolina, Gilmore was a starter at the University of South Carolina from the word go as a true freshman and wound up starting all 39 possible games in 3 years in the always tough SEC. His efforts as a freshman earned him Freshman All-American honors. As a sophomore, he was named a 3rd team All-American. He had a down junior year by his standard, but at The Combine, Gilmore measured in at 6-0 3/8 with 31 inch arms and ran a 4.40 40, which sent his stock soaring once again.
The Bills obviously liked what they saw as they drafted him 10th overall in 2012 and made him a rookie starter. They had huge hopes for him, but he didn’t get off to the best start. In his first 5 NFL games, he allowed 19 completions on 31 attempts for 327 yards and 3 touchdowns. This was completely understandable as even for a talented prospect such as Gilmore, the transition to the NFL can be a tough one, especially for a cornerback and especially for a cornerback frequently asked to cover opponent’s #1 receivers from day one.
However, in week 6, Gilmore hit his stride and played very well from there on out. He allowed 30 completions on 56 attempts for 409 yards. He didn’t allow a touchdown the rest of the way and intercepted his only pass of the season week 13. His only issue was penalties, as he was penalized 11 times in his final 11 games, but as he matures, that issue should correct itself. Heading into his 2nd year in the league, Gilmore, who doesn’t turn 23 until September, looks poised for a big year.