Under-the-radar prospects to keep an eye on


Clemson SS Michael Hamlin (photo source)

The 2009 NFL Draft is two weeks from tomorrow (Saturday) evening.  We've coverered several draft prospects, discussed several pick and trade scenarios almost to death, and that coverage will continue right up through the big weekend.  We've also got a second round of Rumblings Authors Mocks coming to you in the week leading up to the draft, and we'll also unveil a full two-round mock draft as well as the Buffalo Rumblings NFL Draft Big Board.  Lots more coming your way in draft coverage related to the Buffalo Bills, so don't miss it.

Today's a good day, however, to step away from the top-of-the-draft scenarios and talk about a few under-the-radar prospects.  These are five guys that won't cost an arm and a leg pick-wise to grab (particularly if we acquire extra draft picks), but all have traits that could allow them to contribute to the team as early as their rookie seasons.  If I'm picking for Buffalo anywhere between rounds two and five, these are guys I'm going to consider.

Andy Levitre, OG, Oregon State
Even though the Bills signed Seth McKinney on Thursday, the team still has depth issues along their interior offensive line, as well as a need for a starting left guard (or right guard, if the coaching staff moves Brad Butler to the left side).  Levitre was a tackle in college, but lacking height and arm length, he's far more ideal as a guard prospect for the NFL.  He's got great hand punch, moves pretty well, and is the type of boring draft pick that good teams make.  He has the ability to start at either guard position as a rookie, and has the potential to be a force both as a pass blocker and as a road grader in the run game.  Projected round: 2-3

Tyrone McKenzie, OLB, South Florida (Scouting Report)
Aaron Curry and five outstanding prospects from USC and Ohio State are overshadowing this guy - which will help whichever team picks him up.  McKenzie is an outstanding athlete that had a super-productive college career at USF, amassing 366 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 16 pass breakups (with two picks) over his past three seasons.  He's big (though not overly physical), and his athleticism and comfort in coverage make him a great fit for the SAM spot in Buffalo's Tampa 2 defense.  As linebackers tend to slide on draft day, the Bills might be best served waiting at the position and picking up McKenzie - he can start right away, as long as he's not counted on to be an every-down defender.  Projected round: 2-3

Sherrod Martin, FS/CB, Troy
The only downfall to Martin as a prospect is that he'll be a 25-year-old rookie - he's one of the senior members of this year's draft class.  He's a great athlete that played free safety while at Troy, but will probably be viewed as a cornerback by most NFL teams.  Buffalo desperately needs a playmaker wherever they can find one defensively, and Martin has two factors working in his favor there - a flair for the big play (nine career interceptions) and an established rapport with Buffalo's most talented defensive back, Leodis McKelvin.  Yes, I realize that drafting a defensive back isn't ideal, but I feel sure that if the Bills see one that they believe can make plays for them, they won't hesitate to add him - regardless of perceived need.  Martin could be that type of player.  Projected round: 2-3

Michael Hamlin, SS, Clemson (Scouting Report)
In terms of early-mid round playmaking defensive backs, Hamlin might be my favorite this year.  With Donte Whitner moving to free safety and Ko Simpson fighting for a roster spot after a disappointing '08 campaign, the Bills could be in the market for a strong safety to complement Whitner and make a few plays.  Hamlin is that type of player.  Unlike Troy's Martin, Hamlin is a strong safety by trade - he's good in the box, natural in coverage, and has made plenty of big plays in the ACC (14 career interceptions).  He's smart, and his only downfalls are a lack of great timed speed and a general stiffness in his overall coverage skill package.  As the Bills already have a physical strong safety (Bryan Scott), Hamlin is the type of guy they can rotate in on passing downs to see if he can't make a few big plays for them.  Projected round: 3-4

Henry Melton, DE, Texas
Brian Orakpo is the big name from UT this year, but Melton is flying under the radar in a big way.  He's only played defensive end for two seasons, having spent his first two years playing RB at Texas.  Therefore, he's incredibly raw, but as a mid-round pick, you're not going to find more ideal athletic specimens - Melton is 6'3", weighs 269 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash between 4.65 and 4.75 seconds.  He projects as a left end in a 4-3 defense, and he has some raw pass rushing talent and pursues the way Buffalo's coaching staff likes their linemen to do.  I'm not saying he's the answer to the Bills' pass rush woes by any stretch of the imagination.  But if the team passes on an end early, Melton is an intriguing mid-round option that fits the description of what the team generally looks for at DE.  Projected round: 4-5

We've got videos of all of these prospects, with the exception of Melton (unfortunately), after the jump.  If there are any under-the-radar guys that you like, this is the spot to talk about them.





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