With just a bit over two days to pass until the 2009 NFL Draft is upon us, rumors are beginning to swirl about teams making plays for certain players, and some prospects dropping as a result. The Buffalo Bills, holders of the first pick outside of the Top 10 selections, could end up being the immediate beneficiary of a prospect once considered a lock for the Top 10 sliding right into their laps. Whether the Bills actually select that player altogether is another matter.
Here are five guys that have been considered Top 10 picks at some point in the game that might be available when the Bills are on the clock at No. 11 overall. These players' potential availability could lead to some unexpected and exciting scenarios on draft day.
Mississippi OT Michael Oher
I know what you're thinking - mock drafts have had this guy in the late teens or early twenties for months. Unfortunately, mock drafts are stupid. There isn't a more athletic OT in this draft; Oher is the ideal left tackle prospect. He's been nit-picked to death because of his impressive story; trust me when I say he's been a Top 10 consideration all along. I still have my doubts he gets past San Francisco at No. 10, but if he's there, he'll obviously be a consideration given the Bills' recent trade of OT Jason Peters.
Alabama OT Andre Smith
Like Oher, Smith is a guy that slid down mocks when knee-jerk reactions were made to his admittedly eccentric behavior at February's NFL Combine. This guy was never anything but a Top 10 pick, folks - and he's probably still going to go there somewhere. But interesting situations surrounding the top three quarterback prospects and receivers Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin could let an OT of Smith's caliber fall. For example, if either Eugene Monroe or Jason Smith drop to Cincinnati at No. 6 overall (and Curry fits this scenario as well), the Bengals could bypass Andre - a player they like - for a guy that falls. Every team from No. 7 through 11 - yes, every team - will consider taking this guy. If by some miracle he's there at No. 11, I feel completely comfortable guaranteeing that he will be the pick - even if other guys on this list are available.
Boston College DT B.J. Raji
This is another guy whose stock is reportedly slipping that I have a hard time believing will make it all the way to the Bills' selection. With several teams in the Top 10 running 3-4 defensive schemes, it's difficult to imagine all of them (there are at least four of them) letting the elite nose guard prospect slide past them. If you're asking me now, I'm telling you that he's not there when the Bills pick. But if he is... man, the thought of pairing the 337-pound Raji with Marcus Stroud on the inside is enticing.
Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry
There isn't a draft prospect with a stranger stock at this point than Curry. Teams that run a 3-4 have soured on him a bit because of the fact that he's probably solely an inside linebacker in that scheme; he's not a natural pass rusher. 4-3 teams are looking at him solely as a SAM linebacker. That specificity on teams' behalf is causing his perceived slide - even though he's already got a deal in place with Detroit to be the top overall pick should negotiations with QB Matthew Stafford falter. Very odd indeed. Even if Curry were to slide outside of the Top 5, however, you have to imagine that nearly every team from 6-10 (Cincinnati and Jacksonville in particular) would jump at the chance to take him. Again, I just don't see how a safe bet like Curry falls out of the Top 10 - but again, if he does, the Bills should be all smiles as they run the card up to the podium.
Texas DE Brian Orakpo
We've discussed at length the Bills' perceived preference for every-down defensive ends and their apparent coolness toward speed rushers such as Orakpo. But Orakpo is a unique case - he plays with solid power and, though he's been labeled a "workout warrior", is very obviously one of the most unique athletic specimens available this year. He might be the closest thing this draft class holds to a combination of speed rusher and every-down defender at DE. That's why he's been predicted in the Top 10 for so long - he's versatile schematically. But now more traditional ends are flying up draft boards, and with competition from Everette Brown and Aaron Maybin in the speed rushing category, some of Orakpo's weaker traits are being discussed more frequently - which could cause him to slide.