One of the great privileges of being a Bills blogger - you know, besides the whole underpants and parents' basement luxuries - is covering the NFL Draft. I've had the opportunity to do it twice right here at Buffalo Rumblings; in 2007, the few of us around in those days got giddy over the Marshawn Lynch and Paul Posluszny duo (while loudly wondering why the heck Trent Edwards was our third-round pick), and then last year, we watched the team make curious decisions all throughout draft weekend - some of which panned out, some which haven't yet, and most of which engendered "?!" responses from you, our fine readers.
That's what makes the NFL Draft so great from our perspective - the strategy involved, the event itself, feeling vindicated when the player you "mocked" actually becomes a member of your team, and most of all, the fact that everyone has an opinion. Draft weekend is, quite simply, one of the two or three best weekends of the year.
This, however, is not strictly an opinion piece. If it were an opinion piece, it'd be about the eventual domination of Aaron Maybin, or about Brandon Pettigrew being the next Jason Witten. I'm not immune to having opinions, but this is something different - this is prediction, folks. Bold, unabashed prognostication. With a trade of OT Jason Peters a probable future development, and considering the team's drafting preferences and history, five names are coming to the forefront - at least in my mind - as draft prospects most likely to be Buffalo Bills in a hair over 18 days. Here they are - the five 2009 NFL Draft prospects that I strongly believe will be at or near the top of the Bills' wish list, ranked by likelihood of joining the team (with a trade of Peters anticipated and obviously factored in). And yes - this list only includes first-round prospects.
No. 1 - Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
- For some unexplained reason, Oher - a player that would have received Top 5 consideration had he come out in 2008, even with Jake Long and Ryan Clady on the board - is considered the fourth-best tackle available this year, and many believe that he could last until the late teens pick-wise, at least. I, however, still have Oher ranked as the top OT available this year (as does Mocking the Draft). He's not the type of guy to blow you away physically, but he's dependable to a fault, athletic, and has room to get better. Even better, he started his career at guard - so even if by some miracle the Bills and Peters reach a contract agreement, Oher can start at left guard until he's ready to take over for Langston Walker on the right side. If he's available - and obviously, that's not a virtual lock by any stretch at this point - I firmly believe that Oher gives the Bills the best value and the most personnel flexibility out of their top pick.
No. 2 - Clay Matthews III, OLB, USC
- I wrote back in late March that based on Dick Jauron's eight previous NFL draft classes, the Bills are most likely to focus on a defensive playmaker for their front seven with their top pick. Leaving out players that will obviously not be available (Aaron Curry, B.J. Raji), Matthews is the best fit of that description. The Bills sorely need help in the pass rush department, and you won't find a better blitzing linebacker this year than Matthews. He's extremely explosive in the short area, tackles hard, and has shown a knack for making impact plays. Those facts alone will trump his very underdeveloped coverage skills and possible lack of a true position. He's one of only a handful of defenders that could assist the Bills on an every-down basis right out of the gate - and considering the Bills' love of special teams aces, the fact that Matthews is dominant in that department will help his cause as well.
No. 3 - Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
- Even though we discussed just yesterday my belief that the Bills won't address the defensive end position early, Ayers is one name that's sticking in my mind as an exception to the rule. He is exactly what the Bills look for at the position - a big, strong athlete with solid quickness and a good motor. His pass-rushing skills are not (and probably never will be) elite, but that doesn't mean he won't be able to pick up solid amounts of sacks throughout his career. The Bills like their ends to be able to play in any situation, and Ayers is by leaps and bounds the only first-round end prospect that offers that skill set. People cite his low sack totals and his one full year of starting experience as reasons not to select him, but even as a sub in 2007, he registered 12 tackles for loss. The kid can play - and if there's any end that the Bills will like in the first round, Ayers is obviously the guy.
No. 4 - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
- Keep that argument about Ayers fresh in your mind, because much of that applies to Pettigrew as well. Pettigrew, by and large, is a very boring prospect - he runs slowly, he blocks, and when he catches the ball, it's not for big numbers and doesn't come in big-impact packages. But that's not what the Bills like out of their tight ends - and they never have. Again, they like every-down players that can help in both the run and the pass game. Pettigrew can, and will, do both of those things at a high level as a rookie. He is a perfect fit for Turk Schonert's offense - a guy who will block the snot out of defenders, stretch the seam on occasion, and give Trent Edwards a short-area receiving threat with big, soft hands. Folks, he would be elite in this offense. We already know the Bills like him - and if the right situation presents itself, it's pretty clear the Bills would love to add this guy.
No. 5 - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
- We have already been informed that the Bills believe Smith is the best tackle in the draft. The problem is that, even amidst serious character, work ethic and motivation questions, many other NFL teams are likely going to have the same opinion - and a handful of them pick before the Bills do. A lot will depend on who the Detroit Lions take with the top pick, as well as how the rest of the Top 10 shakes out, but as each day passes, the likelihood of Smith being available when the Bills pick seems smaller. I believe strongly that if Peters is traded and Smith is on the board at eleven, he'll be Buffalo's pick. I just don't believe that to be a likely scenario, which is exactly why Smith ranks last on this list. But the folks at One Bills Drive will undoubtedly have an eye or two on him come April 25.
As always, you are free to call me insane, disagree with me, or plead to no one in particular for the Bills to change their drafting tendencies. Hit it up in the comments section.