Since the last article I posted on this subject, several changes have come to light. First is the emergence of offensive threats Steve Johnson as the #2 wide receiver and more importantly, Ryan Fitzpatrick as a capable starter. Second is the acquiring of vetted outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, who while is still recovering from a major knee injury, will likely improve the pass rush and help stop the run better than our current despairing defense. On a third minor note, right tackle Cornell Green has been placed on the injured reserve for the remainder of the season which is for the better or for the worse depending on your opinion (mine being it'll help to open up our right side). And while Cordaro Howard has yet to establish himself as a capable starter in his place, the Bills also have fifth round tackle Ed Wang finally on the mend and may see playing time in the near future. Sadly though, the Bills have yet to see the talents of Wang or defensive end Alex Carrington on the field, begging the question as to what these guys are capable of and who will the Bills need to draft this upcoming year to further the team's decade-long rebuilding effort.
As of right now, the Bills most likely looking for the following: a left offensive tackle, a second outside linebacker, a solid, quick defensive end, a second tight end and the illusive franchise quarterback. Bare in mind that several assumptions are made from this point on with regard that the Bills do not trade/lose anyone during the off-season or no career ending injuries occur. Several collegiate players that are highly touted like QB Andrew Luck are underclassmen and simply may choose to forgo the draft this year. Lastly, in regard for the overall position the Bills will have, we'll assume the Bills will draft first overall (and yes that means we would have had the worst record in the league, but hopefully with at least a win or two). You can see how the draft prospects are looking at <http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/TSX/2011>
The first issue to be addressed as it is the one of the most importance for Bills fans is the question of whether or not the Bills should draft a quarterback for the first overall pick. In addressing this question, several issues are looked at. Who the Bills currently have as quarterback, who will be on the draft boards come April, and who the Bills would ultimately draft are among these factors. As of right now, Ryan Fitzpatrick, a former seventh rounder from Harvard has managed to reenergize the Bills offense and give the team some sense of dignity. In my opinion, if Fitz keeps up his current level of play, the Bills will most likely draft a quarterback and let him develop on the sidelines for a year or two. However there is a catch contingent on my second point. Of the quarterbacks eligible for 2011, Washington’s Jake Locker is the only senior of the group that warrants to be taken in the first round. Other names in the fold include juniors Cam Newton (Auburn) and Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) and sophomore Andrew Luck (Stanford). Overall though, Andrew Luck has the most talent of the group and is already playing at a pro-level. Locker is admittedly slighted by playing with a poor team, but lacks the pocket presence (although in Buffalo’s case that may be a good thing) to perform on a consistent level as indicative of the last few games he has played. Mallett is a big gunslinger but lacks mobility, whereas Newton is Vick 2.0 and is definitely gaining more notoriety this season. However, if Luck decides not to declare, there are several other positions and players the Bills could also easily take including DE Adrian Clayborn (Iowa) or Da’Quon Bowers (Clemson) to address a lethargic defensive line, as Fitz has been playing well, combined with the quarterback class is deep during the next few years. 2012 seniors will likely include Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett, Blaine Gabbert while 2013 seniors include Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, and Landry Jones. In my opinion the Bills need to wait for Luck in securing a successful franchise quarterback in the future but that being said, goes number 1 without a doubt.
In any case, the second round pick will, more likely than not, be used to acquire a true left tackle. First off, Demetrius Bell is doing a fair job at left right now, especially given he was a seventh round pick shows the talent this guy has. However, he lacks the arm span and quickness that pro-bowl left tackles typically have. As such, I would love to see him start at right tackle. That means with the second round pick goes to Nate Solder of Colorado. Before everyone starts yelling, the guy plays consistently, is really big and very quick. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t mind if the Bills traded up for someone like Anthony Costanza (Boston College), DeMarcus Love (Arkansas) or went with Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin). The major issues will be again whether Wrotto or Wang are able to elevate their game at the tackle position and whether Shawne Merriman stays with the Bills after this season. Should the Bills lose him, the second pick amy in turn be used to acquire a true outside linebacker.
Going into the third round has me a bit confounded on several levels as it is contingent as to who is available then. Clearly the Bills could use a second tight end of high caliber to complement Shawn Nelson. Unfortunately, this position is not very strong in the upcoming draft. Clearly the best looking tight end right now is junior Kyle Rudolph of Notre Dame, but it is unlikely he will be available that late in the draft or even in the draft. In that case, Luke Stocker (Tennessee) seems to be the next best available at this time, with D.J. Williams following close behind. Stocker is a big blocker whereas Williams is smaller, but quicker tight end. Going back to the issue of needing a true outside linebacker, the Bills may choose to address a need for a second one instead since I see Reggie Torbor as a temporary solution. In that case, Dontay Moch stands out still as the go to player if only for his speed, 4.38 in the 40. The alternative would then be K.J. Wright of Mississippi who is perhaps a sounder all-around player, definitely not as quick. Depending on the development of Merriman (recovering from major knee surgery) and Maybin (potentially the biggest defensive bust since McCargo), the third pick will therefore likely go to Moch to solidify the outside linebacker dilemma.
Depending on whether the Bills use a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense, the fact that the Bills will likely choose a QB in the first round and not a defensive end as well as the possible dismissal of either Maybin and/or McCargo, the Bills will need a new DE. While Greg Romeus is clearly a prospect, the fact remains that his level of play has slacked off in his senior year (and like Maybin is from Pittsburgh – you make the connection). Pierre Allen of Nebraska is a good call but is likely gone by this point so the next best is Wayne Daniels of TCU, who is enjoying a very strong year. Other players of interest at this slot would be inside linebackers Colin McCarthy (Miami) and Jerry Franklin (Arkansas) to plug backup positions behind Poz and Davis, although a healthy Batten could negate the need for another ILB.
The next fourth round pick (brought to you by the Marshawn Lynch trade to Seattle) will then be used to bolster an aging defensive back corp. With CB Drayton Florence’c contract running up, the Bills will need to fill the gap and Mario Butler of Gailey’s old team seems the likely filler. Also in the running is Chris Culliver of South Carolina, who like Butler is a tall and able defender. Butler’s advantage though is his speed. Given that the Bills secondary is fairly sound right now, they may choose to strengthen their weakest position, the linebacker corps, especially if Gailey is committed to going back to the 3-4 defensive scheme.
For the fifth round pick, the Bills will choose a tight end (assuming they did not in an earlier round) and will likely pursue the Spartans’ Charlie Gantt, the best tight end available at this point. Lee Smith of Marshall would also be a logical choice at this point. The other position the Bills could pursue is the offensive tackle in Auburn’s Lee Ziemba or Curt Porter of Jacksonville State to secure another backup tackle, but this is unlikely at this time.
In the sixth round, assuming that the Bills picked a tight end previously, will pursue a backup inside linebacker for depth reasons. While Alex Wujciak of Maryland would be a good choice (as mentioned by a few members already), I give the ultimate nod to Elijah Joseph (Temple) who for the time being is ranked slightly higher. It would not surprise in any way that the Bills may use this time to get yet another running back (seeing that Quinton Ganther is actually a fullback, leaving the Bills with just Jackson and Spiller for the time being). In that case Derrick Locke (Kentucky) and Brandon Saine (Ohio State) are both late round targets.
The seventh round will end with the Buffalo Bills adding their secondary. Strong safety Eric Hagg (Nebraska) would be the go to guy in my opinion while Johnny Brown (Mississippi) would also be in the running. However, the Bills may try to develop their outside linebacker corps some more and pursue defensive ends Steven Friday (Virginia Tech) and Ed (not too tall) Jones (Texas) to later convert to OLB.
Here's the recap:
1/1 - QB Andrew Luck (Stanford)
Alt: QB Jake Locker (Washington), DE Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), DE Da’Quon Bowers (Clemson)
2/33 - OT Nate Solder (Colorado)
Alt: OT Anthony Costanzo (Boston College), OT DeMarcus Love (Arkansas), OT Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin)
3/65 - OLB - Dontay Moch (Nevada)
Alt: TE Luke Stocker (Tennessee), TE D.J. Williams (Arkansas), OLB K.J. Wright (Mississippi State)
4/97 – DE Wayne Daniels (Texas Christian)
Alt: DE Greg Romeus (Pittsburgh), ILB Colin McCarthy (Miami), ILB Jerry Franklin (Arkansas)
4/113 – CB Mario Butler (Georgia Tech)
Alt: CB Chris Cullliver (South Carolina), OLB Lawrence Wilson (Connecticut), OLB Doug Hogue (Syracuse)
5/ 129 – TE Charlie Gantt (Michigan State)
Alt: TE Lee Smith (Marshall), OT Lee Ziemba (Auburn), OT Curt Porter (Jacksonville State)
6/ 161 - ILB Elijah Joseph (Temple)
Alt: ILB Alex Wujciak (Maryland), RB Derrick Locke (Kentucky), RB Brandon Saine (Ohio State)
7/ 193 – SS Eric Hagg (Nebraska)
Alt: SS Johnny Brown (Mississippi), DE Steven Friday (Virginia Tech), DE Eddie Jones (Texas)