Every year, one of the more popular pre-draft features here at Buffalo Rumblings is when we run down the top five NFL Draft prospects that would be considered "best fits" for the Buffalo Bills. "Best fit" is a broad term; usually, it applies schematically, but we also attempt to fit character, intangibles, work ethic and potential into the equation as well.
In 2007, Rumblings was in its nascent stages, and I called current Texans DT Amobi Okoye the best fit from the 2007 draft class. (Leon Hall, Jon Beason, Robert Meachem and the late Gaines Adams also made the list.) We had five comments on the post - in those days, I was joyously skipping through the rain when the blog got one comment - so I could tell immediately that this was a hit. (If you're looking for a laugh, make sure to note our very own MARVelous pulling a "Poslunsky" in the comments section. Those were the days.)
A year later, when we still weren't all that recognizable in the Bills blogosphere, we named current Jet Vernon Gholston the best fit, with Devin Thomas, Glenn Dorsey, Sedrick Ellis and Owen Schmitt getting mentions as well. 83 comments later, I knew this would be a yearly feature. Last year, I went with B.J. Raji as top dog, with Aaron Maybin, Max Unger, Brandon Pettigrew and Lawrence Sidbury getting mentions as well.
Yeah. I got off to a rocky start in this feature. You don't need to tell me that, folks, though I don't doubt a few of you will bring it up. (At least I can spell Posluszny.)
You're now reading the 2010 version of this post. Unlike previous iterations of this list, we'll take out hypothetical availability as a factor, and instead of disregarding the team's draft-day needs, we'll absolutely consider those here. (Had we not, C.J. Spiller and Dez Bryant would be on the list.) Since we've named a defensive lineman the "best fit" three years running now, it was only fitting to carry on the tradition.
1. Ndamukong Suh, DE, Nebraska (6'4", 307). Suh probably sits at the top of this list for every team in the league, and obviously, he won't come close to sliding to Buffalo's first-round pick, No. 9 overall. He might not have sat at the top of this list, had the Bills decided to run a 4-3. In the 3-4, however, Suh has devastating potential. He's long, supremely strong, and creates more havoc by himself than many entire defensive lines. In a 3-4 - where he'd be an end, not a nose tackle - Suh's brute strength, block-shedding and playmaking abilities would be at the forefront, and his versatility, along with the attention he'd draw from opponents' blocking schemes, would make it nearly impossible for teams to diagnose a pass rush pre-snap. Suh will do just fine if he ends up in a 4-3, but in a 3-4, he could establish himself as an elite NFL player right out of the gate.
2. Russell Okung, LT, Oklahoma State (6'5", 307). Aside from quarterback (more on that in just one moment), left tackle is without question the Bills' biggest need. It just so happens that one of the most talented players available this year - he also doubles as one of the safest, most reliable prospects you can find - is Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung. The tackle class this year is deep, but there are not any blue-chip prospects - a fact that includes Okung, but is ultimately to his benefit. Okung has had a great off-season to cap off a stellar career at Oklahoma State, and the questions surrounding the rest of the tackle crop will likely prevent Okung from falling all the way to No. 9. A supremely talented pass protector, Okung's game isn't perfect, but he's the one tackle prospect this year you can count on to step in on the left side and start from day one.
3. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame (6'3", 223). I suspect I'll get flayed by some for this one; whatever. At least hear me out for a moment. I think Sam Bradford has a better chance to have a sustained career as an NFL starting quarterback than Clausen does. Clausen is a better fit for Buffalo because he's got a (slightly) better arm, a firmer grasp of a pro-style offense, and a tougher, grittier on-field personality than his Oklahoma counterpart. There's absolutely no question that Clausen is the most pro-ready quarterback available this year. Given what has transpired in Cleveland this past week, it seems almost certain that Clausen, too, won't last until the ninth overall pick. If he's there, however, it's my personal belief that Buddy Nix would be mad to pass on him.
4. Dan Williams, NT, Tennessee (6'2", 327). As far as big-bodied defensive tackles go, Williams is without question the best available this year. Folks are quick to pigeon-hole him as purely a 3-4 nose tackle, however, and that's not true - do that to Terrence Cody, but not this kid. Williams is a very good athlete for someone his size, and while his capability to man the nose in a 3-4 will do wonders for his draft stock, he's done enough on the field to be an excellent addition for a 4-3 team as well. In Buffalo, where the team is switching to the 3-4 defense, Williams would be the starting nose tackle. The real value to Williams, however, is that if the Bills want to mix things up by lining up Kyle Williams at nose tackle or switching to a 4-3 look, Williams is versatile enough that he could stay on the field in those situations.
5. Bryan Bulaga, LT/RT, Iowa (6'5", 314). I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm nowhere near convinced that Bulaga can play left tackle in the NFL. People poo poo his short arms, but Bulaga is not a tremendous athlete; add those two factors together, and you get a guy that will struggle with speed rushers at the next level. It's for that reason that many teams view Bulaga exclusively as a right tackle prospect; those teams do not have the desperate need for tackle talent that Buffalo does. Where Bulaga rates above just about every other 2010 NFL Draft prospect, however, is his playing style, his attitude, and his football intelligence; he's top-notch in all three areas, and folks in Buffalo would love him for it. In Buffalo, he'd start out on the left side, and teamed with Andy Levitre and Eric Wood, Bills fans would fall in love with the blue-collar mentality of its young star offensive linemen. Bulaga may be slightly overrated, but there's little question he'd be a great fit selection for the Bills.
Got a name you wish had been considered? We'd love to hear about him. Have anything extra to add about the names on the list? Have at it. These posts have always been interesting launching points for draft discussions, and I look forward to the conversation on this one as well.