Instead of doing a rising/falling article and re-hashing the debate about how important the NFL Combine is, let's assume that the Buffalo Bills have their board perfectly set up, and the rest of us are just playing catch-up. Here are a few players who should be on the radar of Bills fans after the combine drills and measurements.
By the way, if you're interested, SB Nation has released its first mock draft with commentary from this very blog.
Clifton Geathers, DE, South Carolina. Geathers isn't a familiar name because he was a surprise early entry into the draft. The type of talent that could have worked his way into first-round consideration next year, Geathers declared early despite being considered a mid-round pick. Geathers needs to be on the draft radar of Bills fans because he's a perfect fit in the 3-4; he stands 6'7" with absurd 37.75-inch arms and huge hands. To put that in perspective, only four other defensive lineman had arms that measured in over 35 inches, and the second-longest, Al Woods of LSU, had 36-inch arms. Think about the advantage that those long arms give Geathers, as he can grab hold of a blocker and really use his arm strength while a guard with 32 or 33 inch arms will struggle to reach and get a hold of Geathers' jersey. Clifton wasn't unproductive, either, with 41 tackles - 8.5 of which were behind the LOS - and 3.5 sacks. His draft status is something of a mystery to me, so I'll say that anywhere between the second and fifth is possible.
Donald Butler, ILB, Washington. An under-the-radar prospect who anchored a decent UW defense. He had 94 tackles, 15.5 of which were in the backfield, and he forced three fumbles for the Huskies. After weighing in at 245 pounds, putting up 35 reps and having a measured arm length of almost 33 inches, he looks like an excellent fit as a 3-4 inside linebacker. In a draft class that has very few players who are a natural fit in that role, Butler should be a name the Bills consider calling in the middle rounds. You've also got to love that he had a huge game in Washington's 16-13 upset of USC, registering 12 tackles (two for a loss), an INT and a FF.
Tony Washington, OT, Abilene Christian. Jared Veldheer has been getting all the press, but Washington was more impressive at the combine. Taller than 6'6'', very long arms, big hands, good bench and athletic in drills. Don't be surprised if Washington gets his name called before Veldheer on draft day. He only played one year of high school football before playing at a JUCO school; he then transferred to his DII school. Despite the inexperience (or maybe because of the level of competition), Washington was an All-American performer.
These guys might be good players, but it won't be in Buffalo
Colt McCoy, QB, Texas. He's barely 6'1'' and has very questionable arm strength. McCoy needs to be in a dome, and simply doesn't have the physical abilities to succeed on an outdoor team with weather like Buffalo has. If I were running the Bills draft, I'd consider taking McCoy off the board entirely. I think he's that poor of a fit here.
Pat Angerer, ILB, Iowa. Name and attitude not withstanding, Angerer probably doesn't fit in the 3-4. He's a good prospect, but at 235 pounds with short arms, he's more of a 4-3 player. It's a shame, because the Iowa product would probably be a fan favorite here.
Eric Berry, S, Tennessee. Weighed in at 211 pounds and ran well. It's looking pretty likely that Berry will be off the board when the Bills pick, and that's a very good thing for those hoping that their favorite LT or Rolando McClain will be available.
Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State. Super long arms, a great performance in the bench press, and reportedly impressive interview sessions mean that Okung is less available to Buffalo than ever. He's really solidified himself as the top OT.
Joe Haden, CB, Florida. 4.58 is an ugly time for a cornerback to run, especially one who was supposed to run in the low 4.4s. Haden won't drop down draft boards based on these 40 times, but GMs won't laugh those times off either. Every team in the league is probably going back to the tape with Haden to make sure that he really does play as fast as they think. My guess is that Haden did something wrong on a technical level, hesitating early in his run and will do well at his pro day, but it's certainly something to keep an eye on.
Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa. 33 inch arms are considered long enough, but they'll be a concern moving forward, especially since he doesn't have the feet to recover consistently when beaten. Considered a Top 10 prospect by some and a Top 20 guy by others, the debate over whether or not Bulaga is a reach in the Top 10 will last right up until the draft.
Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers. Looks smooth and athletic on film, but looked stiff in his drills. One thing I havn't seen mentioned, but could be a concern for teams, is that he didn't put in enough effort to ace the drills. If he's as athletic as he often looked in games and didn't time well in drills, it's possible that he simply didn't put the work in that other prospects did.
Sliding (I couldn't resist)
Dezmon Briscoe, WR, Kansas. I think his slow 40 times will hurt him. He ran a 4.64, and people can say what they want about 40 times not mattering, but Briscoe isn't a sudden or explosive player. He's more of an open field strider, and that works fine in spread offenses where receivers aren't challenged at the line, and where open space is available. But in the NFL, I think Briscoe will struggle.
Joe McKnight, RB, USC. I don't really believe that McKnight is sliding. I think he's always been very overrated based on being a top high school recruit. For a supposedly explosive RB, McKnight isn't that explosive of a player. Add in some fumbling problems, and I don't see McKnight as a player who will be chosen in the earlier rounds of the draft.
WNY connections looking good
James Starks, RB, Buffalo. Starks is a tall RB whose upright running style will likely limit him to a backup or part time role, but his solid combine performance will get him drafted. Starks ran a 4.5 at 218 pounds and looked good in drills.
Arthur Jones, DT, Syracuse. Only a WNY connection due to the amount of 'Cuse fans in the area. Jones, coming off a knee injury, didn't work out. But his measurements were impressive. He weighed in over 300 pounds and his 35.25-inch arms and ability to hold up blockers makes him an ideal fit in two-gap schemes.
Doug Worthington, DT, Ohio State. The WNY native is a little taller than 6'5'' and his 34-inch arms could give him an advantage against guards playing as a 3-4 DE.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona. The other WNY native, Gronkowski was the tallest TE at the combine (6'6"). He was the second-heaviest and second-longest TE, and also had the biggest hands at his position. Add in some good athletic ability and a great attitude, and Gronkowski could go very early.