Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose ~Janis Joplin
I really believe that this quote will summarize how Buddy Nix goes about his first Draft as GM of the Buffalo Bills. We've heard all the talking heads, the mock drafters, the supposed experts all talk about how the Bills need to address the LT position in the first round. We've heard about the desire to get that NT early. And we've heard about Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen are the only quarterbacks worth investing heavily in this year. You know what? I think Nix will continue marching to the beat of his own drum, and surprise many people this week. I have a feeling he goes against the grain a bit, much to the dismay of the experts and Bills fans everywhere. Nix will have final say and the "freedom" to make the hard decisions; something we haven't had in one individual since the Tom Donahoe days. He's going to make decisions that many won't agree with because what else does he have to lose?
I still don't know how I feel about the three day draft, starting in prime time, on a Thursday no less. I'm not a huge fan, but I think I might enjoy it. Actually, I'd enjoy the draft no matter when it was held.
Does anybody else feel the draft snuck up them this year? Last year, it felt like eternity before the draft finally rolled around. This year, it feels like the season just ended and these past four months, football-wise, have gone pretty quickly. I guess the Chan Gailey hire in mid-January gave us a bit of a late start on the draft talk, or at least something vastly different to talk about.
Why are Brandon Ghee and Lamar Houston attending the draft? Are they really excited about waiting around until late Friday before they hear their names and get to walk up on stage? That just seems like a bad idea to me. I really hope ESPN and the NFL Network don't sensationalize these two still being in the "green room" after round 1 and throughout the evening on Friday. There's nothing more annoying and uncomfortable than playing up the whole "XXXXX is still waiting to be drafted, can you believe it?" garbage we seem to see every year. Well, I guess Todd McShay is more annoying and uncomfortable to watch.
I think the Bills will be busy after the draft looking to fill holes with veterans. Free agency dried up a bit later in March and I think it will pick up again after the draft, especially if teams cut veterans that they feel they just adequately replaced in the draft. I think we'll see the Bills look at any available OLB's, OL depth and for a vet WR and maybe a RB depending on what happens this week. I have a feeling we should keep an eye on some of the following guys...Derrick Burgess, Chester Pitts, Justin Fargas, Kevin Curtis, Keydrick Vincent, Chike Okeafor, LaMont Jordan, Damion McIntosh, Danny Clark, Bobby Wade, and Kelley Washington among others. Maybe even a Deion Branch if he gets cut. The team still needs to add a ton of depth, and can't rely on rookies for all the spots. Some of these guys will need to play this year, after all.
I think Buddy will place a great deal of importance on production and experience when making his picks....
I really think CB, C and TE are being overlooked by most of us when it comes to the possibility of a pick being used on one of those positions in the early or mid rounds this season. A CB is probably not going to happen until the 6th or 7th, if at all, but I can really see the Bills taking a Matt Tennant or JD Walton in the mid rounds at C, or taking a TE in that range too. We, myself included, all expect the Bills to address QB, LT, NT, OLB and maybe even RB in some order with their first 4-5 picks. It wouldn't surprise me if one of those other positions gets addressed too.
Will the Bills make any trades this week? Marshawn Lynch is the most likely to be traded, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen sometime during the day Friday, if it were to happen. I don't think we'll see any trading of draft picks to move up or down, but as always we can't discount the possibility.
Now on to my final mock draft. I know it'll be torn to shreds. This mock is based on what I think Nix might have in store for us, to an extent. I also like these players and don't mind where any of them would be picked. Yes, any of them.
1st - Tim Tebow QB Florida - Yeah, I went there. Let the mutiny begin. I really think this has a legit chance of happening. We all know the Bills seem to be in love with Tebow, so this really shouldn't come as any surprise. I would prefer Jimmy Clausen, but I just don't think he gets by Cleveland and Oakland. If he does, I will not be happy if the Bills pass on him. Since I think he'll be gone, and Okung, Bulaga and Trent Williams will also be gone, I have a feeling this pick comes down to Tebow vs Anthony Davis. With the new coaching staff in place, I have a feeling they'll want to bring in their quarterback, and my gut says Tebow is very likely that guy. I don't really care that everyone keeps talking about Tebow as a 2nd or 3rd round prospect. I don't really believe he's a top 10 prospect, but he would make my top 30. Because of the position he plays, the unlikelihood he is available to us at #41 and the uncertainty of trading down for him or back up for him into the 20's makes this a very possible pick in my opinion. If this is a guy that Nix and Gailey feel can lead the Bills for the next decade, then take him here. I think they do believe that.
2nd - Vladimir Ducasse OT UMass - The smaller school prospect has been receiving interest on Rumblings for a while now. It's tough to determine what his NFL projection is at this point, coming from a lower level. He seems to have the athleticism necessary to play LT for us, but may end up being a better fit at RT or inside. I think he has great potential at any of these positions and will really help our run game. He's already one of the better run blocking prospects in this draft, so if he can get comfortable playing on the outside, we could have ourselves a solid long term Tackle. Remember, he started playing football late and still has a long ways to go, so the potential is certainly there.
3rd - Eric Norwood OLB South Carolina - Brian likes him in round 2. I don't really like him that high because I worry a bit about his size and athleticism. Those aren't huge concerns, but they're enough to push him down to the 3rd for me. I've seen him in the late 3rd and 4th rounds by scouting sites and in mocks, but don't think he'll last that long. His experience as an edge rusher and dropping into coverage at time at South Carolina, along with his production, makes him an intriguing prospect. I could really see any number of potential 3-4 OLB's going to the Bills in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. Norwood, Koa Misi, Jason Worilds, Ricky Sapp and Thaddeus Gibson could all be taken in this range by the Bills. I think this is where we'll see the position addressed.
4th - Al Woods DE/NT LSU - Woods seems to be climbing up boards lately, but he's been a solid mid round selection all along, in my opinion. The question I have about him is whether he can play NT in our scheme or if he's a better fit on the outside. I think he can play a little bit of both. He's 6'4", 310 lbs right now, and looks very capable of adding more weight and manning the NT position, yet he lost some weight prior to his senior year and played his best ball. I'd like to see the Bills put some weight back on him and let him work inside. His long arms (36 inches) and solid athleticism for his size make him a very good 3-4 DE prospect as well. I'll take my chances that he can turn his talent into a productive player at one of those position, preferably NT. I think he's the versatile type defender that will help this defense as they transition to the 3-4. If Torrell Troup slides to the 4th, I'd be happy to take him ahead of Woods.
5th -Ciron Black OL LSU - The Bills need OL depth, and they need some versatility there too. Ducasse gives them some of that earlier, though he'll be looked at as a starter sooner, rather than later. In the later rounds, I think they'll be looking for a player or two that can play multiple positions, and eventually start. Black is an experienced and talented player that fits that. He played LT at LSU, starting all 53 of his career games there, but his athleticism means he'll probably have to play RT or Guard in the NFL. Like Ducasse, he's another quality run blocker, which is something I think Nix and Gailey will be looking for. With the potential to play RT and Guard, while providing depth early in his career, I like a pick like this. If any of the following players were to be available in the 5th, I would grab them in a heartbeat before Black...Ed Wang, Jason Fox, Tony Washington or Kyle Calloway. The first three all have potential to play some LT in the pros.
6th - Brandon Sharpe OLB Texas Tech - Sharpe racked up a whopping 15 sacks this past season in what was his only season of meaningful playing time after transferring from a junior college. He was basically nothing more than a pass rusher at Texas Tech, but showed ability getting to the quarterback from both sides this past season. He's an underrated prospect at this point and would make for a solid later round addition as a pass rusher only. I love the production and would happily take a chance on a player like this late in the draft. Here are some highlights.
6th - Antonio Brown WR Central Michigan - I originally had David Gettis of Baylor slotted here, but decided to change my mind on the type of WR the Bills may be looking for. They have three flanker options on the roster in Lee Evans, James Hardy and Steve Johnson (and potentially Chad Jackson), but only Roscoe Parrish as a slot option. That's kind of disgusting. I think the team will be looking for a WR late that can help in the slot and in the return game. There are a number of solid options that could be available late. Brown has explosive ability in the passing game and as a return man. He averaged almost 16 yards per punt return for his career and had five career punt and kick return touchdowns. He also racked up 305 receptions the past three season in CMU's spread offense as Dan LeFevour's favorite target. Brown appears to be a legit slot option and would make a great selection later on as a versatile receiver and return man. I also considered Arizona State's Kyle Williams and SMU's Emmanuel Sanders, both of whom I also like.
7th - Martin Tevaseau NT UNLV - If the Bills add a player like Al Woods earlier, I can see them looking for a pure NT late in the draft. I like some of the prospects that could in the 6th-7th round, including Tevaseau, Travis Ivey, Kade Weston and maybe Aleric Mullins. I think it would be a good idea to try adding a pure NT prospect to develop, especially if they take a bit of a tweener in Woods. Tevaseu was highly impressive in the East/West Shrine Game, and really made an impression on Marty Schottenheimer. I love the potential of this guy.
7th - Michael Smith RB Arkansas - Smith might be the type of scatback Gailey will be looking for. A solid runner, with good speed, quickness and receiving ability, he would make for a good late round addition. He's a little bigger than a Darren Sproles, but really reminds me of his running style. I hope the Bills address their desire for a scatback later in the draft as I see a couple of solid potential options. Besides Smith, Lamarcus Coker has been a guy I've been high on for a few months, Shawnbrey McNeal could be an option, Brandon James, and a deeper sleeper in Alex Henderson.
If the Bills were to end up trading Lynch this week, for say a 3rd or 4th rounder, I would love to address the OL with the pick. One of the players listed in my Ciron Black blurb above would be a good pick, IMO. Maybe one of the Center prospects as well.
Overall, there are some themes that I think will play out for the Bills this week. I really think Nix will be looking to address, and hopefully solve, our QB woes. Clausen or Tebow in the 1st make a ton of sense to me. I expect multiple pass rushers to be added, and maybe two NT prospects as I included in my mock. Speed on offense and versatile offensive linemen are also things I think we'll see the Bills looking for.
I know some of you will just love my mock, so have fun ripping it up! Draft week is finally here, and it's an exciting time for the Bills!