The day has come, folks - after months of mock drafts and ultimately useless speculation, the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft kicks off at 7PM this evening. The Buffalo Bills, holders of the No. 9 overall pick, will be conducting their first draft with new GM Buddy Nix calling the shots.
If there's one thing we can predict regarding Buffalo's participation in this year's draft, it's unpredictability. Nix has never run a war room before in his long, rather illustrious career as a personnel executive, so we therefore don't know precisely what to expect from the team under his watch. It's probably best if you enter tonight's festivities expecting nothing but the unexpected - it's likely we'll emerge with a good player anyway.
In order to provide a comprehensive primer heading into tonight's first round, it was necessary to include, as the title suggests, 13 prospects. That's how wide the Bills' scope is heading into their first pick, and for all we know, it could be wider. Ultimately, we do believe that the Bills have established priorities for tonight, but again, we're using the word "think" - really, anything could happen, folks. We'll rank the baker's dozen in terms of likelihood to end up with Buffalo if available, but please, don't use it as a rule; it's more of a guideline.
THE TOP TWO
1. Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State. I've said all along that Okung has been slightly overrated as a prospect, but if you're looking for a safe investment and an immediate starter at left tackle, Okung's your guy. The problem, obviously, is that the Bills aren't anywhere close to being the only team looking for a safe investment and an immediate starter at left tackle; Okung is likely to be off the board. But we've seen tackles slide on draft day - Eugene Monroe a year ago comes to mind - and should he be available, I don't think it'd take long for the Bills to get their card to the podium.
2. Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma. Quite possibly the hottest name in the draft right now, Williams has emerged a serious threat to Okung's seemlingy locked-in position with Washington at No. 4 overall. Though he struggled at left tackle as a senior, he was brilliant on the right side as a junior, and teams love his natural talent and upside. Again, it's unlikely he slides, but if he does, we view him as a sure bet to be snapped up by Buffalo.
THE CHEESE STANDS ALONE
3. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida. Maybe I've fallen hook, line and sinker for the most blatantly obvious smoke screen in human history; I'm certain there's a strong contingent of Rumblers who sincerely hope that I have. But ESPN's Adam Schefter busted out the "enamored" word when discussing Buffalo's feelings for Tebow, and I'm inclined to agree - no prospect better fits Nix's profile (leadership, experience, production) and Chan Gailey's profile (athleticism) than the former Gator. I hope I'm right in claiming that Buffalo won't take Tebow at No. 9, but if one of the tackles doesn't slide, then I think Tebow becomes their top priority, and where, not if, becomes the major question.
THE LEGITIMATE NOT-QUITE-SLEEPER CANDIDATES
4. Dan Williams, NT, Tennessee. I'll defer to Rumblings legend abayarde for a moment, who recently shared this opinion with us: "DEFENCE WAtch them droop the kabum on everbody." I tend to think abayarde's onto something. Very early on in the process, I heard glowing reviews of Williams from folks much closer to One Bills Drive than I. Williams wouldn't be a sexy pick, but he'd fill arguably our defense's major need, and his selection would fortify a Bills defensive line in need of more beef.
5. Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa. Many lump Bulaga into the same group as Okung and Williams, but even in an iffy OT class, I'm not sure Bulaga's on the same level as the consensus top two tackles. Bulaga's a good football player, a better person and an outstanding fit for Buffalo from a need, playing style and personality standpoint. There's just much better value at No. 9, and I think Nix knows this - a Bulaga selection would hardly be a bad move, but it'd also be an act of settling.
6. Derrick Morgan, OLB, Georgia Tech. You never can count out pass rushers early, and far more pertinently to Buffalo, you can't count out Georgia Tech alumni. Morgan is a physical player that's a better fit for the 4-3, but is passable enough athletically to get you by as a 3-4 rush linebacker - particularly if he's side-designated and playing on the strong side of the alignment. He may not ever be an elite edge rusher in the NFL, whichever scheme he ends up in, but he's a solid all-around player that will play a long time. He'd also provide Buffalo's OLB corps with something it currently lacks - the ability to stop the run.
THE "NOW WE MIGHT BE STRETCHING" GROUP
7. Jerry Hughes, OLB, TCU. I called him a sleeper pick a week ago, and I'm sticking by that. Hughes is the type of player that the Bills, and Nix, have typically fallen for - great athlete, great college production, slight reach (see: Whitner, Donte, minus the "great" in front of "college production"). Buffalo needs all the pure pass rush help it can get, and many believe that Hughes is the best this class has to offer in that department. He could also be a target if the Bills get an opportunity to move down.
8. Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers. Not much has circulated through the rumor mill regarding the Bills' feelings towards Davis, which is rather odd, considering they've been linked to tons of prospects throughout the pre-draft process. In terms of pure playing talent, Davis, in my humble opinion, is the best this draft class has to offer at tackle - he's big, powerful at the point of attack, tremendously athletic, and hasn't come close to realizing his full potential. But maturity issues have plagued him throughout his collegiate career (and followed him to his pro day), and that's a major red flag for a supposedly character-driven organization like Buffalo. I'm not convinced the Bills don't like Davis, but I'm not convinced he's on their short list, either.
9. C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson. Spiller is the real deal, folks - I'm not sure the Chris Johnson comparisons are apt, but Spiller is a game-breaker that will have an immediate impact not only as a rusher, but as a kick returner. Buffalo has two solid backs, but they only have one home run threat offensively (Lee Evans), and it could be tricky getting him the ball in 2010. Spiller wouldn't fill any of the team's gaping holes, but he'd be great value, and he'd bring the immediate impact that Nix expects from this pick.
10. Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama. Buffalo's already got three inside linebackers, so again, their need at this position is not tremendous. That said, McClain is a big, strong, fast linebacker that will excel in a 3-4 defense, and he's got the smarts and leadership qualities that could turn him into the proverbial quarterback of the unit. The Bills dig intangibles (see: Tebow, Tim), and McClain has those in spades. This would be almost a last resort pick, but even on a crowded ILB depth chart, McClain could start as a rookie.
THE GUY IN PLAY IF MOVING FROM NO. 9 NOT NAMED TEBOW
11. Charles Brown, OT, USC. There will absolutely be a run on tackles in round one, and you'll see a lot of guys go much higher than they were originally projected to, a la Sam Baker in 2008. Brown has elite athleticism and as high a ceiling as the draft's bigger names at tackle, but is considerably raw and may not be able to start right away. Still, for a team as starved for line depth as Buffalo, he'd be a solid investment if the team finds a way to move down - unless, of course, they're sliding a bit to get more value out of a Tebow selection.
THE GUYS WE BEG YOU NOT TO FORGET ABOUT
12. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas. Tebow fits the Nix/Gailey profile of leadership, intangibles, production and athleticism, but so does McCoy - yet he hasn't gotten much buzz around Buffalo. We think we know why: his arm strength is not suited for Buffalo, and McCoy could really struggle with Buffalo winters. That said, he's the type of on-field general that Nix covets, and he's certainly got the most experience of any QB available this year. He's also got the athleticism to extend plays that Gailey likes to see. Don't sleep on this kid, though if they want him, they might have to pull a similar trade to the move-up-for-Tebow projections we've seen, because McCoy, too, is a rather hot commodity.
13. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame. Maybe this is a little self-indugent; maybe it reeks of denial; maybe I've completely lost my mind. I've heard "Buffalo won't take Clausen" so much this off-season that the only thing I can recall is consistently hearing "Buffalo won't take Maybin" a year ago. Look how that turned out. They'll probably pass on Clausen at nine, but no one, not even the QB-picky Nix and Gailey, can deny Clausen's talent. If they move down even a little and Clausen continues to slide, you can bet they'll bring his name up again in the war room.
That's it. There's our baker's dozen. Before you dive into the comments section full-throttle this lovely draft morning, remember our first caution: only expect the unexpected tonight. We'll be here throughout the day updating with rumors, news and speculation, and if you're bowing out for the work day, we'd better see you back here tonight as we cover the NFL Draft LIVE throughout the entire first round. Go Bills! Show us the baby, Buddy.