We're still counting down the days to the 2010 NFL Draft, and we've been over every big-name prospect relevant to the Buffalo Bills enough that we'll strive for something of a change of pace this morning. Unless, you know, you're interested in talking about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named again.
As I'm sure you're well aware, Buffalo's biggest needs are at QB, LT, NT and OLB. If the Bills could choose to select starters at any four positions, there's little doubt they'd pick players at those spots. But those aren't Buffalo's only need areas - not by any stretch of the imagination. The Bills could use depth across the entire roster (with the possible exception of the safety position), and there's a chance that the Bills could avoid drafting for need and simply take players they really, really like that will help the team at less critical need areas.
What follows are five prospects that would be excellent fits for the Bills as a team, and only two of them play positions that fall into the "critical need" category outlined above. These are five prospects that I believe deserve a lot more discussion from this fan base, as I think all of them would be fantastic picks for a Bills team that isn't just trying to fill holes, but establish an identity, as well.
1. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona. A year ago, after the Bills made Aaron Maybin their first first-round pick, the team tried desperately to trade up from pick No. 28 (which they'd acquired via trade for Jason Peters) in order to select Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew. Buffalo, and specifically Tom Modrak, love two-dimensional, physical tight ends that can block and catch. Gronkowski isn't anywhere close to being as polished as Pettigrew was, and the back injury that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season remains a legitimate concern. Like Pettigrew, however, Gronkowski is thick, long and physical, able to stretch a defense vertically simply because of his length, and is sound as a blocker. He has the potential to turn into an every-down starting tight end at the NFL level, and would be a terrific complement to last year's fourth-round pick, Shawn Nelson. Given Derek Schouman's presence on the roster, I realize that tight end isn't a huge need, but Gronkowski is a local product that plays with the type of temperament that this team needs - and he's super talented to boot.
2. Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois. Receiver as a need isn't discussed as much as it could be, and rightfully so - it's a position that you typically address last in a re-build. If Buffalo drafts a franchise quarterback at some point this year, however, it might be beneficial to bring in a target or two alongside him to let them grow together on the field. Benn, quite simply, is the most talented receiving prospect available this year not named Dez Bryant. His production dropped dramatically in 2009, but that can be blamed on the inadequacies of QB Juice Williams and an ankle injury Benn dealt with all season. This guy is ready to step into an NFL lineup right now, and the jury remains out on young guys like James Hardy, Steve Johnson and Chad Jackson. Depth at receiver wouldn't hurt this team, particularly if said depth has as much talent as Benn does.
3. Jason Worilds, OLB, Virginia Tech. This is another guy that has had injury issues, as Worilds' shoulders have undergone surgery numerous times and remain a huge concern. He wasn't overly productive in college either, seeing his sack total drop from 8.0 as a junior to 4.5 a year ago; a shoulder injury was the main culprit for that slip. Worilds is not exactly a natural pass rusher, either, as he doesn't possess the skill set to beat blockers one-on-one. What Worilds is is an extremely underrated athlete with great burst, explosion and tackling power. He's more blitzer than pass rusher, and he's an excellent fit in the 3-4, which would allow him to develop his natural coverage talents and help him get opportunities to rush the passer. He'd be a great fit for George Edwards without carrying the level of investment that some of the bigger-name rush linebackers would.
4. Torrell Troup, NT, Central Florida. Boy, do I think this guy is a fantastic fit for Edwards' 3-4 defense - and I've heard whispers that the Bills really, really like this guy. Troup has a tremendous work ethic and great character, has a great base, and has the arm length, hand punch and leverage capabilities to occupy multiple blockers as a pure 3-4 nose tackle. Troup is discussed more often than the other players here by this fan base, and for good reason: he's an outstanding fit.
5. John Jerry, OG, Mississippi. If Buffalo's looking to upgrade the interior of its offensive line, they might be better served targeting a center, as Geoff Hangartner struggles to handle the AFC East's big nose tackles without a significant amount of help. I really like Hangartner, but he might be better suited to guard here. That said, Eric Wood is a candidate to play center (he did it for four years at Louisville), so the Bills at least have options there. I'd rather see the team target a big, physical road grader - Fred Jackson can only make an offensive line look so good (and he did it tremendously a year ago), and 22 could use a nasty run blocker in front of him. The 6'5", 328-pound Jerry is a naturally powerful guard that excels at dominating defenders in the phone booth; ask him to pull and trap, and he'll struggle. If Chan Gailey is looking to provide identity to his offense via a power running game, Jerry would be a fantastic selection.