Depending on what defensive scheme Buffalo Bills GM Buddy Nix is scouting for, it is becoming increasingly clear that there could be a different defensive lineman atop his board if he and Chan Gailey are not yet completely sold on the 3-4.
Yesterday, we took a look at my top five defensive linemen available this year (pre-Combine). Alabama's Marcell Dareus sat atop that list, and did so in large part to his schematic versatility. Sitting third on that list is California's Cameron Jordan, a player who also offers schematic versatility, but not necessarily positional versatility within those two schemes.
Wes Bunting (National Football Post) isn't the first draft analyst, and certainly won't be the last, to point out that Jordan actually profiles as a better 3-4 defensive end than does Dareus. Though Dareus has the look of a better run stuffer, Jordan is quite competent in that department as well, and offers better pass rush ability.
Last year, the Bills took Alex Carrington in the third round - a high-upside five-technique prospect that flashed upside in limited playing time as a rookie. Between Bunting's top two five-technique players this year, Jordan is clearly much closer to Carrington athletically than is Dareus. If Nix is looking for that type of athlete around which to build his 3-4 defense, then it's not out of the realm of possibility that Jordan - or a similar player, such as Wisconsin's J.J. Watt or Ohio State's Cameron Heyward - is viewed by the Bills as a slightly better fit for the need than a squattier guy like Dareus.
Keep in mind, also, that Dareus is appearing earlier in mock drafts than Jordan not because he's a slam-dunk to be a significantly better pro, but because he'll appeal to more teams due to that versatility. Jordan could play strong-side end in a 4-3, but it's pretty clear that his best fit will be in the 3-4, where he'll be both an effective run defender and pass rusher. Perhaps to a team like Buffalo - or any team with a 3-4 - the two players' grades are fairly equal, with the versatility factor less prominent. Then again, if Buffalo is still going to play a hybrid front, that versatility may not be less of a factor at all.
Between Nix and Gailey, the GM strikes me as more of the long-term thinker, whereas Gailey's job is to focus on the here and now. That could speak to why Nix is steadfastly scouting for the 3-4, and why Gailey believes that the team will continue to use both alignments - Nix has his goal, and Gailey can't operate that end goal until the talent is in place. With that in mind - and yes, it's all speculation - it shouldn't surprise anyone if the Bills grade certain defensive linemen higher than others based on scheme fit. That goes for other defensive positions, as well.