With new uniforms en-route, the Bills are looking ahead to create a playoff/super-bowl push in 2011. To do that though, they will need to fill several holes and potentially a few others depending on what transpires once free agency resumes in light of the possible lockout. While that market could satiate many needs for the Bills, lets suppose that no trades/acquisitions are made before the draft. The not so surprising release of Marcus Stroud creates depth issues on an already struggling D-line. Also with the assumption that Whitner is a lost cause due to money demands, the Bills will need to take advantage of this upcoming draft to take care of several needs.
These needs include (but are not limited to) a right tackle, a complementary inside linebacker (once Poz is resigned), a third running back, a big pass rushing outside linebacker, one or two defensive ends/tackles, one or two corner backs, a strong safety, and a starting tight end. Due to these needs, I feel strongly that the Bills should make a trade (or two) down with their third overall (first round pick). Lets assume for the moment that the Bills will be unable to do so/will not want to. This means the Bills will have to take advantage of the free agency market.
There are a number of options in free agency I feel that the Bills could pursue. Offensively these include right tackles Marshal Yanda, Ryan Harris and Jared Gaither, and tight ends Zach Miller, Marcedes Lewis and Kevin Boss. Defensively, the Bills could go at Shaun Smith, Stephen Bowen and Shaun Ellis at the line to start or Tony McDaniel, Kenyon Coleman or Antonio Johnson for depth. Kevin Burnett, Barrett Ruud, or Stephen Cooper could be ideal middle linebackers. As for the secondary, Bob Sanders or O.J. Atogwe at strong safety with either Brandon Carr or Antonio Cromartie at corner back. DE Shaun Smith would be a huge asset to get as a two down run stuffer (Carrington would grab the third down) while CB Nnamdi Asomugha would be amazing but too expensive (but who knows given that the Bills got rid of Stroud. And depending on what happens with Whitner, the Bills could pursue a safety like Bob Sanders. For the sake of simplicity, lets say that the Bills are able to snag Ryan Harris to compete for a starting right tackle (with Pears and Wang) and a backup defensive lineman in Shaun Smith, with Bob Sanders rounding out the group provided George Wilson is resigned. Poz also is resigned. If the Bills could also sign ILB Barrett Ruud to complement Poz, that would be ideal.
Onto the draft, Carolina will nab Nick Fairley and Denver will take Da'Quon Bowers. At this point the Bills have four primary options to go with their third overall pick. These include DL Marcell Dareus, LB Von Miller, CB Patrick Peterson and QB Cam Newton. Also under consideration would be DE Cameron Jordan, LB Robert Quinn, QB Blaine Gabbert and WR A.J. Green. Everyone from Newton down on the list I feel Buffalo would be reaching; Newton, Quinn (and Fairley) only had one year of greatness with little to show before that (Newton with nothing at all) but all have good physical tools. Gabbert is the most poised of this year's QBs but is in need of a year's+ development to the NFL (something which I feel is not indicative of a top 3 talent). Green is a no-go because of the great depth the Bills have with their receivers; all that is needed is a slightly retooled O-Line to give Fitz more protection. Jordan is very good, but never had a season with more than 6 sacks.
Dareus fits in that latter category with Jordan, but played predominately at DT (which could help or hurt the Bills) whereby sacks are less frequent, but still showed good poise and stopping the run. Peterson is a beast at CB and if Denver passes over him, the Bills will be hard pressed not to take him given Florence Free Agent/Penalty Machine, McKelvin Inconsistency and McGee Injury-Prone. Lastly, Von Miller has had two great years at Texas A&M recording double digit sacks, but would be undersized (240lbs) to play OLB in a 3-4 scheme. Ultimately my pick at #3 overall goes to Patrick Peterson as he is simply too good to pass over.
With their second pick depending largely on who is not taken in the first round, the Bills could see themselves courting DL Cameron Hewyward, TE Kyle Rudolph, or ILB Martez Wilson. OT Derek Sherrod, although a good player, is less of a priority as I feel Gailey has a strong opinion of Erik Pears. Also a possibility would be QB Jake Locker (but he's likely a first rounder), while QB Colin Kaepernick could be drafted, but is more of a later second round selection. Ultimately, the Bills will go with TE Kyle Rudolph. This is because the Bills have not had a competent tight end for the last decade and really need a long term solution to that area.
The third round will be reserved to the quarterback. The Bills need a franchise QB, but all prospects this year will need a year or two to develop. Its better to take on a QB here than in the first round simply for investment purposes. If the Bills have the chance in 2012 to draft Luck, Barkley or Jones, the Bills could grab one without a second thought. In the meanwhile though, the Bills have the ability to take on a future long term prospect. Even if Colin Kaepernick (who is similar to Cam Newton but with 4 yrs of experience) is not available, both Pat Devlin and Andy Dalton have the right tools for any football team. Other players the Bills could be on the look out for are DEs Christian Ballard and Allen Bailey, TE Lance Kendricks or Luke Stocker, or LB Quan Sturdivant.
For their first of their fourth round picks the Bills will address the need for a future long term middle linebacker and draft Kelvin Sheppard if available, otherwise pursuing Casey Matthews. Both of these players are very good in the middle, but Sheppard wins out the nod due to his better speed. Also in the runnings are TE D.J. Williams (who has been incredibly productive at Arkansas), safety Robert Sands and OT James Brewer. As for their other fourth round pick, the Bills will try to take DL Lawrence Guy, a project but a good fit as a 3-4 DE. Jarvis Jenkins and Cedric Thornton warrant looks if Guy is not available as well as OT Lee Ziemba and CB Jalil Brown.
Heading into the fifth round the Bills have yet to grab a second corner back, a third running back and a backup linebacker (to play outside or in). At this level, it really becomes subjective as to who you pursue and who is still available. With Aaron Maybin clearly not cutting it, the Bills could use another outside linebacker to supplement Kelsay, Merriman and Moats. Steven Friday could be drafted here on in the sixth, while Greg Romeus, Chris Carter and cancer surviver Brian Herzlich could be targeted as well. Friday is quite explosive and developed nicely in his last year. Also to consider are OT Derek Hall, TE Charlie Gantt and SS Jeron Johnson.
For their sixth round pick the Bills will grab their other corner back with Gailey's old student, Mario Butler. Butler has good height and speed and could develop nicely although Cortez Allen and Chykie Brown warrant consideration as well. Also ideal is RB John Clay whom the Bills could benefit from goal line punches, plus he could double up as a fullback with his size (he also had back to back 1000 yard rushing seasons). LB Markus White and DL David Carter round out the list.
Lastly, in the seventh round, the Bills would grab their third running back via Roy Helu, also with back to back 1000 yard rushing seasons, although I would not say no to Alex Green or Anthony Allen. Running back depth this late is good so the Bills will have their pick here. TE Zach Pianalto, SS Dom DeCicco and CB Josh Thomas end this list. Here is the recap.
1/3 – CB Patrick Peterson (LSU)
PA: CB Prince Amukamara (Nebraska)
OA: DL Marcell Dareus (Alabama), LB Von Miller (Texas A&M), QB Cam Newton (Auburn)
2/34 – TE Kyle Rudolph (Notre Dame)
PA: TE Luke Stocker (Tennessee)
OA: LB Martez Wilson (Illinois), DL Cameronn Heyward (Ohio St), OT Derek Sherrod (Mississippi St)
3/68 – QB Colin Kaepernick (Nevada)
PA: QB Andy Dalton (TCU), QB Pat Devlin (Delaware)
OA: DL Christian Ballard (Iowa), TE Lance Kendricks (Wisconsin), LB Quan Sturdivant (North Carolina)
4/99 – LB Kelvin Sheppard (LSU)
PA: LB Casey Matthews (Oregon), LB K.J. Wright (Mississippi St)
OA: TE D.J. Williams (Arkansas), FS Robert Sands (West Virginia), OT James Brewer (Indiana)
4/120 – DL Lawrence Guy (Arizona St)
PA: DL Jarvis Jenkins (Clemson), DL Cedric Thornton (Southern Arkansas)
OA: OT Lee Ziemba (Auburn), CB Jalil Brown (Colorado), LB Nate Irving (North Carolina St)
5/131 – LB Steven Friday (Virginia Tech)
PA: LB Greg Romeus (Pittsburgh), LB Chris Carter (Fresno State), LB Bruce Herzlich (Boston College)
OA: SS Jeron Johnson (Boise St), OT Derek Hall (Stanford), TE Charlie Gantt (Michigan St)
6/163 – CB Mario Butler (Georgia Tech)
PA: CB Cortez Allen (Citadel), CB Chykie Brown (Texas), Devon Torrence (Ohio St)
OA: RB Jonathan Clay (Wisconsin), LB Markus White (Florida St), DL David Carter (Stanford)
7/195 – RB Roy Helu (Nebraska)
PA: RB Anthony Allen (Georgia Tech), RB Alex Green (Hawaii), RB Darren Evans (Virginia Tech)
OA: TE Zach Pianalto, SS Dom DeCicco, CB Josh Thomas (Buffalo)
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