I always enjoy reading through these for the ‘what-ifs’ as well as the ideas they may pop into my head and the conversations they seem to spark, so I figured I may chip in with (yet another) one. Made the first three selections what I would consider a virtually perfect two days for the Bills, but saved two picks from the first and two from the second.
1) Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU) 6’0 219lbs
I remember near the beginning of the football season I thought Peterson was the best player in college (including Luck). I still think he’s the best player in this draft and nothing will change that for me. I know most rumblers want a QB or a front 7 guy with this pick, but I think Peterson is both a special player and athlete; If I were Buddy Nix this pick would be childishly easy for me to make if he’s on the board at #3.
2) Nate Irving (ILB, NC State) 6’1 240lbs
If Ponder’s on the board he’s my pick here, but I think he’ll be gone by now.
One thing has defined Poz’s career thusfar: injuries. The Bills desperately need a good backup for Poz who can read plays quickly and defend sideline to sideline. For me, Nate Irving is the best ILB of that type in this class and I would jump on him here. He is very agile, extremely intense on the field, natural leader from the MLB position, and big time producer for the Wolfpack (guy had 21 TFL, 7 sacks, and 3 FF last season…) He can get lost in traffic and isn’t the greatest tackler, but Irving’s a playmaker. It’s a lot of fun watching him fly around the field after he diagnosed the play, and I’d love to see him doing it in a Bills uni. Oh yeah, one thing he can do which Poz can’t: cover.
The knock on him seems to be ‘injury concerns’, but as far as I can find, his only noteworthy injury was a major car wreck which caused him to miss his 2009 season. He came back better than ever in 2010, and by all accounts the near death experience reaffirmed his love for both football and life.
3) Ricky Stanzi (QB, Iowa) 6’4 223lbs
I can’t figure out why Stanzi doesn’t get more love by draftniks. He was a solid starter for two seasons before a great senior campaign. Will need to bulk up, and has an annoying tendency to throw intermediate passes low (which I consider to be a much better problem than throwing passes high). But he has all the physical and mental tools to succeed as a starting NFL QB, and the work ethic needed to do so. What impresses me most is his coolness in the pocket, he slides around avoiding pressure while working through his reads downfield. To me calmness and awareness in the pocket is an attribute that cannot be coached. Very worst case scenario is he turns into a solid backup, remember that’s not worst thing in the world. Best case scenario is the Bills get the steal of the draft with a guy becoming what Trent Edwards should have been.
Cam Newton is still my #1 QB because of talent alone, but I’d be shy about pulling the trigger at 3 because of the bust factor and character concerns. I just don’t see it with Gabbert and Locker; I think Mallet will be a trainwreck in the locker room and off the field. While I like Kaepernick a good deal I don’t think his skill set projects all that well to the pros; I feel he’ll need more time than the Bills will be able to give him. That all being said, if I were the Bill's GM Ponder and Stanzi would be getting a whole lot of attention from me.
4a) Chris White (ILB, Miss. St.) 6’3 240lbs
4b) Jah Reid (OT, UCF) 6’7 327lbs
White and Reid are repeated from my second mock. Nothing has changed here I still like both these picks very, very much. White as an ILB who plays downhill and hits lead blockers in the mouth, Reid as a highly underrated RT prospect who I think has a skill set and body type that translates very well into the pros.
5) Lee Smith (TE, Marshall) 6’6 266lbs
6) Cedric Thornton (DE, S. Arkansas) 6’3 309lbs
Smith and Thornton are repeated from my first mock. Smith is an exceptional in-line blocker and very sure handed short range target. Thornton is a solid 5-tech prospect who figures to be a contributor eventually at the NFL level.
7a) David Carter (DE/DT, UCLA) 6’5 301lbs
With Stroud and McCargo gone, we need two more defensive linemen. Carter improved steadily as a player over his college career, and didn’t earn a starting gig until his senior season. In that season he led UCLA’s D-linemen in tackles and also added 3.5 sacks. Solid athleticism and a frame that can hold more bulk, he is a good sleeper pick in my opinion because there is the upside in his game to be a starter.
7b) David Sims (SS, Iowa State) 5’9 200lbs
A pick this late in the draft likely holds more weight than it normally would, as this year undrafted rookies are going to be caught in limbo (assuming the lockout persists). They won’t know whether they’ll be in an NFL training camp come late summer or have to go get a job or play in another league or whatever. Having an extra pick this late allows the Bills to target their favorite guy of the bunch and lock him down.
Assuming Whitner’s gone it’s a position in bad need of added depth; David Sims would be a good pick in my opinion as a guy who could tremendously outplay his draft pick in time. I feel confident saying he’ll be a good special teamer, but I also feel there’s real potential here for a diamond-in-the-rough sort of safety. He’s a very hard hitter with a nose for the football in run support, and he’s solid (though not great) in deep coverage. Doesn’t have blazing speed, but plays fast on the field. The extra pick here brings us a guy with real starter potential at a position of need.
For what it’s worth, guys that may go undrafted that I like as possible UFDA:
Josh Gatlin (CB, North Dakota St.), CJ Gable (RB, USC), Joe Morgan (WR, Walsh), Terry Griffin (NT, Elizabeth City St.), Wayne Daniels (OLB, TCU), Ryan Colburn (QB, Fresno St.), Laupepa Letuli (OG, Hawaii), DeMarco Sampson (WR, SDSU), Dominic Cook (DB, Buffalo)