With the preliminary first round mock Rumblers tied percentage wise between DE Quinton Coples and OLB Courtney Upshaw with 18% of the vote. The need for a pass rusher was clearly forefront of Bills fans wants. I did not make the distinction clear enough as to what position Coples particularly belongs to (3-4 DE/4-3 DE in this one) so we’ll see how this affects voting in this round although Coples makes sense for the Bills (see bio blast below). This is on the basis that the Bills will be utilizing a 3-4 | 4-3 or 46 defense [see Der Jaeger’s ARTICLE for more on this issue]
The Bills will likely continue to work the 3-4 base defense under Wannstedt for versatility and to fit personnel and development of the players the Bills retained, picked up and drafted. Still, the players being drafted must also be able to fit 4-3 schemes at times. The biggest need is right now to get a pass rusher, but many top-10 elite college talents at this time aside from Coples are below this mark right now. Other areas that may be affected are at wide receiver and offensive tackle particularly with the likes of WR Stevie Johnson and OT Demetrius Bell on the market. Then again, other prospects may be too good to overlook taking.
Please note I have not included six names that likely will not be on the boards by time the Bills draft. These include QB Andrew Luck, QB Robert Griffin III, RB Trent Richardson, OT Matt Kalil, WR Justin Blackmon and CB Morris Claiborne. I know that RG3 in particularly has been a man of interest due to a really strong senior year capped with the Heisman but because of that and Barkley returning to USC, I feel RG3 will not be available by time the draft reaches the Bills tenth overall slot.
Additionally I have not included ILB Luke Kuechly given a lack of speed and utmost need, CB Dre Kirkpatrick given testing positive in drug testing, WR Kendall Wright due to 0/180 votes and OG David DeCastro as both Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart are restricted free agents.
Rules for this mock are as followed. People can vote for the player they want the Bills to pursue in the draft. The player with the highest percentage of vote will win unless players of a certain position win a higher percentage overall (in which the highest voted player of that position wins). IE if QB Ryan Tannehill won with 20% of the vote because people split the OLB vote between Upshaw, Perry, etc. the vote would go to the OLB player with the most votes; as more people would rather have an OLB over a QB.
Here are some bio blasts as to whom I think are among the top 12 in consideration for the Bills. Please note physical attributes are reported from CBSSports although I also used Walters, Drafttek and CFB (Stats) in compiling my lists.
QB Ryan Tannehill - Texas A&M [6-4, 222, 4.65]
The Bills recently re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a long term deal. Fitz provides stability at QB, but lacks elite play making or a big arm. Tannehill could be a good fit given his physical attributes but needs a year or two to develop. Tannehill has experienced as a wide receiver but as a QB completed 61.7% of his 530 passes for 3,744 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his senior year. Tannehill has a good arm, good pocket presence and he has mobility Gailey likes, but won’t likely be around by the Bills’ second round pick.
OT Jonathan Martin [6-6, 305, 5.29]
Essentially tied with Reiff as a legitimate left tackle, Martin has good size and speed to bring to the next level. Although he struggled against USC’s Perry, Martin otherwise had a strong junior season with pass and run protection.
OT Riley Reiff - Iowa [6-6, 300, 4.94]
Hairston may be a long term left tackle prospect but has struggled at times. With Bell a free agent and frequently injured, the Bills could seek an elite LT prospect in junior Riley Reiff. I have Reiff valued over Martin as Rieff has shown all season to be a force against major pass rushers and has impressive size and speed.
WR Michael Floyd - Notre Dame [6-3, 224, 4.54]
Floyd is arguably the best senior wide receiver in the draft and second only to Blackmon given that Jeffery has been shut out for much of 2011. Stevie Johnson is a free agent and the Bills have lacked a true #2 WR opposite him all season. Floyd is a tall wide out with good hands, blocking, route running and consistent production. In the last two seasons Floyd has caught 179 passes (100 in his senior year) for 2,172 yards and 21 TDs. This pick makes the most sense if the Bills cannot come to terms with Stevie.
Alshon Jeffery – South Carolina [6-4, 233, 4.56]
Jeffery’s stock took a hit given a drop in production during his junior year, but that was due to poor QB play. Jeffery’s stock will rise heading into the draft given his size and catching ability, but would benefit with getting better speed. Over the last two years, Jeffery still has caught an impressive 137 passes for 2,279 yards and 17 touchdowns.
DE Michael Brockers - LSU [6-5, 306, 4.95]
By popular demand I am switching out WR Kendall Wright (who incidentally is ranked as high as the #2 WR on some sites) with DE Michael Bockers. The super sophomore had a good season, his first as a full time starter and had 2 sacks, 54 tackles (10 for loss) and 4 hurries. Brockers statistically is not overly impressive but has great physical tools that could be developed in the course of a few years. Brockers would likely play 3-4 DE.
DE Devon Still - Penn State [6-4, 310, 5.06]
While acquiring another 3-4 DE is not the highest priority, Dwan Edwards could be updated. Competing with LSU’s Michael Bockers, Still wins out given his success with Penn State, stopping the run and pass rush. Over the last two years Still has made 8.5 sacks, 94 tackles (27 for loss) and 2 hurries.
DE Quinton Coples - North Carolina [6-6, 285, 4.76]
With Dave Wannstedt’s experience in the 4-3 defense the Bills could revert to this system, but need to draft a 4-3 DE. Coples certainly fits the bill having made 17.5 sacks, 114 tackles (30.5 for loss), 19 QB hurries and five forced fumbles over the last two seasons. Coples also has the size to be a 3-4 DE and better speed than some potential first round OLBs. Coples has pass rush ability and a knack for defending against the run and is essentially Mario Williams 2.0.
OLB Melvin Ingram - South Carolina [6-2, 276, 4.82]
Personally the former defensive tackle holds little appeal for me as he lacks the necessary speed for an OLB, but likely this will be improved during the combines. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that Ingram was a big SEC pass rusher with 19 sacks, 76 tackles (26 for loss) and 7 hurries over the last two years.
OLB Whitney Merculis - Illinois [6-4, 265, 4.68]
Merculis may be a one year wonder, but playing as a 4-3 DE, Merculis recorded an astounding 16 sacks, 57 tackles (22.5 for loss), 6 QB hurries and 9 forced fumbles in 2011. Merculis also has the athleticism to be a 3-4 OLB as evidenced by standing up a lot in formations. Merculis helped propel Illinois into a top FBS defense between his variety of pass rush moves and run defense. (see Walter’s article on Merculis) Merculis’s stock is on the rise and should even more with a strong combine and fits Nix's pass rushing OLB description to a tee.
OLB Nick Perry - USC [6-3, 250, 4.64]
One of the stronger senior candidates and climbing the draft boards is Nick Perry. Perry in the last three years made 21.5 sacks, 104 tackles (30.5 for loss) and 5 forced fumbles. Perry has good size and speed and has experience as a 4-3 DE but would likely be better suited as a 3-4 OLB given his size.
OLB Courtney Upshaw - Alabama [6-2, 265, 4.76]
Upshaw has been the most consistent pass rusher in college. With 15.5 sacks, 104 tackles (32.5 for loss), 12 hurries and 6 forced fumbles over the last two years; Upshaw has been the most productive and versatile pass rusher in the SEC. Upshaw has also been a staple in run support and can play as a 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB. Though his speed is a bit slow, Upshaw’s bloodiness and ability to get in the backfield to stop plays are quite evident.
Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of BuffaloRumblings.com.