So if you haven't heard by now, Chan Gailey announced the Bills will be operating out of a predominantly 4-3 defense next year (but will likely play hybrid 3-4 once in while). This of course has huge implications as to who the Bills should target in the draft. Also given the fact that the Senior Bowl has affected some players' draft stock, I decided to restart a mock draft. Given that the combines are still a month away I guarantee that I will do a full seven rounds this time. For those wondering Bills fans selected OLB/DE Courtney Upshaw in the first and OT Mike Adams in the second.
Most notably, the Bills need a major pass rusher to man the defensive end spot. Another need is to acquire a 4-3 OLB to man the strongside. Needs/possible needs depending on free agency include wide receiver (or 2), left tackle, a starting tight end, an inside linebacker (for depth), another pass rusher, a corner (or 2) and a free safety for depth. Oh and maybe the Bills use a pick somewhere to groom a franchise quarterback.
Vote for the guy you would like best, and comment why so. Note that I have only put ten names below so if you don't see your fav player below, let me know and I will try to accommodate you in a later round or the next mock. Also, if players of a common position split a vote, I will recognize the need for that position (and majority voted player within that position) over the actual majority voted player. I try to balance the players I select among the Bills current needs while consulting cbssports.com, drafttek.com, and walterfootball.com; players physical measurements are from CBSsports while stats are from cfbstats.com. Here are the prospects!
QB Ryan Tannehill - Texas A&M [6-4, 222, 4.65]
The Bills seem to always be on the lookout for the next franchise QB. Weeden may be more impressively statistically, but with Fitz starting for the next couple of years, and Weeden just a year younger, the Bills would be looking for younger talent. Tannehill has great physical tools, pocket presence, a big arm and last season completed 327 of 530 attempts for 3,744 yards with 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
OT Riley Reiff - Iowa [6-6, 300, 4.94]
Perhaps the second best tackle in the draft, Reiff has dominated on the blindside for the past few seasons. A good physical build leads to good agility and strength with run and pass protection. Reiff shut down the opposition consistently and if the Bills do not re-sign Bell, will likely need to draft a left tackle.
WR Michael Floyd - Notre Dame [6-3, 224, 4.54]
Between lacking a serious #2 WR and more scarily that Stevie Johnson is a free agent, the Bills could use the first round to address either need (but hopefully just the latter). Floyd lacks elite speed, but is a steady blocker for a receiver and knows how to use his body and hands to make catches consistently. In the last two seasons Floyd made 179 catches for 2,172 yards and 21 touchdowns.
DE Quinton Coples - North Carolina [6-6, 285, 4.76]
Coples absolutely dominated in the Senior Bowl and the practices leading up to it. A strong pass rusher and run defender, the only question is whether Coples outperformed himself for the Bills to draft at tenth overall... Coples is huge and yet has incredible speed, better than some 3-4 OLB prospects in the draft. In the last two seasons Coples recorded 17.5 sacks, 114 tackles (30.5 for loss), 19 hurries and 5 forced fumbles.
DE Whitney Merculis - Illinois [6-4, 265, 4.68]
Perhaps the best 4-3 pass rusher this year, Merculis came away with 16 sacks, 57 tackles (22.5 for loss), 6 hurries and 9 fumbles this year alone. While the junior could be a one year wonder, Merculis has displayed a variety of moves to get in the backfield consistently and has the speed, size and stats Nix is looking for.
DE Nick Perry - USC [6-3, 250, 4.64]
Perry played 4-3 DE with the Trojans but would likely need to add some weight to be more effective. Over the last three seasons (Perry was hurt during part of a year), he recorded 21.5 sacks, 104 tackles (30.5 for loss) and 5 forced fumbles.
DE Courtney Upshaw - Alabama [6-2, 265, 4.76]
Upshaw is a bit on the shorter end, and may be a better fit as a 3-4 OLB. However, despite having elite speed, Upshaw consistently gets in the backfield and makes plays and is compared by some to a bear. All kidding aside, in the last two seasons, Upshaw has made 16.5 sacks, 104 tackles (32.5 for loss), 12 hurries and 6 forced fumbles.
LB Zach Brown - North Carolina [6-2, 230, 4.48]
Brown's stock fell with some character concerns coming to light, but given that the Bills have essentially no one at the SLB position, could trade down or reach to address that need. As a strict 4-3 OLB Brown has blazing speed and good all around athleticism in defending the pass and the run. In the last two seasons Brown made 177 tackles (15 for loss), 5.5 sacks, 6 interceptions, 4 passes defended and 6 hurries.
LB Dont'a Hightower - Alabama [6-4, 260, 4.78]
Although Hightower played ILB in college, he has great athleticism to play 4-3 OLB as well or takeover inside from Sheppard. Hightower has a big build for a linebacker and knows how to use it, having made 154 tackles (14.5 for loss), 4 sacks, 16 hurries and 6 passes defended in the last two seasons.
LB Luke Kuechly - Boston College [6-2, 237, 4.80]
Kuechly seems to be a pure MLB but has been a record breaker at BC over the course of his career with his instincts and tackling ability all over the field. In the last two seasons alone Kuechly recorded an astounding 374 tackles (22.5 for loss), 6 interceptions and 6 passes defended. Not the biggest position of need for the Bills with Kelvin Sheppard, but Kuechly has a pro-bowl nod in his future if he keeps up his collegiate success.