Those of you who have been following this site may know that I have been polling periodically of who Bills fans would want to draft. The Bills started off this past year strongly before a combination of injuries to key starters, poor depth and inconsistencies. This draft may be the last piece to put together a playoff caliber team. Drafting tenth overall, the Bills could target a dozen highly skilled players but ultimately have to choose one.
The Bills have many question marks as to what position to address first in the draft, whether or not to pursue a franchise quarterback and perhaps the most important, do the Bills keep at a 3-4 defense or a 4-3 defense under Dave Wannestadt. The most primary area of need is at the 3-4 pass rushing linebacker, but there are not any top-10 elite college talents at this time (the combines will be big in this regard). Other areas that are not set either with performance of starters or impending free agency are at wide receiver, corner back, offensive tackle and guard, tight end, inside linebacker, safety and potentially the defensive line and quarterback.
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.
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. More often than not last year I did this though, the majority vote getter often won so do not worry. As always, remember to comment (and rec) for players/arguments to sway others to your cause.
Here are some bio blasts as to whom I think are among the top 12 in consideration for the Bills.
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 reverted back to QB last year, and has made a lot of improvement. He has completed 61.7% of his 530 passes for 3,744 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Tannehill still has some work to do so it'll take a year or two to bring him up during which Fitz would start, but has the right tools to be a really good QB. Good arm, good pocket presence and he has mobility.
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.
OG David DeCastro - Stanford [6-5, 312, 5.22]
WIth both right guards Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart set to become free agents, the Bills may look for a dominant blocker inside. DeCastro is the best guard in the draft and is a top-10 talent as well having protected Luck for much of three years. Rarely getting beat, DeCastro excels in both pass and run blocking with the bigger size Gailey likes his linemen to have.
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.
WR Kendall Wright - Baylor [5-10, 190, 4.38]
Another receiver worth looking at is Kendall Wright out of Baylor. Part of the problem with the Bills pass attack has been a lack of a #2 WR and a deep threat. Wright satisfies both areas with impressive speed and production. In the last two years, Wright has caught 186 passes (108 in his senior year) for 2,615 yards and 21 TDs.
DE Quinton Coples - North Carolina [6-6, 285, 4.76]
With Dave Wannstedt 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, 30.5 tackles for loss and 19 QB hurries over the last two seasons. Having Coples gain 15 pounds to fit a 3-4 DE or lose 15 pounds to be a 3-4 OLB may be a bit of a reach though.
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, 33.5 tackles for loss, 6 QB hurries and 9 forced fumbles in 2011. Merculis also has the athleticism to be a 3-4 OLB.
OLB Sam Montgomery - LSU [6-4, 245, 4.56]
Montgomery is just a sophomore but he recorded 9 sacks and 13 tackles for loss this past year. Bills fans are wary of one year wonders after a certain ill-advised first rounder a few years back, but Montgomery has been an anchor for a top ranked defense and has blazing blaze. Like Merculis though, the lack of collegiate experience may be a cause for caution for a top-10 pick.
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 and 32 tackles for loss. 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.
OLB Courtney Upshaw - Alabama [6-2, 265, 4.76]
Upshaw has been the most consistent pass rusher in college. With 15.5 sacks, 12 hurries and 32 tackles for loss over the last two years, Upshaw has also been a staple in run support. Upshaw lacks great speed and has yet to record double digit sacks in a season though.
ILB Luke Kuechly - Boston College [6-2, 237, 4.80]
Inside linebacker is not the Bills biggest need, but given that Kelvin Sheppard is not as dominant as Barnett and the struggles the Bills have in covering tight ends, this pick could make sense. Kuechly is the best ILB prospect in the past few years having recorded 374 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 6 picks in just two seasons as a starter. He lacks great speed, but is a play-maker and very smart.
CB Dre Kirkpatrick - Alabama [6-2, 219, 4.49]
Kirkpatrick has been a shut-down corner back in college. Tall with good speed, this junior has had 78 tackles, 3 picks and 16 passes broken up in the last two years. Corner back isn't the biggest need for the Bills but given that McGee has been often injured over the last three years and Florence's and McKelvin's struggles over the last year, the Bills could be looking for a new person opposite of Aaron Williams.
Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of BuffaloRumblings.com.