Almost everyone agrees that Buffalo needs linebackers. But what kind of linebacker do we need most?
Manti Te'o is a favored prospect for the Bills, both on this blog and in mock drafts. Both Rob Rang and Mocking the Draft currently have Buffalo taking Te'o in the first round. As an ILB, Te'o would presumably replace 2nd-year MLB Kelvin Sheppard and start in the base defense with Nick Barnett and Nigel Bradham on the outside. He is considered a better prospect than Luke Kuechly, who was picked at #9 overall this year. Thus, he could be gone before Buffalo picks in April.
Buffalo is currently ranked 30th against the run. The run defense, however, has improved in the last three weeks, holding each of those opponents to under 100 yds, in part because of improved defensive line play.
The Bills also struggle to cover tight ends. With our base defense, those responsibilities fall most upon Bradham at SAM and Barnett at WILL. On passing downs or against spread offenses, Barnett and Sheppard often come out, to be replaced by hybrid Bryan Scott and a third corner. After Chris Kelsay and George Wilson, Nick Barnett and Bryan Scott are the oldest starters on the Bills defense and neither has had their best season thus far. Even if they remain starters in 2013, the Bills must consider their successors in years to come.
In the second and third rounds of the draft, OLBs like Khaseem Greene of Rutgers and Sean Porter of Texas A&M will be available. (Other ILBs will also be available.) Both Greene and Porter are excellent against the run and in pass coverage. Greene has experience playing safety, and could also play Bryan Scott's linebacker/safety position covering tight ends.
Rumblers, what do you think about our linebacker corps? I have missed the last three games due to blackout and travel. Have the performances of our current starters - Sheppard in particular - improved, in your opinion?
If Buffalo was to draft Te'o, would he, like Sheppard, come out in our nickel and dime packages? Or is he a 3-down player?