GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 02: Justin Blackmon #81 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrates after he caught a 67-yard tocudown reception in the second quarter against the Stanford Cardinal during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 2, 2012 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Earlier this morning, we posted a list of ten 2012 NFL Draft prospects that Buffalo Bills fans should be familiarizing themselves with during this week's 2012 NFL Combine. This Top 10 list is slightly different: it is my own list of the ten players atop my altogether-too-early big board for April's selection meeting.
I've spent the past several weeks doing as much research and gathering as much intel on draft prospects as I could possibly muster. This list, as any good list, is very much subject to change as we learn more about players, re-assess their college careers and, most particularly, hear more about the team's goals and needs over the next couple of months. But with Combine workouts kicking off very soon, I thought it'd be a good time to give a general overview of my board before things start changing.
You may think of my Top 10 list in this manner: it starts with the obvious names, and then goes down from there in an "if the Bills can't draft him, they should draft him" manner. It is based solely on my own opinions, and you'll find it after the jump.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. Andrew Luck is a really good quarterback and a really safe prospect. It is a virtual certainty at this point that he'll be taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts.
2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. In any other draft class - with the possible exception of 2011, where Cam Newton reigned supreme - Griffin is a lock for the No. 1 overall pick. Luck's presence makes Griffin arguably the hottest draft-day trade commodity since Michael Vick. He'll likely be gone somewhere between pick Nos. 2-4.
3. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. You'll hear a lot about Blackmon's straight-line speed, and how he "needs" a good 40 time to cement his draft stock. That may be true, but you shouldn't read too much into it. Blackmon is an elite-level receiver and a dynamic play-maker, and has the look of being an early difference-maker a la last year's two star wideouts, A.J. Green and Julio Jones.
4. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. Claiborne is the latest stud cover guy to come out of LSU. He is productive (11 interceptions in his final two seasons) with excellent athleticism, and that's wrapped into a 6'0", 185-pound package, giving him the prototypical size to match up with most pro receivers. Claiborne is one of the safest bets in this year's class.
5. Matt Kalil, OT, USC. I'm of the opinion that tackle would be an "only if necessary" position to address for the Bills in Round 1 at the moment, but I still list Kalil ahead of the trio of pass rushers because he's such a slam dunk. He's huge, rangy and highly athletic, and he's an outstanding fit in any offensive system, but would be particularly effective in Chan Gailey's passing attack.
6. Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama. I prefer Upshaw over the other two rushers at the moment for a few reasons. First and foremost, he's a very good run defender. One of the Bills' biggest issues defensively is edge contain on run downs, and adding Upshaw would come very close to outright fixing that issue on one side of the field immediately. He's also athletic enough to play SAM linebacker in some situations in the 4-3, which is appealing considering the Bills have a need there. I also like him as a pass rusher, even though I agree with those assessing that he'll never be an elite sack artist. He's safe, he's dependable, he's versatile and he's aggressive. I think he'd be a great fit for this defense.
7. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. Bills fans with Aaron Maybin fresh in their minds are typically averse to the idea of drafting Coples, which is completely understandable. There's risk in taking a guy who saw fit to coast through a senior season in the middling ACC, regardless of how much talent he has. Here's the thing, though: Bills fans aren't generally mad that the Bills took Maybin; they're mad that Maybin was such a colossal bust. There's nothing wrong with taking a chance on a pass rusher. Coples is talented enough to take a risk on simply because the Bills have such a dire need at his particular craft.
8. Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina. I nearly listed Ingram ahead of Coples, but I didn't, and the reason for not doing so was his run defense. I don't foresee a scenario in which Ingram won't be a liability against the run, regardless of scheme or position. I don't like him at the point of attack. He'd be a Top 10 pick in Buffalo, ergo he'd be on the field, ergo he'd either be a run liability, or he'd be a part-time player. I don't necessarily want the Bills to take a part-time player with a Top 10 pick. All that said, he'd still be a good choice, because he's a smart, talented football player with the ability to pressure and sack quarterbacks. The Bills really could use a guy like that, even if he's not an every-down guy.
9. Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa. You may have noticed by now that "safe" has generally been good on this list; the Bills still aren't in a position to miss with their Top 10 picks. Reiff is a risk-averse addition to the list. He's a talented blocker, run and pass, and he'd be a strong, sensible addition to the team. He is just not the type of difference-maker that the team needs.
10. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford. The same rationale applied to Reiff applies to DeCastro, who is one of the best guard prospects to come out of the college ranks in years. The Bills don't necessarily need a guard, but they could certainly do with adding a really good football player to its offensive line - particularly if Eric Wood and Kraig Urbik can't eradicate their injury problems.
What does your Top 10 list look like?