Well, it's been a bit more than a week since free agency started, and most of the big moves have wound down. With the signing of Mark Anderson, Buffalo suddenly has one of the deepest d-lines in the league. This gives them a lot of flexibility in what they can pick during the draft, now that DE is no longer a ridiculous need. Keep in mind that Buddy Nix has not been directly opposed to trading down this year - he's even said he'd like to gain one pick by the time he drafts in April. With that being said, here's what I could see Buddy Nix doing on draft day:First of all, I'm going to mock all the way up through the first Buffalo pick, to give an idea of the players available.
- Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
- Washington Redskins (from St. Louis) - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
- Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings are open to trade offers, but not likely to get a king's ransom like St. Louis did. Plus, they really need a tackle and Kalil is almost a can't-miss prospect.
- Cleveland Browns - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Some people put Ryan Tannehill here, but I think they want to give their team more talent at the skill positions before jettisoning Colt McCoy. Let's not forget that their current RB corps is led by Montario Hardesty.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
If Richardson were here, the Bucs would probably think long and hard about him. But Claiborne is another stud prospect at a position Tampa Bay desperately needs talent at.
- St. Louis Rams - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
What an outstanding move by the St. Louis front office. They collect a ton of picks and still pick the player they'd have wanted at 2 anyways. Blackmon will give Sam Bradford a safety valve to throw to.
- Jacksonville Jaguars - Quentin Coples, DE, UNC
Jacksonville could really use a star WR even after signing Laurent Robinson. But just as important is fixing the team's continued pass rush woes. And Coples will be the best at that.
- Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
I know it's fun to laugh at the Dolphins for being unable to add good players. But honestly, Jeff Ireland probably knows what's at stake this offseason. If he doesn't find a true franchise QB for Miami, he's gone. Tannehill will be brought in as the future of the team, and he needs to be picked this high.
- Carolina Panthers - Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
The Panthers have two major needs right now - run defense and cornerback depth. I think they see this draft to have plenty of CB's and instead they take a potentially dominant defensive tackle who could anchor the line in 3-4 or 4-3 situations.
At this point the Bills have a ton of players available for them to pick, all who could make a difference, but perhaps none who are truly talented enough to select at number ten overall. That is why I'm predicting a trade:
- BUFFALO TRADES PICK #10 TO CINCINNATI FOR PICKS #17 and #53 Cincinnati Bengals - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
In Kirkpatrick, the Bengals see a surefire CB prospect with almost as high a ceiling as Claiborne, who could possibly be picked by several teams like the Chiefs and Cowboys. They have the extra first rounder so they don't mind spending a pick to move up and grab the second best CB in the draft. Buffalo takes it because they have so many prospects available to them that someone will fall to 17, plus it gives them another second rounder to pick another player with.
- Kansas City Chiefs - David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
The Chiefs missed out on Dontari Poe, so instead they go with the interior o-line and grab someone who will be opening holes for Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles for years.
- Seattle Seahawks - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
Seattle got their hopeful QB of the future in Matt Flynn, so now they can beef up their pass rush with Ingram.
- Arizona Cardinals - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Cardinals are stuck with Kevin Kolb and Levi Brown. Now they need to try and get a real LT to keep Kolb conscious during games. Martin is a finesse player, but fits the athletic mold of a left tackle and could make a difference for the Arizona offense.
- Dallas Cowboys - Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU
The Cowboys missed out on DeCastro, so instead they grab someone to help make their defense younger. Brockers had a weak combine but still is a raw powerful defender, and he could make an impact in 3-4 or 4-3 formations.
- Philadelphia Eagles - Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
With DeMeco Ryans, the Eagles filled up a linebacker need. They don't have any other major needs, but they could go for another strong DT to beef up their d-line. With the success of teams like the Giants, everyone's gonna want to have a strong d-line for disrupting the opponent.
- New York Jets - Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Jets badly need a pass rusher. When Aaron Maybin leads your team in sacks, you need a game-changer. Upshaw finally finds a match in Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense, and he'll be a great contributor with the pass rush.
- Buffalo Bills - Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Buffalo can go a number of ways at the 17th pick, but I think they surprise a bit and select the most athletic lineman available. Adams is a bit of an unsure prospect, with the measurables to be a powerful tackle but sometimes questionable awareness and toughness. However, Buffalo's o-line coach is up to the task of training him. A line of Adams-Levitre-Wood-Urbik-Pears with Hairston and Rinehart as backups would be nearly unstoppable.
Here's my full list of Bills picks:
Round 1 (pick 17): Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
As I said before, I think that Buffalo really likes Adams for his athletic chops and the position he plays. He's just not sure enough to be picked tenth overall. By trading down, the Bills grab another player and still get a LT for their offense.
Round 2 (pick 41): Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State
Buffalo has been hanging around Arizona State a lot this season. They don't have a developmental QB. Osweiler is raw and needs to develop behind an experienced starter. Sounds like a perfect match. This may seem like a high spot for Osweiler, but it's the only way for Buffalo to guarantee they get him.
Round 2 (pick 53): Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Buffalo has "depth" at the CB position but no clear leaders. Terrence McGee and Drayton Florence are both about two seasons away from retiring, Leodis McKelvin is an endless enigma of failure, Aaron Williams has shown promise to be a starter despite injury issues, and Justin Rogers flashed potential but is a former 7th round pick. Gilmore has the size and skill to become a tandem with Williams and shore up the position for years.
Round 3: Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State
As a small-school receiver without much publicity in a deep draft, Quick falls to the third round. That's fine by Buffalo, who finds themselves a great #2 receiver to pair with Stevie Johnson. 6'4" and 220 pounds, he's a nice big target for Fitz to throw to.
Round 4-1: George Iloka, S/LB, Boise State
Iloka had a mixed Combine, doing well in some agility drills but running a slow (for a DB) 40 time that had people suggesting he move to linebacker. With safety and linebacker being two positions with very low value, and Iloka being a "tweener" with no true position, I think he falls to the fourth round where Buffalo can pick him up to be the future Bryan Scott, and a backup FS.
Round 4-2: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
Broyles is coming of a torn ACL, but no one can question his production in college and what he was capable of before the injury. He's the slot receiver Buffalo needs to replace Roscoe Parrish, and his upside can be tremendous if he comes back. He falls to the 4th round because of his injury and inactivity in the offseason.
Round 5-1: Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri
Buffalo does not like small players at Tight End. To understand this, one needs only look at the players the Bills grabbed in the first two years under Chan Gailey. Not a single Tight End was under 6'5" tall. So if Buffalo grabs a TE this April, they're going to be a tall one. Egnew is tall, fast, and athletic, with the ability to separate and get open easily. He could be our version of Aaron Hernandez in a more open Chan Gailey offense. His biggest weakness is blocking, and that, combined with the overall lack of value for a tight end in the draft, could push him down to the 5th round.
Round 5-2: Michael Brewster, C, Ohio State
Brewster has had a pretty boring offseason, not wowing anybody during the Combine and slowly falling further and further down the draft in a weak center class. As a four year starter at Ohio State, Brewster has plenty of experience snapping the ball, which is good - because that's what Buffalo needs him to do. Brewster has fairly good size for the position at 6'4" and 310 pounds, but may be a little athletically limited. He has trouble with bull rushers and run blocking - a big reason why he dropped so far. But as a backup center who could potentially play for multiple games, he's a good option.
Round 6: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
My, how far we have come. Who once was considered a first round lock slowly but surely punched his draft stock in the face until there was nothing really left. Burfict has done everything possible to not get drafted, from poor workouts to insulting his coaches and teammates. Why does he get picked by Buffalo? Well, it's round six and he does have good tackling skills. And on a veteran-loaded defense, Burfict might finally turn around and become a model citizen. At the very least, he'd provide depth and a mean streak on special teams and behind Kelvin Sheppard.
Round 7: Adrian Hamilton, OLB/DE, Prairie View A&M
This is one of my "man-crushes," guys I've been following all season who I really want to see Buffalo draft. With the mass of depth on the d-line, he'd be hard to find a roster spot for, but I think that he could have an impact similar to Kellen Heard, as a back-of-the-chart substitute who can come in and make a play. Hamilton played at a lower league level, but amassed an incredible 20.5 sacks in 12 games. He was head and shoulders above everyone he played against, and athletically he is NFL capable. He has a Bills connection from his defensive coach in college, so I could see him being this year's Michael Jasper pick.
And finally, here's the 53-man Bills depth chart, with draft picks inserted (in bold):
|Position||1st String||2nd String||3rd String|
|QB||Ryan Fitzpatrick||Brock Osweiler||Tyler Thigpen|
|HB||Fred Jackson||C.J. Spiller|
|WR1||Stevie Johnson||David Nelson||
|LG||Andy Levitre||Chad Rinehart|
|C||Eric Wood||Michael Brewster|
|RG||Kraig Urbik||Michael Jasper|
|TE||Scott Chandler||Michael Egnew||Lee Smith|
|WR2||Brian Quick||Ryan Broyles||Brad Smith|
|LDE||Mario Williams||Chris Kelsay|
|UT||Kyle Williams||Alex Carrington|
|NT||Marcell Dareus||Torell Troup||Kellen Heard|
|RDE||Mark Anderson||Shawne Merriman||Adrian Hamilton|
|WLB||Nick Barnett||Chris White|
|MLB||Kelvin Sheppard||Vontaze Burfict|
|SLB||Kirk Morrison||Arthur Moats|
|CB1||Terrence McGee||Stephon Gilmore||Leodis McKelvin|
|FS||Jairus Byrd||George Iloka|
|SS||George Wilson||Da'Norris Searcy||Bryan Scott|
|CB2||Aaron Williams||Justin Rogers|
Let me also add that I've never done a full depth chart before, and wow does it get difficult. Tons of respect to the people who put them together. I had to cut a lot of players to reach 53 after all of the players Buffalo acquired this offseason. Some notables who didn't make it:
Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson, and Drayton Florence were all cap casualties who didn't quite fit the system anymore. Johnny White and Ruvell Martin, despite help on special teams, weren't useful enough to make the final cut. Many of the defensive linemen added this season, like Lionel Dotson and Jarron Gilbert, were unable to find a spot on the roster. Lastly, Derek Hagan just missed the cut against Marcus Easley, who could really produce if he's healthy this year. Since I'm assuming players recover from injuries, Easley would be in.
Overall, I think this draft would address almost every single one of Buffalo's needs. The resultant depth chart is very well-balanced, with perhaps the only weaknesses being the linebacker positions, which could be good or bad. This is the kind of roster that could make Buffalo an annual appearance in the playoffs.