Feb 25, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes offensive lineman Riley Reiff runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
With the 2012 NFL Draft now just ten days away, the questions are starting to roll in at a swift pace: what's going to happen with the Buffalo Bills and the No. 10 overall selection?
My advice to you, Bills fans, is this: don't discount any possibility just yet.
The Bills are at a point in the building of their roster where, on paper, their glaring needs are not many, and where depth in general is more concerning than finding a starter. Still, however, the team is not well-stocked with star players, so the team isn't yet likely to focus solely on their need areas if a highly-rated guy at another position is available when they pick.
Add in the fact that this year's draft class is short on blue-chip prospects and long on debate as to who the top player is at several key positions, and Bills fans are finding themselves in a position where nearly two dozen players would make some degree of sense for the team.
Quarterback: The team is bringing Texas A&M senior Ryan Tannehill in for a visit. The highly talented Tannehill is now expected to be a Top 10 pick despite only having started 19 games in college. Yes, the Bills gave a big contract to Ryan Fitzpatrick, but they've been looking for two years for a high-level developmental option, and while Tannehill would not fill an immediate need, he'd also be an ideal long-term successor to Fitzpatrick as the team's franchise quarterback.
Running Back: Well, okay; running back isn't likely to be high on the priority list. That said, Alabama junior Trent Richardson is one of a group of blue-chip prospects that can be counted on one hand this season, and if he were somehow available when the Bills were on the clock - and the Bills were somehow unable to swing a trade down for the runner's services - they could do a lot worse than taking Richardson. Trust us.
Wide Receiver: GM Buddy Nix has spent the past month talking up his current group of receivers - and yes, there is some talent there - but he's also made it clear that the team could use another "big-time" receiver to play opposite Stevie Johnson in Chan Gailey's offense. Whether or not the Bills see either Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd in that "big-time" category remains to be seen - these are not prospects at the level of last year's duo of A.J. Green and Julio Jones by any stretch - but if they do, they'd be at or near the top of the list of contenders for the pick.
Tight End: This is not a position at which the Bills typically focus major resources, and there isn't a tight end prospect worth exploring with the No. 10 overall pick, but Stanford star Coby Fleener could be an intriguing option if the team trades down. You can safely rule out the option if the team doesn't trade down, but you have to imagine that upgrading the position will be on the team's radar at some point.
Offensive Tackle: Matt Kalil is the cream of this year's crop, but it's still unlikely that the team would explore a trade up to secure his services. From there, there are a whopping four first-round caliber tackle prospects that the team could consider, either at No. 10 or in a trade down: Iowa's Riley Reiff, Ohio State's Mike Adams, Stanford's Jonathan Martin and Georgia's Cordy Glenn, who may be a better fit at guard. It's nearly impossible to pick a front-runner out of that group, though Reiff is by far the team's most popular mock draft selection around the web.
Guard/Center: David DeCastro is certain to be in or near the Bills' group of top-rated players when they're on the clock; we're just not sure his position is valued enough to take that early. That said, it's impossible to completely rule the option out considering that Andy Levitre, Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart are all essentially on one-year deals, and Eric Wood has a history of injury.
Defensive End: It seems unlikely that the Bills look this direction, given the free agent signings of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson and Nix's lukewarm comments about the top pass rushers available this year. That said, Chris Kelsay is 33 and Shawne Merriman isn't Shawne Merriman anymore, so it's not completely unreasonable to think that the team could look at pass rushers early if they're in a pinch.
Defensive Tackle: Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams can't be omnipresent on the field, and the team's pool of reserves right now looks, at best, like they'll be a specialized group incapable of satisfactorily stepping into the starting lineup. Nix has said that he likes this year's crop of defensive tackles. If Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox is available when the Bills pick, he may very well be the best player available. It's not crazy to think that a tackle could be added.
Linebacker: Luke Kuechly has been a hot topic of late amongst Bills fans, and for good reason - he's been the recipient of lavish praise and lofty adjectives from some of the more respected entertainment-level talent evaluators in the business today. Nix has said that the team needs another linebacker, but for now, the team appears to have its trio of starters set in Nick Barnett, Kelvin Sheppard and Kirk Morrison.
Cornerback: Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick has been in the conversation to be the No. 10 overall pick for months, and now Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina is getting a lot of attention. The team needs depth more than a starter at the position, but no team would turn down the opportunity to draft a true lock-down corner, and the Bills don't really have one of those on their roster.
Safety: Jairus Byrd is entering the final year of his contract. George Wilson has two years remaining on his deal and will be 31 this season. Bryan Scott has been moved to linebacker. The team likes 2011 fourth-round pick Da'Norris Searcy, but he's unproven. Is it really that crazy to think that Alabama safety Mark Barron wouldn't be a Top 10 option for the team? Particularly in a division that features Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Dustin Keller? We think not.
So yeah. Don't rule out too much, folks.