NFL Draft 2012: Buffalo Bills Targets And Surprise Factor

PALO ALTO CA - NOVEMBER 27: Jonathan Martin #55 and Richard Sherman #9 of the Stanford Cardinal celebrate after they beat the Oregon State Beavers at Stanford Stadium on November 27 2010 in Palo Alto California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

I'm asked quite frequently to predict who I think the Buffalo Bills will select with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Anyone who follows this blog closely knows that I am notoriously bad at this, even though the job gets significantly easier the closer we are to the big day.

Rather than make a prediction this year, I thought I'd take a different approach: rank some likely targets based on how surprised I'd be if the Bills went in that specific player's direction. In doing so, I stumbled across a player that I consider a clear front-runner at this point - assuming he's available - but stopped short of making an actual prediction. Why? Because predictions are useless, particularly when you've got to get nine predictions right beforehand before seeing if the prediction everyone's interested in will be right.

The target ranking is after the jump. How would you re-organize the list, if at all?

This year's draft will be the sixth (!) that I've covered at Buffalo Rumblings. I've been doing this for a while, and there are only so many reactions that I typically have to how the Bills spend first-round draft picks. Each reaction expresses a different level of surprise, and I thought it'd be the best way to organize this list as we draw closer to the first round. The five reactions:

  • "Yup." I don't say this often, because again, I'm very bad at making accurate predictions. This is what I say when the thing I most expect to happen actually happens.
  • "Hmm…" I'd say that the vast majority of in-game reactions fit this category, and most draft-day reactions beyond Round 2 fall in here, as well. In Round 1, however, this has not historically been a go-to reaction for me.
  • "Whoa." Typically, this reaction is reserved for the ideas in my head that I think make sense, but that I don't think the Bills will think will make sense. If that makes sense. You'll see what I mean below, I think.
  • "Ha!" Although this reaction is typically reserved for an obviously happy occasion, this can also be applied to a situation that goes against the day's conventional wisdom.
  • "Buffalo Rumblings is going to explode." Well, this one should be obvious. It can be good or bad, but again - obvious.

Let's get to the ranking, shall we? Please note first, however, that I took the 15 highest-rated prospects that visited One Bills Drive this spring and added two prominent non-visitors to the list to create the ranking. Consider anyone not on the list as candidates for either of the final two categories detailed above.

"BUFFALO RUMBLINGS IS GOING TO EXPLODE."
17. Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: I've seen first-hand what the mere mention of his name in a fantasy scenario does to Bills fans, and to the picker himself. Servers would melt. So would faces, Indiana Jones-style. There is no debating that.

16. Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse: Hey look, it's the other guy I took in the SB Nation NFL Bloggers Mock Draft this month. You know, the one most called a reach in Round 2, and who could now be a Top 15 pick. Even still, this is a guy that would make Rumblings explode were he to be picked.

15. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: People came pretty close to losing their minds when C.J. Spiller was the pick and Marshawn Lynch was trade bait. Now the Bills have two backs that fans generally love. You do the math.

"HA!"
14. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: He'd elicit this reaction simply by being available, let alone being picked by the team.

13. Matt Kalil, OT, USC: See the Claiborne explanation.

12. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: See the Claiborne and Kalil explanations. Obviously, I expect Nos. 12-14 on this list to be gone by the time the Bills pick. All three would be need-filling value grabs for the Bills at No. 10, and cause for a good deal of excitement. Perhaps even blog-melting excitement in some cases.

11. Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: You can't tell me that after all the talk about his short arms and the fact that he didn't visit One Bills Drive that, if the Bills were to take him, you wouldn't laugh out loud.

10. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: See the Reiff explanation. Floyd's got a significantly better chance at earning this reaction than Reiff does, in my opinion, but there's no question that Floyd has largely been written off by the fan base after Buddy Nix's recent commentary. If Floyd is the pick, all of those fans - a group that includes me - will have just been schooled by an old-school GM. That's worthy of a chuckle.

"WHOA."
9. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: In the unlikely (?) event that he's even available to the Bills, I think the team's fans would be having all-caps reactions to the pick, even if the team has made no secret for two-plus years that they'd like a franchise quarterback.

8. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: It's tough to find a large amount of Bills fans that dislike Martin as a prospect, but most understand that he's not Top 10 value. He'd definitely earn a "whoa" despite the Bills' need at left tackle.

7. Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: With the Bills loaded for bear along the defensive line, a reserve lineman - no matter how talented - would raise a few eyebrows, and potentially in a negative way.

6. Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina: The above explanation for Cox applies here, though there'd likely be a bit less negative reaction considering the fact that Ingram is a pass rusher. Still… whoa.

5. Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia: I think Glenn is the clear front-runner insofar as offensive linemen, and I think that finding a competent left tackle is by far the team's top offensive priority - if not just priority - this week. It would still be somewhat shocking if Glenn were the pick, however, given Nix's history of acquiring linemen. He's capable of pushing Chris Hairston, I believe, but questions about his position, his ability, and the value of the pick would be abundant.

"HMM…"
4. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: Kirkpatrick has been on the radar of this fan base for months, but some red flags off the field would be an issue for a large portion of the fan base, I'm guessing. Particularly if cleaner prospects - like Nos. 2 and/or 3 on this list - are still available.

3. Mark Barron, SS, Alabama: We know that the Bills like their safeties; Nix made that very clear. We also know that Barron is one of the better players available this year, and would be among the better value picks should he be available. The "whoa" would be more in regard to the statement made about the team's safeties - or how highly they think of Barron, perhaps - than the pick itself.

2. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College: Kuechly is widely regarded as an excellent prospect. He's being talked up left and right not just by Bills fans, but by the so-called experts. That said, if he's the pick, questions will arise about how he'll be utilized in the team's various defensive looks, and questions about Kelvin Sheppard will surface, as well.

"YUP."
1. Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: Yes. I consider Gilmore to be the clear front-runner at this point. He's got the athletic prowess to go earlier - and he very well could - despite a few question marks about his instincts. There are a lot of worthy candidates to discuss regarding the Bills and the No. 10 overall pick, but none of them have the combination of high-level athleticism, cleanness and positional value that Gilmore carries. We'll see if he makes it to No. 10; that's not remotely a lock. If he's available, however, I fully expect Gilmore to be the pick.

Barring a pick engendering a reaction ranging between "whoa" and "Buffalo Rumblings is going to explode," of course.

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