This is an article constructed heavily on opinion. It contains two lists - each containing eight names, because the Buffalo Bills have the eighth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft - of prospects that I believe Bills fans should be considering while discussing the team's first-round pick this spring. By reading and commenting on this article, you (ideally) agree to understand the following:
- The list is not final - in fact, it's extremely fluid. We are still in the information-gathering stage of the pre-draft process. The Combine provided a weekend full of information, which prompted this post to begin with - but there's still a lot to learn.
- There are numbers next to each name, implying a ranking, but you could get by just ignoring them. It's just a rough ranking at this point. The two separate groups are a far better indicator of how I'm approaching the thought process at this point. The first group are the eight names that I would consider front-runners to be the pick; the other eight names are top-end prospects that I think could sneak into a higher level of consideration at some point.
- If a player is not listed here, that doesn't mean that they can't be listed eventually. This list was published on February 27, 2013, after all. So no, I don't hate that player you love.
- No, I am not an expert - nor do I pretend to be. Please don't pretend that I am, or that I think that I am. This list is based on my own observations; trust the list as far as you trust my observations.
Without further ado, let's get to those 16 names.
The Primary Group
1. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
On tape he's still the best pass rusher in the draft; it's a bummer that Combine weekend didn't definitively answer any questions about his spinal stenosis or his general athleticism. Georgia's pro day is on March 21; that date could make or break Jones' bid to be a Top 5 pick. He profiles as a great SAM linebacker with elite-level pass rushing skills in Mike Pettine's hybrid 4-3 defense.
2. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
A very good cornerback on tape, Milliner really answered the only question about him - his long speed - with a 4.37-second 40-yard dash in Indy. It's tough to envision Milliner sliding past Detroit with the fifth pick, but pairing him with Stephon Gilmore would give Pettine an outstanding pair of young corners around which to build his attack.
3. Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
Jordan is a very unique, elite-level athlete that is another player that profiles as a SAM linebacker that would put his hand in the dirt on passing downs in Pettine's system. With plenty of experience dropping into coverage, that's a role that Jordan could play very well. His tape isn't the greatest, but his upside is immense.
4. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
There's enough on tape (in flashes) and in his Combine performance to call Smith the cleanest prospect available at quarterback this year. I'll leave it to you to debate whether or not he's worth a Top 10 pick, but there's no reason to rule a prospect like this out before the calendar hits March - that's how desperate the Bills' need for a quarterback prospect is. There's a lot to like about Smith.
5. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
Mingo is another lanky player with very unique athletic traits, similar to Jordan. Again, we're talking about a player that would profile as a 4-3 SAM linebacker and a sub-package pass rusher in Pettine's system - that's three in the top five. Clearly, I'm a firm believer that the likely best value for the Bills is at that position.
6. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Yeah, he's only got one year of major college football under his belt, but athletically he's exactly what the Bills want and need at receiver. He could end up higher on this list come April - unless, of course, the Bills address receiver in free agency (and given their house-cleaning at the position, they very well may be planning to do so).
7. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Hey, look - another edge rusher. Ansah does not fit as cleanly into the SAM mold as the other names ahead of him - he might be a better fit in the rush position that's destined to be Mario Williams' - but he's a great athlete that's super raw, but has elite pass-rushing potential. The Bills would be exceedingly stupid to ignore that skill set on draft day.
8. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Rhodes is the hot name thanks to Joe Buscaglia, and it's true that he's the physical prototype for what the Bills like in their cornerbacks. He's most definitely a name to remember, but I want to study him a bit more before slotting him any higher than this.
The Fringe Group
9. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Joeckel is a great prospect, there's no question about it. I just think that the Bills think enough of Cordy Glenn as a left tackle prospect to forego taking a player that would profile as a right tackle in Buffalo, especially in 2013.
10. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Again, I don't yet buy into the line of thinking that the Bills will take a tackle, even though they could use another one, and even though there's good value. There are more pressing needs to fill. Fisher, too, is a great prospect, however.
11. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
I do think that the Bills could use another defensive lineman to push projected starter Alex Carrington for playing time in the team's base defense, but Floyd's skill set is very similar to those offered by Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, and I'm not sure redundancy is the best idea with a Top 10 pick.
12. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei is a more scheme versatile prospect than Floyd, in my opinion - which might make him a better candidate for Pettine's defense - but again, there is some redundancy (particularly with Dareus), and he's got health questions to answer.
13. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
An athletic marvel with great potential, Johnson falls victim to the same line of logic applied to Joeckel and Fisher.
14. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Vaccaro was a disappointment in Indianapolis, so comparisons to Mark Barron will die down. If he has a better pro day (March 26), however, there's still sufficient buzz around his name from the well-respected draft analysts that those comparisons could return.
15. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Trufant is a big, fast cornerback, so naturally he should be in Bills fans' minds. He does not play the game as physically as the other two names on the list (nor Gilmore), so he may not crack the Top 8 this spring, but don't forget this name at any rate.
16. Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Linebacker is a dire need and if the Bills are going to take one early, the only player athletic enough on tape to go that early is Ogletree. His off-field situation and a rather pedestrian showing at the Combine put him last on the list, and he may not stick here for long.