With free agency about to begin, what better way to completely ignore the latest breaking news than another mock draft?
In this draft, I try to approach the roster like Buddy Nix would. I assume that we will end up with a decent enough starter at LG (Levitre or otherwise) but that most of the other positions are in their current levels of depth pending free agency.
First round: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
Quick Scouting report: Nassib is an appealing prospect who has shown franchise qualities in his time as a college starter. Accuracy is good to great on all throws within 30 yards, and arm strength is clearly enough to make every throw. Has excellent leadership abilities, great toughness, and a knack for clutch play that evokes Ben Roethlisberger. He's pro-ready and has plenty of experience under center as well as reading defenses. On the downside, he exhibits bad touch, especially on deep throws, which makes his arm act worse than it could be. He's like Andy Dalton with Big Ben's clutchness. Floor is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ceiling is Ben Roethlisberger.
Rule number one of the draft is if you don't have a QB, get one. Nassib has climbed up my draft rankings as I took a closer look at him and Geno Smith in particular, and I now think that Nassib is the safer and better NFL prospect compared to Smith. I'm shooting straight from the hip, Buddy Nix style, and taking the player I think is the best player available at a position of need without trying to mess with draft value. The team needs a QB, and dad-gum it if we let some other team take our best prospects before we can!
Second round: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The thing you will hear at least 3 times about every team who drafted a QB on day one of the draft, come day two, is "now that they have their QB, they need to get him some weapons." Seriously, every time. But I don't have a problem with that strategy. Buffalo needs a playmaking wide receiver for Nassib to throw to, and I expect the prototypical Buddy Nix wide receiver to fall to Buffalo in the second round, thanks to other team needs. Hunter is an SEC wideout, tall and rangy at 6'4" 196 pounds, who dominated the Combine charts (9th in the 40, 1st in both vertical leap and broad jump) - oh, and he was coming off an ACL injury from his sophomore year. Cordarelle Patterson gets all the attention, and I'd like to keep it that way - it means that our future #1 receiver will drop to Buffalo. (Of course, I say this now, then Hunter gets picked by the Patriots in the first or something)
Third round: Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M
Yet another SEC player gets selected to join the "hybrid" 4-3 defense under Mike Pettine. Porter caught my eye last year and I've been following his progress this season. While he's not as versatile as players like Alec Ogletree or Arthur Brown, he can be a very good 3-down linebacker in the NFL. While playing Von Miller's "joker" position for a 3-4 A&M defense in 2011, he picked up 17 TFL and 9.5 sacks. Then his team switched to a 4-3 in 2012, and he swapped over to a weak-side role, where he played almost entirely in coverage, including in nickel packages. He represents a perfect opportunity to plug into the Pettine defense and get production.
If he has a weakness, it's his size - he's a bit undersized at 6'1" 229 pounds. Coincidentally, that puts him very close to Nick Barnett's size though - and he's been compared to Barnett in playstyle too. I'd have no problem getting a Nick Barnett in the third round!
Fourth round: Sanders Commings, CB, Georgia
Commings reminds me of a bigger version of Drayton Florence. If Buffalo is looking for another potential outside guy, perhaps someone who could match up against the really tall wide receivers, Commings could develop into that player. He's very experienced in press and man coverage, and played on a great Georgia defense. He has a great sense for the ball, and I've seen him make a few smart interceptions and deflections. His weaknesses are pretty bad tackling technique (makes him bad against the run) and a lower top end speed thanks to his size.
Still, I think he's an underrated prospect, and again, as a defender from an SEC school, I think he'll appeal to Buddy Nix.
Fifth round: Levine Toilolo, TE, Stanford
In the fifth, Buddy takes a flyer on a TE who had a disappointing Combine, in hopes that he could contribute in the next level. Toilolo is a huge guy who measured in at 6'8", but thanks to that size he has trouble getting up to speed. He also is a disappointing blocker, considering his size, but when he catches the ball he will rumble through tacklers. Toilolo becomes a project player for the coaching staff to work on while Chandler, Smith, and Caussin hold down the fort.
Sixth round: Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas
This is a player who might very well go undrafted. But if I'm Buddy Nix, I like using my last pick to take someone who I like too much to allow them to test free agency. That player is Johnson, who will fly under the radar thanks to backing up Knile Davis in college and not being invited to any postseason games or the Combine.
Johnson is a cannonball of a player. At 5'9" and 213 pounds, but with surprising speed, he reminds me a lot of Maurice Jones-Drew. When Davis went out and Johnson was given the ball, he took advantage, and if you can find his games against Ole Miss, Tulsa, and Kentucky, you'll see what I mean. He's very difficult to take down and constantly fights through tackles. He also has experience returning kicks and is above average in that area. Plus he has experience doing blitz pickup, which is usually the problem that prevents rookie running backs from being able to contribute.
Oh yeah, and he's an SEC player!