2013 NFL Draft: best remaining players, Bills team needs

Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

As it stands now, the Bills will take two of the first 14 players off the board on Friday.

The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft accomplished two major things for the Buffalo Bills:

  • They traded out of the Top 10, acquiring two extra picks (they now have eight in the process); and
  • They addressed their longest-standing positional need by selecting quarterback E.J. Manuel with the No. 16 overall pick.

With the quarterback need addressed, the Bills can concentrate on filling other holes on the roster - and they'll have a much easier time doing so with two second-round picks, and three in total on the second day of the draft. The picks the Bills are scheduled to make are below:

Rd # Team Player Pos. College
1 16 Buffalo Bills E.J. Manuel QB Florida State
2 41 Buffalo Bills
2 46 Buffalo Bills (f/STL)
3 78 Buffalo Bills (f/STL)
4 105 Buffalo Bills
5 143 Buffalo Bills
6 177 Buffalo Bills
7 222 Buffalo Bills (f/STL)

Buffalo will have the opportunity to acquire two of the first 14 players selected this evening, which means that I set out to find my 14 favorite players at major areas of need for the Bills after the first round concluded last evening. Those 14 players, broken up by position, are below. Who would you add or subtract from the group?

Wide Receiver

  • Justin Hunter, Tennessee: If I have to call anyone a favorite to sit atop Buffalo's board, Hunter's the pick. The 6'4", 196-pound Hunter is a top-notch athlete with productive seasons under his belt at Tennessee - and while there are concerns about his hands and the lingering effects of a 2011 knee injury, there's still no question that he has more upside than any receiver available. A pre-draft visitor of the Bills, Hunter could eventually be a No. 1 target.
  • Keenan Allen, California: A smooth route-runner with great hands that's coming off an injury and doesn't have great timed speed, Allen nonetheless possesses enough skill to start immediately on the outside for Buffalo - particularly in a West Coast offense like Doug Marrone's.
  • Robert Woods, USC: Woods is similar to Allen in that he's a good receiver without elite physical traits, but who could come in and contribute immediately in a West Coast offense as a catch-and-run player. Woods is not dissimilar to Stevie Johnson, and the two could rotate snaps in the slot to keep defenses off balance.

Tight End

  • Zach Ertz, Stanford: I was a big fan of the idea of Tyler Eifert in a Bills uniform, and I'm a big fan of Ertz in a Bills uniform for many of the same reasons. Ertz is not as dynamic an athlete as Eifert is, but he's still a versatile move tight end that can line up in the slot and hurt defenses up the seam. That kind of player could be a star in Marrone's offense.

Linebacker

  • Kevin Minter, LSU: The Bills brought in a handful of linebackers for pre-draft visits, and Minter is easily the biggest name left of that group. A junior entrant, Minter plays with speed and toughness, and has good instincts for the position. He's underdeveloped in coverage and needs to play with better technique, but he profiles as a starter at the NFL level.
  • Arthur Brown, Kansas State: I only list Brown below Minter because Minter was a pre-draft visitor. In fact, Brown is the top remaining player on my board. The only thing this guy doesn't have is prototypical size; everything else is perfect. His range is off the charts, he plays bigger than his physical measurements, and he can run, hit and cover. At some point in the near future, I fully expect Brown to be considered one of the NFL's best linebackers despite his physical stature.
  • Kiko Alonso, Oregon: Another of my personal favorites, there are some character concerns with Alonso, but he's got great size and range, and offers a ton of versatility. (Which we all know Mike Pettine loves.) He's a linebacker that could move around the alignment for the Bills and make them more difficult to read pre-snap.
  • Jamie Collins, Southern Mississippi: Like Minter, Collins toured One Bills Drive as a pre-draft visitor. Like Alonso, he offers a defense a ton of versatility, as he even has some upside as an edge rusher. Like Brown, he's a top-end athlete (but, unlike Brown, he's got prototypical size at 6'4", 250). Seriously, this guy's a freak athlete - like 4.6 in the 40 and a 41.5-inch vertical freak - and he was a productive collegian. Don't forget this name.
  • Manti Te'o, Notre Dame: His was the last name I added to the list, but there's a ton to like about Te'o as a prospect. He's good in coverage despite fairly average athleticism, and he's the type that can quarterback a defense. I slid him down a bit because he lacks the athleticism and versatility of some of the other guys, but he could walk in and start from day one in Buffalo.

Cornerback

  • Jamar Taylor, Boise State: I thought for sure he'd be picked in the first round. He's not quite 5'11", but he's got great speed and quickness, and profiles as a cornerback that could play both outside and in the slot at the NFL level. I don't think this can be undersold: the Bills could really use a cornerback that can play in the slot.
  • Robert Alford, Southeastern Louisiana: Alford is a very similar prospect to Taylor; he's a phenomenal athlete with enough size to play on the edge, but who profiles as a potentially elite slot cornerback. The only thing he lacks that Taylor doesn't is big-game experience; this is a player hailing from the same school as Felton Huggins, after all.
  • Darius Slay, Mississippi State: Slay might better profile as a Buddy Nix guy, given that he's 6'0" tall, runs a 4.31 and hails from the SEC. I like the other two corners on tape better, but the JUCO transfer would definitely bring physical talent and experience to a Bills cornerback group that is short on depth at the moment. Slay is talented enough to eventually start.

Safety

  • Johnathan Cyprien, Florida International: Depth remains a concern at safety - particularly with Jairus Byrd's long-term status with the team up in the air - and Cyprien is a Round 1 talent. Big, fast, strong and physical with coverage ability, he hails from a small school and will need some time to assimilate to the pro game, but he profiles as a long-term starter that brings size and versatility to the safety position.
  • D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina: Swearinger is one of my favorite players in this draft class, and you only need to find one YouTube highlight reel on him to figure out why. He probably doesn't have the versatility that a coach like Pettine wants - Swearinger is more of an in-the-box type - but it's also hard to imagine a coach like Pettine watching Swearinger's tape and not falling in love with the aggressiveness and physicality of the Gamecock's game.
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