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Draft Scenario #1: Trading Up

RB Peterson a trade-up target?

Draft week is upon us, Bills fans! With just five days before D-Day, it's time to really examine in-depth the scenarios that the Bills are looking at with the #12 pick in the draft. Over this coming week, I will be examining scenarios, rumors, and prospects that the Bills may be facing on Saturday.

Today's topic: trading up. Armed with an extra third-round pick acquired in the RB Willis McGahee trade, the Bills have four first-day picks just as they did last season. As we all know, GM Marv Levy used his second-round pick last year as ammunition to move back into the first round to select DT John McCargo.

Is it possible that Mr. Levy could pull a similar move this season? At this point, it seems unlikely. Buffalo has a lot of holes on its roster, and four first-day picks will go a long ways toward shoring up some depth issues on a very young football team. However, my belief is that there are two players worthy of the Bills' considerations to move up. Who are they, you ask?

Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
Scouts are referring to just two prospects as "elite" in this draft: Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson and Peterson. Given Buffalo's dire need for a running back, it seems obvious that a runner of Peterson's caliber would rate very high on Buffalo's draft board. Simply put, no RB available in this draft comes close to the playmaking and explosiveness that Peterson possesses. Sure, he has flaws - such as his durability, injury history and upright rushing style - but rarely do you see a runner as gifted as Peterson.

If Buffalo considers moving up for Peterson, it will only be if the star runner begins to slide a bit. Given his talent, Peterson should be a Top-3 pick on Saturday. However, the needs of some of the top teams at running back are low - Cleveland is a good fit at #3, but most of the remaining Top 10 teams have much larger needs than RB. Minnesota and Atlanta are really the only teams that might seriously consider Peterson from then on before Buffalo's pick.

Despite Peterson's apparent first-round slippage, a deal is unlikely. To really ensure Peterson, the Bills would likely need to deal all the way up to the #6 pick (Washington) - moving them ahead of both Minnesota and Atlanta. A deal this steep seems highly unlikely. That does not mean, however, that a deal is impossible. If Peterson were to fall to pick 10, Houston might be a viable trade option (if last year was any indication, the Texans don't seem to like top-flight runners). Only in a scenario such as this would Levy consider moving up for Peterson - the team has too many needs to package high picks, and this draft has about a half-dozen second/third round prospects who would be nice additions as well.

Patrick Willis, MLB, Mississippi
Sure, it's entirely possible that the Bills could land Willis at #12. It is also equally likely that Willis will be gone, however. No less than three teams above Buffalo have legitimate interest in Willis. Detroit has been rumored to have high interest (how nice would he look in the middle next to last year's first-round pick, Ernie Sims?). Jon Gruden would also not mind adding him to Tampa's Cover-2 defense. Perhaps the most threatening suitor is San Francisco - the fact that Mike Nolan coached Willis at the Senior Bowl is well documented. San Fran's transition to a 3-4 defense necessitates the addition of linebackers as well.

The depth at linebacker in this draft would seem to indicate that the Bills do not need to move up to find a linebacker that fits their scheme. This is a deep year for linebackers, and a majority of the first-day prospects available have the necessary athleticism to play in our Tampa-2 system. It is safe to say, however, that Willis is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of his peers in terms of fit in the Cover-2, and thus would by far be the biggest-impact linebacker the Bills could draft.

Once again, the Bills are only likely to trade up if Willis slides down to the tenth pick. After dealing for QB Matt Schaub, Houston seems the most likely trade-up partner; this is an ideal situation for Buffalo, as it will move them one spot ahead of the Willis-hungry 49ers. This is the only scenario in which I realistically see Levy dealing up for any player.

Peterson and Willis are the two highest-impact players that the Bills can add in the first round, and both fill huge areas of need. If the Bills decide to move up, you can rest assured that they have one of these two guys in their sights.