Yes, it's only January. Yes, the NFL playoffs have not even started yet. No, the Bills do not yet have answers to their question marks at GM and offensive coordinator. Nary a free agent has been added of importance, and won't be until March 3.
We all love talking about the draft. With the off-season in full swing in Buffalo and with answers to the GM/OC conundrums being provided at a snail's pace, I figured it was a good day to discuss something that always gets our blood going: NFL prospects. It helps, of course, that we've got Matt Miller from Mocking the Draft (and New Era Scouting) on the SB Nation bandwagon; New Era Scouting has already compiled a 7-round mock draft, and we're going to dissect it this morning. So, without further ado, here are the 9 Bills that NES guesses the Bills will be taking nearly four long months from now:
Round 1, Pick 11: Martin Rucker, TE, Missouri
- Love it. Rucker, pictured at top right, is exactly the type of athletic playmaker we need offensively. Trent Edwards loves using his tight ends (no jokes, please), and Rucker's versatility allows him to line up in the backfield, on the line and in the slot. He truly is a matchup nightmare. He won't be considered a reach at #11 come April.
Round 2, Pick 44: DeJuan Tribble, CB, Boston College
- As good as the Rucker pick was, this one is just as bad. Tribble (5'9", 190) is small and not the best tackler by any means. His calling cards are superior ball skills and the return game - but Buffalo's Cover-2 scheme calls for bigger, physical corners, and they're set in the return department with Terrence McGee and Roscoe Parrish. I don't like this pick at all.
Round 3, Pick 72 (f/BAL): Will Franklin, WR, Missouri
- A college teammate of Rucker's, Franklin's 6'2", 205-pound frame makes him an ideal red zone threat and possession receiver. He's solid working the sidelines and the middle of the field, though he'll never overwhelm you with big-play ability. His skills mesh well with the current receivers on Buffalo's roster.
Round 3, Pick 75: Kenny Iwebema, DE, Iowa
- I'm not a huge fan of this pick, though I do believe the Bills could look for a pass-rushing end on Day One. Iwebema's strength is, well, his strength - the 6'4", 270-pound end isn't an elite pass rusher, and better fits the mold of Buffalo's current defensive ends. Iwebema will be solid in any scheme, but his worst fit is the Cover-2.
Round 4, Pick 108: Wesley Woodyard, LB, Kentucky
- On the plus side, Woodyard is one of Kentucky's best defenders, leaders and has a great motor. On the down side, he's a 212-pound linebacker - and the Bills certainly don't need any more lack of bulk at the position. Woodyard may be shifted to safety; if he were drafted by Buffalo, however, he'd almost certainly stay at linebacker because the team values speed there.
Round 5, Pick 139: Hilee Taylor, DE, North Carolina
- An undersized end with good ability. The 241-pounder is very athletic, has a good burst off the line and seems the ideal fit for a situational pass rushing role in a Cover-2 scheme. In any other situation, he'd likely be moved to outside 'backer for a 3-4 scheme. This pick is very, very intriguing.
Round 5, Pick 143 (f/CHI): Kirk Elder, OG, Texas A&M
- From the very little A&M ball I saw this season, Elder's a guy who plays hard, is very aggressive and has a nice mean streak. That, combined with his work ethic, make up for his overall lack of athletic ability. Elder probably isn't a long-term starter, but he'd be great young depth - better than Duke Preston, at any rate.
Round 6, Pick 172: Franklin Dunbar, OT, MTSU
- A redshirt sophomore, Dunbar is an early entry out of Middle Tennessee State. The 6'5", 318-pounder is considered a very green prospect that will need some development time at the NFL level - especially from a learning and leverage standpoint. He's an OK athlete and has a little upside, but according to Mocking the Draft, he hasn't exactly garnered a lot of draft interest.
Round 7, Pick 203: Derek Fine, TE, Kansas
- Fine is one of Kansas' best offensive threats, and emerged as a go-to target over the middle. Kansas, much like Missouri did with Martin Rucker, moved Fine around a lot in their offense - versatility that despite Rucker's addition would still be welcome to Buffalo's offense. Buffalo likes to stock-pile tight ends and H-Backs; this addition would give the Bills Rucker, Robert Royal and Mike Gaines at tight end, with Fine joining Derek Schouman at H-Back.
That's it. Take it for what it's worth at this point; I will say that I really, really, really like Rucker at this point. I've put in New Era Scouting's full reports on these players after the jump if you're looking for deeper analysis.
TE1. Martin Rucker, TE, Missouri, 6'5, 255
Big, athletic, smart and a leader. Can line up all over the field. Very athletic with good speed. Won't run away from safeties. Good over the middle. Not much of a blocker. Good vision and can move with the ball in his hands. Played off the line of scrimmage a lot. A first-round talent.
CB5. DeJuan Tribble, CB, Boston College, 5'9, 190
Compactly built corner whose speed may be suspect. Gambles too much. Not much of a tackler. His best asset is mirroring receivers as they try to lose him on breaks in routes. Possesses excellent ball skills. Added value as a return man.
WR10. Will Franklin, WR, Missouri, 6'2, 205
Has been overshadowed by the talented play of the tight ends and then freshman sensation Jeremy Maclin. A solid possession receiver who works well outside the hash marks. Can hurt a Cover 2 defense with his ability to sit in zones. Good speed.
DE6. Kenny Iwebema, DE, Iowa, 6'4, 270
Strong defensive end, especially at the point of attack. Could play end in a 3-4 or a 4-3. Plays physical and with a lot of effort. Doesn't have much edge speed or pass rush moves. Instead, he relies heavily on his strength. Has the frame to add about 15 pounds of bulk. Will play too upright, which negates leverage.
OLB8. Wesley Woodyard, OLB, Kentucky, 6'1, 212
Looks like a linebacker who can only make it in the Tampa-w defense. May project as a safety in other systems. Needs to get stronger because he'll struggle to tackle bigger players. Team leader who shows amazing work ethic, especially in the film room.
DE10. Hilee Taylor, DE, North Carolina, 6'3, 241
Undersized player who struggled to play up to his ability until his senior season. Has great athletic ability for the position and could probably even make the switch to 3-4 OLB if needed. Very quick off the snap. Spends most of his time in opposing backfields making plays against the run and the pass.
OG9. Kirk Elder, OG, Texas A&M, 6'5, 307
Thick, muscular guard who plays well in traffic. Stocky and squat. Mean, plays with amazing aggression. Doesn't play well in space, struggles to pull or get to the second level. Best in a box. Slow instincts. Doesn't see the blitz well.
Franklin Dunbar, OT, Middle Tennessee State, 6'5, 318
No scouting report yet from New Era Scouting.
Derek Fine, TE, Kansas, 6'3, 245
Moves around a lot in the Kansas offense. Is a go-to receiver over the middle. Clutch. Can make big plays in traffic. Has good speed and can run away from average linebackers. Is not very physical.