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Bills May Look to Add Return Threat in Draft

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McGee may focus more on CB than KR (BuffaloBills.com)

Ever since special teams coordinator Bobby April joined the Buffalo Bills' coaching staff in 2004, the Bills' special teams unit have been among the most dominant units in the league. Part of the reason for their success has been the fact that two of the unit's stars, kick returner Terrence McGee and punt returner Roscoe Parrish, rank among the league's elite in what they do.

However, that may change during the 2008 season, at least from the kick return standpoint. McGee, who will turn 28 during the '08 season, has been a starting cornerback and the full-time kick returner for the past three seasons. That type of work load will be difficult to McGee to shoulder, especially as Buffalo's coaching staff continues to rely on him to improve as a defender. Heading into the 2008 draft, it is imperative for the Bills to find a kick return threat that can replace McGee as the "starter" and allow the veteran corner to focus on defense. It is still possible that McGee would be asked to return kicks in critical situations, but it's clear by McGee's declining kick return average (he only averaged 24 yards per return last year) that his workload must be reduced.

So who could Buffalo add to help in this department? Below, we've listed seven draft prospects that have a realistic shot at being drafted by the Bills and have a great chance to be excellent return specialists at the NFL level. (Note: two of the draft's elite return threats, Arkansas RB Felix Jones and East Carolina's Chris Johnson, are excluded from this list because the Bills won't be drafting a RB early enough to land one of them.)

Troy CB Leodis McKelvin - widely regarded as the top cornerback prospect in this year's draft, McKelvin is probably the most explosive return threat available this year outside of the Jones/Johnson combo at running back. Buffalo would need to acquire him at pick 11 to get him, but he could play a role similar to what McGee played early in his career - sub-package corner and starting kick returner.

Michigan State WR Devin Thomas - arguably the best receiver available this season, Thomas averaged over 30 yards per return last season at Michigan State, a year in which he amassed over 2,500 all-purpose yards. He has the type of acceleration and open-field ability that all the great return threats have. Buffalo would need to nab him in the first, and he may end up a starting receiver here, so asking him to pull double duty as a rookie could be a stretch.

Penn State CB Justin King - no, King did not return kicks in college very often. However, the underrated corner prospect has freakish athletic ability (he ran a 4.31 40) and with a little coaching could be one of the best return threats in the league. King is a second-round prospect that could fit into a Cover 2 defense, so he's an intriguing early-round option for Buffalo.

Virginia Tech WR Eddie Royal - Buffalo needs to draft a receiver, but Royal may not fit the bill. Royal has great speed, but is only 5'10", so the Bills may view him as a bit too small to draft. However, Royal comes from a VT program that prides itself on playing great special teams, and his 4.39 speed would make him a solid return threat as a rookie.

Connecticut CB Tyvon Branch - Branch is probably my favorite prospect in this year's draft when it comes to kick returns. Branch pumped a 4.31-second 40 at the Combine, and his corner skills are perfectly suited for a Cover 2 defense. He's an excellent athlete and a team leader, and he provided UConn many short fields with his kick return abilities. He'd be a fantastic addition for the Bills, possibly as early as the second round.

West Virginia RB Steve Slaton - one of the most productive running backs to ever play college football, Slaton's draft stock is sliding due to poor measurables at the NFL level. After scoring 50 career rushing touchdowns at WVU, Slaton is looking at a third down back/return role in the NFL. He has some wear on his tires, but not enough to realize that he would be a fantastic complement to Marshawn Lynch in the backfield and one of the best return threats in the NFL. Plus, he may only require a fifth-round pick to draft.

LA-Monroe RB Calvin Dawson - Dawson is a small-school, late-round draft prospect that has "third down back" written all over him. However, he has the necessary speed and shiftiness to be a solid return man, and he could develop into a nice complement to Buffalo's physical-oriented RB trio of Lynch, Fred Jackson and Dwayne Wright. He'd be a nice bargain draft prospect for the Bills to use one of their three seventh-round picks on.