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January Look: Top 15 Bills Draft Prospects

Cal C Mack a draft day target for Buffalo? (

The 2009 NFL Draft is still more than 92 days away, but for Buffalo Bills fans, it's been draft season for about a month and a half now. With the Senior Bowl taking place this week, NFL scouts are getting their first hands-on experiences with some of the draft's top prospects; thus, draft season is now in full swing around the rest of the league, too. Draft season is one area where the Bills and the fans are ahead of the curve; let that one soak in and depress you this Friday morning.

I've always found it intriguing to do a little time travel in May, once the draft is over, to sweep back past old opinions and see how the draft landscape changed over time. This year, I thought it would be fun/interesting (and yeah, it'll probably be boring to you) to set up a little time capsule to look back on in May once this draft business is over. So what I'm asking you to do this morning is to list some of your favorite draft prospects, for any round, and talk a little bit about why you'd like to see them in a Bills uniform. Then, months from now when those players have either tanked (proving your insanity) or been drafted by the Bills (proving your foresight), we can have a good laugh about just how dramatically things changed. (At least, we hope.)

Please don't feel the need to be as elaborate as I am with my list. I now present to you my mid-January Top Bills Prospects list, which I'm sure will be radically different by the time draft week rolls around. Without further ado, here are my top ten first-round prospects - and after the jump, I've even got five second-round (for now) prospects to mention.

1. Everette Brown, DE, Florida State
  6'4", 252 pounds... 13.5 sacks as JR
- Brown has a little bit of a Vernon Gholston feel to him in that he's an undersized end with terrific athleticism that might get drafted a few spots too high based on his position. I view him as the elite pass-rushing specialist in this draft, and that's exactly what Buffalo needs.

2. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
  6'1", 323 pounds... 8 sacks as SR
- I love fat defensive linemen, and Raji is a superb athlete in addition to his baby fat. He's quite easily the best defensive tackle available this season, and even though the Bills are OK at defensive tackle, I'd have a very hard time passing up on this space-eater.

3. Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
  6'3", 247 pounds... 6 career INT
- Curry is a tough, physical linebacker that can make big plays and has the versatility to play virtually any linebacker position imaginable. Excellent in coverage. He'll probably go before the Bills pick, but if he's there, he'd be an outstanding value selection at a position of need.

4. Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
  6'4", 260 pounds... 11 sacks as SR
- Set the "he went to Texas gross" label aside for a moment. Orakpo is an excellent athlete that has the type of explosion and burst around the corner that make good pass rushers elite. He can play the run, too. He'd be a situational guy as a rookie, but he has top-flight every-down end written all over him.

5. Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
  6'4", 236 pounds... 12 sacks as SO
- "Project Mayhem" is only this low because he's raw and lacks experience. He's also an outstanding athlete with burst, but he's got some growing up to do. Given time, a good situation and some solid coaching, he'll be the best end to emerge from this draft class.

6. Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
  6'2", 290 pounds... 18 TFL as SR
- He's got some durability issues and there are mixed reports on just how good he is at the point of attack, but there's consensus on how good an athlete he is. He's the type of active defensive lineman that the Bills love (inside, at least). His stock will continue to rise throughout the off-season.

7. Alex Mack, C, California
  6'4", 316 pounds... three-time first team All-Pac-10
- The Bills have an infatuation with Pac 10 players, and Mack is good enough to deserve some infatuation from the Bills, too. He's tough, gritty, and great in the running game. Very smart. Is attempting to show some versatility by playing guard to boost his draft stock.

8. Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
  6'6", 260 pounds... scored 9 career TD
- This guy's size and frame alone make him a vertical threat even though he lacks elite speed. He's also one of the best blocking tight ends to come out of the college ranks in years. If there was ever going to be a TE prospect that the Bills would love, this is the guy. Opponents had to game-plan for him week in and week out in college.

9. Duke Robinson, OG, Oklahoma
  6'5", 335 pounds... two-time first team All-Big-12
- I know Bills fans are averse to interior offensive linemen named Duke, but Robinson would make up for the shortcomings of our very own Raymond Preston. This Duke is big, physical, and has flashed sheer dominance as a run blocker. He needs some polishing, but once he's polished, he could evolve into one of the game's better guards.

10. Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
  6'3", 255 pounds... 3 sacks, INT as SR
- This guy has "boom or bust" written all over him. I like his versatility and abilities in the box - which make him a good fit as the strong-side 'backer in Buffalo's scheme - but there are conflicting reports on his coverage skills. Plus, he's got durability issues and lacks experience. He's kind of a "last resort" pick in my mind, but he's got time to answer questions, too.

Second Round Prospects to Watch
1. Eric Wood, C, Louisville
  6'4", 309 pounds... four-year starter at Louisville
- Nobody ever talks about this guy, but I consider him the second-best center prospect in this year's draft, even ahead of Oregon's Max Unger. Wood is a solid athlete that competes every snap, can be dominant in the running game, and is very intelligent as a pivot. Plus, he has a ton of experience. He'd fit in well in Buffalo.

2. Chase Coffman, TE, Missouri
  6'6", 245 pounds... scored 30 career TD
- Set aside the gaudy numbers, because Coffman won't reproduce those in the pros. Coffman is a tall target that can stretch defense vertically, and is just good enough athletically to make defenders sweat. Why Coffman over other solid early-round prospects? Nobody has better hands in this draft at any position.

3. Antoine Caldwell, C, Alabama
  6'3", 292 pounds... four-year starter in SEC
- Hey, look - another center prospect I like better than Oregon's Unger. Caldwell is listed at 292, but he'll spend the off-season bulking up. When he weighs in at the Combine in the 305-310 range, his stock will rise dramatically. He's a fierce competitor with a lot of experience in college's toughest conference, and his skills most readily fit what the Bills like to do offensively.

4. Cody Brown, DE, Connecticut
  6'3", 248 pounds... 11 sacks as SR
- Should the Bills miss on a DE in the first round, Brown could end up being a nice consolation prize. He's undersized in both the height and weight categories, but that shouldn't matter. All that matters in Buffalo is finding a guy who can get after the passer, and Brown is exactly that type of player.

5. Rashad Johnson, S, Alabama
  6'0", 187 pounds... 11 INT in final two years
- Johnson isn't going to be a guy who develops into a star; he is what he is - a ballhawk with limitations in the tackling and growth categories. I don't care what his limitations are. The Bills severely need a guy who can turn the ball over once or twice during the season, and Johnson is an underrated prospect who can deliver exactly that.