TE Pettigrew is ideal fit in Buffalo (SI.com)
Every year, one of the more popular pre-draft features here at Buffalo Rumblings is when we run down the top five NFL Draft prospects that would be considered "best fits" for the Buffalo Bills. "Best fit" is a broad term; usually, it applies schematically, but we also attempt to fit character, intangibles, work ethic and potential into the equation as well.
In 2007, Rumblings was in its nascent stages, and I called current Texans DT Amobi Okoye the best fit from the 2007 draft class. (Leon Hall, Jon Beason, Robert Meachem and Gaines Adams also made the list.) We had five comments on the post - in those days, I was joyously skipping through the rain when the blog got one comment - so I could tell immediately that this was a hit. (If you're looking for a laugh, make sure to note our very own MARVelous pulling a "Poslunsky" in the comments section. Those were the days.)
Last year, when we still weren't all that recognizable in the Bills blogosphere, we named current Jet Vernon Gholston the best fit, with Devin Thomas, Glenn Dorsey, Sedrick Ellis and Owen Schmitt getting mentions as well. 83 comments later, I knew this would be a yearly feature.
You're now reading the 2009 version of this post. The names for this list were added regardless of need, though need was certainly a consideration. The only factor I tried to keep relevant was hypothetical availability (which explains the conspicuous absence of Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry). Since we've named a defensive lineman the "best fit" two years running now, it was only fitting to carry on the tradition - twice.
#1 Best Fit: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
- There isn't a defense that this guy can't play in when he's motivated. He's short (6'1"), stocky (337 pounds) and powerful. He can play the one-technique or the two-technique, take on multiple blockers, and might even be athletic enough to pull off the three-technique on occasion. Buffalo has long been a welcoming home to massive run-stuffing defensive tackles. Raji would be let loose in the Bills' current scheme, and I'm positive he'd have a lot to learn from Marcus Stroud. The only downside with this kid is desire - but if new defensive line coach Bob Sanders can get John McCargo to work out in the off-season, I've little doubt he'd find a way to light a fire under Raji's massive backside, too.
#2 Best Fit: Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
- There are quite a few quality speed rushers to be had this year - and that's perfect timing for Buffalo. Maybin sits atop my list of this year's speed rushers for two reasons - he's got the quickest first step of any end in the draft, making him an immediate-impact rusher, and he's got the most upside of any end in the draft as well. He's got a good frame with long arms and is very adept at getting into the backfield. He needs some polishing from a technique standpoint as well as filling out physically, but he's an instant-impact player with incredible potential.
#3 Best Fit: Max Unger, C/G, Oregon
- Under the current regime, Buffalo has long preferred offensive linemen with athleticism and versatility as compared to the maulers and road graders of the world. Unger is considered one of the most athletic centers to emerge from the college ranks in years. He's versatile to the point where teams are looking at him as a tackle. Buffalo runs a variant of a zone-blocking scheme, which makes Unger a more natural fit than many of the other top-notch interior offensive linemen available this year. He makes sense not only athletically, but his versatility could let him start at guard (where the Bills currently have a gaping hole on the left side) and slide inside to center should the need arise.
#4 Best Fit: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
- If there was ever a top-flight tight end prospect that Buffalo were to fall in love with, Pettigrew would be that guy. Widely considered to be the most NFL-ready tight end prospect in recent memory, Pettigrew is already an incredibly polished blocker, both in the running game as well as in max protection. He's still underdeveloped as a receiver, and in particular as a route-runner. Pettigrew has big, soft hands, but has struggled in attempts to get himself open. But his size (6'5") makes him an immediate red zone threat, and he has the potential to, by leaps and bounds, be the most dominant force the Bills have had at the position in years. (No, that isn't exactly saying much.)
#5 Best Fit: Lawrence Sidbury Jr., DE, Richmond
- Surprise! As I mentioned when discussing Maybin, there are a lot of high quality speed rushers available this year. You're already aware of most of them. Sidbury, however, is a second or third round prospect out of Richmond that, outside of possibly Maybin, has the most upside out of anyone at the end position this year. He's bigger than most of the speed ends available this year (6'2", 266), has a quick first step and also possesses great straight-line speed. He's most certainly a project - counting on him to be anything more than an edge rusher in specific sub packages as a rookie would be a huge risk - but this guy's got "elite Tampa 2 defensive end" written all over him. He may be the most athletically balanced end available, and unlike some of his peers, he's got the potential to hold up well against the run as well.
Got a name you wish had been considered? We'd love to hear about him. Have anything extra to add about the names on the list? Have at it. These posts have always been interesting launching points for draft discussions, and I look forward to the conversation on this one as well.