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War Games: Moving to draft two of Buffalo's top five

Whether you're a fan of the Buffalo Bills' trade of OT Jason Peters last week or not, one fact remains in the wake of the transaction: with two picks in the first round of the NFL Draft and nine picks overall, the Bills have an exciting opportunity to add two difference-makers to their roster this coming weekend.

We started playing "war games" earlier this week, breaking down scenarios in which the Bills might consider trading up to draft an OT to replace the aforementioned Peters. The overwhelming majority of readers here shot the idea down - and in reality, y'all are probably right. The chances that the Bills trade up are slim to none. So we'll move on.

For argument's sake, let's just say that there are five players the Bills are currently targeting in the first round: OT Andre Smith, OT Michael Oher, TE Brandon Pettigrew, DE Robert Ayers and LB Clay Matthews III (in no particular order). We're not here to argue whether or not those players belong on the short list, because we've been doing that for months. Instead, let's focus on how the Bills go about getting two of these players onto their team.

Target 1: At or near No. 11
Buffalo's first selection is at No. 11 overall. It's very likely that the Bills will consider all five of the aforementioned players at that selection. Here's how I believe the Bills would prioritize those five players at No. 11, with a trade-down scenario built into the prioritization.

1. Andre Smith: The controversial tackle is widely considered to be a Top 10 pick and perhaps one of the five most talented players at any position in this draft class. We know that the Bills like him. If he slides all the way to 11, the Bills will have to take him - he's an immediate replacement for Peters.

2. Explore a trade down: It doesn't matter with who, but this is where y'all come in in the comments section - your task is to identify teams that may want to move up, and which prospects might be targets that teams would conceivably move up for. While you mull that, here's why a trade ranks second here in my book - it gives the Bills more ammo to get themselves in position to get two of their targets, and of the four guys remaining, all have the potential to slide a bit on draft day.

3. Michael Oher: We don't have a clear read on his status in the eyes of Bills talent evaluators, but you have to imagine he'll be on the short list considering the need for an OT. It's not a lock he'll be around - but if he is, he has less of a chance at lasting than some of the other targets on the list, so he ranks third.

4. Robert Ayers: Of the three non-OT prospects on our targets list, Ayers should rank highest simply because of the position he plays. Defensive ends routinely are selected higher than they're expected to be because they play a premium position; the same can't be said for tight ends or linebackers.

5. Clay Matthews III: I have maintained throughout this whole Peters trade process that the Bills were just as likely to draft a defensive playmaker at 11 as they were to draft an OT. That doesn't change; I still think that they'll prioritize defense in round one in all likelihood. Even though Matthews is less polished than Pettigrew, the defender gets the nod.

6. Brandon Pettigrew: I'll be straight with you - if the Bills are looking to draft a player that helps them the most immediately, Pettigrew should be the top guy on their board. He gives QB Trent Edwards some size in the short-area passing game, and far more importantly, he brings a nasty attitude to Buffalo's run blocking. He's perfect for this offense and helps the unit creep toward establishing an identity. But of the five players, he's easily the most likely to be available latest just because of the position he plays.


You're obviously free to disagree with my prioritization in the comments section, and you're encouraged to do so. But most importantly, you folks should now be wearing your GM hats. You already have your first assignment - continue your fine speculation on trade down scenarios, identifying teams and players that may be involved.

Your second assignment is to vote in the poll below about which of the six "on the clock" scenarios outlined above are most likely to occur at No. 11. Not "which you want to happen," per se, because as mentioned, we've already had those discussions for nearly four months. We're predicting here. Predict which of the six is most likely to happen - your input will help determine the next step in acquiring two of these targets in our "war games" series.