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Are Bills headed for a line-oriented April?

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Buddy Nix has been involved with the game of football for his entire adult life. He's been an integral member of various NFL front offices for more than 17 years. He's widely praised as an excellent evaluator of talent. He'll run an NFL Draft room for the first time in his life next month as the new General Manager of the Buffalo Bills, at the spritely young age of 70.

Nix spent time with the Bills from 1993 through 2000 as a national scout. He followed the late GM John Butler and future GM A.J. Smith to San Diego, where he was the college scouting director and Assistant General Manager for eight seasons. His return to Buffalo in 2009 made him a national scout for a year, followed by his promotion to GM on December 31, 2009.

Not much is known about how Nix will run his draft room. Does he like to stockpile picks at a certain position? When the tough decisions pop up, is he a "need guy" or a "best player available guy"? These are questions that we can't possibly answer until we see him make decisions on draft day. That won't stop us from taking a few guesses, however. After the jump, we'll examine what San Diego did on draft day while Nix was an integral part of the decision-making process (even if he wasn't making the final decision).

San Diego draftees, 2001-2008
While Nix was in San Diego, the Chargers made 61 draft selections in an eight-year period. Broken down by frequency of position, here's the complete list of Chargers draftees during that time period.

Offensive Line (15 players): Elliot Silvers, Brandon Gorin, Toniu Fonoti, Matt Anderle, Courtney Van Buren, Nick Hardwick, Shane Olivea, Carlos Joseph, Wesley Britt, Wes Sims, Scott Mruczkowski, Marcus McNeill, Jeromey Clary, Jimmy Martin, Corey Clark

Offensive Skill Positions (14 players): LaDainian Tomlinson, Reche Caldwell, Justin Peelle, Terry Charles, Andrew Pinnock, Michael Turner, Ryan Krause, Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles, Craig Davis, Scott Chandler, Legedu Naanee, Jacob Hester, Marcus Thomas

Defensive Backs (11 players): Tay Cody, Robert Carswell, Quentin Jammer, Sammy Davis, Drayton Florence, Terrence Kiel, Hanik Milligan, Antonio Cromartie, Eric Weddle, Antoine Cason, DeJuan Tribble

Linebackers (9 players): Carlos Polk, Zeke Moreno, Ben Leber, Matt Wilhelm, Shaun Phillips, Shawne Merriman, Tim Dobbins, Anthony Waters, Brandon Siler

Defensive Line (5 players): Igor Olshansky, Dave Ball, Ryon Bingham, Luis Castillo, Chase Page

Quarterbacks (4 players): Drew Brees, Seth Burford, Eli Manning, Charlie Whitehurst

Kickers/Punters (3 players): Mike Scifres, Nate Kaeding, Kurt Smith

Charting tendencies
Again, I urge you to take everything here with a grain of salt, because this entire body of work was not Nix's. Yes, he scouted all of these players. No, he did not draft them. He didn't draft a single player during his time in San Diego, as far as we know, because he didn't have final say. But Nix will certainly carry over some philosophy from his previous work experience, so the following tendencies aren't necessarily irrelevant, either.

  • The Chargers never once drafted a nose tackle prospect, despite running a 3-4. They did, however, draft three kickers. Those decisions drew some criticism, for fairly obvious reasons. I haven't done any research on this, but a team drafting three kickers in an eight-year period seems fairly rare.
  • As you might have guessed from the title of the post, San Diego drafted a ton of offensive linemen while Nix was out west. 10 of those 15 players were offensive tackles. Here's the catch: not a single offensive lineman, tackle or otherwise, was drafted in the first round.
  • Aside from taking no nose tackle, the Chargers didn't concentrate on finding pass rushers, either. Just two were taken during that time period, though to their credit, they were two excellent selections: Merriman and Phillips have combined for 89 career sacks. But running a 3-4, you'd expect to see more nose tackles and pass rushers drafted than two prospects in an eight-year period.
  • Heck, even the defensive line wasn't a huge priority. Only five players, all 3-4 defensive ends, were taken by San Diego in those eight years.
  • If you're worried about the Bills continuing their tendency to draft in numbers in the defensive backfield, don't expect that to stop. Take some Nyquil to stop the nightmares. Good NFL teams pick a lot of defensive backs - like pass rushers, you can never have enough of 'em - and the team is still trying to win in a pass-happy league.
  • In terms of football's most important position, the Chargers spent three significant picks - and by significant, I mean third round or higher - on quarterbacks. Drew Brees was the first pick of the second round in 2001; yeah, he's pretty good. Eli Manning was the top overall selection in 2004; yeah, he's pretty good. Manning was immediately traded to New York for the rights to Philip Rivers; yeah, he's pretty good too. Charlie Whitehurst was a third-round pick in 2006, and has yet to attempt an NFL pass.
  • The Chargers were fairly need-based at the top of the draft, but spent the mid-to-late portions of draft days doing pretty much the same thing - stockpiling talent on the offensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary. That's smart drafting - of course, it looks smarter by the fact that they got their hands on three franchise quarterbacks in that time frame.

Again, I want to mention that the word "tendency," as it applies to Nix, is something of a misnomer. We don't know what Nix tends to do on draft day, because he's never actively made the decisions on draft weekend. But philosophically, these tendencies might come into play.