As was announced last night, the Buffalo Bills have selected QB Jimmy Clausen with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 SB Nation NFL Mock Draft. As acting GM of the Bills franchise in this mock draft, we thought we'd spend Saturday explaining the process behind making the selection.
First, it's rather critical to know who was off the board already. The first eight players selected were as follows: QB Sam Bradford (STL), DT Ndamukong Suh (DET), DT Gerald McCoy (TB), OT Russell Okung (WAS), LB Rolando McClain (KC), S Taylor Mays (SEA), S Eric Berry (CLE) and OT Bryan Bulaga (OAK). Obviously, we couldn't take any of those players.
We can't ignore need positions with this pick, so we went into the process essentially knowing that we'd be taking a player at one of the following four positions: QB, LT, NT or OLB (pass rusher). We might have considered a player at another position had value outweighed need with any of our need-centric targets, but in this case, players like C.J. Spiller and Dez Bryant were simply too luxurious to select.
With those four need positions in mind, the pick was narrowed down to four candidates: Clausen, Oklahoma LT Trent Williams, Tennessee NT Dan Williams and Georgia Tech DE/OLB Derrick Morgan.
Obviously, as you already know who we selected, we'll run down the prospects we didn't select first.
Morgan would have been the last player we selected. He's a safe prospect that is athletic enough to do some damage as a 3-4 OLB, but as a rookie, he'd have been a situational player. If he's drafted to a 3-4, he probably won't be an every-down player. We like him better if he's drafted to a 4-3 team, and while we would have liked him just fine in Buffalo, there are better fits out there.
Dan Williams finished third in the race. I, personally, really like Williams, and I think he'll go higher than a lot of people think he will on draft day - perhaps as high as Kansas City at No. 5 overall. But nose tackle is a position that Buffalo shouldn't have trouble addressing in subsequent rounds, and even if they can't, there are players that can get the Bills by for a season at this position.
We almost took Trent Williams. Had Clausen not been available, Trent Williams would have been the guy. He's a really good athlete and a really safe selection. We're not sure he can be a left tackle in the NFL, but even if he fails there, he'll emerge as one of the best right tackles in the game (hence his being a safe pick). I would have been very happy coming away from No. 9 with Williams penciled in as our starting left tackle.
In the end, however, we couldn't break the golden rule of the NFL Draft - don't pass on a potential franchise signal-caller if you don't already have one. Clausen's a controversial prospect, but we don't mind a little controversy at the game's most important position. There are red flags with Clausen, but we think his playing abilities and potential far outweigh those potential risks. In the end, this was a very easy decision to make, and we believe that we made the right call.
This pick does illustrate one thing for the Bills on draft day - they've got it made, because they're going to have a lot of really solid options wherever they pick. But if they can get a quarterback, they absolutely should, and that was our thinking behind grabbing Clausen in this mock draft.