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TCU's Hughes a sleeper for Bills at No. 9

The Buffalo Bills are making an attempt at a new direction under new GM Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey. But not everything has changed; Tom Modrak remains the chief scout of the club, and fundamentally, Nix, Gailey and Modrak look for many of the same qualities in football players that Dick Jauron and the previous regime did. Under the direction of Nix, the Bills will still place a heavy emphasis on experience, production and level of competition along with the usual scouting staples, talent and potential.

That's why TCU pass rusher Jerry Hughes needs to be a more frequently-mentioned possibility for the Bills on draft day.

Hughes is one of the most underrated natural athletes available at any position this year, as the 6'2", 255-pound senior is smooth and fluid in space (despite playing end in college), has a terrific first step, and has enough speed and agility to play end, outside linebacker or even inside linebacker at the NFL level. Scouts have fallen in love with him as an athlete, and his production isn't a problem, either - Hughes recorded 26.5 sacks and 36 tackles for a loss in two seasons as a starter, despite lacking a wide arsenal of pass rush moves.

TCU is coming off a 12-1 season in which the team made a serious run at a national title despite playing in the Mountain West Conference. Hughes and the Horned Frogs lost the Fiesta Bowl, 17-10, to another small-conference power, Boise State, whom Hughes and TCU defeated in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl. TCU's defense had a terrific season spearheaded by Hughes and fellow linebacker prospect Daryl Washington, as the Horned Frogs allowed just 12.8 points per game.

Most mock drafters have Hughes being selected in the late teens or twenties, but he's precisely the type of prospect that has a high enough ceiling to nudge him higher up the board than where many expect him to go. He's also the type of prospect that would not only fill a huge need for Buffalo, but would be valued highly by a team like the Bills. Don't sleep on this guy, folks - at the very least, he needs to be in the conversation at No. 9.

As Jeff Winters pointed out in the comments section, there's a reason that I snuck this post up from next week's rotation to this afternoon: it was the very significant look and chuckle that Modrak gave Nix when Hughes' name came up at today's pre-draft luncheon. WGR 550's Jeremy White detailed it here.

Jerry Hughes...remember the name.  Modrak made a quip to Nix and flashed Nix a look when his name came up.