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Five high-upside Bills that need to emerge

The Buffalo Bills are barely into the first year of yet another re-build. As fans, it's hard to stomach, but patience is once again required in anticipating the winner this community deserves; Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey need time to get everything in place. There's just no workaround for that fact.

That said, the NFL is an impatient league. Being in this situation, with a new coaching staff, new decision-makers and new football schema, doesn't excuse a lack of progress. Progress must be made in 2010. Expectations must be tempered, but they should not be eradicated.

Most of you will look at this headline and think, "just five?" Clearly, there are more than just five young players on this team that need to progress in their first season under Gailey's tutelage. In fact, I can think of four quarterbacks who fit that criteria. But most of those players are fringe players, or already face irrational expectations for their talent levels.

This list is about five young guys that haven't proven much at the NFL level yet. The oldest player on this list is just 25 years old. Beyond the fact that all of these players represent significant investments and have outstanding skill levels, they're also the first five players that I'd name as "potential superstars" on this team. Maybe that's setting unreasonable expectations (something I don't like to do), but I'm writing this post anyway, because all of these players are more than capable of meeting those expectations. It's impossible not to dream big in some areas, even in a season of tempered expectations, and these are the players that I'm absolutely aching to see emerge as legitimate NFL players in 2010, and perhaps stars in years to come.

1. Aaron Maybin, OLB. He's got everything you look for in an NFL edge rusher - good burst, good top-end speed, good length. Physically, everything is there. At age 22, Maybin is still one of the youngest players on the roster. He's making a position switch to outside linebacker, which carries a great deal of responsibility. Mentally, he needs to mature from an on-field standpoint; that will come with experience, and given the state of the Bills' OLB corps, he'll certainly get experience this year. Maybin is listed first here because the pass rush is the lifeblood of every NFL defense, regardless of scheme. He's got everything he needs - talent, coaching and opportunity. Now he just needs to make the most of it.

2. C.J. Spiller, RB. I was very hesitant to list a rookie in this post. Spiller is a unique case for two reasons: he possesses incredibly unique talents that will make him useful from the outset, and he plays a position at which the transition from college to the pros is arguably the easiest. There's no reason not to heap expectations on this guy, because as a player and as a person, he's up to it. All he'll need is opportunity, which, as we all know, might be tricky. I anticipate a slow start, but once Gailey figures out how to use him, he'll get more quality touches throughout his rookie season. He's a perennial Pro Bowl talent; all he needs is opportunity to get there.

3. Leodis McKelvin, CB. By adding this name, we've already covered the team's last three first-round draft picks; that shouldn't surprise you. McKelvin had an incredibly disappointing season in 2009, fumbling away an opening night win in New England and landing on IR two weeks later. Like Maybin at linebacker, McKelvin has everything you like to see in a cornerback - quick feet, fluid hips, excellent speed, good closing ability and a flair for the dramatic. He'll benefit from playing more man coverage. Leodis is due a big year after the football goods frowned on him last September, and if he even begins to sniff his potential, we're going to be talking about one of the league's best cornerbacks next spring.

4. Paul Posluszny, ILB. Maybe I was a bit harsh when I said that none of these players had proven anything at the NFL level. That's not the case for Posluszny, who displayed a solid level of competency in his two healthy NFL seasons, 2008 and 2009. He was slightly out of position in a zone-based 4-3 MLB role, but he'll be moving back to the position he was born to play in 2010 - the weak-side ILB in a 3-4 scheme. Buffalo now has a Ted linebacker (Andra Davis) and adequately-sized defensive linemen to keep Posluszny clean, and I'm predicting that he'll not only flourish from an on-field production standpoint, but be less dinged-up than we've seen him in the past. He should easily exceed his 2009 numbers (110 tackles, 3 INT, 3 FF, one sack) next year. He's ready to do so.

5. Shawn Nelson, TE. Last year's fourth-round pick might seem somewhat out of place on this list given the fact that the rest of the players represent significantly higher levels of investment (Posluszny was drafted No. 34 overall; Nelson No. 121 overall), but his talent level says otherwise. Nelson has great size, excellent hands, an innate ability to make difficult catches seem effortless, and acquitted himself rather well as a blocker in his rookie season. In short, he's got the talent to become a well-rounded, potentially dominant NFL tight end. First thing's first: he's got to stay healthy, as he was in and out of the lineup far too often in '09. If he can nail that down, Buffalo's race to find a second legitimate receiving option is wide open, and there's no reason that a tight end with Nelson's talents can't assume that role. He'll have an opportunity to emerge in Chan Gailey's offense.