Owners of the NFL's worst run defense, the Buffalo Bills must spend a second straight off-season attempting to beef up that particular area of their football team. Last week, we talked about the team's lack of two-gap defensive linemen as a problem in scheming to fit up the run, and how last year's draft selections of Torell Troup and Alex Carrington - while short on immediate impact - could prove to be a valuable long-term strategy.
There are defensive linemen that the Bills will consider with their No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft - Auburn's Nick Fairley and Alabama's Marcell Dareus chief among them, if available - but if GM Buddy Nix plays his cards right, he'll be able to add a quality two-gap prospect or two with later selections. Or, dare we dream, even a trade down.
Take a look at the Top 200 2011 NFL Draft Prospects over at SB Nation's NFL Draft blog, Mocking the Draft. Fairley and Dareus sit near the top of the pecking order, in very elite territory, as expected. There is a very talented, very underrated second tier of defensive linemen, however, that would help Buffalo improve against the run without requiring a Top 5 draft selection. More after the jump.
DE Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), DE Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), NT Stephen Paea (Oregon State), DE Cameron Jordan (California), DE J.J. Watt (Wisconsin) and DE Allen Bailey (Miami) all currently carry first-round grades from Dan Kadar. Two more five-technique prospects, Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson and Illinois' Corey Liuget (who is a much better fit as a three-technique), could be had at the top of the second round.
Then there's a third, still quite talented tier that should be available in the third and fourth rounds - a group that includes quality nose tackle prospects (Baylor's Phil Taylor, Stanford's Sione Fua, Mississippi's Jerrell Powe), as well as several more five-technique prospects - including one of my favorites, Iowa's Christian Ballard. Here's the point: yes, the Bills need better defensive linemen that can play in a 3-4. No, it's not imperative that they find one with the third overall pick.