Say it with me, Rumblers: "The 2011 NFL Draft is tomorrow."
Knowing that the next 48-plus hours are going to be rife with rumors and stuffed full of conversations on other topics, I figured I'd take the opportunity this morning to put forth my final big boards for the Buffalo Bills. At minimum, this is something you can bookmark so that when I inevitably look like an idiot years from now, you'll have proof for the masses.
This post will consist of six separate Top 3 boards. The idea is to look at the top of the draft - or at the top of a specific position, as the case may be - from a few different angles. I'd be very curious to see how everyone here fills out their own boards for each of the categories in the comments section.
Bills Top 3: These are the three players that, were I in Buddy Nix's shoes, would be at the top of my board for Buffalo.
1. Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: The massive, versatile and powerful lineman is pretty close to a slam dunk, fits George Edwards' defensive scheme very well, and also happens to address Buffalo's biggest weakness: defending the run.
2. Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M: I think this guy's a lock to become one of the league's most feared pass rushers. He's also an every-down defender because of outstanding athletic ability. Bills fans worried about his size and ability against the run are, I believe, blatantly missing the point with Miller.
3. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: The draft's best pure athlete, Peterson is also its best defensive playmaker. Like C.J. Spiller a year ago, he may need time to adjust from being a man among boys to being a boy among men. When he gets there, he'll be a shutdown corner.
Top 3 Talents: These are, I believe, the best three prospects on the board, regardless of position.
1. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: Green is a special, once-in-a-while talent that will change the offense he's drafted to almost immediately. He'll be a star.
2. Peterson: Also a once-in-a-while talent, though he's not as technically polished as Green.
3. Dareus: It's tougher to find clean, top-talent defensive linemen than people think.
Best Bills Fits: Purely from a need and scheme standpoint, I believe these three players fit the Bills nearly perfectly.
1. Cameron Jordan, DE, California: You don't find guys that can play 3-4 end and 4-3 end very often. Buffalo tried to use Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson, Marcus Stroud and Alex Carrington in that role a year ago, to no avail. If they plan on staying hybrid long-term, Jordan could really help them out.
2. Dareus: A great fit for 3-4 looks, and can play DT in a 4-3, as well. In 4-3 looks, however, he'd create something of a logjam at the DT position - which really isn't a problem, when you think about it.
3. Miller: Size is such a huge concern for Bills fans, but the team's front seven also lacks speed and athleticism. Miller obviously has a lot of that, and he'd also immediately be the team's best pass rusher.
Worst Bills Fits: The opposite of the list immediately preceding this one. I like all of these players, but don't think they make sense for Buffalo.
1. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn. I'm not worried about Fairley's perceived maturity issues, and think he'll be a star in the NFL. His talents are redundant in Buffalo, however, where the Bills already have a three-tech pass rusher in Kyle Williams.
2. Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri. It would not surprise me if Smith was the first pass rusher beyond Miller off the board. This kid is a monster talent. I just don't think he's athletic enough to play outside linebacker in a 3-4; he's purely a 4-3 end to my eye.
3. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. Listed here for two reasons. One of them you're inherently aware of. The other? There just aren't many poor fits for the Bills at the top of the draft.
Top 3 Quarterbacks: I probably couldn't get away with a post like this without mentioning everyone's favorite position.
1. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Big talent, bigger intangibles. The safest developmental prospect in the draft.
2. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: Big risk, bigger reward, biggest talent. I wouldn't take him for Buffalo, but I wouldn't be depressed if the team finally gambled on a significant talent at the game's most important position.
3. Jake Locker, QB, Washington: I might take him before Newton, because his talent is also outstanding. I think Locker's got more work to do technically than the two guys ahead of him.
Top 3 Sleepers: Lower-round guys that I think have a great chance to become players.
1. Cedric Thornton, DT, Southern Arkansas: A small-school five-tech end prospect with outstanding strength and just enough athleticism to get by.
2. Alex Wujciak, ILB, Maryland: In a very weak year at linebacker, the tough and productive Wujciak is the type of contact-craving, in-the-box ILB that the Bills need. He could eventually start here.
3. Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State: The latest in a long line of converted basketball players trying to make it in football, Thomas is an outstanding athlete with the size and hands to eventually be very productive.