2013 NFL Draft prospects begin reporting to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis tomorrow, which means it's probably time that I go on record with some opinions about certain players and my thoughts on the Buffalo Bills and their No. 8 overall pick.
Before I list the names of eight players that have caught my interest early in the pre-draft process, please understand that this isn't a "Top 8" or a "big board" or any sort of ranking. I have not formed solid opinions on the Bills and the draft, because it's impossible to do so at this juncture; so much will change when free agency begins, and there's still a ton to learn and study when it comes to this year's draft class.
Still, I won't deny that some players interest me more than others at this juncture. Without making any sort of definitive declaration about what I think the Bills should do with their first-round pick - because despite the large number of rush linebackers that make this list, I'm honestly not doing that - these are the eight players that I'm most interested in as the Combine begins. In no particular order...
Geno Smith, quarterback, West Virginia. Even though he never beat Doug Marrone at Syracuse, Smith is fairly universally regarded as the best quarterback available, and that's definitely something the Bills could use. Plus, reports indicate that he's actually going to throw in Indianapolis. That doesn't happen often with potential No. 1 overall picks, so Smith's could be a very interesting tale this week.
Jarvis Jones, rush linebacker, Georgia. No prospect has more riding on this week's physical than Jones, the elite-level pass rusher with spinal stenosis. If he exits this week with good athletic numbers and quelled doubts about his spine, you're likely to see him rise into the Top 5 discussion - which is where Von Miller, a player with which Jones compares favorably, was ultimately drafted.
Dion Jordan, defensive end, Oregon. I understand that Jordan is a bit of a divisive figure, mostly because fans are still squeamish when they see "pass rusher" and "potential" in the same sentence (thanks, Aaron Maybin), but athletes like Jordan are rare - and that whole "Mike Pettine prefers versatile defenders" argument is extremely true. The hybrid defense is coming to Buffalo, and Jordan can wear a lot of hats.
Ezekiel Ansah, defensive end, BYU. I've watched two BYU games from last season to watch Ansah, and this guy's upside is enormous. It's hard to believe he's only been playing football for three years; he's still got a lot to learn and a lot to work on, but he's another really rare athlete that can do a lot of different things (he both stood up and lined up over center for the Cougars). I think he'd fit Pettine's defense well.
Kenny Vaccaro, safety, Texas. We talked a bit about Vaccaro earlier today, and I really believe that this is a guy that Bills fans should be thinking hard about as a possibility in the first round. Jairus Byrd is a great free safety, but he's not the type of matchup safety that can really make a good secondary great. I think there are elements to Vaccaro's game - his physicality and his versatility - that could help this defense immensely.
Damontre Moore, rush linebacker, Texas A&M. There's a lot to like about the guy that replaced the aforementioned Von Miller at A&M, but having seen an inordinate amount of A&M football last season (Johnny Football!), I'm with guys like Daniel Jeremiah that don't necessarily view him as an elite prospect. I don't think he provides the same versatility or athletic upside as other players at his position. Still, he's a rock solid prospect.
Alec Ogletree, linebacker, Georgia. Yeah, I know about the DUI. And yeah, I hear people talking about the fact that he doesn't play the run well, and that he misses tackles and struggles to take on blockers. I'm still intrigued by his athletic upside and the fact that he profiles as a versatile (there's that word again) three-down defender. Georgia is the hot school this year, and I want to see more of Ogletree to see if the Top 10 hype is warranted.
Kevin Minter, linebacker, LSU. LSU is another school I saw a lot this past season, and Minter always caught my eye. There wasn't a ton of buzz about him, however, until recently, when Daniel Jeremiah - who I'll freely admit has been my go-to draft analyst of late - tweeted this, this and this. Even if I hadn't seen any Minter this year, those tweets would have been enough to pique my interest. Buffalo needs to find at least one three-down linebacker this year.
Those are the eight guys I'm most intrigued by as the Combine begins; who are your eight?