It's obvious that the Buffalo Bills need to improve on the defensive side of the ball if they hope to compete in the AFC East, and improve on their dismal 4-12 2010 season record. Throughout recent weeks of the NFL Combine, mock drafts throughout the web have the Bills taking various players from Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, to Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson, to Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, to Texas A&M pass rusher Von Miller.
The Bills cannot afford to miss on this selection, or go the "Best Player Available" route, as they did last year, selecting Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, when Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch were on the roster.
Last week, I went over the differences in Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley and Alabama's Marcell Dareus, coming to the conclusion that Dareus would be a better fit for the Bills defense.
This time, I will evaluate the differences in Miller and Peterson, and evaluate who would be a better fit, both immediate and long term.
CB Patrick Peterson, Louisiana State
Prior to the combine, Peterson was projected as a Top 10 pick in the upcoming draft, but his incredible performance of a 4.34 second 40-yard dash, 38" vertical leap, and a 10'6" broad jump, has solidified him into the top five, if not No. 1 overall.
At 6'2", 219 pounds, Peterson is a huge corner, and he has the speed to keep up with the big guys such as Brandon Marshall or Braylon Edwards, that he would see multiple times each year if he were to play for the Bills.
Peterson was the recipient to the Jim Thorpe and Chuck Bednarik awards, in addition to earning SEC Defensive and Special Teams player of the year honors, after picking off four passes and breaking up another six, while taking two punt returns back for touchdowns.
Extremely agile for his size, scouts see Peterson playing on either side of the field, as well as putting him inside against slot receivers. At the combine, he displayed fluid and smooth hips, and was able to stay balanced while running backwards.
The fact that he recorded four interceptions last year is a testimony to how great his ball skills are, as he didn't have many opportunities to make plays while teams were opting against throwing his way. He is great in man-to-man press coverage, and has the lockdown ability you look for in a corner.
Scouts see his only deficiency when defending the run, yet his speed and strength still help him get to the ball carrier.
At Louisiana State, Peterson played 13 games as a true freshman, in one of the best conferences in the nation. In his three years as a Tiger, Peterson racked up 145 tackles, forced a fumble, and intercepted seven passes, while averaging 29.1 yards per kick return, and 16.1 yards per punt return.
If he falls to the Bills at No. 3, he would be an immediate upgrade over incumbent starters Leodis McKelvin and Terrence McGee. McGee is a solid corner, but he is coming to the end of his career, and is plagued by nagging injuries, and McKelvin still hasn't developed into the player he could've been after his No. 11 selection in 2008.
OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
Texas A&M defensive end Von Miller burst onto draft boards late in the season, and has solidified himself as a top 10 selection after an impressive Senior Bowl and combine.
The Bills may shy from selecting Miller, due to the wounds from Aaron Maybin's selection are still healing.
However, Miller has proved himself for all four seasons as an Aggie, recording 178 tackles, 39 sacks, and almost 50 tackles for a loss.
Furthermore, he knows how to strip the ball, as he forced 11 fumbles. Miller has prototypical size for a pass rusher, as he stands at 6'3" 251 pounds. He is strong against the run, but he needs to work on his play from the linebacker position, as he will need to drop into coverage.
He ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the combine, so the speed is there, but he will need to work on his technique to fully prosper. His pass rush moves are already there, and his athleticism is unmatched, but far too often you can see him try to run around offensive linemen, rather than through him.
Coaches will need to teach him when to take his shots, and when to make a play. He gained nine pounds since the Senior Bowl, but will need to add a little more to his frame, hopefully without compromising his speed.
I think Patrick Peterson has to be the pick, if he is there at No. 3. Von Miller brings too many question marks, and even though the Bills need a pass rusher, I'm not ready to take him at three just yet.
Miller will be a good player, don't get me wrong, but Peterson has rare ability you don't see often, and to pass him up when Terrence McGee is 30 years old, Leodis McKelvin hasn't been able to develop, and Drayton Florence is almost 30, it's obvious that the Bills will be taking a corner soon.
The Bills wore the worst in the league against the run, but having a guy like Peterson, who can be left alone with a receiver, will allow safeties to shade the box more, allowing the defense to do more, and give complex looks.
Miller seems too small to me to flourish right away, and the Bills need more bulk, not athleticism to their defensive line. Aaron Maybin was selected as a defensive end who was extremely athletic, and never was able to get that power you need as a pass rusher.