Riley Reiff, Michael Floyd, Dre Kirkpatrick, Cordy Glenn and like 10 other guys.
I really can't tell you who is better of the batch. As I wrote before, I believe the Bills biggest needs are LT, WR, OLB and CB. Frankly, for the first time in like a decade, the Bills can go anywhere they want and I won't have a heart attack if they don't pick my preferred position. There seems to be a log jam of guys available at that 10th spot who fit the needs listed. Now, I know we all go by mock drafts, but just remember a majority of them are wrong. Check the mocks in 2010 with Jimmy Clausen and how no one had Dareus going to Buffalo until like 48 hours before the NFL Draft last year.
The best thing I can do is try and look at the Bills and Buddy Nix's draft past to figure out which position they will pick. Remember, Nix was on the Bills scouting staff from 1993-2000. So, instead of always looking back at the last two years, I want to look back at his work with the 90's Bills and the 2000s Chargers. Plus, I'll check out the Bills draft history over the years without Buddy. Let's not forget that Ralph Wilson has been there for all of them and still has a say.
So, instead of listening to people try and breakdown Buddy's lunch presser like the Watergate tapes (HOLY CRAP! He said he likes Chris Hairston and thinks he can be a starter and win. BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, he said he likes the guy from Georgia! What could he be saying? How could we take credit for knowing what he wants to do?!), let's go through the actual records.
I've always had a love/hate relationship with trading down. Every time it seems to happen on draft day, the experts go insane with praise. If the Pats do it, everyone marvels at how they are working the draft board...whatever the hell that means. Again, we have no clue if trading down will work on draft day. The Pats had four picks in the first two rounds last year and they did nothing for them this past year. As for the love part, yes, it gets exciting to see your team make moves and the idea of getting more picks who could eventually become players, make it worth while. As for the Bills, I've been watching their drafts since 1990 and the only time they traded down in the first round was in 2001 (14th to 21st and got an extra 2nd rounder).
Now, when you look at Nix's body of work in SD, things are different. The Chargers traded down in first round in 2001, 2003 and 2004. Now two of those instances (Vick and Eli) had to do with contract squabbles and Eli not digging Southern Cal. So, it's not like the Chargers are like New England in wheeling and dealing because they like to. Also, Buddy Nix was merely the Robin there next to Batman (AJ Smith).
As for what the Bills could get if they traded down, the Redskins had the 10th spot last year and they traded down to acquire the Jags 16th and 49th pick. What did the Jags do? They drafted Blaine Gabbert. Sounds like if you have a QB available for the taking at your spot, you will be fielding calls. I guess you have to hope that Ryan Tannehill somehow falls to 10. Here are some other interesting trade downs from the 10th-12th spot to look at when going through the last few years:
- 2006 NFL Draft: The Browns traded the 12th overall selection to the Ravens for the 13th and 181st choices. (Yes, you moved down just one spot for a 6th round pick. Weird.)
- 2010 NFL Draft: Miami traded their 12th selection, a fourth round selection (110th overall) and a sixth round selection (173rd) to San Diego for a first-round selection (28th overall), a second round selection (40th overall), a fourth-round selection (126th overall), and linebacker Tim Dobbins.
Since the Bills made Mike Williams the #4 pick in 2002, the franchise has never spent more than a 4th round pick on the tackle position. EH! Is that even possible? Did Mike Williams really scare Ralph Wilson that badly? Since I've been alive (1980), the Bills have only used 3 first round picks on offensive tackles (Will Wolford '86, John Fina '92 and Big Mike '02). If this was last year, I'd be banging on that draft drum to get an OT. I've been saying they have needed one for years...DECADES, it seemed like. But the line played great last year.
The Bills allowed the least amount of sacks in the NFL and ranked 4th in rushing yards per attempt. The 23 sacks they allowed were lower than the numbers they gave up during the Super Bowl years. For you youngsters, the 1991 line had four pro bowlers on it. So, they are in nice company, wouldn't you say? On the other side of the coin, yes, I am a little scared of having Chris Hairston as your starting left tackle. Sure, he played OK for a rookie last year, but do you really want to have him be your every down LT? I'm not so sure. Plus, Andy Levitre is a free agent after next year and Eric Wood has injury concerns. You may need to find a new anchor for the line. But again, the stats say they don't have a need. I think this is one of your situations in which Gailey/Fitz's quick release offense makes the line look better than they are.
As for Nix's San Diego history, the Chargers didn't use any first round picks on offensive linemen during his stay.
This is my dark horse pick and had nothing to do with what Buddy said last week because he's full of you know what when it comes to talking draft to the press. Look, I'm of the mindset that the secondary was compromised by the inability to get to the QB. That's what I've been preaching since the end of the season and I'm sticking to it. The secondary should be a lot better with Mario and Anderson. But, there are some long term question marks about the unit.
- Jarius Byrd is a free agent after next year.
- Terrence McGee has missed 22 of his last 48 games. He's probably not making it through this season.
- Drayton Florence is hot/cold and I'm still not sure he's a #1 corner. Also, he only has two years left on his deal.
- Aaron Williams is unproven.
- Leodis McKelvin sucks.
Let's not forget they brought in Stanford Routt in February, which tells you they aren't exactly thrilled with the secondary. The Bills finished 6th in interceptions with 20, but we all know a boat load of them came during their 5-2 start. Hell, 8 of them came during their first encounter with Brady and Vick's visit to Buffalo. It was an anomaly. Plain and simple.
More importantly, this is the Bills and Buddy Nix's bread and butter. Since 1990, the Bills have used 8 first round picks on defensive backs. Up until they started giving out extensions to DBs (McGee and Florence), the Bills used to let their corners hit the free agent market and replace them with high draft picks. As for Nix in San Diego, they drafted four defensive backs in the first round from 2002-2008. Keep in mind that the Chargers for most of those years had a ferocious pass rush with Shawne Merriman and still added DBs. So, maybe the Bills don't believe in my theory after all.
The bottom line is that this is the position the Bills probably have the best track record of drafting guys high. Do I agree with it? Not really. I just think the league is so pass happy that DBs are compromised and aren't worth the high pick. Plus, if you get a pass rush, you can put anyone back there.
It has been four years since they drafted Leodis McKelvin, wouldn't you say that the DB draft rotation could be coming? I know when we look at draft boards, the best corner around the time the Bills select someone is Dre Kirkpatrick and he's being selected anywhere between 15-20. Of course, mock drafts are bullsh#t (See: 2006 and Donte Whitner). The other thing to consider is that Wannstedt's defenses were always built around having corners on their own islands. I remember Sam Madison and Terrell Buckley use to play a lot of man-to-man in Miami. Again, don't sleep on it.
Since 1983, the Bills have only used two first round picks on WRs (Eric Moulds and Lee Evans). Crazy, right? While Buddy was in SD, the Chargers used only one 1st round pick on a WR and that was Craig "Buster" Davis. Now here's where things get interesting: Since 1994, the Bills have used a 2nd round pick to draft a wide receiver five times (Bucky Brooks, Peerless Price, James Hardy, Roscoe Parrish and Josh Reed). I wouldn't exactly say that's a good list, would you? As for Buddy in San Diego, they used two 2nd rounders on WRs (Vincent Jackson and Reche Caldwell).
As for this year, everyone seems to think that Michael Floyd would be a reach at 10. Again, Mock drafts are stupid. However, the experts are also saying that you can get WRs in the 2nd or 3rd round (They are probably wrong, but we'll pretend they are right to prove my point). So, with the Bills history of drafting WRs in the 2nd round, maybe they are going to make it six for six.
Gailey has always struck me as a guy who thinks he can make chicken sh#t into chicken salad with his WRs. He thinks he can have a street guy and make him into a #1 option. I've also been of the mindset that you can find WRs in the later rounds. If you look at the top 30 leading WRs (Yardage wise) from last year, only 11 of them were 1st round picks and only 3 of those were in top 10. The NFL wants passing and that's why they are always protecting the QB and hardly allow contact down the field with WRs. Sorry David Nelson fans, but if this was 15 years ago, a undrafted 2nd year free agent isn't catching 62 balls.
I do believe that WR is probably the biggest need I've listed (Even though it changes daily). I'd like to give Fitz as many options as possible to succeed. Plus, with the rules being so in favor of the WRs, a top 10 pick in the draft could do damage during their rookie year (See: AJ Green and Julio Jones). Also, the Bills haven't exactly been drafting or signing offensive guys. Since Nix took over in 2010, the only offensive free agent they have signed has been Brad Smith and on the defensive side of the ball the list goes as followed: Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Andra Davis, Dwan Edwards, Kirk Morrison, and Nick Barnett. See the difference? Goto the draft and it's the same story. From rounds 1-3 since 2010, the Bills have only selected one offensive player (CJ Spiller). Don't you think management should give Chan KFC instead of chicken sh#t for a change?
I think OLBs in a 4-3 scheme tends to be a position teams ignore, especially if they have a good front four. Last year, there wasn't even a 4-3 OLB selected in the first round. Plus, the last time the Bills selected a linebacker in the first round was in 1987 (Shane Conlan). Also, when you look back at the Cowboys/Dolphins teams with Wanny, they didn't exactly have stellar OLBs (Vincent Smith, Robert Jones, eh?). I know they had Zach Thomas and Ken Norton Jr., but Thomas was a 5th round pick and Norton was a 2nd rounder, and Wannstedt was not even on the coaching staff when those guys were picked. His defenses are all about pressure from your front four and press coverage. The LBs don't seem to get involved all that much.
Now what scares me has to do what the reoccurring horror show known as the Bills LBs against the opposition's TEs. In 2010, the Bills allowed 66 receptions for 803 yards and 11 touchdowns. Did they get better in 2011? Of course not. 82 catches for 1,075 yards and 13 touchdowns. Did I mention we pretty much have the same LBs? Picture what the LBing corp. would look like if Nick Barnett went down with an injury (Missed 19 games between 2008-2010). It would be ugly.
The only guy who seems to fit the bill is Luke Keuchly and I don't see the Bills drafting him because he plays middle LB and they already have Sheppard, even though I think you could get away with upgrading for a guy who is a 2nd year pro from the 3rd round. Can he play on the outside? I'm not so sure. After that, it gets dicey. Maybe Lavonte David falls to them in the 2nd round wouldn't be a bad pick, but I just don't think the Bills care all that much about their LBs in this defense. For crap sacks, when they were a 3-4 team, we had Arthur Moats and Kelsay on the outside when everyone knew that LBs are what makes a 3-4 work. I will say, picturing an impact LB on this team gets me more excited than having a #2 WR or LT.
I'll make this short, I just don't see the Bills adding another defensive lineman. They already have like 8 or 9 guys in rotation. Would I be against it? No (Kelsay sucks). But I just don't think a team that has invested almost 100 million dollars in guaranteed money on DL would do this. But again, if they are going by best available athlete, maybe they will. Hell, they already had Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch when they drafted Spiller. Also, the Bills have some injury history working against them on the DL (See: Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Chris Kelsay, Dwan Edwards and Shawne Merriman). Maybe you wanna add some insurance? Maybe? Eh. As for the past, since the Bills drafted Bruce Smith in 1985, they have only drafted two defensive linemen in the first round (Flowers and Maybin). Yeah, they ain't doing it.
Like I said, if Tannehill falls to them and they think he's a franchise QB, I think they should take him. However, I just look at the Bills and they seem to think they are very close with the guys they have right now. If you draft Tannehill (Wasn't that the last name of Biff's great, great uncle in Back to the Future III?), he's not helping your team in 2012. If he's available at 10, you gotta think the Bills would work the phone to trade down. Another thing worth mentioning is that the Bills did tell Fitzpatrick last year that if a franchise QB was there for the taking, they were going to do just that. Yes, they gave him the extension, but he played like crap down the stretch. Hmmm. I still think he's not coming here. Since Kelly retired, the Bills have used a 1st round pick to select/trade for three QBS (Bledsoe, Johnson and Losman). While in SD, the Chargers selected Brees in the 2nd round and Phillip Rivers in the 1st. Also, don't listen to the hype in the local media. We are going to hear a lot about him on WGR because QB talk moves that needle. He's not coming here. Nope. NO!...right?
It's such a tossup. Anywhere they go with the pick I'll be cool as a cucumber. It is probably because I'm still living off the Mario Williams honeymoon. If the positions are all equal as far as talent goes: My needs would be WR, OLB, LT, CB and DE. However, this is mostly a 1A-IE type of discussion. I won't throw a beer at the TV or have a CJ Spiller/Donte Whitner meltdown if they pick a DB. If you put me on the spot, I think they go Kirkpatrick because of the reasons I listed earlier.
Let the hypemachine kill the Mel Kiper World, but I'm as cool as a cucumber with whatever choice the Bills make.