With the 2012 NFL Draft just a few weeks away, most Buffalo Bills fans are anxiously waiting to find out who the newest members of the team will be. Like many, I enjoy reading countless mock drafts, player evaluations, and columns on many players I have never seen play a game. But that doesn’t stop me from buying into the hype, and getting exciting as the Mel Kipers of the world talk about the 40 time of a small school receiver as a possible 6th round sleeper.
As fans we have always had our opinion about who the team should draft – heck I thought Jimmy Clausen was the guy for the Bills in the first AND second rounds in 2010. But most fans will admit that this off-season and road to the draft is a bit different than years past. Why? Because of Mario Williams, and to a lesser extent, Mark Anderson. The most glaring weakness the team had last season was the pass rush, and it has been addressed through free agency in a major way.
So now the question comes down to where the Bills go with the #10 and #41 picks in the draft. (I can speculate about rounds 3-7, but players drafted in the first two rounds should challenge for starting positions). The thing that makes this year different, is the front office fixed the team’s biggest problem, making these picks somewhat of a luxury. And don’t get all excited that a 6-10 team has no luxuries – I don’t disagree – but the front office can look to upgrade some positions instead of filling a huge gaping hole. The team can draft the best player available, and stack talent upon talent. Hear me out:
Wide Receiver – Many fans are on board that the Bills should select Michael Floyd from Notre Dame with the #10 pick, and I don’t disagree. He could be an upgrade over Donald Jones at the #2 spot, but the team doesn’t have to go WR at #10. With Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler re-signed, Ryan Fitzpatrick has two of his favorite targets back, in addition to David Nelson and the previously mentioned Jones. Marcus Easley is a big question mark, but apparently has the tools and physical attributes that Buddy Nix is looking for in a #2. Add Brad Smith into the mix and the Bills receiving corps may have enough experience and talent that the team looks past WR at #10. Apparently there is depth at WR in this year’s draft where it could be addressed in rounds 2-4.
Left Tackle – While picking a Left Tackle in the first round doesn’t excite the fans, most would agree that this is a position that could use an upgrade. Once it became official that Demetress Bell wasn’t coming back, some experts started changing their projections that the Bills have to go LT in the first round. But the one thing we know about Buddy Nix is that he won’t reach for a player at #10. If he does not feel that guys like Jonathan Martin or Mike Adams are worth that pick, you know he will go in a different direction. While I hope that depth and competition at LT is added sooner than later, I do have faith that Nix & Co. will find the right pieces as they have in the past on the O-line (Urbrik, Rhinehart, Pears).
Cornerback – I’m guessing that the Bills’ cornerbacks were the most excited about the signing of Mario Williams, as most QB’s seemed to have an eternity in the pocket last season. An improved pass rush will only make life easier for the defensive backfield. While the team has a blend of experience and talent at CB (Mcgee, Williams, Florence, Mckelvin) this could be a position where the value of an available player fits for the #10 pick. If the team went with Kirkpatrick or Gilmore in the first round, fans should be happy with an infusion of talent at CB, and hope for upgrades at WR or LT later in the draft.
Linebacker – The real question here is if the front office sees Boston College’s Luke Kuechly as worthy of the #10 pick. He is by far the top-rated 4-3 linebacker with an extremely impressive resume over his past two seasons. If the answer is “no” then the team will look to address the position later in the draft, as no LB is worthy of the pick. Players like Arthur Moats and Kirk Morrisson would be relied upon alongside Kelvin Sheppard and Nick Barnett.
If I had to make a guess about the #10 pick I would predict that Michael Floyd is selected. This really just goes off a hunch, but the fact that Robert Meacham was brought in immediately as free agency began makes me think they want to make a significant upgrade.
But again, this offseason is different because the biggest weakness was addressed in free agency. Four weeks ago fans would have freaked out about the idea of selecting anything but a pass rusher at #10. Now the team has the luxury of getting the best player at #10, who will immediately be embraced, regardless of position, by the Bills Mafia.
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