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Plenty of Intrigue, Guesswork, and Estimation Surrounding Bills’ Draft Plans

From left to right: Bowers, Fairley and Peterson could all improve Bills' defense

Ah, it’s March, which signifies a few things.  Hopefully warmer weather is just off the horizion.  Likewise for the 2011 baseball season.  March Madness is about to begin and NFL mock drafts are running roughshod through any and all Internet databases these days. 

No matter what the end result or when this nasty NFL labor dispute is resolved, there will be a 2011 NFL draft, or as I like to refer to the draft as football’s version of Full Tilt Poker.  I’ll be the first among us to admit I have a sick fascination with scouring the Internet for the latest mock drafts, and I don’t even know why.  After all, it’s March 6th.  It’s a ridiculous notion that the pundits and experts know or even have the slightest inkling of what players teams are going to select.  Heck, it’s equally nuts to predict what will happen even a week or a day before the draft.  But yet, we don’t let that stop us from guessing and speculation.

So I say, let’s not fight it; rather, let’s embrace the idiocy and welcome intrigue and guesswork with open arms!  Who’s with me?

Okay, in all seriousness the Buffalo Bills find themselves in an all-too-similar, near decade long position of needing to hit a proverbial “home run” with the No.3 overall pick in this year’s draft.  The Bills were in the same position just one year ago, in need of a franchise quarterback prospect and makeovers on both the offensvie and defensive lines.  We know how the story ended.  Buffalo shocked virtually everyone and selected RB C.J. Spiller, further crowding their backfield that already had Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.  Spiller had a disappointing rookie campaign and now the Bills find themselves right back in the top end of the draft after a four-win season in 2010.

So the questioning begin:  Have the Bills learned their lesson?  Will they stop neglecting the lines?  Will they fix the league’s worst run defense?  Can they finally start drafting booms and stop collecting busts with their first round picks?

I wish I had an answer to any of the previously purposed questions.  Skim over the mock drafts at your own leisure and you’re likely to find one of these names in the Bills’ No.3 slot:  Daquan Bowers, Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus, Patrick Peterson, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Von Miller and A.J. Green.  It’s hard for me to argue against any one of these picks because I think just about all of them could help the Bills either immediately or in 2012.  

The biggest discrepancy surrounding Buffalo is what they should do versus what they will do.  And it seems as though the should and the will almost never coincide with the Bills’ selection.  Spiller was a luxury pick and it made very little sense to not only draft another running back, but then it made even less sense when the Bills hung on to Lynch for almost half the season before trading him to Seattle and unclogging their crowded backfield.  Like many others,  I thought they should’ve taken either the best tackle on the board (Anthony Davis or Bryan Bulaga) or rolled the dice on Jimmy Clausen.

On the surface, the Bills’ biggest need remains on the defensive side of the ball, particular their porous and downright awful run defense.  It’s been horrid and neglected for nearly two seasons now.  Switching back and forth last season from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense didn’t help matters.  Neither does the fact the Bills remain undersized at linebacker and don’t have another threat opposite Kyle Williams.  Simply put:  the front seven lacks elite talent capable of getting to the quarterback and stopping the running game. 

That makes the top defensive prospects ideal fits:  Alabama’s DT Marcell Dareus, Auburn DT Nick Fairley, Clemson DE Daquan Bowers and Texas A & M LB Von Miller.  Buffalo could have a shot at either Fairley or Dareus, depending on which way Carolina goes with first pick and what Denver decides to do with the second pick.  Dareus and Fairley would instantly upgrade the front seven, particularly against the run.  In a division with Tom Brady, Bowers would likely become the Bills’ best, if not only, significant pass rusher on the edge.  The linebacking core is very unflattering and not the most athletic collection.  What they’ll get out of Shawne Merriman and whether or not he’ll ever regain the terror form he played with earlier in his career is in great question.  Chris Kelsay is a marginal player.  Ditto for the likes of Akin Adoyele.  Andra Davis is coming off a torn labrum and Paul Posluzsny might become a free agent at some point whenever the labor dispute is resolved.   Miller is the top rated linebacker in the draft and brings versatility as he can play in either the 3-4 or 4-3.

The quarterback position is pretty much self explanatory.  Buffalo has been spinning wheel at quarterback ever since the departure of Jim Kelly and it’s been a revolving door of mediocrity under center.  Last year, Ryan Fitzpatrick stabilized the offense, and turned in 23 touchdowns and 3,000 yards passing.  Head coach Chan Gailey has stated he supports Fitzpatrick and backs him returning as the starter next season.  But the fact remains, he’s a stop-gap option for the Bills and not the long term solution. 

The biggest question for the Bills isn’t whether they decide to draft their potential franchise quarterback, but whether or not Auburn’s Cam Newton or Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert are franchise quarterback caliber.  If they decide either “fits the Bill” so to speak, the selection should be an early choice.  But if the Bills do their homework and deem Newton, Gabbert or Ryan Mallet (Arkansas) or even Jake Locker (Washington) is their guy, that will likely trump all other draft plans no matter how much they like Fitzpatrick.

It’s also tough to argue against LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.  A freakish athlete and regarded as the draft’s most complete player, Peterson would be a fit for the Bills.  Terrence McGee turns 30 and he’s had plenty of trouble staying healthy and staying on the field.  Drayton Florence will be a free agent and may head for greener pastures on the open market.  The jury remains out on former first round pick Leodis McKelvin.  While cornerback might not be the most pressing of needs, I don’t think there would be many detractors or bashers should Buffalo land Peterson.

Along the lines of best pure talent, that’s where Georgia wide out A.J. Green comes into play.  Lee Evans is making Andre Johnson-type money and his performance in 2010 was forgettable.  Due to financial concerns, it’s possible the Bills could part ways with Evans, leaving a big void opposite emerging receiver Steve Johnson.  You can also add WR Julio Jones’ name to the mix, as he and Green are considered the two best receiving prospects.  But is Green or Jones likely to be the next Calvin Johnson or the next Charles Rogers?  Something for everyone to chew on.

Again, it’s March and we’re only in the infancy stages on the road to the 2011 NFL Draft.  So I’ll pose this question to Bills’ fans everywhere:

Which player do you think best “fits the Bill” for Buffalo at No.3?

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