I’m many things, but naive isn’t one of them. I’ve somewhat resided in infamy among Buffalo Bills fans over the past year; with the Shawn Merriman debacle and an overall perceived tendency to accentuate the negative in an organization that’s struggled for a very (very) long time.
I like to consider myself pretty sharp in regards to staying in tune with what Bills fans have to say, especially around this time of year. I certainly don’t know everything but on a general basis, I’m well aware of who you guys want the Bills to draft starting on Thursday.
My plummeting popularity will probably dip further as unfortunately for the majority of you, I don’t think your draft wishes will come true.
Justin Blackmon and Matt Kalil aren’t falling to the Bills, despite growing sentiment after reading highly respected Greg Cosell’s mock. Michael Floyd isn’t coming through those doors, and neither is an offensive tackle or cornerback with that No. 10 overall pick.
At least that’s what I predict.
Hopefully by now most Bills fans are on the Buddy Nix bandwagon and trust him to make the right picks over the next three days. It may not be the guy(s) you’ve craved on the surface, but the passing over your top rated guy in each round will be quick and painless.
Then again, what the hell do I know? Here’s my final mock, as always with a no trades allowed policy, even though there may be a slew of them. Therefore please read–and react accordingly.
1. Indianapolis- Andrew Luck, QB (Stanford): This pick is all-but-official after the organization announced Tuesday it would draft Luck.
2. Washington- Robert Griffin III, QB (Baylor): This pick may as well be official.
3. Minnesota- Stephon Gilmore, CB (South Carolina): Nearly everyone and their mother has USC tackle Matt Kalil slotted here, and I did in my first mock draft. However, that’s changed. First, the Vikings are in a division where passing is at a premium, so a potential lock down corner is going to outweigh everything else. In my own studies as well as talking to countless others, it seems Gilmore has risen above Claiborne as the best cornerback in this draft and I think we get our first of what’s sure to a handful of draft shockers right here.
4. Cleveland- Trent Richardson, RB (Alabama): They’ll definitely be tempted to go with Justin Blackmon, but with another first round pick and an early second, they can get a good receiver to help Colt McCoy a little later. McCoy will be aided anyway by the addition of Richardson, who many scouts think will be a stud at the NFL level.
5. Tampa Bay- Morris Claiborne, CB (LSU): Vincent Jackson’s free agent signing solidified the wide receiver position and the Bucs need a star corner badly. That’s word-for-word what I write in my first mock, and I’m sticking to it.
6. St. Louis- Justin Blackmon, WR (Oklahoma State): Forget these “time of the year” ramblings that Michael Floyd may go off the board before Blackmon. It’s time for the Rams to get serious about helping out Sam Bradford.
7. Jacksonville- Matt Kalil, OT (USC): I know you’ve read Cosell’s mock draft and are excited about his prediction that both Blackmon and Kalil could be on the board for Buffalo. Unfortunately, I think he’s wrong and both are gone by the end of this pick. Kalil is a day-one starting left tackle and I see that being a priority the Jags can’t pass up. However, I’m sure they would be thrilled to trade down and if a team like Kansas City wants to move up ahead of Miami to get Ryan Tannehill; a deal here could very well happen. In fact, the Jags may even offer a discount on the often-discussed draft value chart.
8. Miami- Ryan Tannehill, QB (Texas A&M): The fan pressure in Miami to take Tannehill is enormous and the Dolphins will make them happy. This isn’t exactly a revelation as news has leaked out that Tannehill is the guy the owner wants. He is raw according to many but undoubtedly has the physical tools to become a success in the league.
9. Carolina- Fletcher Cox, DT (Mississippi State): Michael Floyd is getting a lot of love in this spot, but the wide receiver class is regarded as deep and there isn’t another interior defensive linemen like Cox in this draft from what I hear, even though he’s not even the top rated tackle in some publications.
10. Buffalo- Luke Kuechly, LB (Boston College): Ut oh, I can feel the scathing remarks from many directly through my keyboard. By making this pick, I’m going against the overall the consensus that the Bills will either draft a cornerback (Dre Kirkpatrick is on my board at this point), left tackle (Cordy Glenn, Jonathan Martin & Riley Reiff), Michael Floyd or the growing buzz on safety Mark Barron.
Even more telling against this pick is Nix’s brief but glaringly obvious draft history of favoring college players from the South in the early rounds.
Yet every time I move away from Kuechly and analyze elsewhere, I ultimately come back to him. Here’s why:
At this point Nix’s sole purpose of building this team is to compete with and beat the New England Patriots. By acquiring Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, Nix built a line that should generate significantly more heat on Tom Brady. The next step is putting an end to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez dominating the middle of the field in the passing game.
The visions of Donte Whitner and Paul Posluszny in pass coverage is still haunting.
Not everyone knows this, but arguably Kuechly’s biggest strength comes in pass coverage. In fact, Mike Mayock last week said Kuechly is the best pass covering linebacker he’s ever evaluated coming out of college. The guy can flat-out cover tight ends and running backs instinctively as good as many safeties.
Can he be a factor in the running game? Cosell said Kuechly “played with his eyes better than any linebacker I can remember evaluating.”
Will he start from day one? Well, although they moved to re-sign him before free agency, if you think the Bills are completely married to Kirk Morrison starting at strong side linebacker, I’d love to be your salesmen next time you’re looking for a car. Kuechly can start on the strong side (he did begin his college career there) and most importantly, has the ability to be an every down backer. He’d stay on the field alongside another good pass covering ‘backer in Nick Barnett in the nickel defense while run thumper Kelvin Sheppard generally comes off in passing situations.
Morrison can provide some much-needed depth at linebacker–something he wasn’t allowed to do under former defensive coordinator George Edwards last year.
At the end of the day, I simply think Kuechly makes the most sense, especially if Nix truly is looking for a guy who can make an immediate impact. In my opinion, Kuechly is rated higher on the Bills draft board than many of the prospects that are talked about more.
A few more quick notes before moving on and fruitlessly defending myself from a pack of fans who don’t want the next Paul Posluzny (more on that in a minute.)
I’m a huge Floyd guy and you wouldn’t hear a complaint from me if he were the pick, but Nix isn’t blowing smokescreens. This really is a rich draft for receivers and the Bills could get someone who could compete with Donald Jones, Marcus Easley and Derek Hagan in the third or fourth round. This crop overall is really that good.
I’m not sold on Kirkpatrick as a top 10 talent and while Buffalo will surely draft at least one corner, it doesn’t have to be in the first round. Plus, an improved front seven should radically make the secondary look better.
Speaking of, I just can’t see Barron as the pick, even if he’s a difference maker. Unless Dave Wannstedt is thinking of some creative package where three safeties are almost always on the field, why draft a guy when you already have two emerging stars in George Wilson and Jairus Byrd. Don’t forget– before Wilson’s neck injury last season the guy was playing at a level that had some saying Wilson belonged in the conversation for AFC Defensive Player of the Year.
I’ve flat out heard too many things about Reiff to like him in the top ten, Martin would be a reach and while Glenn ultimately could have top 10 talent, it would probably take him two years to get steady enough to man Ryan Fitzpatrick’s blind side at this level effectively and consistently. Of all the guys mentioned with this pick, Glenn would be the one I’d be most comfortable with.
After Kuechly, of course.
One other thing– please stop comparing Keuchly to Posluszny. I get it, they are both white linebackers with impressive college careers. For me, that’s where most the comparisons end. Kuechly will make some tackles in the NFL inside eight yards from the line of scrimmage– I promise.
A final potentially important note, and I could certainly be wrong— I think the Bills haven’t raved much about Kuechly because of the Kansas City Chiefs sitting directly behind them.
If the Chiefs, who I think would definitely draft Kuechly next know Buffalo is intending on grabbing him, they may leap over the Bills to prevent it.
Again, we’ll see.
11. Kansas City- Dontari Poe, DT (Memphis): The Chiefs did a lot in free agency by landing a starting left tackle, running back and cornerback along with Dewayne Bowe returning. That gives them luxury of drafting the best player available. With Kuechly off the board for them- someone I’m sure they coveted, I think they’ll take Poe, who could become a real force in the middle over time.
12. Seattle- David DeCastro, G (Stanford): This may seem high for a guard, but many consider him the best linemen in this draft, including Kalil.
13. Arizona- Michael Floyd, WR (Notre Dame): Larry Fitzgerald would be very happy.
14. Dallas- Mark Barron, SS (Alabama): If he’s on the board it should take the Cowboys about eight seconds to make this pick.
15. Philadelphia- Chandler Jones, DE (Syracuse): Along with Gilmore, Jones is the fastest riser in this draft. I didn’t even have him among the first 41 picks in my mock three weeks ago.
16. NY Jets- Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB (South Carolina): I honestly think this would’ve been Buffalo’s target had they not signed Mark Anderson in free agency. If this guy pans out, he can be hell for teams to defend in the NFL. I really like him-but that ends when he becomes a Jet.
17. Cincinnati- Quinton Couples, DE (North Carolina): They’d love to get their hands on DeCastro or Barron and maybe they move up to do so. They’ll have to because in this mock both are gone. Couples has been projected higher in most mocks I saw, but I think he slips down into this area.
18. San Diego- Cordy Glenn, OT (Georgia): There you go, Bills fans. The guy I had going to Buff in my last mock and was a proponent of drafting for over two months ends up with the Chargers; perhaps fitting since he’s always compared to San Diego tackle Marcus McNeil.
19. Chicago- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (Alabama): Wow, I could be really off on this guy, especially if he ends up in Buffalo. He won’t get past the Bears if he’s available.
20. Tennessee- Kendall Wright, WR (Baylor): I’ve heard recently that some teams only have this guy graded in the third round. I don’t buy it. He’s explosive and could go off the board here if the Titans don’t trade down-which I highly suspect they would love to do.
21. Cincinnati – Janoris Jenkins, CB ( North Alabama): The Bengals are known for taking chances on talented but iffy characters and Jenkins could be the biggest high-risk/high-reward player in this entire class.
22. Cleveland- Ruben Randle, WR (LSU): Ugh. I wanted this guy to slip all the way down to Buffalo in the second round. From what I hear, there’s no chance of that happening. I’ve heard the guy recently be compared to Hakeem Nicks and with Richardson at the fourth pick, the Browns suddenly could have the makings of an exciting offense.
23. Detroit- Jonathan Martin, OT (Stanford): Mike Adams may have more upside, but Martin is the safer pick.
24. Pittsburgh- Courtney Upshaw, LB (Alabama): Offensive line may be a bigger need, but this guy just really fits the mold of a Pittsburgh Steeler.
25. Denver- Coby Fleener, TE (Stanford): This is Peyton Manning’s offense and it doesn’t take a genius to conclude he’d love to have a quality tight end to throw the ball to.
26. Houston- Riley Reiff, OT (Iowa): Houston’s biggest need is probably wide receiver, but four are already gone and I think Stephen Hill is a reach. Riley could play right tackle in Houston; a position many think he’s better suited for than the left side.
27. New England- Whitney Mercilus, DE (Illinois): At least in New England, fans will be wondering Mark Anderson who?
28. Green Bay- Devon Still, DT (Penn State): One of the few picks I’m sticking with from my first mock, He can play the nose and also the five-technique in a 3-4 defense.
29. Baltimore- Dont’a Hightower, LB (Alabama): I am 100% confident the Ravens would love to get their hands on this guy.
30. San Francisco- Amini Silatolu, G (Midwestern State): Some will think this is a reach. I am not one of those.
31. New England- Michael Brockers, DT (LSU): He’s just too good to stay on this board past this point. By the way, the draft’s biggest shocker might be if New England actually makes picks at 27 and 31 and doesn’t trade out of either.
32. NY Giants- Shea McClellin, LB (Boise State): The Bills would love for him to fall to them in the second round. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen.
33. St. Louis- Doug Martin, RB (Boise State)
34. Indianapolis-Peter Konz, C (Wisconsin)
35. Minnesota- Bobby Massie, OT (Mississippi): Once again, sorry Bills fans.
36. Tampa Bay- Andre Branch, DE (Clemson)
37. Cleveland- Brandon Weeden, QB (Oklahoma State): Here’s a potential shocker for Bills fans– If this guy is on the board when Buffalo picks four slots later, I’d be the least surprised person in the room if the Bills took him.
38. Jacksonville- Vinny Curry, DE (Marshall)
39. St. Louis- Mike Adams, OT (Ohio State): So close.
40. Carolina- Stephen Hill, WR (Georgia Tech)
41. Buffalo- Josh Robinson, CB (Central Florida): Drawing up my mock the way it’s went, I think this is going to be the pick. The Bills get a corner they like in the early rounds and Robinson has the potential to be a very good one.
I had the following to write about him when I profiled the second-round prospect on April 17: “Robinson is an athletic freak. At the NFL Combine he turned in a 4.33/40-yard dash time and for good measure stuck a 38.5 inch vertical jump and added 17 reps on the weight bench. The junior also had good production on the field, picking off 10 passes during his three years of game action.”
It won’t happen overnight, but Robinson could team with Aaron Williams to give the Bills a very talented starting tandem down the road.
It’s worth noting that the Bills could move up from this pick, and I’ve actually entertained a strong thought of them going up to No. 36 (where Tampa resides.) If I’m lucky enough to be pretty spot on early in the second round, a pair of prospects the Bills may well like (Adams, Hill) could be going in the two selections before Buffalo goes on the clock.
42-63: A bunch of second-rounders Buffalo fans really don’t care to read about.
64-70: A bunch of third-rounders Buffalo fans care to read about even less than those we didn’t mention the second round.
71. Buffalo- James Brown, OT (Troy): Brown was among the 30 prospects who visited the Bills and I’ve heard the organization was impressed by him. If you go by other publication draft rankings (which you shouldn’t) then Brown may be considered a reach. He’s only the 15th ranked tackle by the National Football Post and the 102nd overall prospect by CBS Sports. However, if the Bills want to develop a potential starting offensive tackle, I figure on this guy being the best of the bunch still left.
Wide receiver Joe Adams (Arkansas) could be a very intriguing prospect should he be on the board for Buffalo in round three.