As you’re reading this, the NFL draft is formally just two weeks away from being upon us. It’s seemed like an eternity, especially since an unworldly abundance of prospect talk and mock draft speculation have been shoved down our throats, even more so with no trades or free agent signings to digest.
Without question, the pendulum on the Bills first draft pick has shifted among the media. What was dominated by Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert talk in January and February unmistakably has reallocated towards Von Miller and to a lesser degree, Patrick Peterson over the past few weeks.
Buddy Nix will come into this draft completely open minded and will do so because candidly speaking, the Bills are an abysmal team right now. Take away running back and perhaps the interior offensive line and there’s no shocking third overall pick in sight, because the team can use support nearly across the board.
Are you telling me Buffalo’s receivers are so good that A.J Green or Julio Jones won’t help? Is the middle of the run defense solid enough that they don’t need Marcell Dareus? Does the secondary pick off so many passes that Peterson isn’t useful? Is Ryan Fitzpatrick, going into his final year of his contract, such a sure thing that the team shouldn’t bother with a quarterback? Heck, are Demetrius Bell and Erik Pears really locked into the tackle spot for the foreseeable future?
I can go on and on… and don’t get me started about the pass rush.
Things can go a lot of ways in the NFL draft and for the Buffalo Bills, it’s habitually substandard. There’s a plethora of rationale for the Bills coming off a 4-12 campaign and drafting third, but none begin to compare to their draft weekend ineptitude. Time and time again and in the course of several front office administrations, the Bills have repetitively dropped the ball at landing impact football players, predominantly in the first few rounds.
I’ve assembled a list of five things I consider best-case scenarios for Buffalo once April 28 rolls around. As always, feel free to be dissimilar.
1. The Blaine Gabbert Trade-Up: The emergent opinion, at least among the majority of NFL analysts of late, is the Bills really like Von Miller and that the pass rusher is a perfect fit for the Bills. Indeed, he is an idyllic fit for an largely anemic pass rushing group and let’s assume that Nix shares the same sentiments that Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Charlie Casserly and many others do. Meanwhile, Arizona sitting at five really wants Blaine Gabbert to fall to them but are scared the Bengals could nab him a spot earlier. Arizona could offer to move up two spots into the Bills’ current third slot. In return, let’s say the Bills received the Cardinals’ third rounder (69th overall) and possibly a late sixth or seventh rounder. Arizona would get the franchise quarterback they (possibly) desire while the Bills would still get Miller at five (the Bengals won’t take him) and pick up an early third round pick. In fact, the Bills would then own the fourth and fifth picks of round three, giving them an opportunity to get two quality players or perhaps package to move somewhere in the mid-second round to get someone they covet even more.
In my opinion, this is easily the best the Bills could hope for and if Arizona is truly fond of Gabbert in this quarterback-starved draft, it’s more realistic than you think.
2. Kyle Rudolph Slippage: The Bills have bigger needs than tight end for sure, but difference makers are difference makers and without question, Rudolph has all the physical tools to make a big difference, probably from day one. The Bills got a pair of first hand looks at what Rob Gronkowski could do for an offense last year… and that’s the guy Rudolph has been continuously compared to. Simply ask yourself two questions: How much better would the offense be with a reliable tight end target…. and when is the last time the Bills had an above average talent at tight end? Jay Reimersma maybe? Rudolph can bring an element to the offense that’s been missing throughout their 50+ year existence and if he gets past Atlanta later in the first round, could still be on the board when the Bills go on the clock for round two. If he is, I think Buffalo would be foolish to pass on him because of other needs. Four years from now, he can easily turn into one of the five best players in this entire draft.
3. Two Defensive Players Off The Board First: Regardless of how you feel about Gabbert or Cam Newton, there’s going to be a minimum of a handful of teams picking in the top dozen that would love to get their hands on one of these guys. If Marcel Dareus and either Miller or Patrick Peterson went 1-2 and both quarterbacks were untaken, at least one, if not multiple teams would ring the Bills war room phone off the hook. I’m still wholeheartedly convinced the Bills are in love with Cameron Jordan while a colleague (Sal Capaccio) thinks it’s J.J. Watt. Either way, they could move down the draft slope and still get one of the guys while getting even more picks in return than from scenario number one. San Francisco at seven, Tennessee at eight or even Minnesota down at No. 12 could yield a whole lot in return, at least a second rounder and probably another high pick either in this draft or 2012. If Nix can be assured of getting Jordan or Watt (or Jordan, or Jordan again) by moving down more than just a couple spots and get a healthy stock of draft assets in return, he should scream yes at the top of his southern rooted lungs.
4. Kelvin Sheppard Falls Into Their Laps: There aren’t a lot of things I can report beyond typical speculation. However, I’ve long had two items regarding the Bills I consider concrete via trusted sources. One, of course is the team’s interest in Jordan. The other is that Chan Gailey is fixated on having Kelvin Sheppard join the Bills defense. The source I spoke to, directly connected to the organization, has told me of all the players Gailey coached or spent time with at the Senior Bowl this winter, he came away admiring Sheppard more than any of them. That’s not a misprint either– I said any of them. Sheppard is regarded by most analysts as a third or fourth round pick in an overall weak inside linebacker draft crop. Unless the Bills’ defensive coaches have unturned some some serious flaws in his game, I’d be beyond flabbergasted if Sheppard got past Buffalo in round three. Forget the size and stats; Sheppard has the intangibles Gailey is looking for in this team. He’s a complete leader and God knows this team lacks them, especially defensively. He could start early in his career and unless Nix is talked out of the pick by someone in the final hour, he’ll be gone if available for Buffalo in round three.
5. The QB Nix Has Wanted All Along Is There At Three: I don’t foresee many, if any Bills fans at all agreeing, but there’s heavy speculation that Nix is truly hot for Newton. I’m not licensed to ascertain Newton’s true merit and potential as a NFL quarterback and frankly, neither are you. But it’s Nix’s job to know these things and there’s no doubt it’s at least possible Newton is or will be at the very top of Nix’s final draft board. If that’s the case and Nix feels strongly enough to pull the trigger if he slides to the third pick, shouldn’t that be considered exciting? It’s not often a team gets to select the top rated player on their entire board. If Carolina ultimately goes in another direction besides Newton, it’s almost a certainty he’ll be there for Buffalo. Sure, other guys can make a quicker impact and trading down in theory seems much more productive in the big picture, but Nix would be making a mistake, maybe even in cowardly fashion, if he bypassed the top overall guy on his list for any reason other than highway robbery via trade.
Some people will think the fifth point clashes with the third, but in reality it doesn’t. The third point is a scenario where Newton (and Gabbert) are available and Nix doesn’t have the value on either we think he might. In that case, a trade down would be perfect.
But if he does find Newton irresistible (or again, Gabbert) as a franchise guy, you have to deem it ideal that they’d land the quarterback they’ve quietly been locked into all along.
No position on the field is close to being more important than quarterback— don’t forget it, especially in Buffalo.
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