Even though the 2014 NFL draft doesn’t arrive until early May and we sit in the wintry middle of January, water cooler talk formally commenced Wednesday when Mel Kiper released the first of what’s sure to be dozens of first-round NFL mock drafts. Chatter is sure to be passionate among Buffalo Bills fans, as Kiper tabbed Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson with the Bills first selection, ninth overall.
Based on plenty of reaction on Twitter and early analysis from a few scribes, including ESPN.com’s Mike Rodrak, it doesn’t appear taking Robinson would be a popular move for Buffalo.
The rationale for cynicism are quite palpable— Buffalo has bigger needs, Cordy Glenn was terrific at left tackle in 2013, quality starters or at least depth can be found in the mid-to-late rounds, and oh—did I mention the Bills have bigger needs?
For what it’s worth, I don’t entirely concur —with the skeptics, that is.
For starters, take a look at who won’t be available and/or who the Bills aren’t going to take. Love or hate E.J. Manuel the Bills are not taking Johnny Football, Teddy Bridgewater or anyone else who throws a football for a living with the ninth pick.
If you want to fool yourself into believing Sammy Watkins will be there at nine, just like Adrian Peterson would fall to No. 12 in 2007 and Matt Khalil to No. 10 in 2012, then be my guest. Short of multiple off-field issues or a major freak injury before the draft Watkins will be long gone before Buffalo is on the clock.
Khalil Mack became a Western New York legend during his UB career and would make a feel-good story for the ages if he landed with the Bills, but that’s not happening either. Mack is an outside linebacker/supreme pass rusher, which ranks near the bottom of what Buffalo needs, not to mention already having Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson manning where Mack would line up. Plus, he’d be a perfect fit for Tampa Bay picking in front of the Bills. Not happening, folks. I feel almost the same about UCLA’s Anthony Barr, though admittedly not as confident he’ll be gone in the first eight picks.
As for the secondary, even if Jairus Byrd ends up leaving,there’s no safety worth a draft pick in the top nine. Ditto for cornerback.
And left guard. In fact, I rarely see an offensive guard currently in the first round of a mock draft; a far cry from last year when two of the first 10 picks were guards.
Wide receiver (beyond Watkins) could be an intriguing option. Mike Evans has exceptional size (6-foot-5, 225lbs) and is a talented, physical receiver the Bills could use in the middle of the field. Marquise Lee combined with current Bills wide out Robert Woods at USC in 2012 and the duo was ridiculous. Either would bring a skill set to the Bills not currently on the roster and give another weapon for Manuel in Nathanial Hackett’s attack.
However, I’m not sold on the Bills longing for a receiver to the extent most fans and select media are—not as long as Stevie Johnson sticks around anyway. I know for a fact the Bills view Marquise Goodwin as more than a fourth receiver, which is exactly what he’d remain if stuck behind Johnson, Woods and a 2014 first-rounder. Bottom line—as far as I’m concerned the Bills won’t be investing heavily at receiver, at least not first-round heavy at receiver unless Johnson is gone before May.
A captivating possibility, one I’d be completely on board with is tight end Eric Ebron. An athletic freak, Ebron has the speed and route running ability of a wide receiver while possessing the size and strength of a tight end. He’s already being compared to Vernon Davis, and it goes without saying the Bills have never had anyone remotely similar play tight end here. To me he’d be perfect for Manuel’s development, but with or without a Scott Chandler return I don’t buy this franchise ever valuing a tight end this high—at least at how things stand now.
That brings me to what I currently think would be the Bills most sensible first-round pick, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. He’s regarded as one of the most intelligent players in the draft and Nick Saban said he’s like having an extra coach on the field. Beyond that, the first-team, All-American led the Crimson Tide in tackles over the past two seasons. He’s a cerebral warrior and the kind of player any team would love to have.
Getting Mosley would likely mean moving Kiko Alonso to the outside spot that the underwhelming tandem of Arthur Moats and Nigel Bradham manned last year. Many think Alonso may be better suited for the outside moving forward, and I tend to agree. For all Alonso’s productivity as a rookie he often got swallowed up in the middle against the run. Maybe Mosley moves Alonso to the outside, they shore up their run defense and become truly elite in the process.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
Then again, maybe Buffalo doesn’t see things the same way. Perhaps they conclude Mosley was more a product of Alabama’s system than a guy who can be great at the NFL level. Even though the Bills have made a habit of it over the past decade and a half, you don’t want to use high first-round draft picks on guys who are just decent pros.
After everything stated, it would make taking an offensive tackle with the ninth pick a lot more judicious than reaction to it seems right now. If you don’t think tackle is a need here’s a poorly kept secret— Erik Pears is going to find himself cut pretty soon. He woefully floundered in 2013, is 31-years old and the Bills can save $2.9 million simply by waiving him. That’s going to happen. It’s naïve to assume Chris Hairston can handle the task of effectively playing right tackle all season, and that’s if he’s even fully healthy. He hasn’t played football since December of 2012 because of a leg injury. I’m happy with him as a swing tackle and maybe he can prove he can be a full-time starter, but I’m not ready to mortgage the success of the line on it.
Simply put, the Bills could unquestionably use a quality offensive tackle.
Buffalo could do a helluva lot worse than selecting either Robinson or Jake Matthews with their first pick should one or both be available. At least part of the plan of keeping Manuel healthier in 2014 should be by surrounding him with people that can keep him upright in the pocket.
You can easily make a feasible case that Buffalo would be best served to add a decent left guard via free agency and draft Robinson or Matthews.
But therein lies my biggest problem with Kiper’s (and several others) initial mock draft. I think when the whole process of workouts, interviews and the NFL combine are over, both stud tackles will go higher than currently projected. Quality day one starting tackles don’t grow on trees, as last year’s draft indicated when 3 of the first 4 picks (and 4 of the first 11) taken were tackles.
To make a long story short, I’m not convinced either Robinson or Matthews even end up available, making deliberation today ultimately a moot point.
Until further notice you can pencil me in as forecasting Mosley as the pick, with Ebron being the true object of my desire.
If one of these two tackles, however, are on the board and the Bills grab one, I positively wouldn’t be outraged.
You shouldn’t be either.