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NFL Draft Report

 
By Joe Buscaglia
 
Posts from April 2013


Bills' Marrone raved about Barkley in September
 
Before you read any more, it is very important to note one thing in particular:

You can read however much or little in to this as you want, because sometimes coach speak exists and some of the things they say are a little over the top. But sometimes coaches speak the truth, too.

Back in September when the Buffalo Bills were still steered by Chan Gailey, Doug Marrone was still the head man at Syracuse University and preparing to take on the USC Trojans for the second straight year.

At that point in time, USC was considered to be one of the top programs in the nation heading in to the season, and they're led by none other than 2013 draft hopeful Matt Barkley.

This news item comes courtesy of Matt Rybaltowski of CBSSports.com, who recapped Marrone talking about his opponents -- and more specifically Barkley.

Last October, Barkley shredded the Orange secondary with 324 yards and five touchdowns. During Monday's Big East coaches' teleconference, Marrone indicated that Barkley, not Robert Griffin III, would have been considered the top quarterback in last April's NFL Draft alongside Andrew Luck.

“I was one of a couple people that was hoping he'd go on to the NFL,” Marrone said. “I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I'm happy he's back.”

 
Keep in mind that Marrone and Syracuse did not have to go up against Robert Griffin III and Baylor within the past couple of seasons so he didn't necessarily watch as much tape as he did on Barkley, but the quote still remains one that makes you wonder a little bit.

Then the adoration continued when talking about Barkley's skills on the field.

Besides being impressed by Barkley's intangibles, Marrone raved about Barkley's pocket presence and patience. Unlike many college quarterbacks Barkley excels in checking down to his backs when his downfield targets are covered, Marrone said. Barkley connected with his running backs four times in last season's 38-17 win over Syracuse.

“If he doesn't like what's going on when they (take away) the deep vertical threats, he can come right back to the backs,” Marrone said. “That's one of the things you see with the top guys in the NFL.”

 
Some interesting stuff, wouldn't you say? I don't know if you can really make heads or tails out of who the Bills will ultimately select through this article, but it sure is interesting seeing the mindset of the Bills' future head coach, when he wasn't a head coach, talking about a quarterback who very well could be his next quarterback.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
 
 




 
How a Revis trade affects the Bills

Happy Sunday, everyone. It was expected to be the calm before the storm of the 2013 NFL Draft, but then Hurricane Revis whipped through on the last portion of the weekend.

According to a few different outlets, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets are closing on a deal that would put the mega-talented Revis in Florida for at least half the year. The full return is not known yet at this point, but as of now it seems the 13th overall pick in 2013 will be heading to the Jets as part of the deal -- pending a completed physical, of course.

Besides the obvious of the Buffalo Bills not having to go up against Darrelle Revis twice a year anymore, how does the trade affect them specifically?

It's quite simple, really. The Jets, just like the Bills, are one of a handful of teams that need a new quarterback for the upcoming season.

Now that the Jets have two picks in the first round, that might alter a potential plan the Bills might have had for April 25. If New York had only the one first round pick, it did not look all that likely for the Jets to select a quarterback. With two? Perhaps they take a guy they really like and not risk waiting for 39th overall to get to them.

The Revis trade offers them flexibility, and although they will have a new need for a cornerback, the depth of the class at that position dictates they can probably wait until the second round.

With the Jets having those two picks behind the Bills in the first round, perhaps it scares Buffalo off of the idea about possibly trading down and wait for their quarterback to get to them a little later than 8 while acquiring another draft pick in the mean time.

The Jets just became that much more of a threat to take a quarterback in the first round. So if the Bills were intending on taking that first round quarterback, a trade-back may no longer be an option. If they want to secure their player at the most important position in football, they may be even more glued to that eighth overall pick than before.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

 
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Deciphering Buddy's Code: The Bills 2013 Draft Luncheon

You know the NFL Draft is almost here when the Buffalo Bills meet with the media for their annual pre-draft luncheon in Orchard Park. Like any other year, the Bills attempted to say nothing and everything all at once, in hopes to deceive their 31 counterparts from knowing their draft day intentions.

How effective were Buddy Nix, Doug Whaley, Chuck Cook, Tom Gibbons and Doug Majeski? Well, if they're intending on drafting a quarterback with the eighth overall pick... not very.

Going back over all 45 minutes of audio and quotes, one thing seems perfectly clear: the Bills are talking like a team that is going to take a quarterback with their first round pick.

And as the old logic of the duck test tells us, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

And in this case, taking a quarterback at eighth overall seems to be that very duck. Here are some of the points that lead me to this:

First, I believe it's prudent to rule out some of the other positions the Bills were thought to be interested in. Although my safety argument made a lot of sense last week, that was before the Bills officially moved Aaron Williams to safety on Tuesday. That, to me, would take that position out of the equation.

As far as linebackers and pass rushers are concerned, Buddy Nix seemed content with his current group during his answers. At one point they alluded to filling a huge need with Manny Lawson and that they have more talent on their roster at linebacker than most are giving them credit for. As far as pass rushers are concerned? They're okay there, too.

"You know I think we would always be, you know, receptive to [adding a pass rusher], but I also think we're pretty good there."

Welp, that crosses off two more positions. So how about on offense? What about wide receiver, and maybe even offensive guard?

To me, when the term "deep class" is brought up for a position, it's primarily a strong indication that the team is more apt to waiting rather than splurging on that position with their first pick of the draft. When the topic of Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was brought up, Nix wasn't exactly complimentary of the one-year standout.

“It scares you. You have to think those guys might not help you out immediately if that’s who you take," he said on players with only one big season under their belts. "Those guys are raw. You’re going to have to groom them and be patient with them.”

Patience isn't exactly what the Bills will have with their wide receiver group. They need someone to step in and help very quickly. Then of course, there's Tavon Austin. Look at this interchange when talking about the West Virginia product.

Buddy Nix: He’s on everybody’s radar.

Doug Whaley: And high on the radar. For everybody. He’s a special player. He’s the type of individual that once he touches the ball he has a chance to make a prolific play every time. He scares a lot of defensive players and coordinators.

For the lack of a better term, that's a little forward for a pre-draft luncheon setting, don't you think? At least I do. There is some motivation for the Bills to show some public interest in Austin.

For one, they haven't brought him in for a pre-draft visit, which is a normal indicator of the Buddy Nix regime that the player is at least on their radar for the first round. Secondly, the New York Jets are hurting for offensive playmakers at ninth overall so perhaps they're trying to find a willing trade partner at eighth overall or to induce a trade by getting someone to move in the Arizona's spot to select him. Whatever the case may be, I found the adoration for Austin to be a bit ostentatious.

Austin also doesn't fit the form of an "open when he's not" receiver, which Nix confirmed is still the type of wideout they're looking for in the draft.

As for guard? Well, my continued belief has been that the Bills do not value the guard position highly enough to make it a first round need. They would have went harder after re-signing Andy Levitre, and they have had much success in finding talent at that position over the past three years in places that don't involve the top 10 in the NFL Draft.

"Our roster in house is better than I think we get credit for especially offensive line," Nix said Tuesday in response to needing a guard. "We’re pretty deep there."

A cornerback lingers as a need, but the depth of this class seems to be evident at the position as well. The Bills should be in a good position to add a player at that position either in the second or third round.

All in all, that brings us to quarterback, and why the Bills appear to be quacking their way to taking one with their first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

First, we have to bring up Nix's quote from his appearance on The John Murphy Show Monday night on WGR Sports Radio 550:

“I’ve said this before when everybody was beating this class up and they still are somewhat. I think there are two or three guys in this class that’ll be big time quarterbacks in this league and very successful guys."
 
Now, pair that quote with the very first question and answer of the draft luncheon at One Bills Drive. Is there a quarterback worthy enough to be taken at eighth overall?

"You know, I think there is," Nix said. "This is not a standard answer, I said this from the start that two or three of these guys will be franchise quarterbacks. I believe that."

With a certain degree of logic and historical perspective to how quarterbacks are treated in the NFL Draft, perceived "franchise quarterbacks" do not last until the 41st overall pick. If a team wants that player that they believe can be a franchise guy, they take him without any further delay. End of story.

One of your follow up questions might involve the idea of the Bills passing on the quarterback at eighth overall and then trading back in to the first round? I'm not a betting man, but that doesn't sound like the case here.

"I'd think you'd consider it, but it'd have to be really appealing to do it," the GM said. "I hate giving up draft picks. I hope in some way we get that seventh back, even though it is a seventh and go after college free agents, but you don't like giving up those picks. They're valuable."

So if it were to come to pass that they are indeed taking a quarterback with the eighth overall selection, who might it be? Assuming that Geno Smith is off the board by the time the Bills pick at eighth overall, I think it could be down to two men that fit their offense the best:

Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and Matt Barkley of USC.

The links to Nassib are obvious. The Bills have been watching him play even before Doug Marrone and company got to Orchard Park. With their added connections about knowing Nassib better than any team in the draft, it could make it a very strong case for the Bills to take that player for the smoothest transition possible. The Bills did nothing on Tuesday to remove themselves from being in the discussion for Nassib

Then there is Barkley, a player that has drawn some strong sentiments from the Bills' decision makers.

"He’s been on the big stage for a while," Whaley said. "He’s produced. I think the best thing about him is he knows how to get the ball to his playmakers. I think that’s one of the best qualities he has, and a good trait to have in a quarterback."

Then the subject of Barkley's arm came up, because so many draft analysts have made note of that as a weakness to his game.

"When you say ‘a lot of people say that’ I don’t know who that is," Nix said. "[Barkley] a year ago was the number one guy and then he got hurt."

"In our opinion, a guy that doesn’t have an outright cannon can still get away with having timing and being able to anticipate throws and being able to have knowledge of defenses and when to throw to a spot and get the most out of his throwing motion," Whaley remarked. "A perfect example of that is Joe Montana. Joe Montana didn’t have the strongest of arms, but he’s still arguably one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history."

So does Barkley have all that?

"We believe that he has a chance to be successful with his skill set," the assistant GM answered. In his defense, he'd be hard-pressed to try and liken a rookie to Joe Montana because that would be setting the player up for failure. But the fact that they're thinking along those lines about a West Coast system quarterback makes me believe they like Barkley a lot.

One other quarterback that may sneak in to the first round is Florida State's E.J Manuel. Nix didn't crush the player, but he didn't go as far as to defend the athletic quarterback.

"Yeah, I’ve seen him make NFL throws. He made them at Florida State. He’s maybe a little inconsistent with it, but he’s got plenty of arm and great athletic ability," he said. "It’s a matter of whether or not you can get him consistent in that part of it."

With Nathaniel Hackett's quick-paced offense that focuses on accuracy in the intermediate areas, Manuel's inconsistency may not be a particularly strong fit.

So all in all, if you had to take something away from the draft luncheon, it's that the Bills are poised to take a quarterback at eighth overall as long as the draft dictates it. If Geno Smith drops, perhaps the Bills would feel as though they could wait until their 41st selection. However, mentioning that there are two-to-three franchise quarterbacks and then putting themselves in jeopardy of missing out on one is something fans likely won't forget.

A team just doesn't fly all over the country conducting private workouts with the top quarterbacks in the draft without the intent to take one, and to take one early. It certainly could go another way, but the evidence is adding up to one thing:

It doesn't appear Bills fans will have to wait much longer to finally get their new face of the franchise.

Quack, quack.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 

 




 
NFL Draft Podcast - The great QB debate


The Buffalo Bills have been operating all off-season like a team that is set on taking a quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft. Between all the private workouts and pre-draft visits, the Bills are familiar with just about every quarterback available in this year's draft.

Following up on the discussion revolving Kevin Kolb, WGR's Joe Buscaglia and Brian Koziol dish about the quarterbacks available and who might fit the Bills.

Listen to the entire podcast below!


 
 
 
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NFL Draft Podcast - The Kolb difference?

The 2013 NFL Draft is almost here!

With only eight weekdays between now and the NFL Draft, the rumors and reports are flying as fast as you can read them. WGR is here to try and make sense of it all.

Come back every day for another installment of the NFL Draft Podcast with Joe Buscaglia and Brian Koziol here on WGR550.com. Today, we take a look at how the addition of Kevin Kolb may or may not affect the Bills' draft plans in 2013 as far as a quarterback is concerned.

Listen right here, and comment below!
 

 
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Re-evaluating Ryan Nassib

With over a week to go before the 2013 NFL Draft is finally here, one name has been linked to the Buffalo Bills for as long as Doug Marrone has been head coach. The team is in a full search for their next young quarterback, to which many make the argument that Syracuse's Ryan Nassib is their guy at some point of the draft.

When I first went through my quarterback evaluations in January, I didn't come away with the type of impressions that some others in the draft community did when it came to Nassib. I ranked him as the seventh best quarterback in this year's class.

Some draft analysts are saying that Nassib could be the best quarterback the draft has to offer, so I wondered if I missed something. That's the beauty of having so many people looking back to see what each player has to offer: differing perspectives that make you want to go back and look again just in case.

In the case of Ryan Nassib, here are some of the things I took away.

Likes
  • Strong Arm - He's got the zip necessary and can get a ball out to the target quickly with the snap of his wrist. He can rear back and dart one in to his receiver on difficult intermediate throws. Possesses the prototypical NFL arm.
  • Intermediate accuracy - In the intermediate area, this is where Nassib really shines though. If he can put some heat on the pass, he can get it to his receiver in stride more often than not. It's not an every play consistency (he will miss, sometimes badly), however he shows enough in this area to be an upgrade over the last Bills quarterback.
  • Anticipation - It's very simple. Some quarterbacks throw to their receivers when they're open, and others see the player about to be open and deliver the ball while the receiver is still coming out of his break. Once again, in the intermediate areas, Nassib excels in this part of his game. You can tell he has a good grasp of both his receivers' tendencies and where the play is headed. It's an important trait for an offense like the one Nathaniel Hackett runs.
  • Pocket escapability - Nassib is very active in the pocket, and feels the pressure. You'll see him ducking under outstretched arms and trying to dart out of the pocket to make a play with his feet. He has good enough speed to get out of dodge in time.
  • Zone-read experience - The current darling principle of the NFL, Nassib has perhaps the most experience of any of the top quarterbacks in the 2013 draft class in the zone-read game. He can sell it quite well, which makes up for his average foot-speed.

Dislikes
  • Deep throw accuracy - This is a big hangup for me with Nassib. Granted, this is an exaggerated example, but the only thing I can relate his deep-ball throws is giving an outfielder fly ball practice by chucking it as high and far as you can. A commonality of his deep throws are that the receivers often -- not always, but mostly -- have to slow up and wait for the ball to get to them. Even on a throw where one of his teammates' defenders fell in coverage, Nassib's receiver had to come to a dead stop to bring in the ball. If Nassib is going to be the starting quarterback, you are going to need wideouts that can go up and battle to bring the ball down when you're trying to hit them deep. A potential for a lot of interceptions unless this improves.
  • Touch throws - I've seen examples where he can hit on his touch throws, but it's not nearly enough to keep out of the 'dislikes' category. If Nassib isn't putting velocity on the pass, the accuracy dramatically dips with his throws. Not every throw is going to be one where he can rely and fire out a fastball, especially with the type of coverage in the NFL.
  • Standing tough in the pocket - Although he is quite good at getting outside of the pocket when danger arises, there is an argument to be made that he does it a bit too prematurely. It seems like he needs space in that pocket to operate the way he wants. That simply doesn't exist consistently in the NFL, especially in a league that's trending towards much more aggressive defensive looks. At times, he'll do a bit of a jump throw that he gets away with, but it obviously gives a defense that much more time to react than stepping in to a throw and taking a hit would. I'd like to see him bail out less.
  • Busy feet - Perhaps this is just a pet peeve for me, but Nassib's feet are very, very busy in the pocket. There are drop-backs where it's more exaggerated than others, but at times it looks like he's hopping around as he's looking for his target. I wonder if it is a timing mechanism one of his early coaches taught him to slow him down a little bit. To me, it's a problem because he'll take a hop to square his feet towards the target before he delivers most throws. That's half a second that could be avoided if he was a little bit more smooth and relaxed in the pocket. I think it's a fixable thing, but it's not something I see from quarterbacks in the NFL.
  • Giving away the deep ball - When Nassib has to deliver a deep ball to his receiver, you'll notice a shoulder dip. He has used the pump fake with this before, but the dip could immediately signal an aggressive safety to head towards the sideline in attempt for an interception. It won't happen every time (which is why I'm listing it last), but deception is a key part of any offense. Anything you give away can turn in to an immediate disadvantage to your game plan.

Conclusion

In going back to look at Nassib, I'm here to admit my initial thoughts on him were a little off. While he has his deficiencies, he is a better prospect than both Mike Glennon and Landry Jones. However, with as many deep-ball problems as he has, I have a hard time ranking him ahead of players that can get the ball there, and offer other intangibles to help boost their draft stock.

With that said, it is hard to fully know these prospects without getting the chance to understand their knowledge of the game by person-to-person meetings. He could excel over a Geno Smith or a Tyler Bray in those categories, players that I have ranked as third and fourth best.

My concern with Nassib is quite rudimentary. If he struggles as much as he does in throwing the deep ball, teams will do the exact same thing to him as they did with Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills. They'll move in and attempt to force them to take shots down the field. Thankfully for Nassib, he has the intermediate accuracy to not make this in to such a damning issue.

I think Nassib can start in this league. However, if he wants to have a long career as a starter in the NFL, the deep ball has to get better. I know he has the arm -- I've seen it. I just don't understand why he doesn't use it on those throws. And if he were to come to Buffalo with the same head coach and offensive coordinator, you'd have to wonder just how much they would try to change that part of his game.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

 
 




 
Bills pre-draft visit final tally: 9 QBs
The 2013 NFL Draft is closing in, and the Buffalo Bills concluded their pre-draft visits on Friday. The team welcomed in three more draft-eligible players, bringing their total to the maximum alotment of 30 official visits.

On Friday, the group consisted of Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, Harvard fullback Kyle Juszczyk and SMU linebacker Ja'Gared Davis. It was previously reported that LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu had a scheduled visit with the Bills, but that visit never ended up happening.

Wilson is the ninth quarterback to visit One Bills Drive throughout the process. The only players at the position who are in the perceived top-10 of this year's class to not make a visit to Buffalo were Syracuse's Ryan Nassib and Zac Dysert of Miami (OH). One could make an argument, though, that the visit for Nassib could have been deemed unnecessary considering both his head coach and offensive coordinator in college are now in the same posts with the Bills.

No offensive linemen, cornerbacks, defensive tackles or running backs were invited throughout the process. Here is the complete listing of the 30 players by position:

Quarterback
E.J. Manuel, Florida State (April 2)
Mike Glennon, NC State (April 3)
Geno Smith, West Virginia (April 4)
Landry Jones, Oklahoma (April 5)
Jeff Tuel, Washington State (April 8)
Matt Scott, Arizona (April 9)
Matt Barkley, USC (April 10)
Tyler Bray, Tennessee (April 11)
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (April 12)

Fullback / H-Back
Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard (Apri 12)

Wide Receiver
Russell Shepard, LSU (April 3)
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (April 4)
Justin Hunter, Tennessee (April 8)
Zach Rogers, Tennessee (April 9)
Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech (April 10)
Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee (April 11)

Tight End
Ryan Griffin, Connecticut (April 5)
Vance McDonald, Rice (April 11)

Pass Rusher
Jamie Collins, Southern Mississippi (April 3)
Jarvis Jones, Georgia (April 5)
Barkevious Mingo, LSU (April 8)
Dion Jordan, Oregon (April 10)

Linebacker
Kevin Minter, LSU (April 4)
Alec Ogletree, Georgia (April 10)
Ja'Gared Davis, SMU (April 12)

Safety
Malcolm Bronson, McNeese State (April 2)
Cooper Taylor, Richmond (April 2)
Jonathan Meeks, Clemson (April 3)
Kenny Vaccaro, Texas (April 4)
Phillip Thomas, Fresno State (April 11)
 

 




 
Bills picking safety at 8 makes a lot of sense

Stop. Hold it right there. I already know your ammunition for even the title of this article.

"What is this? Donte Whitner all over again?!"

You can have that line of thinking back, just as long as you read through why the Buffalo Bills drafting a safety at 8th overall might make more sense than you'd think.

Deal? Okay, great. Here goes nothing:

When you look at the Bills roster as it's constructed, there are plenty of glaring needs that jump out at you. Whether it be quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, guard, pass rusher, linebacker, cornerback or safety, there will be no shortage of players in this year's draft that the Bills could use.

When talking about eighth overall, assuming that quarterback may be more of a second-round option with this year's group, safety would rank near the top of positions they have a need for. Factoring out quarterbacks, here is why I'd discredit some of the other positions before I would with safety:
  • Tight End - Unless you're getting a lock solid tight end that will be a Pro Bowl player for years, selecting a tight end with as many needs as they have at eighth overall makes little sense.
  • Guard - I honestly believe that the Bills would have made more of an effort early on to re-sign Andy Levitre if they valued the guard position all that much. They found Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart off the waiver wire. Urbik is a solid starter and Rinehart served as the top backup. You can find guards in the middle rounds.
  • Pass Rusher - With the signing of Manny Lawson to a four-year contract, where does a versatile pass rusher fit in to this defense right away? Lawson, Mario Williams and Mark Anderson are already there. If you draft a guy like Dion Jordan or Jarvis Jones, that's the same role you just signed Lawson to do.
  • Linebacker - First of all, who's to say they've given up on Kelvin Sheppard and Nigel Bradham yet? Sheppard is entering his third season, and Bradham showed flashes during his rookie season. They certainly aren't All-Pro players at this point, but you could do far worse. Secondly, is there someone worthy of the eigth overall pick that plays either middle or weakside linebacker? It doesn't appear so.
  • Cornerback - This would have been a much stronger consideration had the Bills not re-signed Leodis McKelvin. Since they did, they'll have a full-scale competition between him, Aaron Williams and Ron Brooks to see who comes out victorious. Also, if you believe the Buddy Nix principles (which you should by this point), they will select a cornerback at some point of the draft -- likely within rounds two through four. They'll compete for the job as well.
So where does that leave us? Wide receiver and safety. The two most logical positions, outside of quarterback, that the Bills should address in this draft. There are many reasons why safety at eight overall makes more sense than taking a wide receiver there.

First and foremost, the value of the wide receivers. With Lance Zierlein's report that Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is slipping on draft boards and could even be available in the second round, that means that the Bills have not invited the top two receivers (Tavon Austin and DeAndre Hopkins) in for draft visits this year.

If you don't view that to be significant, then recall what Buddy Nix said about the type of wide receiver they would be looking for. In so many words, Nix said they want a receiver who is open even when he is not. To interpret, that would mean the player has to possess either superior size, physicality or a combination of the two. That is not Tavon Austin, and eighth overall is a bit too early for DeAndre Hopkins.

Let's get in to more of the case for safety now. Of course, there is the hold steady at the position. Former fourth-round pick Da'Norris Searcy worked his way in to the rotation last season, even taking reps away from starter George Wilson at strong safety. Searcy is said to have a good presence against the run, but he may not be fully developed when opponents fight through the air.

Searcy was also a favorite of the last coaching staff, mind you. And that coaching staff, with the presence of Searcy, Wilson and even Jairus Byrd, were enamored by Alabama safety Mark Barron in the 2012 NFL Draft. If he were on the board at tenth overall, I've been told that Barron would have been in a Bills uniform.

Now, with Wilson out of the equation and a new coaching staff and a brand new defense, Searcy starts off from sqaure one.

The looming situation involving Jairus Byrd's contract needs to be considered as well. Byrd, franchised by the Bills this off-season, is with Buffalo for one more year. Past that? Who really knows. The Bills could always franchise him for a second season, or they could even let him walk if they can't agree on a fair price.

One day, Byrd will get paid with a large free agent contract. Whether or not it's with the Bills will be the big question. Even if they do re-sign Byrd to let's say... $7.5 million per season, Buffalo won't have to commit a monster contract to their young safety and have him locked up for the next four seasons. Last year's eighth overall pick, Ryan Tannehill, signed a four-year deal worth $12.668 million. That comes out to $3.167 million per season, which is an extremely manageable contract.

So then why does taking a safety, outside of a quarterback, with the eighth overall pick make the most sense for the Bills?

Simply put, look at the way the NFL is trending. Tight ends are taking over the league and a premium has to be put on finding players to stop them. Having a strong safety alongside Byrd that has those capabilities to disrupt the game of those players is very important to what the Bills want to do on defense.

Look at the Ravens and Jets since Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has been in the league. They've all had superb play from their safeties, really putting a premium on having that position be able to hold their own and help set the tone to make the opposing offense more one-dimensional. Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, Jim Leonhard, Kerry Rhodes, LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell... all have been added either through the draft or free agency to make sure they have legitimate and responsible playmakers in the deep defensive secondary.

Not convinced that safeties are worth it in the first round? Getting a player in to the correct scheme is important at any position and safety is no exception. With that said, take a look at safeties taken in the first round over the past 10 years:

2012: Mark Barron, Harrison Smith
2011: None
2010: Eric Berry, Earl Thomas
2009: None
2008: Kenny Phillips
2007: LaRon Landry, Reggie Nelson, Brandon Meriweather
2006: Michael Huff, Donte Whitner, Jason Allen
2005: None
2004: Sean Taylor
2003: Troy Polamalu

Out of that group, who have been complete misses? Jason Allen, most definitely. Kenny Phillips has struggled with injuries but remains intriguing to teams every year for his talent alone. Outside of them, you have Pro Bowl players and people that are still starting to this very day.

Say what you want about Donte Whitner, but he was in the wrong defensive scheme in Buffalo. To me, he is a solid player that many in the area resented because of what Haloti Ngata turned out to be in Baltimore. Any player that is used improperly is going to struggle some. Would you ask Chad Pennington to throw fly patterns 24 times a game? You get my drift.

If you look at the position from an historical perspective, the safety spot in the first round hits quite frequently -- maybe even more so than most positions. And if you believe the pre-draft visits could be an indicator, the Bills brought in five safeties for visits, ranging from a first round prospect, to a middle rounder, to a trio of late round safeties. Through that logic, the Bills are definitely looking to add.

Assuming I've held your attention for this long, perhaps you're intrigued by the possibilities of adding a top-flight safety to the mix. The next question is inevitable:

Who is a safety worthy of the eighth overall pick?

Meet Kenny Vaccaro from Texas. A safety with great size (6-feet, 214-pounds), physicality, hips and coverage abilities. Vaccaro was used all over the field at Texas, even dabbling at nickel when teams went in those sets. Having someone with Vaccaro's versatility can not only put Searcy on the field in situations, but also serves as a two-in-one type of pick that can help the secondary overall.

Also be mindful of what the Bills had planned for Barron had he been the pick in 2012. Instead of seeing Bryan Scott on the field in countless nickel situations, that would have been Barron's role. Covering up the tight ends will be his job, because to this point he has showed he is darn good at it. With Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Dustin Keller and whoever the Jets add in the division, you better be sure you have someone to help keep those players at bay.

While by many accounts, he will need to get better at tackling and not be overly aggressive, these are virtues that can be fixed with the proper coaching. Buffalo's secondary coach? The very experienced Donnie Henderson, who has even led a defense himself.

So I ask once again, does a safety make sense to you at 8th overall?
 
If it didn't before, I hope it does now.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
QB Bray, WR Patterson visit Bills

With the latest batch of news on Thursday, it seems all 30 of the Buffalo Bills' pre-draft visits have been revealed. Four more players came through One Bills Drive to meet with the staff and see team facilities.

The group consisted of Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter, Rice tight end Vance McDonald and Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas.

This is the second time the Bills have met with Bray recently, having put him through a private workout earlier in April. The quarterback is considered to be a Day Two pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

His college teammate Patterson was not a part of the private workout with the Bills, while his teammates Justin Hunter, Zach Rogers and Mychal Rivera ran routes and caught passes for Bray. Patterson is thought to be a potential first round pick.

McDonald and Thomas each are players thought to be in the mix to go anywhere from the second to fourth rounds. McDonald was one of the winners at the NFL Combine by displaying his impressive speed and athleticism that went along with his size (6-foot-4, 269 pounds).

The Bills have now conducted 27 official pre-draft visits, and the other three have leaked out through various reports. Teams in the NFL are alotted 30 leading up to the annual selection meeting in New York City.

Here is a list of who has already made their visits to One Bills Drive:

Quarterback
E.J. Manuel, Florida State (April 2)
Mike Glennon, NC State (April 3)
Geno Smith, West Virginia (April 4)
Landry Jones, Oklahoma (April 5)
Jeff Tuel, Washington State (April 8)
Matt Scott, Arizona (April 9)
Matt Barkley, USC (April 10)
Tyler Bray, Tennessee (April 11)

Wide Receiver
Russell Shepard, LSU (April 3)
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (April 4)
Justin Hunter, Tennessee (April 8)
Zach Rogers, Tennessee (April 9)
Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech (April 10)
Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee (April 11)

Tight End
Ryan Griffin, Connecticut (April 5)
Vance McDonald, Rice (April 11)

Pass Rusher
Jamie Collins, Southern Mississippi (April 3)
Jarvis Jones, Georgia (April 5)
Barkevious Mingo, LSU (April 8)
Dion Jordan, Oregon (April 10)

Inside Linebacker
Kevin Minter, LSU (April 4)
Alec Ogletree, Georgia (April 10)

Safety
Malcolm Bronson, McNeese State (April 2)
Cooper Taylor, Richmond (April 2)
Jonathan Meeks, Clemson (April 3)
Kenny Vaccaro, Texas (April 4)
Phillip Thomas, Fresno State (April 11)

Players who will reportedly visit that haven't yet:
CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (Albert Breer, NFL.com)
QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (Jim Corbett, USA Today)
FB Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard (Tony Pauline, DraftInsider.net)

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
Bills' pre-draft visits: What do they mean?

The craziness of the NFL Draft annually features college players flying all over the country to meet with teams at their own facilities. Each team is allowed a total of 30 visits from draft-eligible players. With 32 different front offices around the league, how they approach the pre-draft visits could be completely unique.

Some teams will use pre-draft visits to their advantage, trying to learn all they can on that prospect and even seeing how they mesh with the staff. Others might bring in players that are not interested in just to throw off the scent of their draft plans. Most teams likely do a combination of the two.

But the real question for fans of the Buffalo Bills is this:

How do the Bills approach these visits?

Well, if you want to take an historical perspective with it, General Manager Buddy Nix usually doesn't play around with the pre-draft visits. Just look at the past three years.

In 2010, the Bills had both first-round pick C.J. Spiller and third-round pick Alex Carrington in for an official visit ahead of the draft.

In 2011, Buffalo welcomed in first-round pick Marcell Dareus, second-round pick Aaron Williams and third-round pick Kelvin Sheppard for pre-draft visits.

And in 2012, the Bills got a closer look at first-round pick Stephon Gilmore, second-round pick Cordy Glenn, as well as fifth-round pick Tank Carder.

So all in all there have been three years that Buddy Nix has been on the job. All three years, the first-round pick has visited One Bills Drive and the past two years the second-round pick has toured team facilities. 83-percent of their top two picks visiting is a pretty high percentage, if you ask me.

However, I also think that some of the visits are used to throw the scent off. Some examples from last year: Trent Richardson, Melvin Ingram, Fletcher Cox and Ryan Tannehill.

Most of the visitors though, in my opinion, are players that the Bills were strongly considering. You can also look to the positions they invite for a visit -- or more importantly, positions they don't invite.

Last year, they invited only one running back, one defensive tackle, one safety and no interior linemen throughout the process. How many of those positions were drafted by the Bills in 2012? One, when the Bills took guard Mark Asper in the sixth round (and then cut him after training camp).

What does the 2013 list look like?

Well there are plenty of quarterbacks, a few wide receivers, a handful of safeties, some versatile linebackers and a few others that have visited. The notable absences, as 28 of the 30 visits have been revealed to this point, are any offensive lineman, any defensive tackles and only one cornerback.

If you follow this line of thinking for what the Bills may do, then one could summarize that the first round pick won't be offensive tackles Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson if they fall, nor will it be guards Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper. They also haven't invited a first-round caliber wide receiver besides Cordarrelle Patterson either, so that would rule out Tavon Austin and DeAndre Hopkins, too.

However, you must be careful with following this line of thinking all the way. We know the Bills have had their last three first-round draft picks in for a visit, so that means every other team in the NFL knows it as well.

Nix and company could be attempting to pull a fast one by not showing any interest in the player they actually covet. It could be a smart and savvy strategy if done correctly.

Consider this as well: it doesn't appear Nix will be the GM for too much longer, meaning perhaps Assistant GM Doug Whaley has a bit more of a say in things. Maybe he is more of the mindset to keep his cards close to the vest with pre-draft visits, and wants to approach the 2013 NFL Draft in that way.

There are also many variables in the draft, as we well know, that could change the Bills approach to their first-round pick on April 25. It's an extremely fluid situation to say the least.

However, if one had to follow a line of thinking as to what the Bills might do when the draft finally gets here, looking at the pre-draft visitor list is usually a good place to start.
 

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia


 




 
4/11 Bills' draft talk on WGR

With the release of my latest mock draft, I went on with The Howard Simon Show on Thursday morning to talk about what the Buffalo Bills may be doing in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Put your feet up, take a listen and enjoy some draft talk!
 
 
 
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Bills Pre-Draft Visits: The Official List

As we get closer to the 2013 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills are going through their annual 30 pre-draft visits at team facilities in preparation for who they may ultimately select.

Here is a list of all the players they have brought in, by position:

Quarterback
E.J. Manuel, Florida State (April 2)
Mike Glennon, NC State (April 3)
Geno Smith, West Virginia (April 4)
Landry Jones, Oklahoma (April 5)
Jeff Tuel, Washington State (April 8)
Matt Scott, Arizona (April 9)
Matt Barkley, USC (April 10)
Tyler Bray, Tennessee (April 11)

Wide Receiver
Russell Shepard, LSU (April 3)
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (April 4)
Justin Hunter, Tennessee (April 8)
Zach Rogers, Tennessee (April 9)
Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech (April 10)
Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee (April 11)

Tight End
Ryan Griffin, Connecticut (April 5)
Vance McDonald, Rice (April 11)

Pass Rusher
Jamie Collins, Southern Mississippi (April 3)
Jarvis Jones, Georgia (April 5)
Barkevious Mingo, LSU (April 8)
Dion Jordan, Oregon (April 10)

Inside Linebacker
Kevin Minter, LSU (April 4)
Alec Ogletree, Georgia (April 10)

Safety
Malcolm Bronson, McNeese State (April 2)
Cooper Taylor, Richmond (April 2)
Jonathan Meeks, Clemson (April 3)
Kenny Vaccaro, Texas (April 4)
Phillip Thomas, Fresno State (April 11)

Players who will reportedly visit that haven't yet:
CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (Albert Breer, NFL.com)
QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (Jim Corbett, USA Today)
FB Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard (Tony Pauline, DraftInsider.net)

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

 




 
Follow along with our NFL Draft Tracker

Before you know it, the NFL Draft will be here. Need a link to the current draft order, and details of all the trades?

Be sure to bookmark this link, because we'll be updating this as trades and picks roll through starting on Thursday, April 25. Two weeks until the madness begins!

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
 
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Barkley headlines four visitors

With the 2013 NFL Draft only a little over two weeks away, the Buffalo Bills invited four more draft-eligible prospects to team facilities on Wednesday. For the seventh time, a quarterback was one of them.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley, one of the most polarizing players available in this year's draft, made his official visit at One Bills Drive. Opinions on Barkley vary; some think he is a first round pick, while others believe he may be more of a developmental type that should be taken outside of the first day.

This is the third exposure the Bills have had with Barkley since the NFL Combine wrapped up. Assistant GM Doug Whaley attended the USC pro day, the Bills held a private workout with Barkley at USC and now the pre-draft visit in Orchard Park. 

Joining Barkley as Wednesday's visitors were Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan, Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree and Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers.

Jordan is the top name of the Wednesday group, likely to be a top-10 selection on April 25. He is a pass rushing linebacker that looks to be a fit for a 3-4 defense. Ogletree, an inside linebacker, is also expected to be a first round pick.

Rogers, who transferred out of the University of Tennessee ahead of last season, is the third former Volunteers wideout to visit One Bills Drive over the past week. He is expected to be anywhere from a second to fourth-round pick.

The Bills have now conducted 23 official pre-draft visits. Teams in the NFL are alotted 30 leading up to the annual selection meeting in New York City.

Here is a list of who has already made their visits to One Bills Drive:

Quarterback
E.J. Manuel, Florida State (April 2)
Mike Glennon, NC State (April 3)
Geno Smith, West Virginia (April 4)
Landry Jones, Oklahoma (April 5)
Jeff Tuel, Washington State (April 8)
Matt Scott, Arizona (April 9)
Matt Barkley, USC (April 10)

Wide Receiver
Russell Shepard, LSU (April 3)
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (April 4)
Justin Hunter, Tennessee (April 8)
Zach Rogers, Tennessee (April 9)
Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech (April 10)

Tight End
Ryan Griffin, Connecticut (April 5)

Defensive End
Barkevious Mingo, LSU (April 8)

Outside Linebacker
Jamie Collins, Southern Mississippi (April 3)
Jarvis Jones, Georgia (April 5)
Dion Jordan, Oregon (April 10)

Inside Linebacker
Kevin Minter, LSU (April 4)
Alec Ogletree, Georgia (April 10)

Safety
Malcolm Bronson, McNeese State (April 2)
Cooper Taylor, Richmond (April 2)
Jonathan Meeks, Clemson (April 3)
Kenny Vaccaro, Texas (April 4)

Players who will reportedly visit that haven't yet:
CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (Albert Breer, NFL.com)
S Philip Thomas, Fresno State (Ian Rapoport, NFL.com)
QB Tyler Bray, Tennessee (Adam Schefter, ESPN.com)
QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (Jim Corbett, USA Today)
FB Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard (Tony Pauline, DraftInsider.net)

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
 




 
Harvard FB will reportedly visit Bills

The Buffalo Bills will reportedly have another offensive player visit them in April. According to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net, the Bills will bring in Harvard fullback Kyle Juszczyk for a visit.

In need of a more versatile fullback now that Corey McIntyre remains a free agent, the Bills could use a mid-round pick to secure Juszczyk's services. Pauline reports that he's hearing the fullback could go as early as the fourth round.

Juszczyk is described as a player who could fit in to an H-back role, which the Bills would need with Nathaniel Hackett's new offense.

 
Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

 
 




 
Mock Draft 4.0

Okay, here's a confession:

I don't really get why people throw the '.0' at the end of their mock drafts. If you change it, it's a new mock draft. Anyway, I've put out the newest edition of my mock draft, with the offensive linemen coming off the board in a fast and albeit furious manner.

It goes three rounds deep, and I'll give you a teaser... the Bills trade down from eighth overall. Take a look for yourselves!

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
 


 
Tight End Rankings
Here is a list of the top tight ends the 2013 NFL Draft has to offer and how I rank them. Please note, this list is not indicative of how they will be drafted.
  1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
  2. Zach Ertz, Stanford
  3. Jordan Reed, Florida
  4. Vance McDonald, Rice
  5. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
  6. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
  7. Mychal Rivera, Tennessee
  8. Michael Williams, Alabama
  9. Dion Sims, Michigan State
  10. Nick Kasa, Colorado
  11. Ryan Otten, San Jose State
  12. Chris Gragg, Arkansas
  13. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State
  14. Joseph Fauria, UCLA
  15. Levine Toilolo, Stanford
  16. Matt Furstenburg, Maryland
  17. Ryan Griffin, Connecticut
  18. Chris Pantale, Boston College
  19. Jack Doyle, Western Kentucky
  20. Justice Cunningham, South Carolina
  21. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn
  22. D.C. Jefferson, Rutgers
 




 
Pass Rusher Rankings
Here is a list of the top pass rushers the 2013 NFL Draft has to offer and how I rank them. Please note, this list is not indicative of how they will be drafted.
  1. Dion Jordan, Oregon
  2. Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
  3. Bjoern Werner, Florida State
  4. Jarvis Jones, Georgia
  5. Barkevious Mingo, LSU
  6. Margus Hunt, SMU
  7. Datone Jones, UCLA
  8. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
  9. Cornelius Carradine, Florida State
  10. Corey Lemonier, Auburn
  11. Sam Montgomery, LSU
  12. Cornelius Washington, Georgia
  13. Alex Okafor, Texas
  14. Maliciah Goodman, Clemson
  15. Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky
  16. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State
  17. Trevardo Williams, Connecticut
  18. Jamie Collins, Southern Mississippi
  19. John Simon, Ohio State
  20. Joe Kruger, Utah
  21. Lavar Edwards, LSU
  22. Stansly Maponga, TCU
  23. Devin Taylor, South Carolina
  24. Michael Buchanan, Illinois
  25. Tristan Okpalaugo, Fresno State
  26. Tourek Williams, Florida International
  27. Travis Long, Washington State
  28. Walter Stewart, Cincinnati
Other draft-eligible players that may be drafted that I could not find sufficient film of:
  • Armonty Bryant, East Central Oklahoma
  • David Bass, Missouri Western
  • Ty Powell, Harding
 




 
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