The 2014 NFL Draft is now just over two weeks away, paving way for what could be one of the most intriguing drafts to date. With so much talent loaded into this class, teams will be trying to weave their way to secure the guy that best fits their roster.
Last time around in Mock Draft #4, the Bills went with Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan. Could it be the same thing in Mock Draft #5? For the first time in 2014, the mock draft goes up to the Bills third round selection. Here's a look at how May 8 and 9 could play out for Buffalo.
Keep in mind, mock drafts should always be considered to be for entertainment purposes only. With that written, on to the mock!
1) TRADE (from HOU) - DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
- It's not often you see the top pick in the draft dealt away, but it's also not often that a player with Clowney's pedigree is available. NFL.com's Gil Brandt said he believes there is a "good chance" Houston trades out of the top spot, and the recipient would likely be moving up for Clowney. With not much depth to this pass rushing class, the Falcons, who believe they're close, capitalize on what they may view as a rare opportunity.
2) (from WSH) - OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
- The majority of St. Louis' leverage was based on the fact that Houston needs a quarterback, but now that the Texans are focusing in on either defense or a trade, that likely leaves the Rams stuck at second overall. They choose to build up their offensive line with a run-first approach and select Greg Robinson, who has the potential to be a top offensive tackle in the NFL.
3) - LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
- This remains one of the best fits in the draft. Gus Bradley could use Mack in so many different ways in his pressure-based defensive scheme. The Jaguars defense could be one of the most improved units in all the NFL in 2014.
4) - WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
- Whoever the Browns end up taking to be their next quarterback will have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal. If the Browns end up with Watkins, that gives them one of the most talented pass-catching units in all the NFL: Josh Gordon, Watkins, Jordan Cameron and the newly signed slot receiver Andrew Hawkins. Brian Hoyer might be the early recipient of all the weapons, it's just a matter of which quarterback the Browns set their sights on and how quickly he can play.
5) - QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
- Wanting to trade down, the top quarterback on their board is too good to pass up at fifth overall. After all, GM Reggie McKenzie has to take a quarterback early in the draft eventually, right? Right?! Bueller?!
6) (from ATL) - OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
- The Matthews family will have an extended presence in the city of Houston once again. Jake Matthews slots in as an immediate starter for Bill O'Brien, as the Texans attempt to build up their offensive line for their quarterback of the future.
7) - QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
- Manziel would be an electric fit for the Buccaneers and would help them be competitive immediately. There is little doubt that they need a shot in the arm offensively, and Manziel could be just the guy to do it.
8) TRADE (from MIN) - WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
- Rather than waiting around, the Rams pounce on the opportunity to select a big, playmaking wide receiver that Sam Bradford doesn't currently have to throw to. Evans would be an immediate starter and give St. Louis a lot of flexibility on offense if they were to draft Greg Robinson at number two as well.
9) - TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
- For three out of the four mock drafts before this one, the Bills were taking an offensive tackle with the ninth overall pick. Last time around, both Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews were off the board, and the mock featured the Bills selecting Michigan's Taylor Lewan over Ebron. So why the change of heart? It all comes down to two separate reasons. Firstly, if EJ Manuel is going to succeed as a quarterback in the NFL they need to surround him with as much playmaking talent as possible. While tight end isn't an outrageous, crying need, adding an explosive player that can change the way defenses play you is far more important than what a right tackle could bring along. Back when the Patriots featured their two tight end sets, they had a super-athletic player that was used for receiving purposes only. This is what the Bills could have envisioned for Ebron, who is head and shoulders above the rest of the tight end class. The second reason, and perhaps the most important, is that the offensive tackles outside of the top three have a very real chance to slip down farther than initially thought. Buffalo could end up with tremendous value in the second round, coming away with two impact starters for their offense.
10) TRADE (from DET) - LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
- If the board doesn't fall the way the Bills want it to, there is an argument to be made for them to engage in talks with the 49ers for somewhat of a similar deal. With all the drama happening with Aldon Smith, it appears a split could be on the way sooner rather than later. Barr would fit perfectly into the San Francisco defense, and the 49ers certainly have the ammo to make a big move up the draft order.
SF gets: 10th overall
DET gets: 30th overall, 56th overall, 61st overall
11) TRADE (from TEN) - OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
- The Ravens are in need of a right tackle now that Michael Oher has departed as an unrestricted free agent. The Ravens have a lot of picks to play with in this year's draft, so a move up to secure that player for the pocket-bound Joe Flacco could be in the works. If they have any hope of landing Lewan, they have to get ahead of the New York Giants.
BAL gets: 11th overall, 112th overall
TEN gets: 17th overall, 48th overall
12) - DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
13) - LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
- The Vikings move down a bit and claim an inside linebacker that steps in to start as soon as they hand in the card.
14) - S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
15) - WR Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU
- With Emmanuel Sanders leaving, the Steelers need another target for Ben Roethlisberger. The trio of Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Odell Beckham, Jr. is one that presents a lot of problems for defenses.
16) - DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
17) (from BAL) - QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
- After trading down and acquiring an additional second round pick, the Titans can't pass up the value of Teddy Bridgewater at this point in the draft. Jake Locker is on the final year of his contract and he is not Ken Whisenhunt's quarterback. Bridgewater can step in quickly to a good situation on offense with Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Delanie Walker.
18) TRADE (from NYJ) - CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
- The Broncos have been going for it all offseason to try and put together a team to win a Super Bowl this season, so moving up to take their top cornerback in the draft to pair with Aqib Talib could be an intriguing option.
DEN gets: 18th overall
NYJ gets: 31st overall, 63rd overall
19) - OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
20) - S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
- A hard-hitting safety to go along with the ballhawking Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals are looking to make a playoff push this season with a high impact style of rookie at an increasingly important position.
21) TRADE (from GB) - WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
- Rather than hope that the Eagles don't select Cooks at 22, the Chiefs dish out a fourth-round pick to the Packers to secure their guy. Cooks can play both outside and inside, and that versatility will be fully welcomed to the Alex Smith-led offensive attack.
23) (from KC) - S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
- The Packers are in desperate need of a safety. With both Clinton-Dix and Pryor off the board, the Packers figure they can move back a little bit and still secure their player. Their gamble pays off, and they get an additional fourth-round pick along with Jimmie Ward.
24) - DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
25) - CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
- A slight fall in cornerbacks benefits the Chargers greatly, who could use an entire new starting set of players at the position. They get Gilbert, who some view as the top cornerback in this class.
26) (from IND) - QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
- The Browns have some nervous moments, but end up with their guy to groom for the longterm. Will he be an immediate contributor? That much we don't know. But the Browns do have a player in Brian Hoyer that can help in the interim with all those weapons on offense that Cleveland now boasts.
27) TRADE (from NO) - WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
- Not only do the wide receiver needy Carolina Panthers worry the New York Jets, but so do the New England Patriots. They offer the New Orleans Saints a great deal which gives them a total of three picks in the second round, all while maintaining 31st overall to add to their offense even further. The Jets will hope that Kelvin Benjamin is Eric Decker's new Demaryius Thomas.
NYJ gets: 27th overall
NO gets: 49th overall, 63rd overall
28) - OT/G Zack Martin, Notre Dame
29) - DT Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
- The Patriots would have went with Benjamin had he been on the board, but can't pass up an impact player like Nix. He'll eventually take over for Vince Wilfork, but can play right beside him until that day comes.
30) (from SF) - CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
31) (from DEN) - TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
32) TRADE (from SEA) - QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU
- This trade happens for three reasons. The first, Minnesota has the additional second round selection to be able to pull off this trade. Secondly, the threat of what Houston might do at 33rd overall looms largely over their heads, and they seem to be big fans of Mettenberger. Thirdly, drafting at 32nd overall rather than in the second round gives the Vikings the fifth-year option on Mettenberger if he's a success.
33) - QB Tom Savage, Pittsburgh
- The craziness of the draft continues, with the Texans actually selecting the quickest rising quarterback in recent memory. With Savage selected, Ryan Fitzpatrick will get some more time as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
34) - CB Jason Verrett, TCU
35) - LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
36) - WR Marqise Lee, USC
- Even a few months ago, Marqise Lee dropping out of the first round was a preposterous thought. With all the talent in this draft and the type of depth that exists at his position, it puts a team in a position to get a steal of a second round pick.
39) - HB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
- Jimmy Garoppolo is a popular pick here in most mock drafts, but is he worthy of a second round selection? Instead, the Jaguars take the second member of their one-two punch at running back in Carlos Hyde.
40) (from MIN) - G Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
41) - OT Morgan Moses, Virginia
- The depth at the position allows this situation to happen. Opinions on Morgan Moses are wide-ranging, but the common notion is that he can play right tackle in the NFL. He's got the size (6-foot-6, 314-pounds) and the arm length that the Bills covet in their tackles, making Moses a likely immediate starter in Buffalo. Even if Moses is off the board, there will be options available at 41 to upgrade right tackle if they so choose.
42) - DE/OLB Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
43) - TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
- Niklas might be a little raw, but he has intriguing size and attributes that the Giants were missing from their tight end in 2013.
44) (from STL) - DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
45) - TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Washington
46) - DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
- After addressing wide receive in the first round, Tuitt can step in and start for a need area in Pittsburgh. A five-technique defensive end is sorely needed after they whiffed on Ziggy Hood.
47) - OT/G Joel Bitonio, Nevada
48) (from BAL) - HB Tre Mason, Auburn
49) (from NYJ) - DE/OLB Dee Ford, Auburn
- An outside linebacker for Rob Ryan isn't the top need area for the Saints, but Ford is too good to pass up at this point in the draft.
50) - LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin
- The Dolphins want to move Dannell Ellerbee to the outside, and Borland would give them the flexibility to do so. Getting Phillip Wheeler out of the starting lineup is a very good thing for Miami.
51) - CB Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
52) - WR Bruce Ellington, South Carolina
- Andre Roberts moved on to Washington, creating a need for a slot receiver to complement Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. The Cardinals can get the inside scoop on Bruce Ellington from his cousin, and current Arizona running back, Andre. A former dual-athlete at South Carolina, Ellington brings a lot of potential to the table.
53) - C Weston Richburg, Colorado State
54) - WR Paul Richardson, Colorado
55) - HB Jeremy Hill, LSU
- Looking for a power back to pair with Gio Bernard, the Bengals go with Jeremy Hill to take over for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. They'll be running the ball a bit more this season with Hue Jackson as the new offensive coordinator.
56) (from SF) - WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
57) - DE/OLB Kyle Van Noy, BYU
58) - HB Dri Archer, Kent State
- An explosive athlete, Archer can be the new X-factor in New Orleans now that they've moved on from Darren Sproles.
59) - S Deone Bucannon, Washington State
60) - WR Davante Adams, Fresno State
- After waiting to address wide receiver in the first round, the Panthers land a player that could have pushed to be a first round pick in most years. Fortunately for Carolina, this isn't most years.
61) (from SF) - DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State
62) - G/C Marcus Martin, USC
63) (from NYJ via DEN) - WR Allen Robinson, Penn State
64) - DE/DT Dominique Easley, Florida
- Could the Seahawks use an offensive tackle? Sure. But adding Easley, who could become one of the best in the draft if he gets through his second major knee injury, seems like a gamble worth taking for the immensely talented Seattle roster. They can afford him with the time he needs to fully rehab his injury.
65) - ILB Carl Bradford, Arizona State
66) - OT Ja'Wuan James, Tennessee
67) - S Terrance Brooks, Florida State
68) - OT Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
69) - G Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
70) - QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
- Waiting on Garoppolo pays off for Jacksonville. Plenty of other teams already addressed their quarterback needs, and taking Garoppolo in the third round doesn't put any pressure on the organization to stray away from moving on from him after only one season.
71) - CB Phillip Gaines, Rice
72) (from MIN) - QB A.J. McCarron, Alabama
73) - CB Bashaud Breeland, Clemson
- The Bills could go with a defensive end, wide receiver or running back at this selection, but the potential of Bashaud Breeland wins out over the likes of North Carolina defensive end Kareem Martin, Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant, Ole Miss wideout Dontie Moncrief and Towson running back Terrance West among a plethora of others. They can find a running back in the fifth round, and a situational pass rusher could be had in the fourth round. In the end, the longterm starting potential of a player like Breeland wins out. He's got the size (5-foot-11, 197-pounds) and the hips to be a starting cornerback in the NFL. With the flexibility that Leodis McKelvin brings during Breeland's rookie season, they can develop him with defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson the proper way and not force him into action too early.
The Buffalo Bills announced on Tuesday evening that head coach Doug Marrone had a scare with cancer. The coach released the following statement, revealing he had a cancerous mole:
"During a recent doctor's visit, it was discovered that I had a cancerous mole on my skin, which has since been removed. The only follow up required is to have my moles checked every 3 months and that basically is the end of the story. The recent extraction procedure will have no effect on my ability to coach the team moving forward."
The NFL Draft is still over two weeks away and the anticipation is only building up to bigger and higher levels. When May 8 rolls around, the Houston Texans will be on the clock for the first overall pick, but might that only be for appearances?
NFL.com's Gil Brandt, who is widely known as "The Godfather" of the NFL Draft did a question and answer session with his followers on Twitter. He unleashed one heck of a draft nugget that, if you allow it to, could tie itself to the Buffalo Bills by way of two other reports.
.@PittCritic Good chance #Texans move down. Trade similar to Giants-Chargers trade, preaarnged to take Clowney for some other team.
Brandt is referring to the draft day trade from 2004 that sent Eli Manning to the Giants in return for Phillp Rivers heading to San Diego after the Chargers held the first overall pick. Plenty of fans in the area will and have made the leap that the mystery team that could be the New York Giants to Houston's San Diego might just be the Buffalo Bills.
To review, two separate connected and respected NFL writers have mentioned the Bills when it comes to the first overall pick. On March 27, Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report wrote that sources told him the Bills could be a trading partner for the Texans and that Buffalo is interested in moving up. Within the same month, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports wrote that the Texans are attempting to move out of the top pick, and mentioned both the Bills and the Atlanta Falcons as teams that might want to move up.
But here's another thing to consider: might Bills GM Doug Whaley be more inclined to deal away future first round picks, which is likely what it would take to move up to first overall, because of the fear that not winning this season will cost him his job whenever a new owner comes on board?
It's an idea WGR's Mike Schopp has been kicking around on the air for the past week or so. It was also one that was written out in long-form by a Buffalo-based blogger, Joe Pinzone of BuffaloWins, asking the question if 2014 was a do or die year for both Whaley and Doug Marrone.
If there is any truth to the thought it would undoubtedly be one of the biggest trade attempts in the history of the franchise, and one they would have to get right. And in this case, right just wouldn't mean a solid starter on the defense. It would mean a hell-raising pass rusher that forces the opposition to gameplan for him, and a player to build their defense around for the future.
The wait for the 2014 NFL Draft is a bit longer than most years, but the league continued to fan the flames of anticipation by announcing the players that will be in New York City for the festivities.
The Buffalo Bills are selecting ninth overall in the draft order, which means there is probably a good chance that the next member of their roster will be at Radio City Music Hall to don the team's hat and jersey on May 8.
Here is a list of the scheduled attendees for the draft, while noting which of the players have been through Orchard Park for a pre-draft visit:
Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Wide Receiver (7)
Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU (Visited Buffalo April 10)
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Mike Evans, Texas A&M (Visited Buffalo April 22)
Cody Latimer, Indiana (Visited Buffalo April 1)
Marqise Lee, USC
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Tight End (1)
Eric Ebron, North Carolina (Visited Buffalo April 4)
Offensive Tackle (5)
Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (Visited Buffalo April 9)
Morgan Moses, Virginia
Greg Robinson, Auburn
Defensive End (2)
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Kony Ealy, Missouri
Defensive Tackle (2)
Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Khalil Mack, Buffalo
C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State (Visited Buffalo April 2)
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech (Visited Buffalo April 21)
Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Bradley Roby, Ohio State (Visited Buffalo April 2)
Jason Verrett, TCU
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Calvin Pryor, Louisville
On the same day that voluntary offseason conditioning started for the Buffalo Bills, their three remaining exclusive rights free agents re-signed with the team on Tuesday. Wide receiver Chris Hogan, offensive lineman Antoine McClain and fullback Frank Summers all signed the dotted line to spend 2014 with the Bills.
Hogan and Summers each contributed on offense throughout the 2013 season. Hogan, who primarily played on special teams units but also filled in at receiver when there were injuries, made 10 catches for 83 yards. Summers was mostly a blocker and special teams contributor, but also chipped in 12 carries for 46 yards, 7 catches for 79 yards and two total touchdowns.
McClain hooked on with the Bills on their active roster during the season in early October, but failed to be activated for any of the team's games last season. Head coach Doug Marrone did group McClain in with fellow guards J.J. 'Unga and Mark Asper as players that he believes have starting potential at the position.
The trio re-signed with Buffalo mostly because there options were severly limited. As an exclusive rights free agents, as long as a team issues the player a tender, the player then has only two options for their upcoming season. They can either re-sign with their current team, or, they can leave the NFL entirely.
The Bills now have 75 players on their active roster. Teams are allotted a maximum of 90 throughout the offseason, leading up to the initial cutdown day in late August.
For the first time in 2014, the Buffalo Bills have reconvened and are starting their preparations for the upcoming season. While there weren't any drills on the field, it was a time for players to do some conditioning and strength work, all the while communicating with the coaching staff for the first time since the end of the season.
"Obviously we're extremely excited as coaches and as an organization when the players start coming back in this building," head coach Doug Marrone said Tuesday. "Even though you're limited to doing a lot of things and we know it's voluntary. It's great to see the players back knowing that we do have a lot of hard work ahead of us."
According to the coach, the attendance was near 100-percent for the first day with only a few exceptions. Marrone said that he has the understanding that it will get to full attendance very shortly.
Topping the list of those present for the first day will be the player directly tied to the success or failure of the Bills in 2014: starting quarterback EJ Manuel. There is little doubt that it's a quarterback-driven league, and Buffalo will have to hope that Manuel irons out all the wrinkles from his game as a rookie. The quarterback agrees with all of that, and knows he needs to prove himself in 2014.
"A year after you're drafted you have one year under your belt so I know you usually want to make that big jump from your rookie year to your second year, your sophomore year," Manuel said. "I'm eager about it. I'm very excited and I think I'm taking the right steps right now. I tried to jot down everything I felt I needed to work on and I felt like I made the proper steps up to this point and helped myself get prepared for that so now it's just staying a part of the plan.
Those in attendance could notice a different air about the second-year player. Not having to deal with the whirlwind that is the NFL Draft process like he did this time last year, Manuel looked noticeably more loose and comfortable in speaking with the media.
Even Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson noticed the differences during their on-field workouts in Miami a couple of weeks ago. Johnson alluded to the zip, and how Manuel's throws were all on point. The wideout even said that Manuel was much more vocal, telling teammates where to be and what to do if they had a misstep.
"The main reason was because I've been doing so much studying I can pretty much go out there and call whatever I want to call," the second-year quarterback said. "As far as me maturing as a quarterback and as this team's quarterback, that is what they want from me. That's what I want to be able to do, I want to have the responsibility to tell those guys that the route wasn't right and they won't take that personally."
Manuel and some of his receivers met for a five-day stretch in California, and then a four-day stretch in Miami. There they all participated in churning through the playbook from an on-the-field perspective.
It's all encouraging in April, but most know that with a playoff-worthy roster in place for 2014, it's on the young quarterback to lead the team back to the place that the Bills haven't been since the turn of the century. Right from the end of the season, the decision makers of the organization have at times gone out of their way to say how invested in Manuel they are for 2014.
It's Manuel's team, and they'll either sink or swim with the progress of their young quarterback. Much of that will be determined by his health after missing six games in 2013 due to various knee injuries.
Manuel said that his knee, which endured another procedure since the end of the 2013 regular season, was back to normal and even characterized himself as a full participant during Tuesday's workouts.
"I haven't had any limitations throughout the whole offseason since it was time for me to start working out and running and throwing," he said. "No limitations at all, I feel great."
Manuel and the majority of his teammates participated in what is termed as "voluntary offseason conditioning" workouts Tuesday. If the players so choose, they are able to be at team facilities working out for five separate four-day stretches, all happening in consecutive weeks.
Once that period ends, the next line of work for veterans of the Bills will be with the start of Organized Team Activities on Wednesday, May 28. There will be a total of 10 of those on-field workouts, which are also voluntary, that extend into June. It all leads up to the team's three-day mandatory minicamp that begins on June 17, which will be the last time the team can work with their players until the start of training camp in July.
The 2014 NFL Draft is drawing near, and yet another big named prospect has made the trek to Buffalo to visit with the Bills. On Tuesday, the team announced that Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans was in town for a pre-draft visit.
Evans declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore following two seasons that yielded back-to-back 1,000 yard campaigns. Over those two years, the 6-foot-5, 231-pound wide receiver brought in 151 receptions for 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is widely considered to be the second-best at his position behind Clemson's Sammy Watkins, and there is much speculation that Evans will be selected in the top 10.
In addition to Evans, the Bills also hosted two other college prospects on pre-draft visits. USC interior offensive lineman Marcus Martin and Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon each visited team facilities in Orchard Park on Tuesday as well.
In what has been advertised as a weak class for centers, Martin is one of the best available. He switched to center ahead of his junior season, but started at left guard during both his freshman and sophomore years. Martin is 6-foot-3 and 320-pounds, and will likely be selected at some point of Day Two of the draft.
McKinnon split his time in 2013 as both a quarterback and running back at Georgia Southern, but will need to focus on playing running back to make it in the NFL. Over the past two seasons, McKinnon maintained a yards per carry average of 6.7, gaining a total of 2,867 yards and 32 touchdowns in the Eagles' triple-option attack. He's projected to be a potential Day Three selection.
With the help of the pressure brought on by the front seven of the defense, and with a couple of roster improvements, the Buffalo Bills cornerbacks had a better year than they did in 2012. The position struggled mightily in the early going of 2013, but once usual starters began to return from injury, the corners settled in a bit more.
Even still, the Bills are bringing in a number of top cornerback prospects to meet with coaches and see the ground in Orchard Park for pre-draft visits. It's interesting considering their current roster makeup and for the fact that cornerback is one of the forgotten positions when it comes to the draft.
Could it be that where there is smoke, there is fire as well? Might the Bills actually draft a cornerback earlier than anyone is thinking at this point? Let's examine:
What they have Starters: Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Nickell Robey (nickel) Reserves: Corey Graham, Brandon Smith, Ron Brooks, Mario Butler
What they need
- Regardless of when it comes to fruition, the Bills will eventually need to find a longterm starter to pair with Stephon Gilmore to finally put the cornerback need to rest. Entering his third season, the Bills are hoping Gilmore can put his injury behind him and continue down the same path he was on during training camp of developing into a shutdown corner.
They'll need him to regain that form, because the defense under coordinator Jim Schwartz will likely have a much different feel to it. While Mike Pettine specialized in bringing blitzes from all different places and sending more than four rushers on occasion, Schwartz shifts the philosophy back to having a dominant front-four and, in turn, putting more pressure on the cornerbacks on the field.
The big question is not about Gilmore — at least not at this point. One would have to believe that the concern is how Leodis McKelvin, who is heading into his seventh year, will do with more time in coverage. There isn't any doubt that his season in 2013 was the best he's had since his rookie year. If you study the tape, however, it's fair to ask if it was merely a byproduct of Pettine's pressure-packed defense.
Here's another caveat to consider: McKelvin's cap number takes a 50-percent jump up from the 2013 season to 2014. And if you go based on his 2013 number, his 2015 cap hit goes up nearly 61-percent. While there is no immediate danger to McKelvin, who turns 29 in September, it would be shortsighted to not at least wonder if the Bills are trying to find that longterm replacement.
Considering his age, his past struggles, a lack of playmaking ability (interceptions) and with more dynamic return specialists on the roster currently, it's fair to consider if the former first-round pick could be in trouble after 2014. After all, McKelvin is owed a $750,000 roster bonus ahead of the 2015 season, and the normal rule of thumb for cornerbacks is to gently bring them up to the starting lineup after learning the NFL game.
Some will ask about free agent acquisition Corey Graham, but it seems he's more of a situational player that will be used at both cornerback and safety depending on how the offense lines up. Graham will likely be a jack-of-all-trades type based on his skill set.
Nickell Robey is a solid nickel corner and will continue in that role, so there isn't any reason to move on from the former undrafted free agent. Past those four, though, the Bills lack depth. Former fourth-round pick Ron Brooks has been a humongous disappointment in the rare times that he's been healthy and could be entering a "prove it" training camp in 2014. Brandon Smith is an intriguing developmental player, but is far from being ready to contribute.
If the right player is available and depending about how they feel about McKelvin, cornerback could be the sneakiest "need" position for the Bills in 2014.
How will they do it?
- If the Bills stand pat at ninth overall, it would be a bit of a stretch to consider one of the top cornerbacks being in consideration for that pick. Based on the talent level of this draft that will likely push the top cornerbacks down the draft order, the Bills could be in prime territory at 41st overall to land a cornerback that could have been selected in the first round during weaker draft years. They've been bringing in numerous fringe-first round cornerback types, and some that could even be available in the third round. It would not be surprising at all if the Bills used a Day Two selection on the position, considering the type of pressure that will be put on them this coming season.
Players connected to the Bills (will be updated)
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech (Pre-Draft Visit)
Bradley Roby, Ohio State (Pre-Draft Visit)
Phillip Gaines, Rice (Pre-Draft Visit)
Bashaud Breeland, Clemson (Pre-Draft Visit)
Ross Cockrell, Duke (Pre-Draft Visit)
Walt Aikens, Liberty (Pre-Draft Visit)