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Bills Beat Blog



By Joe Buscaglia
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Posts from April 2014


NFL Draft Podcast - Bills move up or move down?
The 2014 NFL Draft is getting closer by the day, and the Buffalo Bills have had plenty of rumors attached to their names.

Might they move up and get an instant impact player? Or if they don't get what they want, what about moving down? Brian Koziol and I discuss all of that and more on today's NFL Draft Podcast.

Just click play below and listen!
 
 




 
NFL Draft Podcast - Bills' offensive attack on draft
The NFL Draft Podcast is back for its second straight night, and this time it focuses around what the Buffalo Bills can do for second-year quarterback EJ Manuel.

What's the best approach? An offensive tackle to protect, or a pass-catcher to facilitate? Brian Koziol and I weigh in on that very topic in our second podcast of the NFL Draft season.

Just click play below and listen in!
 

If you missed any episode, find it here:
Episode 1 - FA effect on Bills' draft
 
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More talk that Bills are trying to trade up
Nine more days until the 2014 NFL Draft, and the rumors just continue to pile up. One persistent rumor throughout the past month or so has linked the Buffalo Bills with attempting to move up in the order from ninth overall.

In his latest mock draft ESPN’s Todd McShay didn’t have the Bills moving up per say, but did offer up an interesting first line of the explanation in his selection for Buffalo.
 
“I've heard from three league sources in the past week that the Bills are trying to trade up. If they do make a move, it'll likely be to land Clowney, Robinson or Watkins.” - Todd McShay, ESPN.com

The Bills have been talking a big game in that respect, and have been linked to perhaps even trading all the way up to the top pick in an effort to get Jadeveon Clowney. Doug Whaley defined what  “mortgaging the future” in the form of dealing draft picks to move up meant to him. 

“We give up our whole draft? You’re mortgaging our future. If we give up a second round or a pick next year, again it’s a calculated decision. I would say it all depends on the deal,” Whaley said. “It’s got to be a right deal and it has to be a calculated deal that is beneficial to us and the other team.”

Would Whaley and the Bills actually go all the way up to the first or second overall pick to draft either South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson? Speaking with people around the league regarding the Bills pick, it doesn’t sound like there is much to that. While the Bills would be getting a very good player, the type of cost to move from ninth to first is quite a lot.

The other name that McShay brings up as a potential trade-up target is interesting. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is someone that the Bills seem to be enamored by, according to a league source. Based on that conversation, it wouldn’t be shocking at all for the Bills to move up to select Watkins if he gets past either Jacksonville (3) or Cleveland (4).

Since he wasn’t able to project trades in this version of his mock draft, McShay gave the Bills Taylor Lewan, the offensive tackle out of Michigan.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP
 




 
Bills introduce variable pricing for home games
In the National Football League, every single week is important to the outcome of a season. As far as pricing and the ability to sell games, sometimes not every contest is created equally to the adoring fan base. Through that logical reasoning, the Buffalo Bills have introduced the savvy idea to use a tiered system for individual game tickets in 2014.

The eight home contests are split up into ‘gold,’ ‘silver,’ and ‘bronze’ games, having the cost coincide with the differing levels of distinction for the trio of metals.

The ‘gold’ level games only feature two contests, the home opener on September 14 against Miami, and the October 12 tilt against New England. Individual game tickets for those contests range from $68 to $130.

Four games have been designated on the ‘silver’ level, featuring three contests against teams that fans can’t see in Buffalo all too often and one against a division rival. Those games include September 21 against San Diego, October 19 versus Minnesota, November 23 against the New York Jets and the final home game of the season, December 14 versus Green Bay. The individual ticket prices for ‘silver’ games range from $58 to $112.

November 9 against Kansas City and November 30 versus Cleveland will be the lone ‘bronze’ games offered to fans. Those contests will be available for anywhere from $48 to $99 for individual seats.

For a full look at which sections coincide with different price ranges, here is the link to the graphic issued by the Bills.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP
 
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Mark Poloncarz provides lease expertise to WGR
The Twitter world was worked into a tizzy on Monday night following the headline provided by John Kryk of The Toronto Sun. Kryk highlighted a clause in the Buffalo Bills lease with Erie County stating that, from what he was made to understand, that the sale of the team is prohibited from going to a prospective owner that has outright intentions of moving the team during the course of the lease, which runs through 2023.

While this provision had been brought to light for the first time, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com argued that it doesn't actually give new insight that wasn't known already. Florio argued that the new owner, even if they had intended on moving the franchise, would make it seem as though they were planning on keeping the Bills in Buffalo.

The two simple facts remain: the new owner can still opt out of the lease with Erie County during a short window in the beginning of 2020 for $28.4 million, and there is nothing stopping a new owner from moving the team when the full term of the lease expires in 2023.

With confusion setting in for most in regards to this newly brought up clause, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz called The Howard Simon Show on Tuesday morning to explain what it all meant.

Near the end of the interview, Poloncarz said he expects that by this time next year a new owner will be in place. He also said he's talked with plenty of prospective owners that intend to keep the team in Buffalo, even ones without ties to the area.

Here is the interview in full:
 




 
NFL Draft Podcast - FA effect on Bills draft
For the third straight year, the NFL Draft Podcast is back right here on WGR550.com. Once again, Brian Koziol joins me to discuss all the different topics regarding the Buffalo Bills leading up to the draft, trying to whittle down what might just be the team's plan heading into May 8.

In the first edition of the podcast this year, Brian and I delve into the moves the Bills made in free agency and how that may determine what to target early on in the 2014 NFL Draft.

It's very simple, all you have to is click play below!


Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
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Ebron listed among 7 "elite" prospects of 2014
With the type of talent available in the 2014 NFL Draft, the word 'elite' has been thrown around in regards to a handful of different prospects. Depending on who you talk to or trust, there have been said to be anywhere from four to seven truly special players available come May 8.

After his review of the draft class available in 2014, former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks published an article revealing his elite, blue chip and red chip prospects at NFL.com. Brooks explained his separate tiers of prospects as broken down into first-year impact.

Regarding the 'elite' prospects, Brooks wrote that "these players should earn Pro Bowl recognition early and rank among the top five players at their respective positions in two to three years."

While he didn't offer how many elite talents were available in the 2013 NFL Draft or any years before it, the former scout did write that he believes this year's group will surpass the instant impact that both the 2011 and 2012 drafts.

So who is part of this vaunted seven?

The first four are obvious, and have been linked to rhetoric like this for the past month or so. Those four are South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack and Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

The other three? Well, all of which have been tied to the Bills as potential targets:

Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron are all members of the 'elite.' Notably absent from those top seven are any quarterbacks and Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, who is even generating some buzz as the possible second off the board from his position over Matthews.

The Bills hinted at a similar figure, telling reporters that they believe there are five to six elite prospects available in this year's draft. In the opinion of your author, the one that doesn't carry over from Brooks' list is Evans. Out of the pass-catchers available, Watkins and Ebron look to be the apple of their eye.

Regardless of who they may or may not be targeting, for them to get a player at a helpful position they need one quarterback to be selected in the top eight of the draft. The opinion by Brooks is certainly an interesting one, considering that tight end is not normally considered to be a position worth taking in the top-10 of the draft.

However, it's a new NFL and values of positions are constantly changing. Finding a big, athletic mismatch at tight end is of increasing importance. And as Doug Whaley said on Friday, "that's the way it's going and you've gotta get with the times."

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
Manziel/Cowboys linked again: Bills trade-down mini mock
Without any doubt, the most interesting prospect available in the 2014 NFL Draft is a man who is known mostly by his moniker. And, to some, that moniker involves an expletive in between the two words of his nickname.

Johnny Bleepin’ Football.

As exciting as it was to watch him on Saturdays over the past two years, a similar amount of anticipation is felt about where he’ll actually being playing in the National Football League. As is the case with everything to do with the draft, there is an abundance of speculation. However, one has been gaining a little bit of steam.

Last week both ESPN’s Ed Werder and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com speculated that the Dallas Cowboys could be interested in drafting, or even trading up for Texas A&M star quarterback Johnny Manziel. The reports surfaced around a certain point in the draft, and if Manziel were to be available past the eighth pick, that could put the Bills in a pretty good spot if Dallas wanted to make the move.

Adding fuel to that fire, Jim Nantz of CBS Sports went on with Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland 850 AM. Inevitably, Manziel’s name entered the discussion. What was not expected, however, is what Nantz dropped into the bucket of discussion.
 
“I can say this, he’s going to be the guy everyone wants to see. I’ve heard this rumor for a month -- the Cowboys will figure out a way to get Manziel.” - Jim Nantz



That’s quite a definitive rumor, but one that would certainly fit into the type of aggressive personality Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones has built his reputation up to. Last week we looked at what the Bills would yield in a trade down with the Cowboys.

So, with another rumor, how about a little mini-mock draft to see how it could play out for Buffalo if they were to do it? Here’s how it could play out, with no other trade-ups. This is just a very quick look:

1) Houston - DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2) St. Louis - OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
3) Jacksonville - LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
4) Cleveland - WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
5) Oakland - OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
6) Atlanta - OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
7) Tampa Bay - WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
8) Minnesota - QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
9) Dallas (via BUF) - QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
10) Detroit - S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
11) Tennessee - OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
12) New York Giants - TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
13) St. Louis - LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
14) Chicago - DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
15) Pittsburgh - WR Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU

That brings us, with the trade, to the Bills first pick at 16th overall. The top players on the board to choose from at positions of need would be Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin, Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses, Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks, Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier and Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller.

While there are some fringe first-round choices among that group listed above, the middle of the first round is when teams start to make some outside-the-box selections in the NFL Draft. You could make a case for any of the eight names available at positions of need.

Some look to the pre-draft visitor list to try and whittle the list down to see who the Bills might be interested in. While it is true that the past four first-round selections have made it to One Bills Drive in the month leading up to the event, it can’t always be depended on as the ultimate precursor.

However, if you’d like to narrow it down that way, out of the eight names listed, only half of them were invited to One Bills Drive on a visit. Martin, Seferian-Jenkins, Shazier and Fuller each met with the coaching staff and toured the facilities, but is that enough to give them the edge in this scenario?

Regardless, what the trade would do is give the Bills the 16th pick, the 47th pick and potentially an additional seventh-round selection, all while giving back ninth overall and their fourth-round selection to Dallas.

Three picks in the top 47, in this year’s draft especially, could yield three impact players for a team hoping to make a playoff push. If you’re rooting for a trade down, it might be a good place to start to root for Manziel and all the quarterbacks to fall.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP​
 
 




 
Sleeper player for Bills at 9?
The 2014 NFL Draft is only 10 days away and the intrigue will only increase with every waking hour. The Buffalo Bills finished up all their pre-draft visits, they just brought all the scouts back to Orchard Park and the pre-draft luncheon is now in the past.

Throughout the next two weeks, the Bills will be finalizing their board and going through every single scenario possible, so that when the draft finally arrives on May 8, they’ll be ready for any situation coming their way.

Perhaps the most notable situation to prepare for is the ‘doomsday’ scenario that would yield no quarterbacks selected in the top eight picks. If that scenario came true, it would involve the following eight players being selected ahead of the Bills (alphabetically arranged):

DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

You could make the case for the Bills being interested in each one of those players. And with all of those positions, there is a perceived drop-off that would have some hesitate in taking any of the next-best players on the board.

So what would the Bills do if this scenario came to fruition?

Well, the easy answer is to trade down. If no quarterback is selected in the top eight picks, the Bills could be in prime position to acquire some additional selections so that a team could move up to secure the first quarterback in the draft.

However, as Bills GM Doug Whaley said on Friday, it’s not that easy. You need another team willing to make the move up. So, for the purposes of being difficult, let’s say the Bills can’t move out of the ninth overall pick. Then what?

Some will argue that the Bills should go for one of a pair of Alabama defenders, either linebacker C.J. Mosley or safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Others will even bring up Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, who appears to be a Kyle Williams clone. While any of those could help down the line, the Bills’ draft goal is likely to help EJ Manuel on the offensive side of the ball in some way, shape or form.

LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. is another one to consider. Although he isn’t the imposing physical presence that the Bills are lacking on their roster, he is an outstanding weapon for both the slot and as an outside receiver. However, nine might be a touch too early for him, especially with what the Bills have on their roster currently.

So if not those four, then who?

With no big receivers or tight ends within range of the ninth overall pick, Bills fans, meet Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin.

A four-year starter for the Fighting Irish, Martin has been protecting the left edge for 50 of the school’s past 52 contests. He wins consistently with his technique, footwork and aggressiveness.

The only problem, however, is that some view him as a guard due to his 327/8-inch arms, and that has driven his perceived stock down to the mid-to-late first round. Everything else is positive for Martin, though.

Next to Jake Matthews, Martin has been said to be one of the cleanest offensive line prospects available in the draft. Not a lot of refinement is necessary for his game at the professional level.

But the length could be an issue for some teams if they want him to play tackle. Under Whaley, the Bills have yet to select an offensive tackle so no precedent has been set. However, head coach Doug Marrone has said they want to get bigger along the offensive line, which is vague in what he’s looking for.

Despite the lack of length the Bills have shown interest, though. They had him in for a pre-draft visit, and during their draft luncheon on Friday, Buffalo’s director of college scouting Kelvin Fisher proclaimed that he believes Martin is a tackle first in the NFL.

Consider another opinion from someone in the league. In his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King revealed the top 10 of one team that isn’t picking in the top 10. Although the order of the players isn’t known, take a look at which player snuck in:
 
“Two quarterbacks (Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles), four tackles (Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin), one defensive tackle (Aaron Donald), two pass-rushers (Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack), one wideout (Sammy Watkins).” - Peter King

Of course, just because one team thinks Martin is a top 10 talent does not necessarily mean the Bills feel the same. However, Fisher’s comments about Martin on Friday and this thought revealed on Monday from an unnamed team should at least start spinning the gears in one’s mind a little bit.

The Bills have to be hoping for at least one, if not two, quarterbacks to be selected within the top eight. But if doomsday becomes a reality, perhaps there will be a fourth offensive tackle selected in the top 10.

And his name might just be Zack Martin.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
Bills Draft Outlook: Interior OL
One of the biggest problem areas for the Buffalo Bills in the 2013 season was trying to figure out what to do at left guard. The combination of Colin Brown and Doug Legursky left much to be desired and the team knew they needed to upgrade.

While doing some work through the free agency period, are the Bills done adding to the group? Let’s examine:

What they have
Starters: Chris Williams (left guard), Eric Wood (center), Kraig Urbik (right guard)
Reserves: J.J. ‘Unga, Doug Legursky, Mark Asper, Antoine McClain, Randy Colling

What they need
- Heading into the offseason, the Buffalo Bills were thought to be a team that could use an overhaul at two of their three interior line positions. The team went out and signed Chris Williams to be their starting left guard and kept starting right guard Kraig Urbik on the roster.

With two experienced starters, the Bills also have a trio of younger players that they are quite enthusiastic about developing over the next few months. J.J. ‘Unga, Mark Asper and Antoine McClain all factor into the discussion at guard from now until late August. 

At the very least, they’ll be battling to see who will make the roster. If all goes well for one of those three, though, they could even push for the job to start at right guard. Near the end of the season in 2013, head coach Doug Marrone experimented with ‘Unga and put him in for Kraig Urbik on a couple of series.

In fact, he was planning to do it more but Urbik had such a good showing in the game that ‘Unga was going to get more playing time, that Marrone elected to scrap the idea during the tilt. If that’s any indication, however, Urbik needs to come out and have a strong training camp to maintain his starting position.

At center, the Bills feel comfortable for the longterm with Eric Wood directing traffic at the line of scrimmage. Beyond him the Bills still have Doug Legursky on the roster, and while he isn’t a preferable starting option, he is a good player to have on the roster for his experience with all three interior positions.

General manager Doug Whaley has admitted publicly that the team doesn’t value guards all that highly in their system, so don’t expect a particularly high selection on one.

How will they do it?
- Perhaps the earliest the Bills might select a player to help on the interior would be the third round. They had USC’s Marcus Martin in for a pre-draft visit, and he was the lone interior lineman that came through One Bills Drive. Martin has experience playing both guard and center during college, but 41st overall (second round) could be a bit too early for him. While there are still questions to be answered about the current group along the interior, the team feels good about the young players that they’re trying to develop. The Bills will likely add to the group with another center, just for training camp’s sake, through the undrafted free agent period.

Players connected to the Bills
Marcus Martin, USC (Pre-draft visit)

Previous ‘Bills Draft Outlook’ Editions
Wide Receiver
Defensive End
Running Back
Safety
Defensive Tackle
Tight End
Offensive Tackle
Cornerback
Linebacker

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP
 




 
Deciphering Doug's Code: The 2014 Bills Draft Luncheon
In the first year without former Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix holding court for 45 minutes during the pre-draft luncheon, it seems only right to head back to 2012 and bring up his advice to the onlooking media in Orchard Park.

"I tell you this every time, and you don't listen, you don't believe me. I'm gonna tell you anyway," Nix lectured. "Don't get pinned down now by connecting the dots. It's fun. I enjoy reading it, but it's fantasy football. It has nothing to do with what we might do."

With all due respect Buddy, we didn’t listen then when we narrowed it down to Stephon Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick, Cordy Glenn and Jonathan Martin, and we won’t start heeding the advice now either. In a cautious, but not reckless exercise, this is the time of year to try and put two-and-two together for the fun of it.

For the first time at this annual event, GM Doug Whaley was the man everyone in attendance was there to hear from. And, with one of his opening remarks, he only added fuel to the fire.

“I would say it's finally one time where we can use [the media] to our advantage,” Whaley said. “There's things you put out there to see if someone bites and some things that you put out there, and it's true. So you've gotta have people read between the lines.”

Consider it done, Doug. Let’s begin.

The Bills hold the ninth overall pick in the draft and, since January, have been telling everyone that they’re open to taking any position with their first round pick except a quarterback. If you could pick one theme of the press conference on Friday, it’s that Whaley and company are attempting to give EJ Manuel every resource possible and remove any potential excuses.

Consider quotes like this one, and you can really start to gauge what they’re thinking when May 8 rolls around.

“It's a quarterback-driven league. So we're gonna give every avenue and every piece of the puzzle to surround EJ and make him as successful as possible,” Whaley remarked. “What we did this offseason affords us the opportunity to go any way and every way in this draft. But our main focus is making sure EJ progresses.”

And if you’re a betting man, with the way things sounded on Friday, that seems to be indicative of the way they’re leaning on May 8. Defense can be discounted for the first round mostly because of a few different reasons.

On the defensive line, defensive tackle is one of their strongest positions both in the starting lineup and in depth. While they admitted Friday they could use depth at defensive end, outside of Jadeveon Clowney (who will likely be gone within the top two picks), there really isn’t any 4-3 defensive ends that fit Jim Schwartz’s defense that would be valuable enough to select at ninth overall.

At linebacker, they’ve signed two separate players through free agency to be a part of the starting lineup. They admitted more depth is needed there as well, but as they proved last year, impact linebackers can be found later in the draft.

Then in the secondary, Whaley was asked specifically about the safeties in lieu of Jairus Byrd’s offseason departure. In so many words, the GM said they believe in the three players they have in house besides Aaron Williams, and also brought up Corey Graham before going to his similar refrain that ‘they’ll draft any position.’ So, safety is out. 

As is cornerback, when the quartet of Bills’ employees touted the cornerback group to be strong enough to find big, physical cornerbacks in the later rounds. Unless the Bills trade back in the first round, it would be hard to fathom the Bills sticking at nine and taking a top ten corner for the second time in three years.

Unless of course Clowney or Buffalo’s Khalil Mack is on the board at ninth overall, which are both highly unlikely, defense will be pushed aside to Day Two at least.

So that brings us to the offensive side of the ball, namely at three positions. Offensive tackle, wide receiver and tight end. It’s been the same trio we’ve been hearing about since the season ended and the draft luncheon did nothing to suspend those beliefs.

With those three positions, there are a total of six names to ponder. At offensive tackle, there is Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan. At wide receiver, it involves Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. The lone representative at tight end is North Carolina’s Eric Ebron.

If the Bills stay at ninth overall, it’s fair to say that this is the working shortlist just from a peripheral view. The likelihood that two of that six will be there, Robinson and Watkins, is not great by any means.

In talking with some people about the Bills’ first round pick, Buffalo is said to be incredibly interested in Watkins. It was evident in the way they spoke about him on Friday.

Whaley told WGR in the morning that he believed the Clemson wide receiver was a dynamic playmaker that plays bigger than his size (6-foot-1). He reaffirmed the assertion later in the day by saying that, despite Watkins’ size and the stigma that surrounds wide receivers under 6-foot-3 that are drafted in the top 10, he believes Watkins can be the outlier.

The kicker to the Watkins talk was with director of player personnel Jim Monos in the latter portions of the press conference. He was asked if, from a talent perspective, Watkins is on the same level as A.J. Green and Julio Jones when they came out of college in 2011.

“He's on par with them. His style I think is more like a Percy Harvin with the ball in his hands. He's special like that,” Monos said. “But yeah, he's right on par with those guys.”

It probably won’t happen, but if Watkins somehow gets to ninth overall, the Bills may already have the card ready to hand in.

Now it dwindles down to the final four of Matthews, Lewan, Evans and Ebron. If they had their pick of these four at ninth overall, based on both conversations regarding Buffalo’s first round pick and what was heard at Friday’s draft luncheon, Jake Matthews would likely be the next member of the Buffalo Bills.

If there has been a phrase associated with Matthews above any of the other top offensive tackles available, it has been that most believe he is a “plug-and-play” type for his readiness to contribute and be successful in the NFL right from the day he’s drafted. Now, read what Whaley had to say regarding the worthiness of taking a right tackle with the ninth pick in the draft:

“If he can plug-and-play and we forget about him for 10 years, why wouldn't you?” That, of the players remaining, is Matthews.

Okay, so now let’s say that Matthews is gone within the top eight picks which is very, very possible considering the perceived pushback of quarterbacks in the first round. That leaves you with Lewan, Evans and Ebron.

In that scenario, considering their roster and what they’re trying to accomplish, in order to give offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett the kind of versatility he covets there is only one choice of the three.

“Every offense is different, but I know a tight end and running back are great friends to a quarterback,” said Whaley of the importance of tight end to an offense. “Just look at the production of the tight ends, like Jimmy Graham and all those guys. It's trending towards those basketball, athletic guys that can position their body and go up and get balls. Take balls away from smaller defenders. There's a less emphasis on the blocking of the tight end position nowadays. So that's the way it's going and you've gotta get with the times.”

With due respect because it’s certainly easier said than done in finding one of those types of players, the Bills have yet to get with the times. The GM later referenced the types of mismatches that brand of tight end brings to a defense if you choose to either attach him to the offensive tackle or to split him out wide.

That’s how Whaley feels about tight ends in today’s NFL, so what about Ebron as a prospect?

“Just overall athleticism. He's a playmaker as a receiving tight end, but at the same time, he's a complete tight end,” Monos told reporters. “He blocks, he gives you great effort. He's strong, he's got good size.”

Can he be in that mold that Whaley had talked about previously, like the Jimmy Graham’s of the NFL?

“If everybody knew that he might be the number one pick,” Monos joked. “Does he have the potential to be? Yes.”

Ebron mentioned to Sirius XM that he believed the Bills and Lions to be the most interested in his services, which is akin to the words of another draft pick back in 2013. And from conversations around the league about who the Bills may be targeting, the team's words on Friday and Ebron’s beliefs aren’t just fluff. There is legitimate interest.

At one point in the draft luncheon, the Bills were asked how many elite type of talents there were in this draft. Monos replied that there are “five or six guys we consider elite.”

Based on how they were talking, and, pairing that with trying to absorb some intel through this crazy draft process, that group of six could involve in no specific order, Clowney, Mack, Robinson, Matthews, Watkins and Ebron.

That list obviously does not include Lewan and Evans, two players that haven’t registered any strong opinions from conversations regarding the Bills top pick. That could mean there’s little to no interest, or that could mean they’re playing coy and are fairly interested in those two.

It’s not a determining factor, but in the past four years of the draft the team’s first round pick has gone to Orchard Park for a pre-draft visit. While Evans was one of them, Lewan was not.

Over the past few months you’ve heard the phrase “board dependent” on WGR regarding the ninth overall pick, and that will likely be the case on draft day. The top three of the draft will likely be Clowney, Robinson and Mack in some order. If what we learned today is true, that means the Bills preference of the other possible “elite” talents are, in order, Watkins, Matthews and Ebron. 

If all six are gone the Bills might then look to either Evans or Lewan, but trading down also enters the equation. Especially if, only one or even zero quarterbacks have been picked by the time they’re on the clock, they could be in the catbird seat to trade down and gain some additional picks.

Either way, it should be a fun evening on May 8 to see just how the unpredictable top eight could play out. In the end though, they are going to do something with the ninth overall pick to benefit EJ Manuel immediately.

Upon Whaley’s request, that’s the best shot at reading between the lines. Hopefully, we’ve done him proud.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
Bills pick up fifth-year option on Dareus
When it comes to getting an extended look with Pro Bowl talent for a manageable cost, the decision for the Buffalo Bills was easy with defensive tackle and former third overall pick Marcell Dareus. The team had until May 3 to decide to use their fifth-year option on Dareus, and they announced on Friday that they will be exercising that option.

Dareus is heading into his fourth season in the league, and as a top 10 selection in the 2011 draft, will be due the same amount in 2015 as the transition tag for defensive tackles in the 2014 season. If on the roster in the new league year, Dareus will be owed $8.060 million in 2015.

Although he was reprimanded twice for tardiness by head coach Doug Marrone, Dareus had his most productive and consistent season by leaps and bounds. The 24-year old had a career high 71 tackles, 7.5 sacks and forced the first fumble of his career in 14 starts.

Dareus pairs with veteran Kyle Williams as one of the most talented and productive defensive tackle duos in the league. With the option year picked up, he is now set to become an unrestricted free agent in March of 2016 barring any unforseen circumstances.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP
 
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Kouandjio pre-draft visit finalizes Bills list at 29
Every single year each team in the National Football League is allowed to welcome in 30 college prospects to their facilities for official pre-draft visits. The Bills have filled up their 30 most years, but it appears 2014 won't be one of them.

Still with two official pre-draft visits remaining, the Bills elected to use only one of those two slots. They announced on Friday that Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio was visiting the team, making him player number 29.

Speaking at the annual draft luncheon, GM Doug Whaley said they would likely just leave the final pre-draft visit open, seeing as how the final day to conduct visits is Sunday. That isn't a self-restriction, that is an order mandated by the NFL.

Kouandjio is an intriguing prospect that was once considered as a top 10 to 15 type of talent available in the draft. Following some reports about how his knees tested out, Kouandjio's stock took a bit of a tumble in the past few months and now is projected as a fringe first-round pick. The 6-foot-7, 322-pound offensive tackle started in 26 games over the past two seasons for the Crimson Tide.

With his visit, the Bills visit list included six running backs, four wide receivers, three tight ends, five offensive tackles, one interior lineman, one defensive end, three linebackers and six cornerbacks. For the full list of the players that visited, click here.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP
 
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Watkins v. Evans: Bills' Whaley weighs in
Before the Buffalo Bills' acquisition of wide receiver Mike Williams, a hot debate topic was the merits of drafting Clemson's wide receiver Sammy Watkins versus Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans with the ninth overall pick. Two prospects with two different ways that they play the game, the argument centered around what would be best for the Bills.

However, since Williams, Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson make up the top three on the team, wideout has shifted into the rearview mirror a bit. A chance still remains that the Bills could go for a wide receiver if the board falls in a certain way, so which would it be if they had their way?

While Bills GM Doug Whaley didn't come right out and issue his preference between the two during his appearance on WGR Friday morning, he did highlight the attributes of both players. First, about Sammy Watkins.

"Watkins is a playmaker. He is a guy that plays bigger than his measurables. He's got speed, he's got run after catch and he's got great ball skills," he said. "And one of the things is when you watch him catch the ball, he is always plucking the ball out of the air with his arms extended, so he's not letting it get into his body. So that's why we feel he plays bigger than that 6-1 measurement that he has."

Then Whaley discussed the prospects of Evans.

"Evans is a different creature. He's a size guy, he's 6-5, he's got 35-inch arms and he jumps 37 inches," he remarked. "So it's one of those guys that can just dominate just on physical traits alone. But another thing that he brings to the table that's very good is his ability to go up and attack the ball in the air. You can have some guys that are 6-5, but if they don't attack the ball in the air, they're playing like they're 6-foot. But he plays more like he's 6-5, 6-7."

So which of those two differing playing styles might the Bills be more apt to go after? It's really just a matter of the preference of the team.

"It's one of those things where each has a different skill set," Whaley said. "Sammy is going to be more explosive and more dynamic getting in and out of the cut. And Evans is gonna be a guy that's gonna use his size and position, and his height to be successful in this league. Two different styles, but I think both have a chance to be successful in this league."

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP
 




 
Bills' Whaley: TE trending to guys like Ebron
If you read most that is written by NFL reporters and draft analysts, the consensus is that the Bills might be targeting an offensive tackle with the ninth overall selection in 2014. Coming in a close second to tackle is tight end, and more notably one man in particular, North Carolina's Eric Ebron.

Ebron is widely considered to be the top prospect available at tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft with a good amount of separation between him and the next best. Because of both the perceived need and want, Bills GM Doug Whaley was asked about Ebron during his appearance on WGR Friday morning.

Asked about the player that Ebron is, Whaley was quite complimentary of the highly rated tight end.

"I think Ebron's a guy that the tight end position is trending toward in the NFL," he said. "Athletic guy that can make plays in space."

Quickly after the extremely flattering opening two sentences about Ebron and before fans started putting two-and-two together, he brought up the faith in players already on their roster. And to effectively try to put out the Ebron fire, Whaley threw a bucket of water on it in the form of Tony Moeaki.

"We're excited with the guys we have on the roster now at tight end. We think with Tony Moeaki, we might have the guy that has the ability to get down and stretch the field," he said. "If you look at what he did against us when he was healthy at Kansas City, he put up some impressive numbers."

The collective groan from those clamoring for a player at tight end like Ebron with the ninth overall pick could start to be heard. Whaley then completed the compliment sandwich and left the door open for selecting the North Carolina product on May 8.

All in the same sentence, though, the GM then elected to use a popular refrain in most NFL cities this time of year.

"That would not preclude us from looking at a guy like Eric Ebron, and we're open to anybody that we think can help us get to our stated goal of the playoffs," Whaley remarked.

His thoughts on Whaley raised two big questions: Are the Bills really invested in the progress of Moeaki as the athletic tight end they desire, despite his injury history and short-term contract in Buffalo (only signed through 2014)? Or, is this the classic undersell this close to the draft, which actually means the Bills are interested in making Ebron the next member of their franchise?

You make the call. The draft at it's finest, folks.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP
 
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Bills' GM Whaley talks up Jadeveon Clowney on WGR
Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley and the rest of his staff are going through the work of finalizing their board for the 2014 NFL Draft. And if you'll allow it to, Whaley's thoughts on WGR Sports Radio 550 Friday morning could make you believe the Bills are hot and heavy for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

There have been a couple of different articles written by national writers over the past month insinuating that the Bills could be one of the parties looking to move up to the first overall pick in order to draft Clowney. More on that in a moment, but Whaley's words about Clowney were not only complimentary of the defensive end, but fans could also be drooling over the hypothetical situation the GM laid out.

"If you're gonna miss, I'd rather take a chance on a guy that's 6-5, 270, that runs a 4.5," he started off. "Now think about this, you have Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jadeveon Clowney. I mean, that's gonna strike fear in a lot of offenses. And if they go max protect, you can't double everybody, and if you do you've gotta put eight in the box. And then that helps our DB's and everybody involved. Is he gonna be a cornerstone? You never want to say absolutely, because there have been big misses before. But if I'm gonna miss, I'm gonna miss on a guy like that."

Every team in the NFL would want Clowney and the type of rare attributes he brings to the table. The bigger question is this: are the Bills willing to deal away the necessary assets to move up high enough in the draft order to select him?

Whaley touched on the concept of trading up in his time with Howard Simon and Jeremy White, and said he wouldn't be conflicted about moving up if the circumstances were right.

"Not a problem as long it's not a detrimental aspect to our team down the road," he said. "It's going to be a calculated risk, but if we think this guy is gonna get us over the hump and get us in the playoffs --which is our stated goal -- why not make the deal?"

The GM was then asked if there were players the Bills specifically would move up for that can have that type of impact.

"There are a few. There are a few," Whaley remarked. "But again, you just have to see how restrictive it is for you in the future with your team. If you're gonna be giving up a lot of draft choices, maybe that's not the way to go. Maybe it might be better to move back and collect draft choices. It's all a case-by-case basis."

The biggest takeaway from those two quotes is that Whaley referenced the terms "detrimental" and "restrictive" when you're dealing with the way would a trade would affect them in the future. And with his philosophies to build and develop through the draft, trading away two potential big assets to that very line of thinking may not be the way to go.

For the Bills to move up to get Clowney, it would likely cost them this year's first and second-round picks, 2015's first-round pick, and maybe even the first-round pick in 2016 among other things. Would Whaley, with his draft principles, be willing to do that?

And, look at the other side of it for Houston. Are they really willing to move that far down in the draft order this year, when there are said to be four elite prospects available?

The adoration for Clowney by Whaley is all well and good, but past the fantasy of adding the defensive end to the current lineup in Buffalo, the notion of trading up for the first overall pick might not have much steam.

For the full interview with Whaley, click here.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP
 




 
Bills Draft Outlook: Linebacker
For as much as the Buffalo Bills defense improved under 2013 defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, one problem the team couldn’t solve was how to consistently limit what opponents would do against them in the ground game. Throughout the season, some running backs that had limited success in the NFL found running lanes against the Bills.

Stopping the run became a priority for the Bills on defense, and when they switched to the 4-3 that’s exactly how they approached the offseason. Will it factor into their draft plans in hopes to finally solve the woes against the run? Let's examine: 

What they have
Starters: Kiko Alonso (WLB), Brandon Spikes (MLB), Keith Rivers (SLB)
Reserves: Nigel Bradham, Ty Powell, Nathan Williams

What they need
- The Bills went out in the offseason and made changes to all three of their linebacker spots. First, they switched back to the 4-3 defense which means a true, three-down running mate for Kiko Alonso was needed.

To keep Alonso away from as many punishing engagements with blockers as possible, the Bills announced that the second-year player would be moving to the weakside, free to roam the field. Without any suitable starters for both the middle and strongside, Buffalo signed two free agents that are penciled into their starting lineup.

A noted run defender from his time in New England, the Bills roped in middle linebacker Brandon Spikes on a one-year contract. With some off-the-field concerns and in the way that his tenure with the Patriots ended, the Bills elected to go with the one-year “prove it” type of contract.

For the strongside, the Bills signed former first round selection Keith Rivers to a two-year contract. GM Doug Whaley said at the time of Rivers’ signing that the team believes he can be a three-down player for the team. His contract yields a rather low cap number, and doesn’t preclude them from bringing in another player to compete for the starting job.

Past the starters, the Bills have two players with some experience and playing time under their belts. After a promising rookie season, Nigel Bradham failed to carve out a normal spot on the defense in 2013 and could face some competition to make the roster this year. Ty Powell at this point is the backup middle linebacker, but is a former college defensive end making the switch to the second line of the 4-3 defense.

Without any longterm commitments to a linebacker outside of Kiko Alonso, the case can certainly be made for a linebacker being a selection in the first three rounds. The Bills tiered the players at linebacker that they brought in for a pre-draft visit to get a little bit more comfortable with some players that could be available in each round.

At the very least, additional depth is necessary in the event of an injury or two, with the hopes that the player they draft could transition into a starter down the line.

How will they do it?
- It really all comes down to how strongly the Bills feel about the prospects of Rivers starting this season. If they were to select a linebacker in the first round, that player has to be a starter from day one. The only player conceivably worth taking in the first round would be Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, who the Bills had in for a visit and who is also said to be able to play all three linebacker spots in a 4-3. However, selecting a player like Mosley would likely only be done if all of their preferred options for ninth overall were selected ahead of them. Unless someone like Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier falls to 41st overall, it’s more likely that you see the Bills address linebacker later in the draft for depth and special teams purposes. Linebacker is one of the easiest positions to convert from the college to the pro game, so if things go awry with either Rivers or Spikes, the Bills can address it in 2015.

Players connected to the Bills
C.J. Mosley, Alabama (Pre-Draft Visit)
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State (Pre-Draft Visit)
Preston Brown, Louisville (Pre-Draft Visit)

Previous ‘Bills Draft Outlook’ Editions
Wide Receiver
Defensive End
Running Back
Safety
Defensive Tackle
Tight End
Offensive Tackle
Cornerback

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP
 




 
More speculation that top 3 OTs won't be available to Bills
Considered by many to be one of the top needs of the Buffalo Bills and a favorite position of many a mock drafter, offensive tackle has been a big part of the discussion for Doug Whaley and Doug Marrone's crew.

The prevailing opinion is that Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Michigan's Taylor Lewan make up the top three at the position before there is a big dropoff. Before Thursday, it was widely expected that an offensive tackle would be there for Buffalo at ninth overall.

In one day alone, two seperate draft analysts have expressed the high probability that the top three tackles could all be gone within the first eight picks, meaning the Bills would have to trade up if they wanted one.

First was NFL Network analyst and former Houston Texans GM Charlie Casserly on WGR Sports Radio 550 this morning. Among many things including him stating the case for the Bills using the ninth overall pick to find a starting right tackle, Casserly mentioned the above scenario quite strongly.

“I just think these three tackles are top 10, and to be honest with you, I'll be surprised if one of them is still sitting there when the Bills pick,” he said. “I think they're that good. History shows that one of them should be there [at 9]. To me, they're better than the ninth pick in the draft, all three of them, based on the other players in this year's draft.”

Later that day, ESPN's Todd McShay released the newest and updated version of his mock draft. In it, he has all three offensive tackles gone by the sixth pick. McShay has Robinson going to St. Louis at second overall, Matthews to Oakland with the fifth pick and Lewan to Atlanta at sixth overall.

To be fair, McShay's newest version was a bit different than most of his previous mocks. Rather than projecting who he thought the team would pick, he made the selections as if he were the GM of each team. He even included a disclaimer in the opening paragraph:

"The picks you see below are the players I would choose if making the picks for each team, not what I'm necessarily expecting to happen on draft night."

So perhaps the idea that all three tackles would be gone was part of McShay's exercise. That was blown to smithereens with what he told ESPN's Mike Rodak.
With some fans on the fence about the idea that the Bills might go for a tackle, this will likely be the best news of the day. That would certainly move offensive skill players down the board and remove temptation to take a tackle with the ninth pick.

Whether or not it actually happens though remains to be seen. By the way, there's still two more weeks of speculation like this on the way.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP​
 
 




 
Study shows Ebron has highest drop rate among top TEs
With two weeks to go before the 2014 NFL Draft, many are trying to discern right from wrong, up from down and everything in between. Sometimes it's good to take a second look at both the glaring skills and deficiencies that some of the top prospects might have.

Today's look focuses on North Carolina's Eric Ebron, the top tight end available in the opinion of many. Ebron has the athleticism, skills and size that teams covet in the tight end position. The Bills have shown interest in him by inviting him for a pre-draft visit, and Ebron said himself he believes that Buffalo and Detroit are the most interested.

Just like any prospect, however, he doesn't come without his own set of warts to his game.

In a study done by Greg Peshek of Rotoworld who charts every single game and compares players at the same position by a set of metrics, he finalized some interesting numbers regarding the top tight ends available.

Peshek charted Ebron, Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, Notre Dame's Troy Niklas and Cal's Richard Rodgers. Of those five players, Ebron had an alarming drop rate at 11.43-percent.

For the sake of comparison Ebron's drop rate was the highest, above Niklas (8.57), Amaro (7.69), Rodgers (7.69) and Seferian-Jenkins (5.41). Of all the wide receiver's charted by Peshek, only three players had a higher drop rate than Ebron: Clemson's Martavis Bryant (12.5), USC's Marqise Lee (12.31) and Missouri's L'Damian Washington (12.07).

By no means is this the only piece to the puzzle, but it is definitely a useful tool that challenges the narratives that may exist for some of these players. So are other parts of Peshek's study.

Ebron tested quite well in comparison to the other tight ends in yards after the catch, averaging 8.84 yards which was the highest of the five. That average is more than five yards per catch higher than Seferian-Jenkins (3.40).

The study was done on February 19, but it's still incredibly relevant because there hasn't been a single game since early January. Peshek does fantastic work for Rotoworld and can be followed on Twitter @NU_Gap.

There's a lot more to chew on in his look at tight ends, so the read is highly encouraged.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of the AP
 




 
Bills welcome in Mosley, West on pre-draft visit
The Buffalo Bills are getting close to the maximizing the total amount of pre-draft visits and added to their total once again on Thursday. The team announced two more prospects arrived in Orchard Park for their visits, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley and Towson running back Terrance West.

Headlining the visit is Mosley, who is ranked by many as the top inside linebacker available in the 2014 NFL Draft. The former member of the Crimson Tide had 318 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, five interceptions and two forced fumbles over his four-year career. Expected to be a first-round pick, the 6-foot-2, 234-pound linebacker is said to be able to play at any of the three linebacker positions in a 4-3 alignment.

West is the sixth running back to visit One Bills Drive over the course of the past month. The 5-foot-9, 225-pound runner was a three-year starter at Towson, rushing for 4,854 yards and 84 touchdowns while maintaining a 6.1 yards per carry average. With some buzz surrounding his name since the draft process started, West is projected to be a mid-round selection.

With the pair of players visiting Thursday the Bills have now exercised 28 of their 30 allotted visits at team facilities. One notable absence from the list to this point is Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan, who many analysts have linked to the Bills first round pick. For a full list of who has visited to date, click here.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

** Photo courtesy of the AP
 
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Jacobs family to do everything within their power to keep Bills in town
With the passing of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. nearly a month ago, the speculation about the future of the team has ramped up with new names being linked to the sale of the team.

Donald Trump has made his feelings known on plenty of occasions and on a host of different platforms that he wants to buy the Bills and keep them in Buffalo. The Associated Press reported that Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, amidst a bout with cancer, remains extremely committed to buying the Bills and keeping them in town. Rocker Jon Bon Jovi has been mentioned as an interested party, but also was lumped in with a Toronto-based group that could have intentions to move the team if they place a bid and it’s successful.

One of the most prominent families in the area with roots to the sports world already said that they will try to do everything within their power to keep the Bills in Buffalo. The Jacobs family, who runs Delaware North, has been mentioned as potential suitors throughout the past month.

In a prepared statement through Delaware North, Jeremy Jacobs, Jr. said his family is invested in their efforts to help the Bills franchise, but stopped short of saying that they would be involved in the bidding themselves.

"We are using our resources, our contacts, and our relationships to do everything we can to ensure the Bills stay in Buffalo."

In an interview with The Buffalo News, reporter Stephen T. Watson asked Jacobs if the family would make a bid for the team.

“It’s still early in the process, and it’s impossible to say either way.”

It’s important to note that, in order for the Jacobs family to purchase the Bills, it won’t be the father that’s spearheading the project. As the owner of the NHL's Boston Bruins, under NFL rules, he would have to sell the team in order to buy the Bills under his name.

It’s a rule in place to prevent individuals from owning two sports franchises in different cities. Nearly two weeks ago, Jacobs released a statement through Delaware North declining any personal interest.

“Several reports have listed Jeremy Jacobs as potentially interested in buying the Buffalo Bills. Mr. Jacobs owns the Boston Bruins and has no intention of selling the Bruins in order to purchase the Buffalo Bills. His focus is on ensuring the Boston Bruins continue to be a successful and winning franchise for the City of Boston and New England. He is a strong supporter of the Buffalo Bills as a storied franchise that has seen great success under Ralph Wilson. Mr. Jacobs would certainly be a strong supporter of any effort to keep the Bills in Western New York and is a big fan of the franchise and its leadership.”

While it dismissed the notion that the patriarch of the family would be the man in charge he also has three sons, two of which that would be currently eligible, to be the leaders of any potential purchase of the Buffalo Bills.

It’s still speculation, but when the Cleveland Browns were for sale, Jeremy Jacobs, Sr. was vetted by the NFL as a potential owner. The league knows the family, they see the success of the family in owning the Bruins, and it would likely be an easy decision in the approval vote from NFL owners.

Familiar with the sale of teams around the league, former GM and current NFL Network analyst Charlie Casserly spoke with WGR on Thursday and said really it comes down to one major factor for prospective owners.

“The owners have the right to accept, and not to accept, anybody that comes in. They tend to accept if the cash is there and the money is there,” he said. “That's crucial, because all these owners knew that they had to put up the money. It had to be serious money, it couldn't be paper money. So that's gonna be the number one thing.”

Casserly continued:

“I do know this, the owners will be very critical about somebody coming in to buy the team and their ability to pay for it.”

The sale of the team will go through the Wilson estate, where current controlling owner Mary Wilson, will sell the team to the highest bidder. The Bills were valued by Forbes last year at $870 million which means the price of the franchise would be close to, or even eclipse, the $1 billion mark.

To this point, the timeline of the potential sale of the team has yet to be disclosed. When a sale is complete, the principal owner must be approved by 24 of the 31 owners in the NFL.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
Former GM states case for Bills taking OT at 9
If you pay attention to most mock drafts from NFL writers and draft analysts alike, the most common position you’ll see linked to the Buffalo Bills is offensive tackle. It is not a sexy position by NFL standards, and it wouldn’t even be for the all-important left tackle position, either.

However, just because the pick would be to fill a need at right tackle, some believe it would be worth it just based on the talent of this year’s draft at the top. Former Houston Texans GM and current NFL Network analyst Charlie Casserly is one of those people.

Joining WGR Sports Radio 550 on Thursday morning, Casserly didn’t rule out the notion that the Bills could add a wide receiver or tight end with the ninth overall pick, but lent much more credence in Buffalo taking a right tackle with the pick than many fans throughout the process.

“It helps the running game, it helps the passing game, it helps the quarterback,” Casserly told WGR. “You solidify both edges of the offensive line. All of a sudden now your pass protection becomes a lot simpler and the running game, you're able to go both sides, you'll be able to knock some people off the ball, it creates some run space for everybody. It makes it a lot simpler.”

The three prospects worth mentioning at offensive tackle that could be within consideration to draft at ninth overall are Greg Robinson of Auburn, Jake Matthews of Texas A&M and Taylor Lewan of Michigan. Based on some reporting throughout the league, it doesn’t appear all that likely that Robinson has a chance to be there at ninth overall. However, both Matthews and Lewan have been extensively linked to the Bills' first round selection.

Perhaps going along the same line as the report yesterday that the Raiders have Lewan — who is widely considered to be the third-best tackle —ranked ahead of both Robinson and Matthews, Casserly used some fairly strong language in the belief that the Bills might not even get a sniff of one of the trio.

“I just think these three tackles are top 10, and to be honest with you, I'll be surprised if one of them is still sitting there when the Bills pick,” he said. 

All three gone within the top eight? Did we hear that correctly?

“Yeah, I think they could be. I think they're that good. History shows that one of them should be there. To me, they're better than the ninth pick in the draft all three of them, based on the other players in this year's draft.”

It certainly is conceivable if you picture how the board could play out. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the top four will likely consist of some variation of Robinson, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack and Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

If the Raiders believed in Lewan that strongly, they could take him with the fifth overall selection. After that, the tackle-needy Atlanta Falcons at sixth overall could opt for Matthews, leaving the Bills without a tackle on the board.

Maybe it isn’t likely, but it’s definitely within the realm of possibilities if the teams picking in the top six all neglect the quarterback position. Their talent level, mixed with some other factors, is part of Casserly’s argument.

“In this draft, there's depth at wide receiver, so I think the Bills could get a quality receiver at the top of the second round. There will probably be a better receiver there than there will be an offensive tackle. That's one of the considerations you go through in making a decision.”

To listen to the full 13-minute interview with Casserly, click here.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
Full 2014 Bills schedule released
As it has become a tradition over the past several years, the National Football League unveiled their upcoming regular season schedule during the month of April. The Bills have an interesting slate of games in a season that they hope ends the playoff drought at 14 years.

What does the Bills schedule in 2014 look like? Here is the entire 16-game outlook:

Week 1 - Sunday, September 7 - 1:00 pm
  AT  

Week 2 - Sunday, September 14 - 1:00 pm
  VS  

Week 3 - Sunday, September 21 - 1:00 pm
  VS  

Week 4 - Sunday, September 28 - 1:00 pm
  AT  

Week 5 - Sunday, October 5 - 1:00 pm
  AT  

Week 6 - Sunday, October 12 - 1:00 pm
  VS  

Week 7 - Sunday, October 19 - 1:00 pm
  VS  

Week 8 - Sunday, October 26 - 1:00 pm
  AT  

Week 9
  BYE WEEK

Week 10 - Sunday, November 9 - 1:00 pm
  VS  

Week 11 - Thursday, November 13 - 8:25 pm
  AT  

Week 12 - Sunday, November 23 - 1:00 pm
  VS  

Week 13 - Sunday, November 30 - 1:00 pm
  VS  

Week 14 - Sunday, December 7 - 4:05 pm
  AT  

Week 15 - Sunday, December 14 - 1:00 pm
  VS  

Week 16 - Sunday, December 21 - 4:25 pm
  AT  

Week 17 - Sunday, December 28 - 1:00 pm
  AT  

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 


 
Manziel to Cowboys? How it could impact the Bills
One of the most interesting facets to the 2014 NFL Draft is where former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will be drafted. A polarizing player to college football fans and draft analysts everywhere, there's no stopping the range of opinions on him and his prospects for the pro game.

There is one simple truth with Manziel, however. One team, most likely in the first round, is going to label him as the quarterback of the future regardless of dissenting opinions made about him. There are rumors that Cleveland (4), Oakland (5), Tampa Bay (7) and Minnesota (8) could be interested in drafting him.

So what happens if he is still available past all of those picks?

Here's a news item to chew on if you're a fan of the Buffalo Bills. ESPN's Ed Werder today said that if Manziel was on the board at 16th overall, the Dallas Cowboys could very well take the Texas A&M quarterback.

Adding to that speculation is ProFootballTalk.com, who kicked it up a couple of notches. Mike Florio, who runs the uber popular football website, said that they believe if Manziel gets past Minnesota that the Cowboys might even trade up to get Manziel.

Why would the Cowboys want Manziel with an already competitive roster and a good quarterback? The Jones family appear to be publicly smitten with Manziel, after team VP Stephen Jones declared that he'd be a star in the league. Add in the fact that Tony Romo is 34 years old and has had issues with his back, it might not be far off to think the Cowboys could swing for a quarterback.

It's not hard to put two-and-two together to realize what that could mean for the Bills. Buffalo holds the ninth overall selection, one pick removed from that initial quarterback window. They're also ahead of Tennessee, who is also sniffing around the top quarterbacks available in 2014.

If the Cowboys are that interested in Manziel, and he gets past the Vikings at eighth overall, Doug Whaley could be getting a call from Jerry Jones. What would that deal yield for the Bills?

Buffalo would get 16th overall, 47th overall and perhaps one of Dallas's three tradeable seventh round picks. The Bills would be giving up 9th overall and their fourth-round pick, 109th overall. It would give the Bills three picks in the top 47, and four picks in the top 73.

The drawback, of course, is missing out on a player like North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron if the Bills like him as much as he thinks they do. There's a chance he could still be there, but it would be a risk.

Regardless, it's more food for thought and it might give the Bills another option on May 8.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
Bills may not even have chance to draft Lewan
Every single day leading up to the NFL Draft will bring about more and more rumors, and one report that was publicized on Wednesday involves a player that the Buffalo Bills have been linked to.

The Bills have long been considered to be in the market for taking an offensive tackle at ninth overall, and the common thought has been that the only player of the top three that will be available is Michigan's Taylor Lewan. Perhaps that prevailing thought could be a bit of an oversight.

Take a look at this new nugget of draft information, courtesy of Jerry McDonald of The Oakland Tribune: The Raiders draft fifth overall in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Both Auburn's Greg Robinson and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews were thought to be the top two tackles available.

The possible effect it could have on the Bills is obvious. If the Raiders are so inclined to take an offensive tackle, it's likely that Taylor Lewan would be available at fifth overall. With Robinson likely to be gone within the top four of the draft, the only hope the Bills would have for landing one of the top three would be for Jake Matthews, but Atlanta at sixth overall is another tackle-needy team.

With this bit of news, there exists a possibility --perhaps a slim one-- that all three of the top offensive tackles could be off the board before Buffalo is on the clock. McDonald's report does not say the Raiders are targeting a tackle, though. Considering this, Oakland also hasn't addressed the quarterback position with a first round pick since JaMarcus Russell. They could be on the board at fifth overall with their pick of the litter for quarterbacks.

However, if Oakland decides on Lewan, that could remove any temptation that the Bills would have for taking a right tackle with the ninth overall pick, and instead opting for a pass-catcher (Eric Ebron, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Jr.), defensive end, linebacker or, perhaps the wildcard, a cornerback.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
Watkins headlines three pre-draft Bills visitors
The pre-draft visits are winding down around the National Football League, and that's the same case for the Buffalo Bills who hosted three more prospects on Wednesday. One of the top players available in 2014, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, met with the coaching staff and toured the facilities at One Bills Drive.

Watkins entered the 2014 NFL Draft after his true junior season, wrapping up three seasons of being one of the most electric offensive talents in all of college football. Through his three-year career, Watkins totaled 241 receptions for 3,397 yards and 27 touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 211-pound wideout is projected to be picked within the top five of the first round on May 8.

Joining Watkins in Orchard Park on Wednesday for visits were Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin and McGill offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. The 6-foot-4, 308-pound Martin is a four-year starter for the Fighting Irish, making 50 of his 52 career starts at left tackle. Depending on who you ask, Martin is viewed as either a tackle or a guard in the NFL, and is likely to be a first round pick.

A native of Quebec, Duvernay-Tardif is one of the top Canadian prospects available in the 2014 NFL Draft. After spending his freshman season at McGill as a defensive lineman, Duvernay-Tardif converted to offensive tackle in his sophomore season and put on 65 pounds through his final three years. He know stands 6-foot-5 and 321-pounds, and is a projected mid-round selection.

The Bills have now used 26 of their 30 pre-draft visits for non-local college prospects. For a full list of the players that have visited Orchard Park, click here.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
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NFL flex scheduling to begin Week 5
With the 2014 regular season unveiling scheduled for Wednesday night, the National Football League announced a change to the normal scheduling from last season only a few hours ahead of the reveal.

The league will still go through their normal slate of games, but the difference is in the popular idea of flex scheduling. In prior years, Sunday Night Football could choose to flex an afternoon game into their time slot if it was perceived as a more competitive game. That exercise started in Week 11.

Starting in 2014, games as early as Week 5 will be able to be flexed into the primetime slot of Sunday Night Football. There are restrictions, however. From Week 5 through Week 10, the flex scheduling option can only be used twice. Once the league gets to Week 11, games can be flexed every single week if they so choose.

All of the other rules regarding flexible scheduling remain the same, including Thursday, Saturday and Monday night contests remaining unavailable to be flexed into Sunday night. For a primer on all the rules involved with flexible scheduling, click here.

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NFL Mock Draft #5
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! 

Round 1
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.

ATL gets: 1st overall
HOU gets: 6th overall, 37th overall, 2015 1st round pick, 2016 2nd round pick


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.

STL gets: 8th overall, 72nd overall
MIN gets: 13th overall, 44th overall


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.

KC gets: 21st overall
GB gets: 23rd overall, 124th overall


22)  - CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State

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.

MIN gets: 32nd overall, 172nd overall
SEA gets: 40th overall, 96th overall


Round 2
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.

37)  (from ATL) - DE/OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech

38)  - WR Cody Latimer, Indiana

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.

Round 3

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.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 


 
Bills' Marrone had cancerous mole removed
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."

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
Draft guru says "good chance" Texans trade out of No. 1
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.
 
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.

It's an interesting proposition, and one that you could argue both ways for which WGR did back when Pompei's original report came out.

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.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
NFL announces 30 draft day attendees
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:

Quarterback (4)
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

Linebacker (3)
Khalil Mack, Buffalo
C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State (Visited Buffalo April 2)

Cornerback (4)
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech (Visited Buffalo April 21)
Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Bradley Roby, Ohio State (Visited Buffalo April 2)
Jason Verrett, TCU

Safety (2)
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Calvin Pryor, Louisville

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

*All photos courtesy of the AP
 
 




 
Three Bills ERFAs re-sign
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.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

*All photos courtesy of the AP
 
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Bills' Manuel begins journey to prove himself as starter
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.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
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WR Mike Evans, two others visit Bills Tuesday
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.

The Bills have now conducted 23 of their 30 pre-draft visits for non-local college prospects. For a full list of who has made their official visits, click here.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
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Bills Draft Outlook: Cornerback
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)

Previous ‘Bills Draft Outlook’ Editions
Wide Receiver
Defensive End
Running Back
Safety
Defensive Tackle
Tight End
Offensive Tackle

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 
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