With the Buffalo Bills firmly addressing the defensive end position with not one, but two free agency signings in the month of March, it's safe to say the team won't be looking that way in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
So that leaves a few needs and possibilities for the team to address.
You could look at a wide receiver, a cornerback, a linebacker or perhaps even a quarterback. But the position that almost every one has the Bills pegged for is to finally find a long-term solution for their left tackle spot.
While most Bills fans will admit that there is a gaping hole at left tackle, there are still some lingering concerns that it may not be the biggest need. This mini-post hopefully tackles any remaining questions some could have as to why the Bills would consider drafting a left tackle in the first round.
1) The Bills allowed one of the lowest sack totals in the league last year, why would they choose a left tackle?
While statisically that argument makes sense, Ryan Fitzpatrick deserves some of the praise for that number. For some of the things he does wrong, he's very adept at listening to his internal clock and feeling the pressure. He gets the ball out very quickly -- whether it's a completion, an incompletion or at worst an interception, he does it. He hid some of the deficiencies of the offensive line last season. Now with Fitzpatrick, they want to afford him the time to make poised decisions and not always have to unload the ball quickly. They want him to be able to go through his progressions. Don't get me wrong, it's not as though he was running for his life on every single play. The offensive line did a good job last season. But if the offense wants to take the next step with their long-term contracted quarterback and wide receiver, it seems a franchise left tackle to allow the duo to do their thing is the next step.
2) Isn't Chris Hairston good enough? He showed promise last season!
In his first few starts, Chris Hairston did not look all that bad. Head Coach Chan Gailey would be the first to admit that fact. Hairston was able to step in right away for the oft-injured Demetress Bell and give Fitzpatrick a similar amount of time. The problem was when he came back from his injury. He regressed, opening up concerns from the Bills that he may not have the consistency to become that long-term answer at left tackle. When asked about it in February, Gailey said Hairston might be able to do it, but he wasn't sure that it was a certainty, and then proceeded to drop some hints that they may not be able to pass up a tackle at tenth overall. Hairston is a solid player, the highest left tackle selection the Bills have made in the draft since Mike Williams, but may not be ready to be a long-term starter just yet.
3) Past USC's Matt Kalil there doesn't seem to be a player worthy of the tenth overall pick, why should the Bills reach?
I guess this is just a draft ideology question. If you have a player that is widely considered to be the 15th best prospect and you take him 10th, people will question it. But if he's the 10th best player to the team and fits the offensive line equation to a T, is it really that big a deal in the grand scheme of things? I'll admit, when I was younger and much more brainwashable (yes, I'm aware that word is made up), I used to believe in a player's perceived draft value. The real story is that each team has their own board, and they stick with it. They have a team of scouts to help them make the best decision possible, and that's how it arises. With that said, keep in mind a few things General Manager Buddy Nix has said in the past. He's talked about offensive tackles, and has alluded to their being two or three players that can come in and contribute right away at left tackle. That leads me to think that they believe in more than just Matt Kalil as an immediate answer at left tackle.
4) So who are the Bills going to take at 10 then?
I've got my suspicions, and so do you. I think Iowa's Riley Reiff, Stanford's Jonathan Martin and Georgia's Cordy Glenn are all on their radar. Could they stand to move back for one of them? Sure! But if you have a guy you believe in and you're moving down three-to-four spots hoping he'll still be there, why wouldn't you just stand pat and take him? An extra third round pick may turn in to something, but in reality the percentages are much higher on hitting on your first rounder if you believe in the player. In my opinion, and my opinion only, I think Glenn would be the best fit for the Bills. He's played against the top defenses in the land, shows surprising athleticism for a man his size and fits the requirements of the Bills normal prototypical measurement inclination. Although I think he's the best fit, obviously the Bills may not see it that way. Reiff and Martin should, and will, stay in the conversation as we move closer to April 26.