Orchard Park, NY -- On the day of one of the most fun press conferences of the year, Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix gave his annual warning to the attending media and the fans that listen to the interview in it's entirety:
"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."
Well there's just no fun in that, now is there? Taking Nix's advice in to consideration, let's cautiously -- not recklessly -- look in to what was said at One Bills Drive on Wednesday.
There are three positions in major consideration right now for the Bills at 10th overall. In no particular order, they could address the needs at offensive tackle, cornerback or wide receiver with their first selection of the 2012 NFL Draft.
If you were to judge it off what was said on Wednesday, you could cross one of those three off the list.
"The wide receiver position is deep in this draft," Nix started off when asking about the class of pass-catchers. Assistant GM Doug Whaley continued with the answer, "We are deep on our team. We have a lot of guys on our team that have a lot of questions marks. We always believe that competition brings out the best out of everybody. With the deepness in this draft. Hopefully if the opportunity presents itself, we bring somebody in here to push those guys or maybe overtake those guys, but we want to bring in competition."
In a later question, Nix was asked about the amount of time it may take for a second round or lower receiver for a transition in to the NFL. His response? A bit of the devil's advocate game.
"That's true. And it also is true if you took him at the tenth pick, you might still have the same problem."
Minus a slight smile from Whaley when it came to Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, director of college scouting Chuck Cook only gave a stock answer about the wideout. Floyd, of course, did not come to One Bills Drive on an official pre-draft visit. That doesn't preclude him from being selected at tenth overall necessarily, but the overall tone when it came to wide receiver didn't exactly breed much confidence that it would be a target in the first round.
A second or third round pick? Certainly. A first round pick, though? That isn't the way it came across.
That takes us down to offensive tackle and cornerback. Two positions on different sides of the ball. A case for either being the tenth overall selection can be made based on comments heard throughout the pre-draft luncheon.
Let's start at offensive tackle, and the case for taking that position with the tenth pick in the first round.
"What we would like to get, like everybody else, is we'd like to get a difference-maker, or a playmaker," Nix said of the tenth overall pick early on in the press conference. "An impact guy. You should get a starter. But again, I don't feel the pressure that we've got to start the guy just because we drafted him tenth."
Asked later if he felt that offensive tackle was a position where that is the case, Nix quickly responded.
"I think they are, especially left tackle. Normally that guy's out there on an island. I'd consider them, yeah, a playmaker."
Which leads us to the candidates that could be there at tenth overall for Buffalo. Iowa's Riley Reiff, Stanford's Jonathan Martin and Georgia's Cordy Glenn have been the three most connected to the Bills at that position.
For Reiff, it wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement from Whaley. Almost a politically driven answer not to totally dismiss the player when asked if he was a true left tackle.
"Reiff, I think he can play both," he said after a pause. "I think you start him out on the left and see how it goes from there. Those left tackles are hard to find like Buddy says. We believe you start a guy there, and if he fails, it's easier to move him from left to right than from right to left."
Reiff did not visit team facilities in the pre-draft process. On the other hand, Martin did. The long-time blind side protector of Andrew Luck, Martin was explained with a buzz -word for any lineman by the assistant GM.
"He's gonna be a highly intelligent guy," he said. "I think he's a competitive guy, I think he's a guy that has the chance to play both left and right tackle. So the versatility for him, makes him very intriguing."
But the truest sign of fondness for a prospect at the position came when talking about Georgia's Glenn. Before revealing what Whaley said about Glenn, later in the press conference he was asked what differentiates a left tackle from a right tackle. Here was his answer:
"One of the major aspects that we believe a left tackle has to have is length and range. Not only body range, but range with his feet to be able to come off the edge -- to get those fast guys that come off the edge. They're gonna be on the blind side, and most your predominant rushers are rushing from the right side coming off to get the blind side of the quarterback. So you need a guy that's a good foot athlete that can make that arc a bit longer than the defense wants it to be."
Compare that, with his comments about the 6-foot-5, 345-pound former Bulldog. A player many have labeled as a guard -- but not to the Buffalo Bills.
"For us, a guy with that size and that type of foot athlete, you try him out at tackle," Whaley opined. "We believe that he's got a chance to play there and produce there at a high level."
To oppose the view of thinking that it will be a left tackle at ten, though, is Nix's highly regarded thoughts of 2011 fourth-round pick Chris Hairston.
"We need tackles, but I'm gonna make this clear now. We think Chris Hairston can play left tackle for us and win," Nix started. "Chris Hairston, he may not be the prettiest foot athlete, but he's got so much length that he can protect the backside. We feel like he can do that."
Taking all that in to consideration, let's go to the other position that could be the pick at 10: cornerback. Talking about the position as a whole, Nix talked about the priority of improving the pass defense in 2012.
"I think we helped it some with those guys if we can get to the quarterback throwing from his back, we'll be better off covering," he said. "We do need some corners some depth in some places in the secondary, and you'd always like to have a shutdown corner that you can get and put over there to start with and not worry about that side. We will try to add some secondary guys."
The key words in that quote? "You'd always like to have a shutdown corner…" etc. A player that doesn't presently reside on the Bills roster.
Nix even admitted that the uncertainty of Terrance McGee's injury history, Drayton Florence's age and Leodis McKelvin's expiring contract plays in to their desire to add a player at the position. Past those three, it leaves only second-year players Aaron Williams and Justin Rogers.
If the Bills were to go cornerback at ten, there are two targets -- both of which are from the SEC.
On one side, there is South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore. Cook says of Gilmore:
"We think he's a good, strong, sturdy corner that can press. Can run in the hip pocket, he makes plays. We like his physicalness in coming up and support."
Both he and Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick are well-versed in zone-schemes, which will be a staple of the new Dave Wannstedt defense for the Bills. Cook also touched on what Kirkpatrick brings to the table:
"Obviously from a great scheme from Alabama, they're so solid up front. Obviously that helps the corners, helps the DBs. He can play more physical, he can play the ball and he can gamble a little bit more in that scheme because they are getting to the quarterback quicker. I do think he's physical, he can support -- he's proven that, and he can play the deep ball."
When pressed at who was better on the jam at the line of scrimmage, Cook described it as a "toss-up." It's funny, really, that's how you might be able to describe which of these players the Bills may prefer at that position. Both Gilmore and Kirkpatrick visited One Bills Drive, but an off-the-field discretion of the latter could give the former the edge.
Despite marijuana charges being dropped against Kirkpatrick, his judgement still comes in to question. It's not much, but it may be enough in deciding which of the two the Bills would take -- granted that both are there at 10.
Going against the notion of it possibly being cornerback at 10 is Nix's ideology that a team should take a cornerback every single year of the draft, which could possibly devalue it's worth in a seven-round draft. There was also a snippet from Cook at the tail end of his answer about Gilmore.
"I do think this is a good year for cornerbacks. I really think the depth is good. You never know what we do early, but from the second to the fourth, we still stack our board and we're gonna take the best player available regardless of position. We hope to get a few corners in that second or fourth, too."
Confused? Don't worry, it 's okay to be. This could be the most up-in-the-air the Bills' pick has been in a few years.
While this pre-draft luncheon wasn't as telling as in year's past, I do think one can narrow the tenth pick -- if the Bills don't trade out -- to four players.
In my opinion, I believe the pick is between Cordy Glenn, Jonathan Martin, Stephon Gilmore and Dre Kirkpatrick. Judging it not only off the way the Bills spoke on Wednesday, but how they've been speaking since the end of the season it seems those would be the four in consideration. While Floyd and Reiff make a lot of sense, it just doesn't look apparent that they fit the mold of a player the Bills are looking for as a first round pick.
One could argue that a few of those players may not be worth the tenth overall pick, but Buddy said it himself: there may not be much difference in talent disparity between 10 and 20 in the 2012 NFL Draft.
With that said, I think it will be one of those four names come April 26.
Hope you had fun reading, Buddy. I had fun writing it.