By Sal Capaccio
About the first round. And only the first round…..
Position that's very possible, but I don't think the Bills should take at #8: Linebacker. Yes, I agree with many that linebacker may be the Bills weakest overall position when it comes to starters and depth combined. But that doesn't mean they should automatically look to take a guy at #8 to plug in. First, I'm not ready to give up on Kelvin Sheppard just yet at the MLB spot. Second, they addressed OLB with their pick of Nigel Bradham last April. The team really likes him and plans on Bradham playing a big role in 2013. They also signed Manny Lawson with the thought he'll win one of the starting spots. So, as disappointing as the group was as a whole last year, to take yet another young guy to simply fight for time on the field would be a wasted pick for a team that can't afford to do that. We've heard and already seen in voluntary workouts that Mike Pettine's new defense will use both 3-4 and 4-3 looks, but when that happens, Mario Williams will stand up, moving some of the current LB pieces around, and I can't see 3-4 being played enough to justify grabbing a pure ILB that high because he most likely won't be on the field that much.
Position that would help the Bills most immediately: Guard. Nope, it's not sexy. But the fact is if the Bills take an offensive guard at #8, he's almost definitely going to start opening weekend against the Patriots. Andy Levitre left via free agency and his thought-to-be-heir-apparent to start at LG, Chad Rinehart, did the same the next day. That leaves either David Snow or Colin Brown currently penciled in to start between Eric Wood and Cordy Glenn. Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper are two of the better guards to come out of college over the past several years. Both will play, and have a very good chance to start, on almost any team that selects them. They almost certainly would from day one for the Bills. That wouldn't be uncommon for this team, even recently. Andy Levitre started every game his rookie year after he was drafted in 2009, and every one of his 64 games in a Bills uniform.
Position that would help the Bills the most 2-3 years from now: Quarterback. This is one I could have easily and understandably put in the paragraph above. QB may actually make the most immediate impact simply because it's the most important position on the field and the Bills need one. But the way this organization has set up its QB stable as of now, it's clear they don't want to put too much pressure on any incoming rookie, no matter how high they draft him. I'm sure the team would love to draft a rookie, have him blow everyone away in camp and preseason, and win the job as Week One starter. It's possible, but doubtful. So in the meantime, it looks like the plan is to use whichever veteran starts to hand the ball off to CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson a ton, play a short-passing game to keep the clock (and hopefully the chains) moving, play better defense, and win lower-scoring games by limiting turnovers and mistakes. And then, hopefully, the drafted rookie is ready to take over the reins by the end of the season, or at the very least, go into 2014 training camp as the #1 guy.
Trade up? No way. A few reason. 1. There simply isn't a "must-have" player that fits the Bills from both a talent and schematical standpoint that they have to do whatever it takes to get; 2. The Bills have so many holes, virtually any of the top players still on the board when their first picks rolls around will fit, regardless of position. Why throw away picks just to get the same relative value?; 3. Buffalo only has six draft picks through seven rounds. They can't afford to lose any more. In fact, they should be trying to secure at least one or two more picks, especially early on, not trade away the precious few they already have.
Trade down? Yes, please. This is my most preferred scenario for the Bills. Lots of holes + quite a few players who can come in and help the team this season + the need for more draft picks. All that adds up to the perfect recipe for wanting (and needing) to trade down from #8, pick up another early pick, and still grab an impact player - or maybe even two.
The two positions I will be highly upset about if the Bills draft at #8: Running Back and Defensive Line. The Bills have arguably one of the top backfields in the league with CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson carrying the ball. There's a lot of talent there, and a lot of money invested in the two combined, as well. Of course, the team selected Spiller in 2009 when it already had a quality stable of backs, but they also had every intention of moving Marshawn Lynch at the time, as well. No such issues this year. And no need to take a running back. As far as defensive line, they certainly didn't perform as well as fans and the team had hoped last year. But Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, with Alan Branch and Alex Carrington spelling them is still a quality group. The best addition made to the D-Line this offseason was really addition by subtraction. Mike Pettine replacing Dave Wannstedt as defensive coordinator. Wannstedt's vanilla schemes and philosophies did no favors for the front-seven. Pettine should be able to at least get them to be more aggressive and make more plays. A rookie simply isn't needed up front.
My first round mock: Here it is. No trades. Only one comment (on the Bills pick, of course). Otherwise, just 32 picks. Not based on anything other than what teams need and the value of players. I'll hang up and listen:
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Luke Joeckel, OT Texas A&M
2. Jacksonville Jaguars - Geno Smith, QB West Virginia
3. Oakland Raiders - Sharrif Floyd, DT Florida
4. Philadelphia Eagles - Dion Jordan, DE Oregon
5. Detroit Lions - Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan
6. Cleveland Browns - Dee Milliner, CB Alabama
7. Arizona Cardinals - Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma
8. Buffalo Bills - Kenny Vaccaro, SS Texas
---I've wrestled back and forth with this pick for the week or so I was putting this mock together and, in fact, still think the Bills can go in many different directions. Of course QB seems to be the position the Bills are zeroing in on, according to reports, but I don't think the team sees much of a gap between the top four or five quarterbacks as far as talent-level or overall grade. That means Buddy Nix knows several signal-callers he's comfortable with will still be available in the 2nd round. I've heard for a while now they like Vaccaro a lot. Watch his film, it's incredibly impressive. Especially in run support. Also, the Bills have been getting torched by opposing tight ends for years and right now their only answer is (still) Bryan Scott, a player switching positions in Aaron Williams, or a third-year player who still has plenty to prove in Da'Norris Searcy. Vaccaro is clearly the best fit of any player in this draft to match up with opposing tight ends. Generally, #8 is too high to pick a safety, not to mention Donte Whitner was also a #8 overall selection and many Bills fans are still upset about that choice. A safety may very well be too high to pick here, I have no issue with that argument. The Bills would probably be better served to trade down or take one they like later. But since my mock has no trades, and Vaccaro is clearly the highest rated player at a position they are looking to upgrade, I'm going with him as their pick.
Read Joe Buscaglia's write-up on Safety and Vaccaro
9. New York Jets - Ziggy Ansah, DE BYU
10. Tennessee Titans - Chance Warmack, G Alabama
11. San Diego Chargers - Jonathan Cooper, G North Carolina
12. Miami Dolphins - Xavier Rhodes, CB Florida State
13. New York Jets - Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB LSU
14. Carolina Panthers - Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia
15. New Orleans Saints - Star Lotulelei, DT Utah
16. St. Louis Rams - Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Tennessee
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Jarvis Jones, OLB Georgia
18. Dallas Cowboys - DJ Fluker, OT Alabama
19. New York Giants - Alec Ogletree, ILB Georgia
20. Chicago Bears - Tyler Eifert, TE Notre Dame
21. Cincinnati Bengals - Menelik Watson, OT Florida State
22. St. Louis Rams - Matt Elam, FS Florida
23. Minnesota Vikings - Desmond Trufant, CB Washington
24. Indianapolis Colts - Bjoern Werner, DE Florida State
25. Minnesota Vikings - Sheldon Richardson, DT Missouri
26. Green Bay Packers - Eric Reid, FS LSU
27. Houston Texans - Keenan Allen, WR California
28. Denver Broncos - Sylvester Williams, DT North Carolina
29. New England Patriots - Jamar Taylor, CB Boise State
30. Atlanta Falcons - Manti Te'o, ILB Notre Dame
31. San Francisco 49ers - Jonathan Cyprien, S FIU
32. Baltimore Ravens - Kevin Minter, ILB LSU
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