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Posted: Friday, 26 April 2013 8:17AM

Bills' candidates for 41 and 46

(WGR 550) -- It surely was a polarizing day for fans of the Buffalo Bills.

Yes, the team you love got ripped incessantly by some national reporters for taking E.J. Manuel ahead of all the other quarterbacks. On the other side, the Bills made a stark declaration that just going to retread route wasn't okay anymore.

Whether you like E.J. Manuel or not, as a Bills fan you have to appreciate what it represents -- a bold move to take a swing at a quarterback in the first round that could have positive gains if done correctly. Now, it can also not work entirely, leaving the Bills with their last two first round quarterbacks picked to have left a lot to be desired.

However, now is not the time for judgment on the validity of that pick.

For the good, the Bills acquired two extra picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, an additional second-rounder (which should make fans giddy due to the depth of this draft class) and Buddy Nix's ever-so-valued seventh round pick (I'm really not kidding, he loves his seventh round picks).

Having two picks within the first 14 of the second round should gain two more starters on the roster if all goes well. What positions might they go for and who could be targets? Let's take a look:

Wide Receiver

- The lowdown: I don't think there's any doubt that the Bills want to add to this group. I know they actually do like Marcus Easley -- that wasn't just lip service at the pre-draft luncheon -- but let's realize that this was a player who started 2012 on Buffalo's practice squad. They like T.J. Graham, too. Past that, and obviously Stevie Johnson, they want to add an "open when he's not receiver" badly.

- The potential targets: Keenan Allen (Cal), Justin Hunter (Tennessee), Robert Woods (USC)

- Joe's pick as the Bills' favorite: WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee -- Hunter is a player the Bills have been interested in all throughout the process. He's a 6-foot-4, 200-pound wideout with a huge vertical that Bills' scout Darrell Moody said has the potential to become a number one receiver. Listen for yourself:
Buffalo also ran him through the private workout at Tennessee, as well as invited him for a pre-draft visit at team facilities. If he's there at 41, I think he's the favorite. A big if, though.


- The lowdown: Now that Aaron Williams has been moved to safety, the Bills are in need of a cornerback to add to the competition for the starting job opposite Stephon Gilmore. Right now, it's between Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks. Not to take anything away from those players, but the Bills need to aim higher than that.

- The potential targets: Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana), Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State), Darius Slay (Mississippi State), Jamar Taylor (Boise State)

- Joe's pick as the Bills' favorite: Either of the Mississippi State guys -- I'll preface this by saying that if Jamar Taylor is on the board, I think the Bills should jump all over it because he is going to be a stud in the NFL. However, if he's off the board (which I think he will be), the Bills could opt for one of the two Mississippi State Bulldogs who both have experience in press-man coverage. Banks has the size and experience, while Slay has the speed and long-term potential. Either would be solid.

Tight End

- The lowdown: Scott Chandler is coming off a torn-ACL and the Bills' swung and missed on free agent Fred Davis. Chandler is also entering the final year of his contract with the team, so a long-term replacement could be had with one of the two picks.

- The potential targets: Zach Ertz (Stanford), Gavin Escobar (San Diego State), Vance McDonald (Rice)

- Joe's pick as the Bills' favorite: Vance McDonald, Rice -- Ever since he's gotten to Buffalo, Buddy Nix has shown that he loves the prototype player. Vance McDonald is just that (6-4, 260 pounds, 4.69 40-yard dash), and he brings a receiving element to the tight end position. He offers a lot of versatility in the passing attack while needing to get more seasoned as a blocker. But as Buddy Nix said about blocking tight ends at the combine this year "We've already got one of those."

Inside Linebacker

- The lowdown: With the run defense being as bad as it was last season, fans of the Buffalo Bills have been yelling "They need a linebacker!" since the year has ended. However, the Bills may not feel as strongly about adding a player as their fans do. They love Nigel Bradham as their weakside linebacker and an inside player in 3-4 looks. Kelvin Sheppard is still only entering his third year, and they're still talking with free agent Karlos Dansby. Still, if the right player were to come available, would the Bills be able to resist?

- The potential targets: Arthur Brown (Kansas State), Kevin Minter (LSU), Manti Te'o (Notre Dame)

- Joe's pick as the Bills' favorite: Kevin Minter, LSU -- If they were to add a linebacker out of this trio in the second round, I think Minter likely would be the guy. Te'o is too slow for this style of defense and is likely better suited for a team that permanently goes with the 4-3. Even though Arthur Brown would be a schematic fit, his skill-set is very similar to that of Nigel Bradham, who as I mentioned, they love.

Left Guard

- The lowdown: Andy Levitre left in free agency, and while some were hoping the Bills would take Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper at eighth overall, the simple truth is that it just did not make sense for this roster. Now in the second round, the Bills have the opportunity to replace Levitre with both a good player and good value.

- The potential targets: David Quessenberry (San Jose State), Dallas Thomas (Tennessee), Larry Warford (Kentucky), Brian Winters (Kent State)

- Joe's pick as the Bills' favorite: Brian Winters, Kent State -- After meeting with the scouts of the Bills earlier in the week, one of the strongest convictions I heard from them on a player was about Brian Winters. It came from area scout Brian Fisher, who raved about him:
Winters, though, could be on the board when the Bills are picking in the third round. While it could be a risk, you don't want to lose out on more important positions to the Bills' roster like wideout, cornerback or tight end. The fallback plan will always be to sign Brandon Moore in free agency if you don't get one.

Pass Rusher

- The lowdown: The Bills sunk a lot of resources ($$) in to boosting their pass rush in 2012, and even added a piece that will serve as a 3-4 outside linebacker through free agency this year with Manny Lawson. Even still, the Bills could subscribe to the situational pass rusher theory. Having an extra player that can put heat on the quarterback could serve as an enticing option if the right player falls.

- The potential targets: Jamie Collins (Southern Mississippi), Cornellius Carradine (Florida State), Margus Hunt (SMU), Sio Moore (Connecticut)

- Joe's pick as the Bills' favorite: Jamie Collins, USM and Tank Carradine, Florida State -- I picked both players because they could represent different things and the Bills will use a multiple front defense. If they want an 3-4 outside linebacker, Collins would be the logical pick. He's another player the Bills had in for a visit. If they want a player that can be both a 4-3 defensive end and an occasional 3-4 outside linebacker, Carradine might be a little more of their style. Plus, Carradine was expected to be a first-round pick. If he's available at 41, is he too good to pass up?


The lowdown: Perhaps in need of a player to provide some competition for Da'Norris Searcy at safety, the Buffalo Bills could opt to bring in someone for competition's sake. It's not an essential need like the four spots listed ahead, but it's certainly one where if the right player falls, the Bills wouldn't hesitate to add.

The potential targets: Johnathan Cyprien (Florida International), D.J. Swearinger (South Carolina), Phillip Thomas (Fresno State)

- Joe's pick as the Bills' favorite: Phillip Thomas, Fresno State -- Thomas has injury concerns which has driven his stock down, but this is another player I came away from the scout session thinking the Bills' had high grades on. Listen to scout Matt Hand for yourself:
Thomas, like Winters, could potentially be had in the third round at 78 as well. With the need for the first trio of positions being what it is, I think the Bills could wait on this player in round two unless the feel strongly enough about him.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
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