Buffalo Bills: Evaluating ESPN's Blog Network NFL Mock Draft Selection

Josh CembellinCorrespondent IApril 2, 2012

USC's Matt Kalil (left) and Iowa's Riley Reiff are two of this year's top NFL prospects
USC's Matt Kalil (left) and Iowa's Riley Reiff are two of this year's top NFL prospectsJoe Robbins/Getty Images

ESPN.com recently huddled all of its NFL bloggers together to draw up their collective 2012 first-round draft picks. James Walker, who covers the AFC East, handled the Buffalo Bills.

Writer Mike Sando’s introduction offers reasoning for why defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebackers dominate the first-round mock, stating that teams are now trying to keep up with potent offenses league-wide.

The old saying that games are won in the trenches carried over to the offensive side of the ball, as seven offensive linemen are projected in the first round as well.  One of those went to the Bills.

James Walker mocked Iowa OT Riley Reiff to the Bills at pick 10. Here are the blogger's comments:

Going receiver here is the sexy pick. But getting an offensive tackle to protect QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side is the smart pick. Reiff received great coaching at Iowa, which has become Offensive Tackle U. He closes Buffalo's revolving door at left tackle for the foreseeable future.

Let’s first point out who was still on the board when Walker was on the clock for Buffalo. Some notable prospects include: WR Michael Floyd, OT Jonathan Martin, DE Quinton Coples, OG David DeCastro, OLB Courtney Upshaw, CB Dre Kirkpatrick and CB Stephon Gilmore. Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly was taken ninth overall.

Several opinions and arguments are implied with Walker's pick. He figures the Bills will pass on adding yet another threat on the defensive line, which makes sense. After signing Mario Williams and Mark Anderson as free agents, Buffalo has made major progress towards improving its pass rush. As a result, the team is likely to address another, more pressing need at 10.

The Bills potentially need a defensive back, too. Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick has trickled down boards a bit, while South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore has glided up. Is either worthy of a Top-10 pick? Both are great prospects with upside, but the cornerback class is deep this year. Buffalo can probably grab a productive player in other rounds.

Many scouts and analysts have Stanford’s David DeCastro as one of the best offensive line prospects in the entire draft, along with USC OT Matt Kalil. The problem is that the Bills aren’t in need of immediate help on the interior line, at least in my opinion.

Andy Levitre is entrenched at left guard and Eric Wood will be handling center duties. The case could be made, however, that DeCastro could be a long-term upgrade to Kraig Urbik, current starting right guard. But Urbik has played well since coming to Buffalo; the front office may see him as an affordable stop-gap to the position while they fortify other team needs.

Walker passes on Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, the most obvious option to Bills fans. Floyd is a big, physical receiver with great hands and above-average speed. Seemingly, he fits exactly what the Bills are looking for in a complementary wideout to No. 1 target Steve Johnson.

Is it a sexy pick? Kind of. But it also fits a need if that’s the kind of player the Bills are looking for. Buffalo already has a plethora of wideouts currently on the roster—nine (10 if you include Brad Smith)—but none of them has the ceiling that Floyd offers right now as a young, proven player.   

So, if the Bills are going to go offensive tackle, is Riley Reiff their guy?

Also ignored is Stanford’s Jonathan Martin, which means Walker must be one of many who find Reiff to be a superior prospect. It’s a trend that has gained steam following Martin’s disappointing pro day.

Both guys are nearly identical in size, though Martin has slightly longer arms. Both are great technicians, excel in run-blocking and are intelligent. Yet, Reiff has proven to have better strength and fluidity in agility drills thus far this offseason.

NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt called Reiff a “carbon copy of former Hawkeye and current Packers OT Bryan Bulaga, but Reiff is a little bigger and has better feet.” It should be mentioned that Bulaga is now pegged at RT for Green Bay.

And this is my concern about Riley Reiff.

Per ESPN, draft expert Todd McShay said Reiff is “not elite.” He’s a solid tackle with a terrific package of skills, but ultimately he may never be a franchise left tackle for an NFL club. According to Rotoworld.com, some teams even have Reiff projected as a guard at the next level.

On the other hand, Reiff has demonstrated better footwork, fluidity and body control than most tackle prospects with shorter arm length, so he may very well prove some of the negative criticism about him wrong.  

Can Reiff really be a franchise LT? Or will he fall out of step on the blindside in the NFL?

Ultimately, pick 10 comes down to whether or not the Bills prefer to give Fitz added time and protection up front or another weapon on the outside. With three-and-a-half weeks before the draft, we’ll find out the answer soon enough.