The Buffalo Bills 2011 season crashed for many reasons, but most of them involved injuries and lack of depth. The 2012 NFL Draft gives them a chance to right those wrongs and improve at the positions that dragged their hopeful 5-2 start to a 6-10 finish.
In the interest of ever-valuable time and Internet space, we'll keep this list down to just the players who could possibly be available from the third pick and beyond, since the first two are all but locked in. There's a small possibility the Bills could trade up, so we'll put some of the top prospects on here, as well.
Matt Kalil, LT, USC
The draft's top-rated offensive tackle, Kalil will likely be gone in the top five, but if he falls for whatever reason, the Bills would run to the podium with their selection card. They need an offensive tackle badly, having lost their starting left tackle from last year, Demetress Bell, to the Eagles as a free agent.
Kalil is a starting NFL tackle from day one.
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Another top-rated prospect at his position, Claiborne is projected to go anywhere from No. 3 to No. 6. That is to say, not all the way to No. 10. But if the price is right and the Bills want to move up, they could certainly use Claiborne's top-end talent at the cornerback position.
Claiborne has the skill set to be a shutdown corner, with the speed, size and strength to man up against some of the best receivers in the NFL. He's not a great zone corner, but if you have a cornerback who can consistently dominate in man coverage, you can find ways to use him, and the zone skills will develop if he's utilized in that role more often than he was at LSU.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Along with the injuries which revealed a lack of depth on the offensive line, wide receiver was a position where the Bills' lack of talent and depth was exposed. Blackmon dominated the competition over the past two years, combining for 38 touchdowns in that short time.
The Bills could use a big-play receiver, and Blackmon has dominated in that sense. He has a propensity to drop some easy catches at times, but he makes some spectacular ones as well. The question with Blackmon will be whether he can create separation at the NFL level.
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Both Blackmon and Floyd come with their flaws, but Blackmon showed far more potential than Floyd in college. Floyd tallied 36 touchdowns in his career and made some spectacular receptions along the way. Floyd ran a bit faster at the 40 (4.43) than his game tape would indicate, but he's shown big-play potential throughout his collegiate career. Can that translate to the NFL? That's the million-dollar question.
Riley Reiff, OT Iowa
Offensive tackle is a big need for the Bills. The problem with Reiff, however, is that many think he projects out as a right tackle. He has fairly short arms and is more of a 'dozer than an athlete that some might like to see in a left tackle. Is that worth a top 10 pick?
It's questionable, but the Bills drafted Chris Hairston in the third round just last year. If he projects out as a dominant left tackle for the Bills, they could always use their first pick on a right tackle.
Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
With experience on the inside and outside of the offensive line, Glenn could be a starter if the Bills needed him to be, or he could be the swing-man backup in his rookie season. With a top 10 pick, though, the Bills would likely expect him to start from day one.
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Bills have made all the right moves on the defensive line as they transition to the 4-3 defense, and now it's time to make a move for the middle linebacker of the future. Kuechly is one of the best linebacker prospects to come out in awhile. He's smart and he makes a ton of tackles. There aren't as many tackles behind the line of scrimmage as you might like to see (12 in 2011).
Still, he has the athleticism and football intelligence to develop into an elite middle linebacker in the NFL.
Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The second-rated cornerback on the Bills big board is someone who could potentially give them a bit of flexibility in the secondary. He has played multiple spots in the defensive backfield, and the Bills could use someone to move around a bit, maybe even play some safety (although the Bills already have two good ones). He excels in zone coverage and is a bit of a gambler at times, but playing behind the sterling defensive line the Bills have assembled, he'd have plenty of chances to make plays on the ball.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
After having spent a first-round pick on a running back just two years ago in C.J. Spiller, it's unlikely the Bills will do so again. That being said, the future of Fred Jackson is in question as the two sides begin working on a new deal.
Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
What's better than a dominant duo of defensive tackles? A dominant trio of them.
Bringing in Brockers would allow the Bills to mix things up defensively without sacrificing talent. They could run three-man fronts and four-man fronts with ease. They could rotate Brockers in when his skill set dictates he's a better matchup, and the same can be said for all of the Bills defensive tackles.
Brockers is as versatile of a defensive tackle as there is. He can rush the passer, stop the run, slash upfield in a one-gap scheme or hold his ground in a two-gap scheme. A first-round pick buys a lot of versatility with Brockers.
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
The Bills could really bulk up on the inside of the offensive line. Doing so would make life even easier for what was a dominant rushing attack last year. DeCastro is a mauler in every sense of the word. Anyone running behind his 6'5" 310-pound frame is sure to pick up positive yardage.
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Martin is a massive tackle at 6'6" and 305 pounds. He could use to add some bulk to that frame, but he has the length to be a great fit on the left side. He also has the requisite athleticism to fend off agile edge rushers.
Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
For the same reasons as Brockers, Cox would make a good addition to the Bills defensive line. The difference with Cox is that he's really more of an interior pass-rusher than a run defender. Perhaps the Bills could rotate Cox in and out in certain situations, but that lack of versatility doesn't lend itself to a top 10 pick. This would be a scenario to consider if the Bills were to trade down from No. 10.
Hightower is a little bigger than the average 4-3 inside linebacker, but he is every bit the aggressive run defender a team running that front will look for. He's not the sideline-to-sideline guy you might like to see at the position, but he has a great motor and plays downhill quite well, using his instincts to help him make plays.
More than anything else, the Bills need versatility in their secondary. Kirkpatrick can play outside and inside, and though his zone skills aren't ideal, they're correctable. His ability to lock down his assignment in man coverage and to make tackles against the run would immediately upgrade the Bills secondary.