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Ah yes, the NFL Combine has wrapped up. There have been some shockers, both good and bad. Good, did you see how fast wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was? Bad, offensive tackle Andre Smith pulled a major “Whoops, I forgot to do that…” and left the combine early. Also, wide receiver Michael Crabtree had a stress fracture in one of his feet. He should be fine, though. Smith on the other hand is plummeting down everyone’s boards.
How did the combine affect the Buffalo Bills? Well, hopefully tight end Brandon Pettigrew’s abysmal 40-yard dash time finally seals the deal on selecting him with the No. 11 overall pick.
Where does that leave the Bills however? In a perfect world, the Bills would have the choice of defensive tackle BJ Raji, outside linebacker Aaron Curry, and defensive ends Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown, and Aaron Maybin. However, we all know this isn’t a perfect world, otherwise the Bills would have made the playoffs in the past nine years.
After some fine performances in the combine, the stock of all three defensive ends has risen. That probably means two of them will be selected before the Bills. Curry is competing for the No. 1 pick overall. Raji is widely considered to be a lock for the Top 10. However, the NFL draft is a crazy place. Who would have thought that the Browns would have been able to select Brady Quinn in 2007 at 22? Not me.
Personally, out of the three defensive ends, I believe that Brown is the most complete. He shows play recognition better than the other two, and he stops the run as well as gets after the quarterback.
Orakpo is a very physical end and does bring a hard-hitting and powerful element to the pass rush. Maybin is quick and had a phenomenal year at Penn State. He was a red-shirt sophmore, but a lot of scouts think his potential is through the roof.
Now, let’s look at what the Bills need out of the defensive end position.
They have Aaron Schobel coming off a Lisfranc foot injury that kept him out of most of last season. However, when healthy he’s the best pass rusher we have. He has also, in the past two years, gotten stronger against the run.
Next is Chris Kelsay, a high-motor guy but not that talented. He’s a fringe starter and a good back-up. Pretty good against the run, not good at getting after the quarterback.
After him is Ryan Denney, who led the defensive ends and tied for the team lead in sacks, with four.
Rounding out the rest of the defensive ends are Copeland Bryan and Chris Ellis. Copeland was primarily a special-teamer forced into a more prominent reserve role with Schobel’s injury and did register a sack. Rookie Chris Ellis spent most of his time playing on special teams.
When your leading defensive end in a 4-3 alignment only nets four sacks in a sixteen game season, something needs to be changed and fast. Even if the team only brings in a situational rusher that improves the rush on obvious passing downs, pressure equals turnovers.
Maybe the situational rusher doesn’t get that many sacks. However, if the defense’s third-down-conversion-allowed percentage improves and so does the turnover numbers, the impact has been felt.
Therefore, my choice for the Bills with the No. 11 overall pick would be Everette Brown followed by Aaron Maybin. Based off their production and their combine results, I think they would bolster the pass rush, even as situational rushers, the best.