Buffalo Bills: 5 Early Targets for the 2013 NFL Draft
In Buffalo, there is no such thing as looking too far ahead to the draft. A 2-3 start to the season once again has Bills fans clamoring for the 2013 NFL Draft, despite the possibility that the team could still make a wildcard push.
The season is still in its infancy stages, but with the way the Bills are playing, it wouldn't be surprising to see them picking within their usual 8-to-12 draft slot. Unfortunately, that slot will likely have them missing out on two or three of the top quarterbacks available, which I believe is the No. 1 need for the team heading into next season.
The front office and coaching staff could look different if Buffalo struggles through another season, which would change personnel decisions. Fortunately, the glaring holes on this Buffalo squad can be easily fixed with the deep pool the 2013 class presents at those positions.
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All right, all right. I don't actually want just any quarterback, but it's a tempting statement to believe in because of the current state of that position in Buffalo.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is proving my worst suspicions to be true and has been one of the major reasons why the team has performed so poorly in the first five games.
According to the ESPN Stats & Info department, the Bills offense has become so one-dimensional because of Fitzpatrick's inability to connect downfield. Any fan watching a Bills game this season could have pinpointed that issue, but according to them he is even more miserable then anybody could have imagined.
Fitzpatrick is 4-15 on passes longer than 20 yards, which creates a pedestrian 26.7 completion percentage on such passes. Yuck.
Buffalo won't have much luck in getting draft access to either Geno Smith or Matt Barkley. Their talent alone will get them to six or seven wins at minimum, which lines them up for their favorite spot at the back end of the top ten.
There Buffalo will need to decide if a guy like Tyler Wilson or Tyler Bray—if he comes out after his junior season—would be worth drafting in that position. If Buffalo drafts inside the top 10, then I'd venture a guess as to them passing until the second round. However if they finish in the middle of the teens, they could pull a trigger on one of those guys.
Logan Thomas, Landry Thomas, Aaron Murray and Mike Glennon could all be possibilities later in the draft.
ILB Manti Te'o
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Coming into the season, I thought that Manti Te'o was a little low on draft analysts' big boards. Most had him anywhere from the mid- to late-twenties, and after watching him play quite a bit last season, I felt he was being a little underrated.
Te'o has risen up mock draft boards as quickly as he has been tallying up highlight plays on the field for Notre Dame. A quick glance at a few sites gives the consensus that Te'o is likely going to be a top 12 selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Bills linebacking group has been flat-out atrocious to start the year. As good as the Bills' high-priced defensive line is, they are only as good as the three guys behind them. Defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt has been forced to drop the defensive ends into coverage multiple times during games because the linebackers can't cover anybody.
Te'o is a thumper up the middle the the Bills have been searching for since the Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher days in the early 2000s. He would bring a completely different dynamic to a Buffalo defense that is stuck in neutral and trying to find their "identity" under Wannstedt.
Adding the golden-domer behind an established defensive line would be another big step towards turning the fortunes of the defense.
WR Justin Hunter
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The only other player I see as a first round fit is Justin Hunter, the wide receiver out of Tennessee. This would be a last resort kind of pick, with a quarterback being first priority and then Te'o being second priority. However, no one can deny that the Bills are in desperate need of a game-changing wide receiver.
Buffalo paid Stevie Johnson top receiver money in the offseason, but Johnson isn't an elite talent at the position. Adding a player like Hunter would instantly make Johnson one of the best No. 2 receivers in the league. Having to decide who to pass to between those two guys is a good problem to have.
Right now the Bills problem is that they don't have any receiver that can consistently make plays. Johnson has struggled with the drops and the younger guys like Donald Jones and T.J. Graham aren't ready to contribute at a top level. Jones and Graham are better suited for the slot position anyway.
Hunter isn't on an AJ Green talent level, but he's just a notch below that. The 6'4" receiver has excellent hands and above average separation skills that will make him a No. 1 receiver in no time. Hopefully that can happen in Buffalo.
CB David Amerson
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David Amerson was billed in the preseason to be the top corner in the 2013 Draft. Amerson hasn't lived up the hype thus far in his junior season, but that wouldn't have me shying away from the talented corner.
Amerson does almost everything well, but his best quality is his ball skills. He led the nation with 13 interceptions a year ago and is on pace to finish with seven in 2012, which would likely put him among the ACC leaders.
The problem with Amerson is that he overplays routes a bit too often and has been burned badly a few times this season. It also happened repeatedly against Georgia Tech last season when Stephen Hill was still a Yellow Jacket. That is an issue that will be exploited time and again by NFL-caliber quarterbacks, but it can be easily fixed once Amerson gets into an NFL program. Better to be too aggressive than not aggressive at all.
Some people may be groaning at the thought of another high corner pick. Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams haven't looked great and the frustration is understandable, but Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin are both likely out the door. Some team will pay for McKelvin's sudden punt return prowess.
Before we jump on the Ron Brooks train, we haven't seen the guy in a regular season game yet. Despite picking a ton of corners early in recent drafts, corner continues to be a need. If Amerson is somehow available when the Bills pick in the second round, then this would be a solid pick.
OG Barrett Jones
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Buffalo has built up quite an offensive line over the past four drafts. So why not continue that trend and make it even stronger?
The need for a guard likely isn't at the top of the need list for Buffalo, but we've seen what injuries can do to an effective offensive line. Center Eric Wood and guard Andy Levitre are stalwarts on the line for Buffalo, but they've also dealt with injuries since getting drafted in 2009 by the old regime.
Buffalo made an upgrade in the 2012 draft by selecting Cordy Glenn out of Georgia and plugging him into the left tackle spot on day one. Glenn might have been the best lineman in Buffalo before getting hurt in an embarrassing loss to the New England Patriots two weeks ago. He should be able to rejoin the team on the field in another week or two.
Kraig Urbik currently holds down the right guard slot for Buffalo, but he too has had his fair share of injury issues.
Barrett Jones is one of the more steady inside lineman in college football right now. Jones has the ability to diagnose a defense and carries that overused "heady" term to describe his play. Right now, Jones would present an upgrade at the right guard spot as the Bills continue to look for upgrades on both sides of the ball.