NFL Draft Picks Who Would Be Instant Starters for the Buffalo Bills
When I saw that my assignment was to create a list of NFL Draft Picks who could instantly start for the Buffalo Bills I thought, "This is going to be the longest slideshow in the history of Bleacher Report."
However, rather than listing every possible player who could start for the Bills, I'll focus on some key positions where the team needs upgrades and a few players who could start immediately.
Please keep in mind, I may ignore some great prospects here, but if I do, it'll be based more on the fact that they aren't necessarily needed on the Bills. Star Lotulelei is potentially a great defensive tackle but with Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus on the roster, he isn't exactly needed in Buffalo nor would he necessarily start.
Don't see a player listed that you think could instantly start for Buffalo? Share your thoughts below or contact me on Twitter!
Quarterback is a major need for the Buffalo Bills as they are still looking to replace Hall of Famer, Jim Kelly.
Unfortunately for Buffalo, this isn't the strongest draft class for the position.
There are only two QBs that I feel would start immediately for the Bills: Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson.
Smith is listed as the top QB in the draft, but some question whether he is a franchise quarterback. I can say with certainty that Smith is the real deal. Smith has everything you look for in an NFL quarterback in terms of size, arm strength, mobility and accuracy. His TD to INT ratio of 42 to 6 is also extremely impressive.
Tyler Wilson of Arkansas had a letdown season to many, but much like Smith, he has all of the intangibles that you look for in an NFL QB. His "down" season may have something to do with Wilson losing his top three wide receivers to the 2012 NFL Draft and having to deal with a new head coach after Bobby Petrino was fired.
After these two prospects, you are looking at a lot of players that have issues that could prevent them from starting immediately. Ryan Nassib, Mike Glennon, Tyler Bray and E.J. Manuel all have inconsistencies in their games, but would battle with Ryan Fitzpatrick to be the team's starter.
Out of the middle tier prospects, Ryan Nassib would probably have the easiest road as he's very familiar with Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett's offense from spending a few seasons together at Syracuse.
Glennon has the best arm of the middle tier quarterbacks, but he needs to add significant weight to his frame. His biggest problem is his slow release.
Not much has been said about Bray, but I do think he'll rise up the draft board following his combine performance. Bray had a nice season statistically, throwing for 34 TDs to only 12 INTs and passing for 3,612 yards. Bray is my dark-horse NFL QB candidate, but he would not be handed the job in Buffalo.
Last, Manuel is an intriguing prospect due to his athleticism, but he is extremely inconsistent and streaky at QB. There will be a few teams that fall in love with Manuel's potential, but he is truly a mid-round talent.
Matt Barkley wasn't listed above and he is my currently my third ranked QB, but I don't think he is a good fit in Buffalo. He'd be better off playing for a warm climate franchise or inside a dome.
Any of them. End slide.
Okay, I'll add more content than that, but Buffalo is seriously desperate for an outside wide receiver. Luckily for Buffalo, this is one of the deepest WR drafts that I've seen in a long time.
I can come up with eight wide receivers that would have a chance to instantly start for the Bills. Wondering who they are? Without any further ado: DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Robert Woods, Terrance Williams, Aaron Dobson, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers.
DeAndre Hopkins is my personal favorite of the group. I feel that Hopkins has the best hands of the group and he is able to grab passes at their highest point. His only flaw is that he needs to work a bit on his route-running abilities.
Keenan Allen is a WR that does everything well, but doesn't do anything exceptionally well. That said, he's still going to be a solid starter somewhere in the NFL.
Cordarrelle Patterson has the highest ceiling of any wide receiver in the draft and is extremely athletic. His biggest flaw is that he oftentimes catches passes with his body, rather than his hands.
Robert Woods of USC reminds me a lot of Stevie Johnson. He's a fantastic route-runner but has some issues with drops. He'll likely be a starter wherever he's selected, but he may be too similar to Johnson for Buffalo's taste.
Terrance Williams has excellent footwork and and is tough to bring down in the open field, but he, like Woods, has some issues catching the ball.
Dobson is another solid route runner. His biggest weakness is his blocking ability.
Justin Hunter is a large target at 6'4" and does a great job tracking passes in the air. He also has good footwork and speed. In terms of weaknesses, Hunter plays wildly and has inconsistent hands.
Last, Da'Rick Rogers is one of the most talented WRs of the group, but he may be seen as a character concern after being suspended from Tennessee and playing his final season at Tennessee Tech. Rogers was suspended for using marijuana, but in the NFL this probably won't be seen as too big of a problem.
Any of the wide receivers listed above could certainly enter immediately and start on the outside along with Stevie Johnson.
With Scott Chandler tearing his ACL and likely missing the start of the 2013 season, you could list plenty of tight ends in the draft who could start immediately for Buffalo.
That said, I'm going to list the three top tight end candidates: Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz and Jordan Reed.
Tyler Eifert in my opinion is the top tight end available. Eifert has excellent hands, is a strong route runner, a large target and became a fantastic blocker in his last season at Notre Dame.
Zach Ertz's scouting report is practically the same as Eifert's. He's a big target at 6'6", has strong hands, runs good routes and is a great blocker.
Last, Jordan Reed of Florida is an intriguing prospect. He's very similar to Aaron Hernandez in that his athleticism makes him look like a WR after the catch. Reed's biggest weakness is in the blocking game. Reed could be selected around the third round, providing the most value of the three.
At the end of the day, Eifert and Ertz aren't worthy of being selected at 8 and they're unlikely to be available when Buffalo picks in round two. Reed may be the only option if Buffalo doesn't find a tight end in free agency.
Buffalo has a solid offensive line.
Now if Luke Joeckel somehow fell to pick eight, would the Bills pass on him? Possibly, but they'd be foolish. Joeckel is a top prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft and is a better prospect than Buffalo's current LT Cordy Glenn. That being said, Glenn had a very strong rookie season, so a LT like Joeckel probably isn't in the books.
Eric Fisher is another great prospect at LT who realistically could be available at eight. I wouldn't hate the pick as he too is a better prospect than Glenn, but on a team with as many needs as Buffalo, they'll likely pass.
In terms of offensive guards, Chance Warmack would fit the bill as an immediate starter for Buffalo. Even if the Bills resign Andy Levitre, Warmack would get the opportunity to start over Kraig Urbik. Warmack is the best guard prospect that I've seen in quite a few years.
That said, these are the only three players that I think could immediately start for the Bills on their offensive line. For that, Buddy Nix deserves praise for the work that he's done with Buffalo's offensive line.
The Bills need plenty of linebacker help. Nigel Bradham at OLB is the only starter that I feel positive about going forward in Buffalo. He's still very raw, but the former Florida State Seminole improved with every outing he had. Buffalo's other OLB, Nick Barnett is still an adequate starter, but he is certainly on the downside of his career.
At MLB, Kelvin Sheppard has been extremely underwhelming for the Bills. He oftentimes disappears for long spans of the game and is average at best.
At OLB it's safe to say that Jarvis Jones, Barkevious Mingo, Alec Ogletree, Khaseem Greene and Arthur Brown would all be able to come in and start immediately.
Jones does it all. In terms of talent, he's a top three pick in the draft. The only thing that could hold him back is his spinal stenosis. There is an outside chance that Jones is there at pick eight. If he is, Buffalo would be wise to select him immediately.
Barkevious Mingo is being looked at as both an OLB and DE, so it depends on where teams think he fits best. That said, Mingo has the highest ceiling of any of the OLB's available not named Jarvis Jones. He'd be an intriguing option at pick eight and could be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
Jarvis Jones' teammate Alec Ogletree is another great prospect at OLB. Ogletree is very athletic and plays fast on the field. There are some concerns about his tackling at the next level, but I think that he'll be fine in that regard.
Khaseem Greene may be a realistic target for Buffalo in round two. He is a great blitzer and tackler. Both attributes are important in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's defense. His size is his biggest flaw.
Arthur Brown of Kansas State is excellent against the run and pass and he rarely misses tackles. He, much like Greene, does not have the ideal size that NFL teams look for in their OLB.
At inside linebacker, Manti Te'o and Kevin Minter would be two players who could immediately start for Buffalo.
Te'o's image has taken a hit since the Lennay Kekua story broke, but once the combine takes place, I'm sure his stock will rise again. Te'o is a solid tackler and takes excellent angles to get to the opposition. Te'o's biggest weakness on the field is his speed. At the combine teams will find out if he has the speed to excel at ILB in the NFL.
Kevin Minter of LSU is very aggressive and blitzes well. He seems like another player who'd be a good fit in Pettine's defense as he showed a knack for timing his blitzes well.
Cornerbacks and Safeties
Truthfully, there are quite a few cornerbacks who could start in Buffalo in 2013. Stephon Gilmore is a lock on one side, but the other spot is wide open. Buffalo would be wise to pick up a veteran in free agency, but in the draft there are three players that could start for the Bills: Dee Milliner, Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant.
Milliner is the top cornerback in the draft bar-none. Bills fans may not be thrilled spending another first round pick on a cornerback, but Milliner and Gilmore would give Buffalo an extremely young but impressive cornerback duo. Milliner uses his arms well to bat down passes, shows excellent awareness and does an excellent job of finding the ball when it's in the air. There's a strong chance that he's taken before pick eight, but if available it'd be difficult for Buffalo to pass.
Xavier Rhodes has a similar skill set to Milliner and is the best CB in the draft in terms of jamming wide receivers at the line. Rhodes has good instincts in coverage and can keep up with just about any receiver he faces. His only weakness is that he is sometimes too aggressive, which is very similar to Buffalo's Stephon Gilmore.
Desmond Trufant could fall to Buffalo in round two. Trufant is athletic and physical but isn't a great tackler in the open field.
In terms of safeties, a lot depends on if Jairus Byrd is re-signed or franchised. If he is on the roster next year, there are no free safeties in the 2013 draft who could start over him. If Byrd goes elsewhere, then Kenny Vaccaro and Eric Reid are two players who could start immediately for Buffalo. That said, I don't see a scenario where Byrd isn't on the Bills in 2013.
In terms of strong safety, the Bills have George Wilson and Da'Norris Searcy. Wilson is on the downside of his career, while Searcy will be entering his third season. Searcy played well in 2012 and took many of Wilson's snaps. That said, Matt Elam is one strong safety that could start immediately for Buffalo.
Elam is extremely physical and athletic. He can come up to the line and create havoc, and he is also strong in coverage.
Buffalo has plenty of holes to fill in the 2013 NFL Draft, but as you can see there will be plenty of intriguing options for the team to choose from.