Buffalo Bills Mock Draft: Free-Agency Eve
The free-agent period is less than 24 hours away from taking over sports talk, but the draft will be creeping up on us soon enough.
While Buffalo expects to be aggressive in filling holes during the free-agency process, the Bills main focus will still be building through the draft. Buddy Nix's tendencies through the years have shown a dedication to grooming young players, while using free agents to supplement rather than take over the roster.
Buffalo's mocked draft board should become a little less fuzzy once the dust clears in the free-agent frenzy, but there is no hurt in doing one final prognosis before the fun begins.
1. WR Cordarrelle Patterson, University of Tennessee
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There are two wide receivers that I believe fit the bill of game-changer that the new head coach Doug Marrone is looking for—Cordarrelle Patterson and DeAndre Hopkins.
Hopkins is not the best receiver in the draft, but he is big and catches every ball thrown within a fairly large radius of him. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Hopkins does not fit the value at pick No. 8, and they will likely miss out on him if they wait until the second round.
Patterson has steadily climbed up draft boards since the middle of the season and seems to be the consensus top receiver in the draft, taking over the spot formerly held by Keenan Allen. It may be worrisome that Patterson did not burst onto the scene for the Vols until this season and jumped from school to school before landing at Tennessee.
Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter were Tyler Bray's prime targets in 2011, but a dismissal of Rogers paved the way for Patterson to become a bigger name.
He certainly proved worthy.
Patterson caught 46 passes for 776 yards and five touchdowns during his junior season, while making difficult plays look rather easy during the SEC conference-slate. A lesser talked about fact was Patterson's duel-function use in the run game.
He rushed the ball 25 times for 308 yards and three touchdowns, displaying superior athleticism with the ball in his hands.
No one is comparing Patterson to Percy Harvin, but a mixture of great hands and separation skills could make him a sneaky-good pick in the first round.
2. QB Ryan Nassib, Syracuse University
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Ryan Nassib makes sense here for a variety of reasons that have been rehashed and debated thousands of times since Marrone was hired.
Buffalo has been able to watch the local product since he became the starter for the Orange during his sophomore season, but it had never been directly linked to him until his college coach moved to Orchard Park.
Nassib has some obvious question marks, including his size and the tendency to put a bit too much air on the deep ball. Fans of the Bills have seen a whole bunch of sailed passes over the last three seasons and Nassib's tendency to do so should be a huge concern in the Buffalo weather.
Mike Mayock compared Nassib to Andy Dalton on Rich Eisen's podcast yesterday, which is one of the best comparisons out there. Dalton was selected near the top of the second round in 2011, after the Bengals had selected A.J. Green with the fourth overall pick.
The Bengals made the playoffs that season.
After choosing a wide receiver in the first round, Buffalo finds the guy to thrown him the ball in the second.
3. OC Barrett Jones, University of Alabama
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This pick would be a linebacker, but I believe that Buffalo will address the position through free agency and find a developing player in the final half of the draft.
Barrett Jones is no stranger to high expectations of success.
He only won three national titles in college and was a recipient of the Outland and Remington trophies during his four-year career. Jones is a solid athlete that can play any of the interior line positions in the NFL, but is considered the top center prospect in this draft.
A Lisfranc injury required surgery after the national championship game and prevented Jones from working at the Combine last month. The injury has likely slid him down draft boards, but eventually his talent will be too good to pass up.
With Andy Levitre potentially leaving in free agency, Buffalo will be searching for someone to slide in somewhere on the line. Eric Wood played some guard for the Bills when Geoff Hangartner was on the roster, but he has been injury-plagued over the last few seasons.
Regardless of where Buffalo plays Jones, he would provide good value at this spot.
4. OLB Sio Moore, University of Connecticut
Sio Moore entered the year in the draft shadow of fellow defensemen Trevardo Williams, but a solid senior season combined with electric pre-draft workouts have Moore shooting up draft boards.
Moore had a great showing at the East-West Shrine Game, before getting a late invitation to the Senior Bowl. Not many knew who he was before that week, but Moore outplayed players that were originally selected to the Senior Bowl, an honor bestowed on the top seniors in the college game.
His offseason rise was not done there, as Moore had the most impressive combine workouts of any linebacker in attendance. He finished in the top five finishers in four events.
Do not confuse Moore as being a workout warrior because he has the on-field production to back up what he is doing through the draft process.
Moore racked up 15.5 sacks and 44 tackles-for-loss in a four year career up in Storrs, making him one of the most productive linebackers in this draft. His size does hurt him a bit, but a team willing to take a chance on a guy that has production and athleticism could reap the rewards.
5. DE William Gholston, Michigan State University
The last name Gholston might have AFC East fans laughing at the misfortune of the Jets former first round pick. Vernon Gholston was a defensive end for Ohio State several years ago and quickly flamed out of the NFL after an unsuccessful attempt at stardom.
William, his cousin, is finishing up a fine campaign at Michigan State and comes into the draft after completing his junior season.
William Gholston was a standout for the Spartans as a sophomore, but dealt with some character flaws both on and off the field. Regardless of those issues, some draft pundits had Gholston highly ranked on their boards for the 2013 draft, if he indeed came out after his junior year.
Gholston's 2012 season was not nearly as impressive, and his once shining draft status is now mired as a late-round flier.
Still Gholston is still a raw athlete that can get to the quarterback, and with the right coaching he could become a situational rusher that a team like Buffalo could use
6. DB Vernon Kearney, Lane College
Vernon Kearney is a guy that is not a household name when it comes to the 2013 draft.
Kearney hails from Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, which is the school best known for producing Baltimore Ravens receiver, Jacoby Jones. The defensive back has not been nailed down to a specific position at the next level, but he offers a nice combination of speed and strength in a 6'1" frame.
I saw him workout firsthand at the Raycom All-Star Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, and came away impressed by his natural abilities on the field. Kearney had solid performances in that game and in the Texas vs. the Nation game the week later, but it was not enough to earn him a late Combine invite.
His value right now is anywhere from the sixth round through undrafted free agent, but teams are in dire need of big defensive backs. Kearney fits that need.