No more than three days ago, the Buffalo Bills decided that the left side of their line needed to start from scratch.
The Bills have been as active this offseason as any team, and their latest move to rid them selves of the foreshadowed Jason Peters headache is one of the bigger splashes to date.
On paper, there are more holes than any of the previous 7-9 campaigns under coach Dick Jauron. Regardless of owner Mr. Wilson's boost of confidence by keeping the career losing coach for another season, Jaroun's Fire Marshall Bill (for the rare In Living Color fans out there) buns are burning on the hot seat.
Therefore, after the front office made bold moves by "cutting the fat", moving on without Derrick Dockery, Melvin Fowler, Duke Preston, and Robert Royal. They then proceeded to allow Greer to sign elsewhere and trade Jason Peters, meaning the draft is now as important as ever.
Now the biggest question in Buffalo is not how long will it take for Owens to become a negative spectacle, but what direction do the Bills go in a draft class that is deep in position of need. I, for one, am impervious to "draft experts" and so called stock that rises and falls off the football field.
Round One, No. 11 - Brian Cushing, USC - OLB
A lot of people will not like this pick off the bat. But what needs to be taken into account is that USC's program is better than some NFL franchises in terms of talent. Therefore, when you look at Cushing and see a player that Pete Carroll could not keep off the field, one would have to believe there is talent and leadership in Brian.
Cushing is more than a "workout warrior." If anything, Cushing's work ethic should be admired, not used against him—especially when you consider the three positions Cushing manned at USC (SS, DE, and OLB).
The Bills fill a huge need at OLB and get a guy who could allow the Bills to actually blitz from the LB position.
Ayers may have "shot up" in rankings, however aforementioned I refuse to believe in risers and fallers in the offseason (barring legal issues). Michael Oher could be an option, but you will see later why I pass up a Peters replacement.
Round One, No. 28 - Larry English, NI - DE
English is one of the most under-the-radar pass rushers in the entire 2009 draft class. A four-year starter who has 32.5 sacks to show for it, he is hard to ignore.
English might not drop past the Patriots at No. 23, but if it does happen do not be surprised if Dick Jauron continues to build a defense and again passes on addressing the LT need.
English may not replace Kelsay as the starter opposite Schobel, but will he give the Bills better situational pass-rushing options.
Round Two, No. 42 - Alex Mack, Cal - C
There are questions because of Mack's lack of versatility to play other positions on the line. Therefore, guys like Wood and Unger could go before Mack. Mack is a true center and is one of the best prospects at that position to come along since Mangold went to the Jets in the first round in '06.
Again, the Bills will pass on a LT, because Jauron will not risk having rookies man the left side of the line. Do not be surprised if you see Walker moved to LT, while recent Panthers castoff Geoff Hangartner plays LG.
Mack is the exact player the Bills need to help against the 3-4 front that the Bills will face upwards of six times this season. Most likely of all, the rookies to start or at least see serious playing time.
Round Three, No. 75 - Shawn Nelson, Southern Miss - TE
Amazing value here if the Bills can land the tight-end threat their offense has lacked since Jay Riemersma. Nelson is a underrated blocker who can stretch the field. Currently standing at 6'5" and 240 lbs., there is room to build on the young man's frame.
Some would compare Nelson to Martin Rucker, a fourth-round pick of the Browns last year—only better. Nelson would likely be very well worked into the offense by midseason.
Round Four, No. 110 - Michael Hamlin, Clemson - SS
I would not be surprised if the Bills move Whitner to FS to try and justify the value of taking the kid eighth-overall, while starting Bryan Scott at SS. The Bills will be crossing their fingers Chip Vaughn is still around, but Hamlin had a terrific senior year—110 tackles, 10 PBU, and a solid six INTs.
Hamlin is a bit slower than some would like and Micahel's hips are not as fluid as one would like in coverage, but with the pieces added in front of him—and the ability to play special teams while learning for a year or two—make Hamlin a solid investment.
Round Four, No. 121 - A.Q. Shipely, PSU, C/G
Dick Jauron has a pattern over the years of taking two players at the same position. Shipelygives the Bills depth at center position as well as at the guard position.
Short arms are going to cost Shipley, but the 40 on his Wonderlic is right up the Bills alley. He also has that "great motor" label that seems to be the MO of the Bills' middle-round picks.
However, while PSU was being blown away in the Rose Bowl, Shipely made Rey Maualuga's life miserable, play after play—regardless of the score.
Round Five, No. 147 - Antone Smith, FSU - RB
Another pick that seems to be a must for the Bills. Lynch is suspended, Jackson is a question mark to return after this season, and Rhodes is only a stop gap. Smith is a home-run threat who could offer the Buffalo Bills a Leon Washington type of player.
Rumors are the Bills would like to move Parrish. Asking Mckelvin to be a full-time starting CB/KR is enough of a workload, let alone piling on PR as well.
Smith could return kicks and be a change-of-pace back. Dick Jauron tends to draft backs later in the draft (Dwayne Wright and Xavier Omon)
As far as the sixth and seventh round go, with the abundance of high picks it would be hard to see another Steve Johnson-type make the roster at any point next year.
The moral of the story? Dick Jauron needs to save his job. Therefore, depending on rookies is a real hit or miss and they need to be chosen wisely. Especially because there is not a doubt in anyone's mind that barring injury, only one or two of the picks will actually start a majority of the season.
Furthermore, the guys that do see playing time will be mainly because of thinness at the position more than wanting an upgrade. Buffalo fans cannot sit through another 7-9 season all while watching skill position players lack support.
The Bills need to get better with their front seven on defense as well as in the trenches on the offensive line. Should the Bills go in the direction listed above, not only do they address those needs, but they do it with high quality prospects—and saving their backside with picks like Hamlin and Smith.