With the NFL draft fast approaching, speculation abounds regarding how the top picks will shake out.
The Buffalo Bills are in a favorable position with myriad options to consider. Holding the No. 9 pick, the Bills could move up (if the price is right), stand pat and pick the best player available or move back. With the steep cost that is likely to accompany a move up, the Bills may want to save their draft picks to bolster the roster with depth across the board.
A move back is an option if none of Buffalo's target players are available when the Bills are on the clock. However, the player the Doug-namic duo (general manager Whaley head coach Marrone) should covet will by all accounts still be on the board at No. 9. That player is Eric Ebron, the tight end out of North Carolina.
First of all, we've heard right from the horse's mouth that the Bills are high on Ebron. Per SiriusXM via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, Ebron said the two teams he thought were highest on him were the Bills and Detroit Lions. Ebron visited One Bills Drive on April 4, per Chris Brown of buffalobills.com.
The Bills have set a recent precedent of drafting players that have made predraft visits. Their last four first-round selections were visitors during the draft process. Just last year, EJ Manuel thought the Bills were one of the teams most likely to draft him, and he was right. Could this be the second year in a row a player predicts the Bills drafting him?
Manuel is entering his second year, and the Bills should look to give him as many weapons as possible to help him succeed. During the Bills' predraft press conference, Whaley made it clear his goal is to do just that.
Whaley: "It's a QB-driven league ... our main focus is to make sure (EJ Manuel) progresses."— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) April 25, 2014
Of the positions the Bills could stand to upgrade, tight end is near the top of the list. Scott Chandler, the incumbent starter, was brought back in the offseason on a relatively cheap two-year deal. Buffalo also has Tony Moeaki, Chris Gragg, Lee Smith and Mike Caussin at the position, but any one of them could be cut loose to make room if the Bills peg Ebron in May.
The 6'4", 245-pound Ebron hauled in 62 passes for 973 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. That's more catches and yards than any Bills receiver had last season, when Chandler led the way with 655 yards. Ebron would have the opportunity to step in and be a difference-maker right away in Buffalo.
At 6'7" and 260 pounds, Chandler is a little bit bigger than Ebron. However, Ebron is on another planet athletically. Ebron was recently put to the test in the Sport Science laboratory.
Some highlights from the Sport Science feature on Ebron include his 3,128 cubic foot catchable range, which is greater than that of Rob Gronkowski (3,002 cubic feet). Ebron also ranked in the 91st percentile of Sport Science's combine metric, which is comparable to future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez.
Whaley knows that in an increasingly pass-happy NFL, an athletic tight end is an important piece to the offensive puzzle. Guys like Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are becoming the blueprint for the new NFL tight end. Whaley also understands the importance of a tight end to a young quarterback's development.
Whaley: TE position is trending towards basketball, athletic types.— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) April 25, 2014
Whaley: "TE and RB are great friends to a QB" #BillsDraft— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) April 25, 2014
After a successful season for the defense in 2013, the Bills should look to upgrade the offense to give Manuel all of the ingredients possible to make a gourmet offensive meal. The defense mostly just needs some seasoning, which can be found in the later rounds of this deep draft class.
If the Bills can't find a dance partner to move up the draft board, Ebron will be a more than satisfactory consolation prize at No. 9. If the Bills hold on to their pick and Ebron is still on the board, look for them to all but sprint to the podium to make him their guy.
Justin Neuman is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @JustinNeuman10