Buffalo Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey and the rest of his coaching staff, with the exception of new coach Dave Wannstedt, are now in Mobile, Alabama to coach the South team in the upcoming Senior Bowl, which will be played this coming Saturday, January 29th on NFL Network.
The NFL Network is also carrying live practices from Mobile, so Bills fans can watch Gailey and his staff working up close and personal with some of the best college players from the country. The South team is heavily comprised of players from the SEC and the ACC conferences.
While most mock drafts tab an underclassmen as going to Buffalo with the third overall pick, there is a very good chance that multiple Bills draft choices could be emerging from the Senior Bowl game. You can also bet that they were selected based on the lasting impressions they made on the Bills coaching staff throughout the week of practice and the game itself.
Let's take a closer look at players the Bills should be focusing on at the Senior Bowl game.
From the South team: Andy Dalton (TCU), Greg McElroy (Alabama) and Christian Ponder (Florida State).
From the North team: Ricky Stanzi (Iowa), Jake Locker (Washington) and Colin Kaepernick (Nevada-pictured).
As you go through each of the six quarterbacks there are questions or issues with all of them. As a result, if the Bills do decide to draft any of the six, it is because they were deemed to be a worthy project to take due to the intangible qualities they demonstrated this week.
Andy Dalton is a winner and has a degree of intrigue, but the darkhorse of this group appears to be Colin Kaepernick. While watching the live practice on NFL Network yesterday, it was clear that Kaepernick is very fast and that talent is reflected in the stats he generated with over 1,000 rushing yards this past season. For what it is worth, many mocks show the Bills drafting Ponder in either the second or third round.
The majority of quarterbacks from this group appear to be headed for Round Two or later, with the exception of Jake Locker, who should be picked up in the first round. Hopefully, the Bills do not take him in the first round, because that first round pick has to be someone that can make an impact in the 2011 campaign. Locker is not ready to do that yet.
As a result, any of these QB's could be drafted from rounds 2 - 7, based on the final grade that they receive from Buddy Guy, Tom Modrak, and the rest of the Bills scouting department. If the grade justifies being selected in a certain round, they will pull the trigger.
If you asked Chan Gailey which offensive line he would like to coach, I am quite sure he would take the North team in a heartbeat. They have three left tackles that could all go in the first round of the draft. They are: Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Anthony Castonzo (Boston College) and Nate Solder (Colorado). At the first practice yesterday, Marvin Lewis of the Bengals, who is coaching the North team, had all three running plays on the first team, as they were at both tackle spots, with the third playing guard.
Another tough lineman on the North team to keep an eye on is Wisconsin guard John Moffitt. Moffitt displays a very tenacious nasty streak, which is a good thing.
I have to mention that the North team added another lineman late last weekend to their roster, Brandon Fusco (pictured), from Slippery Rock University. Fusco was the top lineman in the nation for Division II and is the only Division II player that is ranked in the top five at his position (center). Why do I have to mention that? Because Slippery Rock University happens to be my alma mater. For those wondering, Fusco is the first Slippery Rock player to ever be invited to the Senior Bowl. Congratulations Brandon.
For the South team, Chan Gailey and staff will be coaching one player that possibly could be a first round draft choice, Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State, but he will likely be a day two draft selection. Outside of Sherrod, other South team linemen to watch include: Danny Watkins (Baylor) and Rodney Hudson (Florida St.). At the first practice on Monday, the play of Watkins caught everyone's attention.
Unfortunately, Mike Pouncey is sitting out the Senior Bowl due to injury, or he would have been part of the South team. Pouncey has been going to the Bills in some second round mock drafts, assuming that he falls down to the second round.
For every mock draft that shows the Bills drafting Nick Fairley (Auburn), Da'Quan Bowers (Clemson), Marcell Dareus (Alabama), or Robert Quinn (No. Carolina), none of them will be involved in the Senior Bowl because all four are underclassmen. But, you should still watch the Senior Bowl players because they could be available in round two or three, or might even be a first round pick if the Bills trade down from the third overall selection.
North Team: features some highly regarded defensive linemen in Ryan Kerrigan (Perdue-pictured), Stephen Paea (Oregon State), Cameron Jordan (Cal) and Jeremy Beal (Oklahoma). Beal is from my other alma mater, so now I have plugged both of my schools. Out of this group Kerrigan and Jordan appear to be moving up on draft boards. Paea needs to take his weight room strength and make that work on the football field.
South Team: also has some highly regarded talent, such as Allen Bailey (U of Miami), Jarvis Jenkins (Clemson), and Sam Acho (Texas). Rest assured that if any of these three show that they can be effective in stopping the run, or at applying pressure to the quarterback, that they could find themselves playing for Chan Gailey once again, as in September.
One player that is sitting out the game due to recent surgery is Ohio State linemen Cameron Heyward, who might see his stock plummet to the second round as a result. Also, it appears that Stephen Paea, the Oregon St. tackle, suffered an injury in practice and may have to pull out of the game. Another player that pulled out of the game was Adrian Clayborn of Iowa.
This year is not thought to be very deep with respect to elite tight ends, so the players that are here will probably be viewed as prospects from day two to day three types at the draft. Chan Gailey has talked about tight ends being too one-dimensional. If he is a pass catcher only, he is tipping off the defense that a pass play is coming. Conversely, if he is only a blocker, you are telling the opposition you are running the ball.
North Team: Lance Kendricks of Wisconsin appears to be the main attention getter. He is ranked as the number two tight end by Mike Mayock, of the NFL Network.
South Team: Mayock's other tight ends in the top five all appear on the South team, so you know Chan Gailey will be watching all three closely. They are: D.J. Williams (Arkansas), Luke Stocker (Tennessee) and Charles Clay (Tulsa). Luke Stocker is pictured making a catch against Marcell Dareus.
Mayock's top tight end is underclassmen Kyle Rudolph from Notre Dame, so he is not part of this game.
Paul Posluszny may or may not be back with the Bills. Aaron Maybin may also not be back. So, the Bills coaches will be looking very closely at the linebackers playing in the Senior Bowl. Luckily for them, they have the highest rated linebacker in the draft on their team.
North Team: Mark Herzlich is the feel good story out of this group. The Boston College linebacker battled cancer to return for his senior year. He had a down year, but is an inspirational athlete and outstanding character. Other linebackers include: Casey Matthews (Oregon and brother of Clay Matthews Jr.), Ross Homan from Ohio St. and Lawrence Wilson from U. Connecticut. Matthews is a different type of linebacker than his older brother, but is someone to watch.
South Team: Pictured is Von Miller, the linebacker from Texas A&M, who could very well go in the top 10. He is that good. The Bills are in need of an impact linebacker, and this could be a target for the Bills if they want to trade down to the 8, 9 or 10 spot from number 3.
Other South LB's include: Josh Bynes (Auburn), Nate Irving (North Carolina St.), Colin McCarthy (U. of Miami), and a pair from Mississippi State in Chris White and K.J. Wright.
Most eyes however will be following Von Miller very closely.
Bills have two starting secondary members that are now free agents in Donte Whitner and Drayton Florence, so the Bills may be looking to replace them with some younger options.
South Team: Chan Gailey will be coaching a highly touted safety in Ahmad Black from Florida. Black is ranked as the number two safety in the draft by Mike Mayock. Black is pictured trying to cover talented Georgia receiver A.J. Green.
North Team: Quinton Carter (Oklahoma) and Jalil Brown (Colorado) looked good so far in practice this week.
Some of the practice drills are difficult to truly evaluate secondary players because they might be better in a zone situation, but we are watching them in one-on-one matchups, where they either sink or swim when they are standing out there all alone on their island. It can be a lonely place when you get beat.
Patrick Peterson (LSU) and Prince Amukamara (Nebraska) are two top corrnerbacks projected to go in the draft, but neither one will be part of this game, as is the case for top safety Rahim Moore (UCLA).
Chan Gailey is coaching the South team because Carolina and Denver had fired their head coaches when it was time for the Senior Bowl to figure out which NFL teams would be getting the up close and personal chance to see these talented prospects first hand. Buffalo and Cincinnati were then next up, and both agreed to participate, as Cincinnati and Marvin Lewis will be coaching the North team.
The Bills coaches have been part of the Senior Bowl three times previously, and each time was for the North team. Lou Saban had the honor in 1970 and 1971, while Kay Stephenson was the coach in 1984. This is the first time the Bills have coached the South team. The Bills have not been involved in coaching this game for the past 27 years.
We did not cover the running backs and wide receivers because the way that the team is currently constructed, those are not areas of need, at least not from a priority standpoint. It is possible that Chan Gailey or Buddy Nix will see an offensive player that they feel could be an upgrade in the return game, and invest a draft pick for that purpose.
You can watch the live practice on Wednesday on the NFL Network to watch the Bills coaching staff take each individual unit through the paces. Should be a fun game to watch on Saturday. Don't be surprised if the Bills wind up drafting three or four guys from this game. They are in a unique position to see what these players are like and will be comparing notes from now right up to draft day.