My heart goes out to Ryan Fitzpatrick.
He took over for the underwhelming Trent Edwards in 2010, put up very solid numbers and turned the hapless Buffalo Bills into a solid, competitive squad.
Yet, he's facing an uphill battle to quarterback the Bills again in 2011.
True, he may not be exactly what you think of when you say the phrase "franchise quarterback," but Fitzpatrick was arguably more often the solution than the problem for Buffalo in 2010.
Regardless, he's likely not Chan Gailey's guy and he can be replaced.
That logic goes a long way in describing much of Buffalo's roster, as well, which brings us to a dissection of the Bills needs and prospective draft picks for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Here's a breakdown of there possible picks for this year's draft, along with some analysis and secondary selections at each spot.
Note: All mock draft predictions are subject to change as we get closer to the actual draft:
Round 1 (Pick 3): Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Say what? Yeah, Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Von Miller, Da'Quan Bowers, and even Blaine Gabbert are all very possible selections here, but the turn around in Buffalo starts at the top—that means a change at quarterback.
True, Newton could be gone by this point, but if he's not, the Bills will be more than tempted to bite. Newton gives the team a complete facelift with a new identity, and also gives Gailey the athletic signal caller he craves.
Newton may not even start right away, but this pick will show all of Buffalo that the Bills are serious about soon becoming a strong force in the AFC East.
Round 2 (Pick 34): Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
It has to be pretty clear that Shawn Nelson isn't the future at tight end, so Buffalo may opt to rectify that missed pick and grab a more reliable target like Rudolph.
Whoever is playing quarterback in Buffalo next season would feel a lot better if they had a safety net option over the middle, and that's exactly what Rudolph brings to the table.
With most of the elite tackle prospects off the board, look for the Bills to solve another glaring hole on offense.
Round 3 (Pick 68): Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
The Bills have a lot of holes to fill, but one of the biggest is in their defensive line.
Marcus Stroud wasn't the answer and is now in New England, so Buffalo needs to start over in the middle. Wilkerson is a heck of a start, as he's a huge body that can stuff the run and has some ability to get to the quarterback.
This pick is especially crucial if the Bills operate as predicted above, and go for offense with the first two picks.
Round 4 (Pick 99): Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida
After skipping out on offensive tackle in the second and third round, the Bills still have a chance at making progress on their offensive line with the addition of Gilbert.
With potential at either tackle spot and the ability to play inside at guard, Gilbert gives the Bills some nice versatility to work with as they continue to work on their offensive line.
Other possibilities: Jeff Maehl, Jalil Brown, DeMarcus Van Dyke
Round 4 (Pick 121): Ugo Chinasa, DE/OLB, Oklahoma State
Chinasa could be a bit of a reach here, but his size and versatility could have the Bills salivating.
After missing out on an impact edge rusher in the early rounds, Buffalo could nab a steal with their second pick of the fourth round. Buffalo still needs to improve their pass rush, and Chinasa's great size and athleticism could go a long way in aiding that effort.
Other possibilities: Mark Herzlich, Clint Boling, Ronald Johnson
Buffalo gets a new identity and an upgrade of talent and potential at the quarterback position, while also filling a major hole at tight end and adding solid talent to both their offensive and defensive lines.
Some of these picks aren't as sexy as some Buffalo fans may be hoping for, but they all serve a purpose in making the Bills are more balanced team on both sides of the ball.
Obviously, passing on Newton (or not having him fall to the third pick) completely changes the make-up of this mock, but if he's there, Chan Gailey will have a tough time convincing himself not to pick him.
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