Just over a month away is the 2011 NFL Draft. After much speculation and tiring debates, draft positions and player projections are now falling into place.
The Buffalo Bills need to make some major improvements in order to be considered playoff contenders anytime in the near future. This mock will go pick-by-pick through my projected Buffalo Bills 2011 NFL Draft selections.
Players, write-ups, and projections are made according to my own personal thoughts, as well as potential input from scouts and various websites.
Blaine Gabbert, Quarterback, Missouri
Just a few days after Blaine Gabbert's stunning pro-day, the web is still buzzing as to whether or not he has solidified himself as the No. 1 pick in this year's draft. While that question will probably go unanswered for a few more weeks, Gabbert really put on a show for the scouts and NFL personnel.
Ralph Wilson said publicly that the team's top priority would be to find a quarterback. However, this was before Ryan Fitzpatrick decided to turn heads with his improved play right in the middle of the 2010 season. Still, questions remain as to whether or not the Bills really trust Fitz to be their starter for the foreseeable future.
I have Cam Newton and Marcell Dareus being selected before Buffalo in my latest mock draft, so I will stick with Blaine Gabbert here as well. Gabbert is a high character guy that the organization covets, he has a great arm, decent accuracy, a near perfect Wonderlic score, and he makes plays with his legs too. All of this may seem like a Manning-in-the-making, but Gabbert still has questions to answer regarding his ability to play under center, and his less than stellar stats for his 2010 season.
Patrick Peterson was my other option here, but due to Gabbert's pro-day he jumps ahead for the moment.
Derek Sherrod, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State
I realize that I may get some heat for ignoring the defensive front, but if the Bills take Blaine Gabbert with their top choice they need to make sure he is protected. Just ask the Detroit Lions about that...
In my previous Buffalo Bills mock I had Joseph Barksdale here, but he has gotten a lot of negative reports due to his failed transition to left tackle at LSU. Therefore, I have to go with Derek Sherrod. He has proven that he can play on the blindside, and Chan Gailey coached him at the Senior Bowl in January.
If Sherrod pans out, Demitrius Bell could be moved to right tackle to help solidify the offensive line. Additionally, with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson ready to go from the backfield, and Stevie Johnson, Lee Evans, David Nelson, and Roscoe Parrish as threats through the air, this team could have a pretty dynamic offense.
Allen Bailey, 3-4 Defensive End, Miami
The Bills have to address their defensive front here if they go offense in the first two rounds. Allen Bailey is a high motor, high intensity athlete that has seen his stock plummet over the past few months. No one doubts Bailey's potential, but he has to produce on the field.
As defense struggling to find an identity and/or someone to look on as a leader by example, Buffalo would be wise to take Bailey if he is available. He is a leader with relentless attitude; much like Ray Lewis – although no player can compare to him.
Kelvin Sheppard, 3-4 Inside Linebacker, LSU
The Bills need to upgrade their linebacker corps in a bad way. Kelvin Sheppard was brought in for a workout last week, meaning that the Bills are in some way or form interested in the 6-2/250 linebacker. The only issue is that Sheppard has a less than impressive 40-yard dash time of 4.70 seconds.
Guys like Jarvis Jenkins, Casey Matthews, Greg Jones, and Lance Kendricks could be available here also.
Steven Friday, 3-4 Outside Linebacker, Virginia Tech
Still upgrading the linebacker corps, Steven Friday will come in and challenge guys like Danny Batten and Antonio Coleman for their roster spot.
Friday is a high motor guy that can both provide pass-rush and drop into coverage. He'll have great mentors in Shawne Merriman (skill) and Chris Kelsay (attitude).
Cedric Thornton, 3-4 Defensive End, Southern Arkansas
A small school prospect, Cedric Thornton has been praised by scouts and personnel around the league for his strength and quickness. All of that should be taken with a grain of salt though considering he has not faced any elite competition yet. Thornton and Allen Bailey (Round three) will both compete with Alex Carrington for time at 3-4 defensive end in Buffalo's 3-4 looks.
Don't be surprised if the Bills take a look at more than one small school prospect, considering the fact that they took Danny Batten and Arthur Moats last year–both of whom were from schools who did not face elite competition on a weekly basis.
Ryan Bartholomew, Guard/Center, Syracuse
This guy stood out at the Combine for me. Even though I was just watching the broadcast through NFL Network and NFL.com, he seemed to be one of the standouts in a weak class. However, most sites and scouts have him pegged as a late round prospect. Bartholomew is a quality NFL back in my opinion–and the Bills need depth along the offensive line.
Mario Butler, Cornerback, Georgia Tech
Probably nothing more than a nickel corner or a special teams gunner. Mario Butler is merely a fill in until the Bills can find a replacement for Drayton Florance. Chan Gailey could be familiar with him from his days at Georgia Tech.