The possibilities for the Buffalo Bills with the number three pick in the 2011 NFL Draft are pretty well known by now. Will it be Cam Newton, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson or someone else entirely? It's an interesting question, but it won't be the subject of this article.
What I will be doing is detailing some of the possible late-round selections for Buffalo. Late rounders are very important when building a team. They fill out the depth chart and every once in a while you identify a gem that can start for years. Unlike first-round selections, Buffalo has actually been fairly successful doing this in later rounds.
For the purposes of this article, I am defining a late round selection as fourth-round or later. I won't be including any of the prospects I highlighted in my 7 Round Buffalo Bills Mock Draft. Each of the players on this list have their flaws. If they didn't, they would be first-rounders. Even though I like all these players, I will try to give an honest evaluation of them. And since opinions on late-round guys vary so widely, I would be very happy if just one of the guys on this list was drafted by the Bills.
Buddy Nix continues to support the current guys on the defensive line like Dwan Edwards, Alex Carrington and Torell Troup. However, he has gone on record saying that Buffalo needs to add another defensive linemen. I believe that the Bills are going to draft a defensive lineman fairly early in order to shore up the 32nd ranked run defense in the NFL last year. Greg Romeus could be an option in the fourth round or maybe even in the third.
This pick would make perfect sense for two reasons. First off is the Dave Wannstedt connection in Pittsburgh. I don't think the importance of this connection can be over-emphasized. Wannstedt has first-hand experience with all the Pittsburgh players and most of the players around the Big East. I would be very surprised if Buffalo didn't draft someone out of that conference come late April.
Secondly, Romeus has first or second round talent. He almost came out as a junior, but the NFL Advisory Committee didn't give him a first-round grade. His stock has since dropped because of injury concerns, but that doesn't bother me too much. In the fourth round, I'm more than happy to take a calculated risk and draft based on potential.
The tight end class in this year's draft is pretty weak. Kyle Rudolph is the best of the bunch and he probably won't come off the board until early in the second round. Tight end is far from the biggest need that Buffalo has so I wouldn't have expected them to target a tight end early anyway. There are, however, several interesting prospects available in the later rounds.
One of those prospects is Rob Housler. Housler has great ability as a receiver. He has prototypical size and speed, measuring in at 6'5" and running a 4.46 40-yard dash. He has the hands to match too. He could become a dangerous threat down the field. Then again, I thought that of Shawn Nelson.
Some people have Housler rated higher and put him into the third round. So drafting him in the fourth would be a pretty good value. If he pans out, he could become the threat at the tight end position that the Bills have lacked ever since Jay Riemersma left.
Buffalo's offensive line has not been good for years. A guy that could help out and that I'm high on is John Moffitt. Most experts predict that he will be a fourth round pick, but I think he could easily outperform a selection in that round.
Moffitt is an absolute mauler in the run game. There is a reason why Wisconsin's running game was so good this year and it wasn't solely because of the talent of the Badgers' three running backs. He definitely has a mean streak and will get after opposing defensive linemen.
The downside on him is that he is slow as molasses (he ran a 5.5 40) and he doesn't always have the best technique when pass blocking. Fortunately, neither of those things are as important on the interior of the line as they would be at tackle. Besides, he ran a much better 10-yard dash and he showed in college that he can get to the next level to block. Those things matter much more to offensive linemen than 40 times do.
Moffitt was overshadowed by his teammate Gabe Carimi at Wisconsin, but it was Moffitt who was selected as a team captain. Moffitt also has the ability to play both guard and center, similar to what Eric Wood can do. The possible trio of him, Wood and Andy Levitre in the middle of Buffalo's offensive line gives me shivers. They could be very good for a very long time.
The free agency of Drayton Florence, the failure of Leodis McKelvin to emerge and the age of Terrence McGee all mean one thing: Buffalo should look to add depth at the cornerback position. It's not a pressing need so I don't think the Bills address it early unless they feel the talent of Patrick Peterson is too much to pass up.
A player that you probably have never heard of is Buster Skrine of UT-Chattanooga. Pro scouts have most definitely heard of him as he was invited to the NFL Combine. He ran a 4.48 40 time there officially, but according to an article in The Tennessean, most scouts actually had him clocked in the 4.2-4.3 range. There aren't many receivers in the NFL that are going to beat him in a foot race.
The other thing that I like about him is that he is a very willing tackler. He has no problem moving up and making contact with a running back. He is going to do whatever it takes to make a team successful.
Skrine also has some experience returning kicks. I know that Buffalo has no need for yet another kick returner, but versatility is still a plus.
With a little work, I believe Skrine can make the transition from small-school college football to the NFL. I would be happy to see the Bills draft Skrine in the fourth. But knowing Al Davis, he will probably just take him in the second and Buffalo won't get that opportunity.
By all appearances, Donte Whitner looks like he is heading out the door with his unrealistic contract demands. With his departure, a hole opens up at strong safety. Either Bryan Scott or George Wilson could fill that role admirably, but Buffalo should look to add another safety for depth purposes, or for a possible upgrade.
Joe Lefeged, from Rutgers, could be a good option. His specialty is run support. He has the size, speed and the awareness to attack the run. This would definitely be a good thing for the league's worst run defense.
Lefeged's coverage skills are a bit raw; he wasn't asked to do that much in college. Fortunately he has 4.4 type speed and can run with almost any receiver. With work, he can improve this aspect of the game.
Buffalo could really use an offensive tackle to step up this year. The offensive line showed progress last year, but the Bills could use another starter. Because of the lack of elite tackle talent in this draft, I would not expect the Bills to draft one until the middle rounds. Derek Newton could be a good option then.
Coming out of Arkansas State, Newton is more of a developmental project. He has the height, speed and the long arms for an NFL tackle. But the level of competition that he faced was questionable and he could stand to gain a few extra pounds of muscle mass. Some experts project him more as a right tackle, but I'm good with that. I don't mind the idea of giving Demetrius Bell more time to develop at left tackle.
With all the other needs that Buffalo has, I'm not sure how early they will choose to address their offensive line needs. There is no question that they need to add depth and the fifth round could be the place to do that.
I actually like Jeron Johnson as a pro prospect better than Joe Lefeged.
Johnson is one of those players who doesn't test well, but whose smarts and work ethic more than make up for that on the field. He was the leader of an underrated Boise State defense last season. He plays with a very aggressive style and loves to make the big hit. He has great football instincts and has the ability to jump receiver's routes.
People knock Johnson for his athleticism, but I'm not sure why. He runs a low 4.5 40, which is fast enough to cover tight ends and most slot receivers. He also posted 23 bench press reps which is pretty good for a safety.
Other people are concerned with potential injury problems. They worry that his aggressive style of play and smaller stature will lead to injuries. I understand their concern, but Johnson doesn't have any real injury history. He only missed four games due to one hamstring injury in his entire career.
I believe Johnson will become a valuable contributor in the NFL. His instincts and style of play make up for a lack of elite athleticism.
Despite being the leading playmaker on Virginia Tech's perennially great defense, Steven Friday hasn't gotten very much attention as a pro prospect.
The reason he hasn't gotten enough attention is because he only emerged as a playmaker in his senior season. But that year, he led the Hokies' defense in both sacks and tackles for loss. At the pro level, he will need to develop other pass rush moves since he primarily relied on his speed to get around linemen.
Friday also has had experience dropping back in coverage. He has decent range and can cover most tight ends and running backs.
I know Bills fans probably won't be too happy with the idea of taking a one year wonder at the outside linebacker position (I'm looking at you, Aaron Maybin), but it is a much less significant investment in the sixth or seventh round than it was in the first. Besides, he's probably Rebecca Black's favorite player. I don't think I can give him a better recommendation than that.
Greg Lloyd Jr. has all the football smarts and instincts that you would expect out of the son of Pittsburgh Steelers great, Greg Lloyd.
Lloyd plays the same position as his father did although he will almost certainly not play at the same level. He has excellent play recognition which makes up for his lack of speed. He is a great tackler, making sure that he wraps up the runner. He has the strength and skill to shed blocks and get into the backfield.
Lloyd is a bit of a one-dimensional player. He doesn't have the speed to drop back in coverage and he has difficulty making tackles on the outside. Unfortunately an inside linebacker who can cover is not exactly what Buffalo needs. What the Bills need is a stout run-stuffing linebacker. There is a chance that Greg Lloyd can be that player.
Personally, I hope the Bills will address the quarterback position in one of the earlier rounds. In most cases, late round quarterbacks have limited potential. One late round quarterback who I think does have potential is Mitch Mustain out of USC.
Mustain never really got the chance to show what he had at the college level. Coming out of high school, he was one of the most sought after recruits in the country. The talent is definitely there.
As a true freshman, he was an 8-0 starter for Arkansas. For some reason, Houston Nutt just didn't trust him as a starter and benched him late in that 8-0 year. After that, he transferred to USC. There, he served as the backup to first-round pick Mark Sanchez and future first-round pick Matt Barkley.
Mustain may just need an opportunity to flourish. In his brief period as a starter, he was successful. It won't take a huge investment to get him either. He could very well be the next Matt Cassel.