7-Round 2011 NFL Mock Draft: Buffalo Bills Keep Fitzpatrick, Build Defense
That being said, Chan Gailey seems to be an improvement as a head coach so far and having the third overall pick in this year’s draft will certainly give Buffalo a chance to improve.
Before I get onto the players selections, I’d just like to point out that I’m figuring Marcell Dareus will get drafted by the Denver Broncos, and that the Bills will wise up and realize Ryan Fitzpatrick is a better quarterback than what is available in this NFL draft (although Christian Ponder, who already reminds me of Aaron Rodgers, wouldn’t be a bad choice in the second round to learn behind Fitzpatrick for a few years).
Also, to handle the ILB need I believe the best option is to attempt to bring in current Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Barnett. The Packers re-signed both AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop with Starting-type contracts and Barnett is in the last year of his contract. I’d send over a conditional third-round pick in 2012 for him. He has had injury issues over the last few years, but should still have at least three or four solid years left in him and will bring invaluable experience and knowledge of a properly working 3-4 defense to Buffalo.
With the No. 3 Overall Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Bills Select...
Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
With the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft the Buffalo Bills absolutely must find a franchise player who can make an immediate impact on their team.
Most people think that Buffalo’s biggest need is a quarterback and that might be true if Ryan Fitzpatrick was two or three years older, but the fact is he’s only 28 (That’s just one year older than Super Bowl XLV MVP Aaron Rodgers) and the chances of getting a quarterback in this year’s draft who will provide more value both immediately and over the next six to eight years just aren’t great enough for me to pull the trigger.
On the other side of the ball the Bills continue to try and make a transition to a 3-4 defense, and while they have found a few players that will work in the long term, they still lack many key pieces of a successful 3-4, the biggest of which is a pass rushing linebacker.
Aggies standout Von Miller is an athletic freak at outside linebacker and projects perfectly to a 3-4 scheme. Here value meets need as Miller is considered at top five prospect and Buffalo already has interesting players at the position with Shawn Merriman, Arthur Moats and Aaron Maybin, but is without an outright superstar.
Von Miller fills that role and makes outside linebacker a strength for the Bills rather than a question mark. This pick will also help in the run defense and take pressure off the defensive backs by helping a needy pass rush become significant. Trigger pulled.
Stats: 6'3", 246 pounds, 4.42 40-yard dash, 21 bench reps
With the 34th Overall Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Bills Select...
Marvin Austin, DE, North Carolina
At pick No. 34 in the draft, the idea of drafting Nate Solder or Derek Sherrod is intriguing with Buffalo clearly needing two new offensive tackles, but again I choose to neglect offense in order to take what I believe is another outstanding defensive talent.
I’m not a big fan of character risks, but in this case I see it as an opportunity for Buffalo to get mid first-round talent almost half a round later.
Austin has the size, speed and strength to be a force in both the running and passing game at defensive end for the Bills. The current talent on Buffalo’s defensive line includes a positive in nose tackle Kyle Williams but has question marks at end with Dwan Edwards and Alex Carrington being hard to figure out.
Much like adding Miller at outside linebacker, adding Austin to the defensive line takes a position that looks interesting and makes it a position of strength. Between the additions of Miller and Austin in the first two rounds opposing defenses will be left wondering when the Bills front seven became such a handful.
Stats: 6'2", 309 pounds, 4.84 40-yard dash, 38 bench reps
With the 68th Overall Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Bills Select...
James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
It’s Round 3 now and if the Bills are going to pass on taking a big-named quarterback in the first round, they had better start finding a way to help out current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.
As always, the best way to help a quarterback is to keep their feet under them and their eyes downfield. In James Carpenter the Bills find a perfect right tackle candidate who could possibly start right away and provide a solid boost for the running game as well.
An All-SEC selection both years as a starter at left tackle for the Razorbacks Carpenter is durable and has experience in an NFL style offense. His lack of foot speed makes the move to right tackle in the NFL ideal where his strength as a run blocker can shine for the Bills and their exceptionable running backs.
Stats: 6'4", 321 pounds, 5.22 40-yard dash, 23 bench reps.
With the 100th Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Bills Select...
Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville
It’s back to defense in Round 4 as Louisville prospect Johnny Patrick is just too good to pass up.
Patrick’s strength in zone coverage and physicality will serve him well in Buffalo’s 3-4 defense and his willingness and secure tackling skills in the run game won’t hurt either.
Patrick is good enough in man coverage and should improve throughout his career; if he does get beat in man, he has the speed and ability to recover and save the big play.
Patrick does have some off-the-field questions after being charged with operating a vehicle on a suspended license, but his talent outweighs the risk in this case.
With the return of Drayton Florence in question (although he should be re-signed), adding an athletic physical player with experience in a zone defense is a smart move.
Stats: 5'11", 191 pounds, 4.59 40-yard dash, 13 bench reps
With the 122nd Overall Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Bills Select...
Da’Norris Searcy, SS, North Carolina
The Bills have an extra pick in Round 4 and should look to take a player with as much upside as possible. Da’Norris Searcy fits that mold. Some teams might consider moving him to free safety, due to his quick feet and fluid backpedal but that and his solid frame makes him an ideal fit for a 3-4 strong safety.
Searcy has adequate ball skills (four interceptions in 2010) and also has enough punt return abilities to be a backup option for the Bills as he was the primary punt returner for the past two seasons on an athletic North Carolina team.
Donte Whitner is another Bills’ defensive back who is a free agent and therefore can’t be counted on to return due to the current collective bargaining situation. Searcy would be a huge asset is Whitner is lost, and could certainly find a way to contribute on special teams if Whitner does return.
Stats: 5'11", 223 pounds, 4.55 40-yard dash, 27 bench reps
With the 133rd Overall Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Bills Select...
DeMarcus Love, OT, Arkansas
In the fifth round Buffalo once again turns its attention to the offensive line and finds another intriguing prospect with DeMarcus Love.
Love played in an intensely advanced system under Bobby Petrino in Arkansas that required him to flip from left to right tackle depending on the play call. In the NFL he’ll have the advantage of being able to settle in at a position and should excel.
The Bills still need a left tackle and Love would be a long shot to take over there due to his limited agility, but at the very least he would provide depth along the offensive line and could even find a home at guard allowing Eric Wood to move inside and improve the center position.
Stats: 6'4", 315 pounds, 5.18 40-yard dash, 27 bench reps
With the 169th Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Bills Select...
Andre Smith, TE, Virgina Tech
The tight end position continues to be a concern in Buffalo and there still isn’t a solid option on the depth chart.
Virginia Tech prospect Andre Smith is a massive player for a tight end and possesses impressive blocking skills. He isn’t the fastest player in the passing game but has decent enough catching mechanics and uses his size advantage effectively in the red zone.
At some point head coach Chan Gailey might still want a flashy pass catching tight end to pair with Smith, but in the meantime the Bills gain a solid blocker in the run game and another option in the red zone.
Stats: 6'5", 269 pounds, 4.80 40-yard dash
With the 206th Overall Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Bills Select...
Chris Neild, DT, West Virginia
Neild is one of few players in this draft to have played in a 3-4 defense during college and now faces questions about his lack of ideal size to be a starting nose tackle in the NFL, but could find a home with the Bills who don’t seem to mind a lack of size and could use depth at the position.
Neild was a great run stopper in college usually demanding two blockers and is known for being a high-motor player.
He should develop into a rotational player for Buffalo and could even be used as an extra lineman in goal line situations. He was also always healthy and excelled academically making him a safe pick who should be a solid contributor long-term.
Stats: 6'2", 319 pounds, 5.06 40-yard dash, 30 bench reps
With the 245th Overall Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Bills Select...
Allen Bradford, RB, Southern California
The Bills already have their coveted pass catching back in CJ Spiller and an all-around guy in Fred Jackson and now with their additional pick late in the seventh round they grab a quick downhill runner from USC.
Allen Bradford isn’t a highly touted player going into this draft and probably won’t ever find a home as a starter in the NFL, but he should find a home as part of a running back by committee scheme and in this case give the Buffalo Bills some punch to help out on 3rd-and-short or goal line situations.
Pair together a thick build, quick feet, good balance and underrated agility and speed and you’ve got a pretty solid short yardage back. Bradford is more than that, though, as he is able to catch passes out of the backfield and knows when to get small and slip through traffic rather than try to power through it.
(By the way that's UCLA's Akeem Ayers on the receiving end of the stiff arm pictured above.)
Stats: 5'11", 243 pounds, 4.53 40-yard dash, 28 bench reps