NFL Draft 2011: Elite Pass Rusher Versus Elite Cornerback and the Buffalo Bills

Jeremy Pike@JeremyNPikeCorrespondent IApril 24, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28: Von Miller of Texas A&M works out during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The 2010 Buffalo Bills defense was a mess for the majority of the season. They were the worst defense against the run, and they were not good against the pass. There is no question that the Bills will be focusing heavily on defense during the draft. With offenses throughout the National Football League transitioning to a more pass-heavy attack, the Bills must improve all facets of the defense.

With the third overall pick, they have a very good chance to upgrade their pass defense significantly with one of two players. However, the question needs to be answered: Which is more valuable to a defense, an elite pass rusher or an elite cornerback?

An elite pass rusher can impact every single passing play even if he does not touch the quarterback. His ability to get pressure will influence every snap. The quarterback will always have to identify where that rusher is and get the protection shifted towards him. Once the ball is snapped, the quarterback knows he has to get rid of the ball a bit faster to avoid taking a hit or a sack. Even if the rusher does not get the sack, he could disrupt the throw.

With an elite cornerback, the defense can leave him one-on-one with the opponent’s top wide receiver and not have to worry about the corner giving up too many big plays throughout the season. That corner allows the defense to move a safety around to help cover other players without having to worry about double-teaming the top receiver. That can allow for more players rushing the passer.

The Bills must decide whether an elite pass rusher or cornerback is more valuable because of two players that will likely be available at the third overall pick in the draft: outside linebacker Von Miller from Texas A&M and cornerback Patrick Peterson from Louisiana State University.

Both of these players have the potential to be elite at their positions for lengthy careers. The Bills must choose which will be more important to their defense and which position will be easier to fill when they pass on one for the other.

Von Miller plays a position where a lot of players can be considered great pass rushers. The Pittsburgh Steelers have two of them in LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison. The Dallas Cowboys have DeMarcus Ware. The Green Bay Packers have Clay Matthews. Quite a few teams have good-to-great pass rushers.

There are not as many teams that have great cornerbacks. The Packers are lucky to have Charles Woodson teaching a couple of up-and-comers who could turn out to be great in their own right, especially Tramon Williams. The New York Jets have Darrelle Revis, also known as Revis Island. Free agency has Nnamdi Asomugha, widely considered to be one of the best corners the past five seasons.

There are less great cornerbacks in the league because they play a more difficult position. Patrick Peterson is considered to be a once-a-decade talent because of the combination of size (219 pounds at the NFL Combine weigh-in) and speed  (ran a 4.34 second forty yard dash). Some say that Miller has a unique ability to keep his speed while bending and turning the corner.

Both players would be upgrades for the Bills at their respective positions. Miller would come in and hopefully provide a much-needed infusion into the pass rush. Peterson would come in and provide some stability to a position that was once considered a strength but now is nothing but questions.

With Terrence McGee being injured more and more frequently, last year’s best corner Drayton Florence a free agent, and former first-round pick Leodis McKelvin inconsistent, the Bills could use Peterson to help lock down part of the secondary.

Either way, the Bills look to get a potentially elite prospect at the third overall pick. The front office and coaching staff must choose which prospect they believe will be more beneficial to the organization both short- and long-term.