NFL Draft 2011: Power Ranking the Buffalo Bills' Top 20 Options With 34th Pick
Friday evening, April 29th is day two of the 2011 NFL Draft. The Buffalo Bills will be holding the second overall selection in the second round, which is the 34th overall pick.
With all of the twists, turns and surprises that occurred in the first round, it is no surprise that some very interesting players fell down to the second round. This trickle-down effect makes the value of the Bills pick at 34 all the more valuable.
So, if you are Buddy Nix, do you continue to try to build the defense off the heels of adding Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus with the first round pick, or do you address the offense and take advantage of some players that surprisingly fell into your lap?
Then again, for those Bills' fans out there that are forward-thinkers, there is always the chance that the Bills receive phone calls from teams willing to surrender a first round draft choice in the 2012 draft that would ultimately serve as a major bargaining chip for franchise quarterback Andrew Luck.
In some ways therefore, the decision at 34 is just as important as the decision was at number three. We will go ahead and power rank the top 20 options that the Bills have for the second round and demonstrate that they can drop down at least 20 picks and still nab a strong quality player.
To assist with our ranking, my source is the top 100 player rankings of Mike Mayock, Analyst at NFL Network, which was scrolling across the bottom of the screen during the draft telecast. I admire and respect Mayock's work very much.
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Out of the next 20 highest players on Mike Mayock's big board, there are four offensive tackles.
They are Will Rackley (Lehigh), Marcus Cannon (TCU), Marcus Gilbert (Florida) and Ben Ijalana (Villanova).
Their overall rank on Mayock's top 100 list is: Rackley (45), Cannon (47), Gilbert (52) and Ijalana (60).
It should be noted that Cannon has tested positive for a cancerous growth, which he should fully recover from if he treats it straight away. Terrible timing for Cannon, but better that it was discovered at the Scouting Combines sooner than later, before it spread. For an update on this situation, here is a report from Pro Football Talk.
Assessment: The Bills do need help at tackle and if the Bills trade down in the second round, this might be a target position. There is the possibility that one of these four might be there with the pick at 68 in the third round.
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From the group of the top 20 still available, Mayock has two tight ends listed. They are Kyle Rudolph (Notre Dame) and Lance Kendricks (Wisconsin).
Rudolph could have easily gone in the first round, so his drop to the second round is an intriguing option.
Kendricks is also a solid tight end, but not as dynamic as Rudolph. For what it is worth, Mayock ranks Rudolph overall at 34, while he has Kendricks at 39.
Rudolph missed significant time this past year due to injury, so that is probably the reason he slipped down to the second round.
Assessment: Kyle Rudolph would be another major weapon to add to the Bills offensive arsenal. We all saw how effective the Patriots utilized their rookie tight end duo of Rob Gradkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The Bills conceivably could use a tandem of Shawn Nelson and Rudolph if Nelson is finally healthy. Rudolph is a very interesting option and would be the best tight end the Bills would have drafted in a long time.
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Considering that the Buffalo Bills have provided a very strong boost to their defensive line with the addition of Marcell Dareus, would they even think about taking a chance on Da'Quan Bowers (Clemson) and his knee condition to have a truly dominating defensive line for however long Bowers is able to go on his shaky knee?
The knee issue is supposed to be a bone on bone condition that may limit his effectiveness for only a three to five year time frame. According to the risk versus reward theories, how much farther does he need to drop down until his upside or current value outweigh the inherent risks? The other question to ask is how well does Bowers fit in the Bills' defensive scheme. I guess that depends on their hybrid look, going from a 3-4 to a 4-3 depending on who the next opponent is.
Other defensive linemen that are in Mayock's next 20 include: Marvin Austin (North Carolina), Brooks Reed (Arizona) and Stephen Paea (Oregon State). For good measure, just to show you how deep the defensive line talent is, here are two more names that are just outside of the top 20 left, Kenrick Ellis (Hampton) and Jarvis Jenkins (Clemson).
The overall rank of these lineman: Bowers (15), Austin (24), Reed (37), Paea (40), Ellis (56) and Jenkins (61). Reed has really been moving up draft charts, while Austin missed last year at North Carolina but appears to be in shape and ready to roll. Paea of course was the bench press champion at the Scouting Combines. Jenkins was on the South team at the Senior Bowl.
Assessment: Drafting another defensive linemen right after adding Dareus borders on overkill. However, this is the best position of strength in the draft class, so why not take advantage and come out with a great defensive line? Adding Bowers would give the Bills greater depth, rotate guys in and out and keep them fresh. Reed was thought to be a bottom of first round pick, and could play at outside linebacker.
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If Buddy Nix is serious about upgrading the size of his inside linebackers, he has the chance to draft the highest graded inside linebacker with the pick at 34, as Martez Wilson (Illinois) is still on the big board.
Other linebackers still available in Mayock's top 20 remaining are: Akeem Ayers (UCLA), Dontay Moch (Nevada), Bruce Carter (North Carolina) and Justin Houston (Georgia).
Of this group, Ayers and Wilson are the players that have the highest buzz factor. Ayers was considered a first round pick for most of the off-season but dropped down in the final month. It was revealed this week that Justin Houston tested positive for marijuana at the Scouting Combines, which means he will probably drop to either the third or fourth round.
Overall ranking on Mayock's list for the linebackers: Ayers (28), Wilson (41), Moch (50), Carter (58) and Houston (67).
Assessment: Since the Bills missed out on Von Miller, drafting either Ayers or Wilson would be a solid addition. There is a drop off in talent obviously from Miller to either player, but they are considered to be in the top two at their position in the draft class. Both of these players will be better because of Dareus lining up in front of them, which needs to be figured in to part of the equation.
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The Bills also have some interesting options for the secondary starting off with Aaron Williams of Texas. Williams was considered to be a borderline first round pick.
Besides Williams, another highly ranked option is UCLA safety Rahim Moore. Those are the two best options, but there is additional help coming in the form of Ras-I Dowling (Virginia), Brandon Harris (Miami Fla), and Marcus Gilchrist (Clemson).
Mayock's overall grade for these secondary specialists is: Williams (32), Moore (36), Dowling (48), Harris (53) and Gilchrist (64).
Assessment: Aaron Williams and Rahim Moore are considered the best safeties in the draft. If the Bills project a difficult signing with Donte Whitner, this may be the way to go. They at least are allowed to make contact with players again, so Nix may want to engage Whitner's agent tomorrow morning and try to assess if there has been any change of heart, or if he softened his hardball stance on a big salary demand. Dowling is a quality corner and would be Terrence McGee insurance.
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When the Bills drafted Marcell Dareus, and passed on the likes of Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert, I suspect that they were secretly hoping that Christian Ponder would be there for them with the pick at 34. Those plans were quickly squashed when the Vikings made the biggest reach in the draft and snared Ponder with the 12th overall pick. For what it is worth, Mayock had Ponder ranked at 49 overall.
Lo and behold there are at least two, and possibly three strong QB options still on the board, if the Bills opt to go in that direction. The trio is Andy Dalton (TCU), Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) and Colin Kaepernick (Nevada). We have no way of knowing what order these three are ranked on Buddy Nix's big board, but they are all seniors, have plenty of experience and all have strong starting experience.
The Bills can draft one of these three kids, and plant them on the sideline to be the future QB for the team. They would be learning all year under Ryan Fitzpatrick and then be in position to start if Fitzpatrick does not sign an extension with Buffalo. Fitzpatrick's contract expires at the end of the 2011 season.
No matter what type of trade the Patriots wind up executing with the first pick at 33, (if they do in fact trade again), the Bills are still in line to snag a quarterback without having to surrender any other draft picks. There is a remote possibility that they could wait for round three and see if Kaepernick falls to them there, or perhaps consider Ricky Stanzi (Iowa).
Mayock's has the QB's ranked overall as follows: Mallett (35), Dalton (44) and Kaepernick (65). The fate of this trio figures to be one of the major story lines for Day Two.
Assessment: Mallett has the arm to throw in the Ralph, but lacks the mobility that Gailey prefers and has some off-the-field issues. Can Gailey build an offense around Mallett's skills? Dalton's arm isn't strong enough many experts feel, so that leaves Kaepernick as an interesting wild card. He just might be the guy the Bills draft due to his production, mobility and physical skills.
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Final position to address is interior linemen. This is the shortest list of the various positions we covered, as the only player from Mayock's top 20 left is Florida State guard Rodney Hudson. Mayock has Hudson ranked at 43 overall.
For what it is worth, there are a few other linemen ranked higher elsewhere, but not on Mayock's list. Those would be guard Stephen Wisniewski (Penn State) and Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock).
Assessment: Hudson is thought to be a productive lineman, but it doesn't seem like this area is a high enough priority, when there are so many other attractive options available for Nix to select.
Running Backs and Wide Receivers
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You will notice that we did not cover running backs or wide receivers, because those positions are basically set for the Bills and do not appear to be of a priority need. But as Nix fooled us all with the selection of C.J. Spiller last year, I will go ahead and provide the ranking of the backs and receivers in Mayock's top 20 group.
Running backs: Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech), Daniel Thomas (Kansas State) and Mikel Leshoure (Illinois). They are ranked: Williams (42), Thomas (55) and Leshoure (57).
Wide receivers: Titus Young (Boise State), Randall Cobb (Kentucky) and Torrey Smith (Maryland). They are ranked: Young (46), Cobb (54) and Smith (59).
Assessment: We all know the lesson that Nix taught us last year when he drafted C.J. Spiller at a position everyone thought the Bills were completely set at. Spiller was the best player on the Bills board at the time, so there is always the prospect of a surprise pick returning. The Bills have much bigger needs on the team than running back or receiver, so they will hopefully ignore these players in the second round.
Taking an Early Peek at the Third Round
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If you count up the ranked players that I highlighted in the prior slides, it came to one full round, or 32 total players. Since the Bills pick in the third round is at 68, we only need to list four or five more names to give you confidence that a quality player can be found in the third round as well.
Here are five names we have not touched on yet and their overall rank from Mayock: Jabaal Sheard (62, defensive end from Pitt), Edmond Gates (63, wide receiver from Abilene Christian), Leonard Hankerson (66, wide receiver from Miami, Fla), Allen Bailey, (68, defensive end from Miami, Fla) and Orlando Franklin (70, tackle from Miami, Fla). Interesting that three of these five are from the U. of Miami.
Assessment: Wondered if one of Dave Wannstedt's players could become part of the team. There will no doubt be some of the players we listed in the second round group that will fall down to the Bills at 68, so this pick figures to also net a quality player.
Here Is the Power-Ranking List of Top 10 Options for 34
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Who will be the next teammate of Marcell Dareus? Here is my list of the top 20 options for pick 34, starting with options 1-10, which is more of a needs based list. Listed in order of preference, and value. Reminder the golden rule from Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey. Need for quarterback trumps everything else.
1) Martez Wilson - Illinois linebacker
2) Ryan Mallett - Arkansas quarterback
3) Akeem Ayers - UCLA linebacker
4) Aaron Williams - Texas safety/corner
5) Da'Quan Bowers - Clemson defensive lineman
6) Colin Kaepernick - Nevada quarterback
7) Andy Dalton - TCU quarterback
8) Marvin Austin - North Carolina defensive lineman
9) Kyle Rudolph - Notre Dame tight end
10) Brooks Reed - Arizona defensive end/outside linebacker
Assessment: This is a very strong list, top to bottom. Nix can safely trade down and acquire more draft picks and still find a potential starter, which is his goal with this round. Next slide are options 11-20.
Options 11 to 20 for the 34th Pick
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Power Ranking of options 11-20 for pick 34
11 - Rahim Moore - UCLA safety
12 - Lance Kendricks - Wisconsin tight end
13 - Stephen Paea - Oregon State defensive lineman
14 - Rodney Hudson - Florida State guard
15 - Will Rackley - Lehigh tackle
16 - Marcus Cannon - TCU tackle
17 - Ras-I Dowling - Virginia corner
18 - Dontay Moch - Nevada outside linebacker
19 - Brandon Harris - Miami, Fla corner
20 - Marcus Gilchrist - Clemson corner/safety
Assessment: Buddy Nix and staff need to regroup and get a good night of sleep. They can go back to One Bills Drive and welcome the Bills veterans back to the facility. From there they can go about re-adjusting their big board and fielding phone calls from other teams. The Bills obviously have a number of directions they can go, and still draft a very strong player.