There are plenty of needs the Bills could address, including cornerback, linebacker, wide receiver, quarterback and more. Each of those positions should provide a prospect with good value in the No. 8 overall spot.
With the draft approaching fast, it's high time to get caught up on what direction the Bills could be headed with their top overall pick. Here's a roundup of the recent mock draft selections to the Bills from some prominent analysts.
Selection: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Selecting Johnson would allow the Bills to slide Cordy Glenn to right tackle, where he could quickly establish himself as an annual Pro Bowler. Johnson put together one of the best O-lineman workouts I've ever seen. However, he isn't just a workout wonder; there is plenty of good tape to support his status as a top-10 pick in this draft.
Reaction: Given the team's other needs, the Bills faithful may not be too pleased with an offensive tackle, especially just one year removed from using a high second-round pick on another offensive tackle. Chris Hairston at right tackle and Cordy Glenn at left tackle doesn't look too bad on paper, and both were solid in 2012.
Glenn had ups and downs, like any rookie starting 16 games at left tackle should, but it's worth noting that he gave up four of his six sacks in back-to-back games against the Rams and Seahawks. Besides those two games against tough defensive linemen, he was solid. Hairston stepped in as the starting right tackle when Erik Pears went down with an injury before Hairston suffered a season-ending injury of his own.
If the Bills are going to target an offensive lineman, they should go with a guard, where they could be saying goodbye to Andy Levitre if the veteran departs in free agency. Jeremiah has both Alabama guard Chance Warmack and UNC guard Jonathan Cooper on the board. The Bills could always move Hairston to guard if they think Johnson is worth the pick.
The Bills couldn't even line up at wide receiver tomorrow, and Cordarrelle Patterson remains on the board at No. 8 in this mock.
Selection: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
With new head coach Doug Marrone in Buffalo, his former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib makes a lot of sense for the Bills, but this pick is just too early for him. The Bills need help on defense, but they also need to find an explosive weapon to pair with Stevie Johnson and Patterson can be that guy.
Reaction: Hey, speaking of "can't line up at wide receiver," this pick makes a ton of sense from a need standpoint. The Bills have already allowed wide receiver Donald Jones to hit the open market, and they still have not yet tendered David Nelson.
The Bills were heavily picked to target wide receiver Michael Floyd last year, and Patterson is an even better prospect than Floyd was. Floyd, like Patterson, was advertised to have the ability to win one-on-one matchups on the outside, and while both ran stellar 40-yard dashes, Patterson's speed is much more evident on tape than Floyd's was.
Patterson ranked sixth in the SEC in yards per reception (16.9), but he can also contribute on special teams. He finished with the most kickoff return yards in the conference, and his 28 yards per return was the SEC's second-highest average. The concern with Patterson is that he played just one season at the FBS level before declaring draft eligible.
In Brugler's mock, though, Patterson is the best pick at No. 8. The only need-based picks that seem to fit the bill are Warmack, Cooper and FSU cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who Brugler has going to the Dolphins four spots later.
Selection: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Smith's solid combine workout makes the Bills feel confident about his big upside.
Reaction: Mock drafts and experts are all over the map on this year's class. People can't even agree on whether there's a top prospect to be had in this year's class, and beyond that, the debate is over who that player would be with opinions ranging from Geno Smith to Ryan Nassib to Matt Barkley.
Geno Smith's skill set would be a fit in the West Coast offense (although he thinks he'd be a fit in any offense), which is important because the Bills are likely switching to the WCO under Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett.
The Bills should already have some background on Smith. He quietly improved his numbers every year at West Virginia before an explosive senior season with 42 touchdown passes and just six interceptions, which ultimately ended in a loss in the Pinstripe Bowl to who else but Doug Marrone's Syracuse team. Smith went 0-3 for his career against Marrone and the Orangemen.
Warmack, Cooper and Patterson all remain on the board, but Pauline has Smith as his first quarterback off the board. If Smith is the best quarterback on the Bills' board, it would be hard to justify going in any other direction.
Selection: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Offensive tackles get bumped down a bit if Lotulelei goes No. 1, and that's the case in this scenario. But some teams have Fisher higher than Joeckel, so Fisher could go as high as No. 1 overall. [...] If Fisher falls to No. 8, the Bills shouldn't think twice. He becomes the long-term answer at left tackle, and Cordy Glenn moves to right tackle after a strong rookie season.
Reaction: There is some debate over whether Fisher or Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel is the best tackle prospect in this class. Similarly to my feelings on Lane Johnson, though, the Bills have bigger needs than tackle.
That being said, it's not impossible to find a way to utilize Cordy Glenn, Chris Hairston and a rookie tackle on the same offensive line; it would just mean someone has to move to guard.
At 6'7" and 305 pounds, Fisher has the long-lean build teams are looking for in a left tackle. He moves well for a man his size and excels in pass protection for that reason.
The only prospects left on the board worth taking over Fisher would be Patterson, Warmack and Cooper.
Selection: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the answer in Buffalo and the new coaching regime wants to pick its own quarterback to build around. While Barkley may lack premier physical tools, he is outstanding above the shoulders, has excellent mechanics and is an accurate passer on quick hitting timing routes.
Reaction: Lande has been a big proponent of Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib as the best quarterback in this year's class and sent him to the Cardinals at No. 7. He predicts the Bills to take Barkley with the next pick. As I've written with regards to the Jets, any team looking for a quarterback to come in and run the West Coast offense as a rookie would be wise to look at Barkley.
That being said, what is his ceiling? That's the big question, and one that may not be conducive to him as a top 10 pick. He has above-average football intelligence but below-average arm strength. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the Bills already have that quarterback on the roster in Ryan Fitzpatrick?
Fans who are less fond of Barkley will be upset to know Lande left Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner on the board. From this view, Milliner is a slam dunk at No. 8 if he's available.
Of course, these views could all change at the drop of a hat following the free-agency period. Guess we'll just have to do this again as the draft draws nearer.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.
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