10 Draft Prospects Every Bills Fan Should Know About after Scouting Combine
Like watching the draft prospects run the 40-yard dash, the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine came and went in a blur.
The Buffalo Bills certainly had a vested interest in the goings-on in Indianapolis, holding the No. 8 overall pick as a chip to either take a top-notch player or to earn further draft capital to improve the team.
If they hold any sort of value for the combine, however, they may find it mighty tough to part ways with that pick.
That being said, we can't focus solely on the top selection. The Bills have six picks, one in each of the first six rounds, which means six chances to improve their team. Which directions could they be looking after the combine?
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Bills were in need of a wide receiver last year, and since then, they have opted not to re-sign free agent wide receivers Donald Jones and David Nelson.
There's only one wide receiver who is believed to be worth a top 10 pick, and that's Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson. If the Bills want to get good value in the second round, they could look to Patterson's teammate, Justin Hunter.
Hunter blazed up the field at the combine. His 4.44 40-yard dash ranked in the top 10 at wide receiver, while his 39.5-inch vertical jump and 136-inch broad jump were both top five numbers.
There are a few concerns with Hunter, however. He suffered an ACL injury in 2011, but came back to have a dominant junior season for Tennessee, ranking in the top five in the SEC in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He had 31 receptions of 15 or more yards and 10 receptions of 25 or more yards. Physically, he looked great, but teams will have to look into it anyway.
Mentally, however, there were some problems. NFL.com's scouting profile relates some concerns over dropped passes. Teams will always be willing to take a chance on a physical talent like Hunter, though, and if the Bills want the big target, they'll have to get him in the early to mid-second round.
Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Swope was being projected as an early third-round pick before the combine, but after running a 4.34 40-yard dash, his stock could be on the rise a bit. He also finished in the top 10 in the vertical jump (37 inches), the broad jump (125 inches) and the bench press (16 reps).
He has been very consistent throughout his career, and has recorded over 70 receptions for over 800 yards in each of the past three years. His best year came in 2011, with 89 catches for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He's not incredibly big, but at 6'0" and 205 pounds, he's still bigger than most NFL cornerbacks. He knows how to use his frame to gain leverage, though, and is also a great blocker as a slot receiver.
Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
The Bills have to be thinking about Scott Chandler's late-season ACL tear, and how that could affect their prospects at tight end for 2013. They have Dorin Dickerson and Lee Smith, but how do they feel about those guys? If the answer is "not good," they could look to a deep class of draftable tight ends.
I mentioned Rice tight end Vance McDonald as a prospect the Jets should be watching, but the Bills should have their eye on him as well. He put up the most reps on the bench press (31) of any tight end at the combine, and his broad jump (119 inches), three-cone drill (7.08) and 60-yard shuttle (11.63) were all among the top five. His 40-yard dash (4.69) ranked sixth among tight ends.
Safe to say, his stock rose quite a bit on Saturday.
McDonald doesn't have the name recognition of some other tight ends having played in Conference USA, but he ranks second in school history among tight ends in receptions and receiving yards behind Texans tight end James Casey.
McDonald has a similar skill set to Casey, a solid H-back type of tight end who can play in different spots in the formation. His stock has him anywhere from a late second to an early third-round pick.
Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State
Gavin Escobar did not run the blazing fast 40-yard dash he might have liked, running just 4.84 in the revered drill, but he didn't disappoint in other drills. He showed off his athleticism by finishing in the top five in the three-cone drill (7.07 seconds), the 20-yard shuttle (4.31) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.86).
At 6'6" and 254 pounds with 33.5-inch long arms, Escobar is the big presence at tight end with the incredible wing span many teams are looking for. He's not a great blocker, but could be used in an H-back role and be moved all over the field to create mismatches. In an offense that's willing to take advantage of his strengths, he could produce solid numbers.
Interestingly enough, he drew a comparison to Bills tight end Scott Chandler in CBS Sports' scouting report. In watching some film, I would call Escobar a bit more athletic than Chandler.
Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
The Bills may have just added a first-round pick at cornerback, but they could afford to draft another cornerback in an early round this year.
At 5'11" and 192 pounds, Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor is not big, but he's big enough. His measurables jumped off the page on the field in Indianapolis, as he recorded top five finishes in the 40-yard dash (4.39), bench press (22 reps) and 20-yard shuttle (4.06 seconds).
Graded as an eventual starter worth drafting in the second or third rounds, he is just about everything defensive coordinator Mike Pettine loves in his cornerbacks.
Basically, he's at his best in press coverage.
He's even adept at blitzing, having logged 2.5 sacks in 2012 and four in his three years as a starter. His interception numbers won't jump off the page, but with six interceptions and 21 pass break-ups over the past two years, there's enough evidence of his ball skills on tape.
However, there are some questions about his technique, and his ability to help against the run.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
If the Bills want to land Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes, they'll have to do it in the first round.
Rhodes' stock had him as a late-first round pick before the combine, but it may be a bit higher than that now. He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash, which ranked 11th at cornerback. He also finished in the top five in the vertical jump (40.5 inches) and broad jump (132 inches).
Would the Bills really draft another cornerback in the first round just a year after taking Stephon Gilmore? Perhaps we should ask, why not? There may be bigger needs, but in Mike Pettine's defense, talented cornerbacks are essential, and the Bills have just one proven talent on their roster in Gilmore, and even he has something to prove headed into 2013.
Interesting stuff on Rhodes from Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 SportsRadio, who also could see the Bills going with another first-round cornerback:
He has everything the Bills like in their corners. He's big (6-foot-2, 210-pounds), fast (4.43 speed), athletic (40.5" vertical), lanky (333/4" arm length) and physical. He's got experience playing up at the line of scrimmage and pressing receivers. He's been the best cornerback at Florida State since he's been there. With Alabama's Dee Milliner likely off the board by the time the Bills pick, Rhodes is certainly an intriguing prospect to say the least.
Also, don't read too much into his grade as a late-first round pick. Although there's a big difference between the salaries of the eighth and 28th picks in the draft, there may not be much of a difference in the ceilings of those players.
Phillip Thomas, SS, Fresno State
Recently, the Bills released starting safety George Wilson, creating a hole at the position for 2013 LINK.
Unless the Bills plan on inserting Da'Norris Searcy as the starting strong safety in 2012, they'll need to pick someone up. This year's crop of safeties should offer plenty of opportunities for the Bills to fill that hole.
Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas has the physical makeup to be a solid in-the-box safety at 6'0" and 202 pounds, but he also has the speed to cover tight ends. He's not the enforcer type of strong safety some teams like, but he's aggressive in run defense and is a savvy blitzer, as well.
His numbers at the combine were not all that impressive, though, as he ran a 4.65 40-yard dash and put up just 14 reps on the bench press. In fact, he finished in the bottom 10 among safeties in every exercise.
He's listed as a free safety in some areas and a strong safety in others, but B/R's Matt Miller compared him to 49ers safety Donte Whitner. While the Bills couldn't find a fit for Whitner in his years with the team, they could sure use a player like that for Mike Pettine's defense.
Khaseem Greene, ILB, Rutgers
Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene is another player I suggested could go to the Jets, but he could also go to the Bills. With the obvious parallels in Mike Pettine's and Rex Ryan's schemes, expect a lot of that up until the draft.
He's not the biggest linebacker at 6'1" and 242 pounds, but he showed off a boatload of athleticism at the combine. He tied for the 10th-fastest time at the combine at inside linebacker, running a 4.71, and also showed off some quickness with a 4.2 20-yard shuttle and 11.87 60-yard shuttle, finishing in the top five at his position in both of those drills.
Joe Buscaglia of WGR had the following to say of Greene:
Greene is someone that flies around in games and shows up even when you're not looking for him. He's a bit undersized and doesn't time well, but he's an extremely impressive player. [...] the Bills need someone in that mold to come in for the 2013 season.
His versatility could be just what the Bills need to move toward that multiple-front defense; he played outside linebacker as a senior, but could also play outside or inside in the 3-4 (although he's a bit small to play outside and take on offensive tackles regularly).
Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
With all the money the Bills spent at defensive end last year, Bills fans would probably be more than a little peeved with a first-round defensive end. That being said, there's more than enough evidence to go with someone who can play all three downs on the edge of the defense in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 front.
Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan is everything Mike Pettine dreamed of having, but never had with the Jets: a versatile athlete on the perimeter who may not be a stellar pass-rusher, but can get after the quarterback and hold the edge against the run. Not only that, he has the athleticism to drop into coverage, having done so against tight ends and wide receivers alike in the Pac-12.
His combine was stellar, with a top five finish in the 40-yard dash (4.6 seconds), broad jump (122 inches) and 20-yard shuttle (4.35 seconds). At 6'6" and 248 pounds with nearly 34-inch long arms, moving as fluidly as he does is phenomenal.
No doubt, the Bills would have to get him at No. 8 if they want to get him at all, and he may not even be there when they pick.
Cornelius Washington, OLB, Georgia
After piling big money into defensive end in 2012, it looks like the Bills could be in the market for another outside presence for their defense this coming offseason, especially if they plan to build a multiple style of defense.
Georgia outside linebacker Cornelius Washington isn't an elite pass-rusher, but he showed off all the raw athleticism coaches love to see at the combine with top five finishes in every drill he participated in: the 40-yard dash (4.55 seconds), the bench press (36 reps), the vertical jump (39 inches) and the broad jump (128 inches).
Washington doesn't have the versatility right out of the box, and struggles in coverage as noted by B/R's Matt Miller, but he has the size (6'4", 265 pounds, 34-inch long arms) to take on NFL tackles with regularity. His ability to both rush the passer and stop the run will give the Bills a good reason to move Mark Anderson back into a third-down role.
Miller told me that Washington would fit in the 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker, while also mentioning that Washington is a stellar athlete but not-so-stellar football player. After an impressive combine, he could be overdrafted beyond his fourth-round value.
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 specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.