With the draft only 10 days away, all signs are pointing towards the Bills taking either Cam Newton, Von Miller, Blaine Gabbert, or Marcell Dareus. In other words, all signs are pointing towards Buffalo passing on the most talented player in the draft class, LSU CB Patrick Peterson.
Out of the four aforementioned prospects, Dareus is the most polished. While he'll need to work on having a bit more consistency overall, he shows up when the lights are brightest and is willing to play all over the defensive front.
I think his best fit is playing the 3-technique in a 4-3, but he can be successful at 3-4 end as well. I have him rated as my fourth overall prospect, but that point will most likely end up being a moot one. Pending a trade out of the No. 2 spot, Denver looks to be very interested in the Alabama product.
As much as I believe last year's 7th round pick Levi Brown is a future starter (which I really do), if I felt that Gabbert or Newton were franchise guys, I wouldn't fault the team for selecting one of them.
However, I feel both may struggle establishing themselves at the next level. Newton has a strong arm and great mobility for a player of his size, but I don't buy into the belief that he's accurate. He can make throws when his targets are wide open, which will obviously not happen nearly as often as it did in college. At Auburn, defenders would come up in run-support to try and limit his scrambling, exposing the secondary to big plays.
His Iron Bowl showing was simply awesome, but I'm not ready to hand the keys to my franchise over to a guy that has shown such poor judgment and integrity in the past (the stolen laptop, academic dishonesty, pay-for-play scandal).
I believe in second chances, but I don't believe that people really ever change. People may be remorseful for what they had previously done and vow not to repeat it, but their actions still paint a picture as to what the individual deems as inherently right or wrong.
Adding money to that equation can only make things worse for a young guy. While his former coach at Blinn tried to dispel any concerns about his character, personally, I'm just not buying into him.
Gabbert was viewed as a late 1st/2nd round prospect before Stanford QB Andrew Luck decided to return for another season. Suddenly, Gabbert is the second-coming of Drew Bledsoe and has franchise QB written all over him.
Gabbert shows some of the raw athleticism and tools, but I feel his pocket presence will hinder his development. He has a tendency to get skittish easily and doesn't demonstrate consistently good footwork as a result. Overall, his deep accuracy is inconsistent, while his short-to-intermediate range is solid.
He's a funny guy to watch tape on, though. There are some snaps where his footwork is horrid and he misfires. On others, he'll throw off balance and put the pigskin right in between the numbers.
If we really felt compelled to take a QB, I'd rather it be Washington QB Jake Locker at the bottom of the first or by possibly staying put at 34th overall. Accuracy is huge for a QB, but I don't feel that Locker lacks touch. I've seen him make every throw with precision before.
He just needs to develop consistency by working on his feet. He has poor foot placement, which causes him to throw off balance and miss open targets. It'll take time and a patient coach, but I fully expect Locker to become a starter with a boat-load of upside.
Von Miller has had a great short season, rising all the way to possibly 2nd overall. However, I don't view Miller as a three-down player at the next level. He's explosive, quick, and has that work ethic you love, but he'll struggle shedding blocks at the next level. His athleticism can get him some sacks, but if a lineman gets his paws on Miller, he's done.
To be a great pass rusher, a player needs to be strong enough to hold the point of attack and bull rush. Miller keeps putting on weight this offseason, but we'll see how he carries it. If I'm taking a rush 'backer that early though, I'd feel much more comfortable if he was 260-plus pounds. He's a good guy and I hope he proves me wrong, but I feel like Miller will also disappoint at the next level.
Patrick Peterson is a difference-maker. Period. Running a 4.34 at 219 pounds, Peterson has an incredibly rare combination of size and speed. Naysayers like to say he's not good in zone coverage, which is pretty over-dramatic. He may not be as good in zone as he is at shutting down receivers in man coverage, but that's like saying Paul McCartney is not as good of a singer as he is a songwriter—he's darn good at both of them!
Peterson is a Day One starter at corner and can immediately contribute as a returner. You wouldn't want him getting too banged up returning kicks, but put him at PR and he's immediately one of the league's best. This would also allow WR Roscoe Parrish to focus on receiver, which should increase his production a bit.
Peterson is also a player that can potentially be a 12-13 year guy. With his build and speed, I would expect him to make a smooth transition to safety once his speed starts to go on him a bit, a la Rod Woodson. He should not only make the switch, he should be productive in that role.
He also has all of the intangibles. He has that competitive fire and confidence you need in a corner. He's a leader, on and off the field as well. Fellow LSU CB Morris Claiborne talked about how Peterson pushed him to work hard in the classroom, as well as giving him tips on how to improve his game.
Most pundits don't view defensive back as a position of need, with the Bills "boasting" the league's 3rd ranked pass defense. However, that stat doesn't really tell the whole story. The Bills' defense was also 31st in passes attempted, with most teams choosing to run the ball at will than throw it.
Terrence McGee is 30 and can never stay healthy anymore. Drayton Florence, also 30, will most likely sign a lucrative deal in free agency. 2008 1st round pick Leodis McKelvin has great athleticism, but is yet to take that next step mentally, struggling with double-moves.
I'm a very big proponent of building teams inside-out, fortifying the trenches first. However, I'm also a supporter of taking elite football players that can impact the game. There are some situations where the jump between need and best-player-available is too wide a margin.
Patrick Peterson is just that good.