The past month has begun to show what the Buffalo Bills want with their new coaching regime. The team released veteran defensive leaders in Nick Barnett, George Wilson and Terrence McGee. Additionally, the Bills opted against tendering wide-outs Donald Jones and David Nelson, leading many to believe that wide receiver would be a No. 1 priority upon the beginning of free agency.
However, the front office laid low, re-signing free agent cornerback Leodis McKelvin, while adding outside linebacker Manny Lawson, quarterback Kevin Kolb and defensive tackle Alan Branch.
Wide receiver and quarterback were the two biggest question marks on the roster and now that the quarterback is addressed for the short term, the team has a lot of flexibility in the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft.
If I were the Buffalo Bills’ General Manager, this is how I would utilize the six draft picks.
Round One, No. 8 Overall: LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
Arthur Brown, a two-year starter at Kansas State is arguably the best non-pass rushing linebacker in the draft and has the potential to be consistently voted as an All-Pro. Brown is an athletic linebacker that played middle linebacker for the Wildcats, recording 218 tackles, 17 of which came for a loss, three interceptions and defended nine.
Brown fits the mold of the “linebacker that can cover” General Manager Buddy Nix has expressed his desire for on numerous occasions and is a true three-down player. His ability to play inside while operating 3-4 looks or seamlessly transition to weakside outside linebacker in the 4-3 makes him the perfect option for the Buffalo Bills No. 8 overall selection.
Other Consideration: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
While selecting a wide receiver such as Tennesse’s Cordarrelle Patterson would be an attractive option, the depth at the position is too deep in the 2013 NFL Draft to use the No. 8 overall pick on a boom-or-bust prospect.
Round Two, No. 41 Overall: WR Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech
Da’Rick Rogers’ off-the-field issues have been well documented, after being dismissed from the Tennessee Volunteers football team following three failed drug tests. He transferred to FCS college Tennessee Tech, where he has seemingly cleaned up his act.
At the NFL Combine, Rogers impressed both in drills and interviews, posting a 39.5” vertical and running an official 4.52 40-yard dash. He explained that he was randomly drug tested 10 times last year at Tennessee Tech, which was later confirmed by his coaches.
In his three years as a starter with both Tennessee and Tennesse Tech, Rogers proved he had the “Go up and get it” playmaking ability that Nix covets, hauling in 139 passes for 2,100 yards, an average of 15.1 yards per reception, while scoring 21 touchdowns.
All issues aside, Rogers is a top-five receiver in the draft, and if he can win over Buddy Nix and the rest of the Bills’ front office, he should be the pick at No. 41 overall.
Other Consideration: QB E.J. Manuel, Florida State
Florida State signal caller E.J. Manuel is the most intriguing quarterback prospect in the draft, but also has the highest bust potential. While he would surely be the unquestioned pick just a week ago, the addition of quarterback Kevin Kolb allows the Bills to add another impact player in Da’Rick Rogers while buying time for a quarterback.
Round Three, No. 71 Overall: TE Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
Scott Chandler, the Bills’ starting tight end for the past two seasons suffered a torn ACL in a week 17 matchup against the Miami Dolphins, and his status for the 2013 season is unclear. The fact that the team heavily courted Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis signaled that the team is looking to upgrade the position.
Kelce is one of the most complete tight ends in the draft, as he is a threat as a receiver and is the surest blocker in the class. While he doesn’t have blazing speed, he’s quick and able to move the chains while gaining yards after the catch.
Other Consideration: CB Brandon McGee, Miami
University of Miami cornerback Brandon McGee is an under the radar player that has the measurables you look for at the position. He didn’t have mind-boggling statistics with the Hurricanes, but was a solid contributor and leader for a young team that was dealing with NCAA sanctions. The Bills need to add a body at cornerback, but with Aaron Williams, Ron Brooks and Justin Rogers battling for the No. 3 corner role, a third round pick may be too early to address the position.
Round Four, No. 105 Overall: QB Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio)
With Kevin Kolb under contract for two seasons, the Bills find the perfect developmental prospect to take over the starting role in 2015. Dysert performed admirably, dealing with multiple scheme changes due to a terrible offensive line and receivers that couldn’t get the job done.
In his four years with the Redhawks, Dysert completed 63.8% of his passes for 12,013 yards, tossing 73 touchdowns and 51 interceptions. The 23-year old is exactly the type of quarterback a franchise wants holding a clipboard for a season or two, while he learns the nuances of an offense.
Other Consideration: S T.J. McDonald, Southern California
With Da’Norris Searcy seemingly penciled in as the starting strong safety entering the 2013 NFL Season, the Bills could’ve used their fourth rounder on USC safety T.J. McDonald. While McDonald played free safety with the Trojans, the 6’3” 220 pounder has the ability to play at strong safety and even serve as a nickel linebacker.
In his three years at USC, McDonald racked up 275 tackles, 12 of which came for a loss, broke up 17 passes and intercepted eight.
Round Five, No. 143 Overall: CB Tharold Simon, Louisiana State
LSU cornerback Tharold Simon only has one full year of starting under his belt, but was very productive during his three year collegiate career. The 6’2” 193 pounder recorded 95 tackles, defended 28 psses and intercepted six.
Simon has a long frame and his wingspan measured 32.75” at the combine. That radius is what allows Simon to defend so many passes that are thrown his way. Simon would add solid depth to the cornerback position and is a guy that could quickly see the field on Sundays.
Other Consideration: RB Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
Running back is far from a position of need for the team, but Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell could be an attractive option if available in the fifth. Bell is a horse, standing 6’3” and weighing 230 pounds and could be a perfect complement to the speed of C.J. Spiller.
Fred Jackson had fumbling issues in goal-line and third and short situations and is 32 years old. Bell is a powerful man that would be the perfect fit for a 3rd down back.
Round Six, No. 177 Overall: SS Cooper Taylor, Richmond
6’4” 233 pound strong safety Cooper Taylor has taken the long road to the NFL Draft. After being a contributor at Georgia Tech for his freshman and sophomore seasons (named second-team All-ACC), he was diagnosed with a heart condition. Taylor underwent a procedure and transferred to Richmond, where he became a star.
Cooper is a physical freak that can play both strong safety and nickel linebacker. In his five year collegiate career, Taylor racked up 231 tackles while intercepting seven passes.
Other Consideration: OG Hugh Thornton, Illinois
Many Bills fans are worried about the left guard situation following the departure of Andy Levitre via free agency. However, the team has some versatile offensive lineman such as Zebrie Sanders, David Snow and Colin Brown that will be fighting for the starting job.
The team has four quality, above-average players out of the five offensive line positions, and with Cooper Taylor on the board, the team can survive without a sixth round guard for a season.
Round Seven: Traded To Seattle Seahawks For Tarvaris Jackson