Matt will be reviewing each team's pre-draft analysis by talking about the draft range of targeted players.
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Buffalo Bills (Last Year: 7-9)
I personally feel like the smartest and most productive use of free agency this year was the Buffalo Bills. They traded some mid-round picks for Marcus Stroud, who is one of the elite defensive tackles in the NFL, as long as he stays healthy. I like the signing of Kawika Mitchell as a weakside linebacker. Spencer Johnson brings depth at defensive tackle.
I felt like Dick Jauron should have gotten mention for Coach of the Year last season. Call me crazy - to go through what he did with all the injuries, a rookie quarterback, and still end up with seven wins is very impressive in my book.
I'm not blowing smoke when I say the Buffalo Bills have the talent to absolutely win the AFC East, and yes, beat the New England Patriots. Likely to happen? No. Is the potential there? I think so.
Right to the Bills range with the 11th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft:
A popular pick has been Malcolm Kelly to the Bills, which I never once bought into, considering the depth in this draft class at receiver. If they were to go with a receiver Sweed is the only one who I could see happening here. I don't think this is very likely to happen, considering Sweed doesn't give much value at No. 11, then again neither did Donte Whitner at No. 8 (in terms of consensus opinion) or trading up for John McCargo at No. 26 both in the 2006 Draft.
Sweed is a sleeper to the Bills here.
Mike Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Aqib Talib, Antoine Cason:
The Bills' second-biggest need is cornerback, though it's not a glaring need. They have semi-adequate starters in Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer. Ashton Youboty has the upside to break out in his third season, but they don't have a lock-down guy, and it's possible they look at this position. The Bills employ a Tampa-2 hybrid defense (meaning some Cover-2 zone, some press man coverage) so the kind of player they are looking for here in terms of a corner is entirely wide open. Talib is the best fit for the Tampa-2 in this draft, but Antoine Cason is not far behind. If they want to look at more of a man-cover corner, Cromartie would be the pick here. Jenkins has some range here, but his character concerns might not appeal to this front office.
If all four of these players were on the board and I had to predict which one, I'd say Aqib Talib with his elite ball skills and instincts, which is what teams that employ the Tampa-2 scheme look for (and it's hard to judge the Bills because they do run a hybrid Tampa-2).
I think the Bills are 80 percent likely to go defensive end at No. 11. One of the two players that should be on the board whom they will consider is Clemson prospect Phillip Merling. I got criticized for being high on him after Mike Mayock put him in his top 10 of his initial big board, yet Merling made my All-Underrated Preseason Team
back in August 2007. Merling's calling card is his aggression toward the run, and I think his player comparison is Patrick Kerney if you are looking for one. He has quicker hips and is a better pass rusher than given credit for. If Derrick Harvey is off the board, I think they will definitely consider Merling at No. 11.
This team is in dire need of a pass rush. Chris Kelsay (28 years old, 2.5 sacks), and Ryan Denney (willl be 31 years old and 1 sack last season) are mediocre talents at defensive end, and must be replaced. If you want to beat the New England Patriots, you need a pass rush. Exhibit A: The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.
Harvey will bring a pass rush. He really bulked up for the Combine at 271 pounds, and this immediately raised his stock to No. 11 overall in my next mock draft. I was worried about his slim frame, but it looks like he has started to mature physically. I think he will get faster and stronger, so that's certainly a positive here. He has the quickest first step in his pass rush of any player in this draft, including Vernon Gholston.
I have called this pick ever since the Combine, and I will not stop with it as long as Harvey is available to the Bills in my mock draft.
Now trust me, Bills fans on the message boards I post on have criticized me time and time again for not giving them a wide receiver in the first round - but I missed the part when it was impossible to draft a productive receiver in Rounds 2 or 3.
Jordy Nelson, Earl Bennett, Early Doucet, and Malcolm Kelly are possibilities in the second round (and yes I think Kelly can fall that far if he is a huge medical/speed concern). In the third-round range I think they should look at Keenan Burton, Mario Manningham, and Harry Douglas if they don't go receiver in the second.
The Bills do have a bit of a need for a center, so Mike Pollack, Jamey Richard, Kory Lichtensteiger, and Fernando Velasco are all whom they could target at center from the third round to the seventh round.
They have a need at tight end as well. Fred Davis and Dustin Keller are in their range at their No. 41 pick. John Sullivan, Martellus Bennett, Brad Cottam, and Jacob Tamme are in their mid-round draft range.
Also, they could look at guard; Jeremy Zuttah and Oniel Cousins have the versatility to play both guard and center, and could be considered in the third or fourth rounds. Eric Young, Roy Schuening, Mike McGlynn, and Donald Thomas are in their mid-round range (3rd-5th) as well.
If they don't take a corner in the first or second round, they might want to try to find a sleeper in the third or fourth round as well with players like Chevis Jackson, Patrick Lee and Zack Bowman.
The Bills are going to come out of this draft as an extremely dangerous football team if they choose some solid prospects. I am telling you right now to not doubt this team; they are looking like the next Cleveland Browns.
Buffalo Bills 2008 Offseason Needs
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