The Bills have many needs to fill in next week’s NFL Draft, and defense remains at the top of the list. But the key question is this: What will the Bills do with their all-important Round 1 selection and third overall pick? Let’s look at some scenarios.
The Carolina Panthers’ offense failed to produce under Jimmy Clausen last year, and unfortunately for him, they may be seeking greener pastures. Clausen is young, and still needs more time in the League to be fully evaluated. But can they really afford to pass on a superior talent with Cam Newton there for the taking? Newton is a high-risk, high-reward type player, but he is a talent the Panthers probably won’t pass up next week. This takes this talented player off the board for the Bills – assuming they were interested as has been suggested in some circles.
The Broncos now have John Elway in the front office, and many feel this automatically means they will lean toward a quarterback. I’m not so sure. Like the Bills, they have many needs but at number two they are likely to have their pick of all the defensive players available. As a DT who can both apply pressure on the passer and stop the run, Marcell Dareus from Alabama may be the best lineman in the NFL Draft. I see Denver making Dareus their pick at the number 2 slot.
This leaves the Bills at number three with perhaps their most important decision of the decade: Do they pick a quarterback as a developmental prospect who they believe can eventually be their franchise player, or do they select the best defensive player available? Or should they select one of the top Offensive Tackles in the Draft, such as Anthony Costanzo out of Boston College?
Von Miller, the talented LB from Texas A&M had 33 sacks over the course of his collegiate career. And despite being slightly undersized by NFL standards, he has tremendous leverage and speed on the edge to go with it, skills the Bills desperately need in their 3-4 defense. I for one would not be upset with this pick as he would represent a significant upgrade at this position for the Bills. Selecting Miller also suggests the Bills will select a QB (e.g. Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, Ryan Mallet, Colin Kaepernick) in round 2.
But the Bills might have been throwing up smokescreens about their reported interest in Newton, and the player they truly covet just may be Blaine Gabbert. What’s the logic for this selection? Ryan Fitzpatrick is 28. He is a good leader, and has improved under Chan Gailey’s tutelage. But the Bills have missed the playoffs 11 (yes 11) years in a row. Gabbert has the prototypical size (6’5”, 240 lbs.), mobility and intelligence to make the transition to the Pro game. He can make all the throws, and with his three years at Mizzou, he has a larger body of work than Newton.
If the Bills believe Gabbert is truly a franchise quarterback, they will make him the third overall pick on Thursday.
For more about the 2011 NFL Draft, be sure to check out the hornface.com NFL Mock Draft.