Itís draft time and Iím officially excited.
The casual football fan will let this weekend come and go without much notice. Heíll hear a blurb on the news at some point and hear who their local team selected in the first round. This is the same guy who doesnít even know the NFL schedule is out or that veterans will be cut on June 1 in salary cap moves. Heíll be stunned to learn that Kurt Warner will be a free agent and playing elsewhere next season.
Itís different when youíre a football nut. I myself am not much of a college football fan, so my draft knowledge isnít on par with some of the serious draft ďexpertsĒ out there. While Iíve had April 24-25th circled on my calendar for months and Iím already plotting which Bills games I will attend this year (and where Iíll be watching the rest on TV), I fall well short of the fanaticism displayed by hardcore draftniks. I canít give you the 40-yard times of every receiver in the draft. I canít tell you off the top of my head how tall Roy Williams is or the playing weight of Tommie Harris. I canít tell you how many yards Phillip Rivers has in his high school career. I havenít done a single mock draft either with fellow draft geeks or by myself. I havenít grown and styled my hair like Mel Kiper. The scary thing is, there are many people out there who have done many or all of these things in preparation for this weekend (you know who you are Ė get help).
By now youíre probably tired of every football nut you know telling you how the draft is going to unfold. Everyone from football experts on the Internet down to your dental hygienist has weighed in with whom the Bills will draft (for the record, my dental hygienist think the Bills will draft Will Smith but what does she know Ė sheís never been a cab driver). In any event, just to further enrage those who donít like me, Iím going to give you my analysis of the tealeaves Ė enjoy it or not.
Anyone who reads the Internet message boards about the Bills knows that the natives are getting restless after a long stretch without football (and the pain of watching New England win a Super Bowl). Theyíve thought up just about every bizarre scenario possible for the draft from trading up to #1 to trading down for extra picks. Some scenarios say we will trade a player to make a move and nobody is safe from the imagination of some of these fans Ė Travis Henry, Willis McGahee, Drew Bledsoe and Eric Moulds have all been traded in the minds of overzealous fans. About the only thing I havenít heard proposed in a post starting out, ďIf I were Tom DonahoeÖĒ is to trade Rusty Jones and Billy Buffalo to San Diego for the #1 pick this year and a mascot to be named later.
As I see it, none of these wild trades will happen Ė they almost never do. Itís fun to think about blockbuster deals on draft day, but they usually donít happen. In all honesty I donít see the Bills doing much to move from their spot at #13.
The Bills have needs in a bunch of areas and this allows them to get something decent wherever they pick. They are targeting a WR, a young QB for the future, defensive line help (most likely at DE), more options at TE, safety, and FB and depth at CB and OL. While some needs are probably greater than others, the Bills arenít in desperate need of any one of these positions. While it would be nice to fill needs through value in the draft, there are other options if they donít get the right guy at a specific position this weekend.
Because the Bills have a wide variety of needs I believe that they will stay put at #13 and see whom they can get at that spot. Someone will likely fall and they wonít have to trade up. They also wonít need to trade down if they feel they are getting a good deal with someone at #13 Ė theyíre not like San Diego who has so many needs they may focus on volume.
The flexibility the Bills have makes it hard to say for certain whom they will take. Staying at #13 I think they will take one of the top 3 QBs if they are available (Manning, Roethlisberger or Rivers). Thereís a good chance these guys will be gone by the Bills pick, so they could just as easily go with a top WR Ė Roy Williams, Reggie Williams, Lee Evans (itís doubtful that Larry Fitzgerald is still available and Mike Williams has been barred from the draft). This might be the right spot to take a top DE Ė Will Smith or Kenechi Udeze Ė not too high or too low for this pick. They could also go with a TE like Ben Troup or Ben Watson, but this may be a reach at #13. In any event, I think you can see that there are a myriad of options depending on who is still available, so the Bills are in a decent spot.
Because Tom Donahoe is a good player of mind games, listening to his comments on the draft isnít that helpful. Heís said the Bills will likely take a QB on day 1 Ė everyone knows the Bills need a quarterback of the future. Heís said some good things about some of the receivers in the draft and itís no secret the Bills want a #2 guy to complement Moulds. Itís possible that he covets a specific guy so much that heíll move up just to ensure he becomes a Bill, but heís given no signs yet that his sights are set on a single player.
Whatís interesting is that nobody, neither media nor the Bills front office, have said much about the DE position. My guess is that this may be by design Ė donít talk about what youíre looking to draft and let everyone else make assumptions about the way youíll go based on seemingly more glaring needs. Let people talk about WR Ė this draft is very deep at the position and the Bills can get good value in the second round at that position. Let others talk about QB Ė if heís there at #13 great, if not you can look there in round 2 or 3 (or perhaps later) Ė you donít need to break the bank and move up. Stealthily, the Bills can select at DE if they donít like who ďfellĒ to #13.
My guess then?
Kenechi Udeze Ė DE from USC at #13.
Phillip Rivers Ė QB from NC State (if the Bills move up)
Roy Williams Ė WR from Texas (if he falls)
Lee Evans Ė WR from Wisconsin (if the Bills trade down a bit)
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