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Both Lines Will Be Focus Of Draft
The Bills most important draft in years.
by Steve Saslow
April 28, 2006

NFL Draft 2006The Bills are in a major re-building mode. They won't use the dreaded "R" word at One Bills Drive but it is obvious. They have signed a lot of free agents, but they are mostly under 30 with some untapped potential. If Marv Levy and company guessed right on these players, then they have begun to assemble a small nucleus for the future.

That is why this draft is so important, the team needs as much young talent as possible. There are bound to be some misses with the draft and free agency, but Levy and company need to hit on the vast majority of moves to give this team a solid foundation for the future. That is why quantity is huge in this draft. The Bills enter the draft with 10 picks, the most since 2002 when they also had 10. That is when Tom Donahoe went for flash over substance by wheeling and dealing picks, leaving the Bills with only 12 picks the last two years combined. They can match that total this year alone if they do what is hinted.

There is a decent chance that the Bills will trade down in the first round out of the #8 spot. This makes sense. The two main players that I believe they are interested in are DT Brodrick Bunkley and OT Winston Justice. One or both players should be there about four picks later than 8. So there is a chance the Bills may try to move down a few spots, grab an extra pick or two and still get their man.

If not, look for them to take Bunkley at number 8. Both sides of the line are of tremendous importance over the next two days. They eased their needs on the interior of the offensive line on Thursday by signing Tutan Reyes. He should challenge, and most likely win, the starting left guard spot. Offensive tackle is still a concern but Bunkley would be a perfect fit for the one gap spot in Dick Jauron's new defense. Not stopping the run was a huge problem for the Bills last year, Bunkley alongside the Bills biggest free agent signee, Larry Tripplett will help fix the middle of the defense. While Bunkley is a perfect fit, the other big defensive tackle in the draft is not, that is why don't look for the Bills to take the big plugger Haloti Ngata with their first pick.

There is good depth in the draft class of 2006 but only a couple of blue chippers. With D'Brickshaw Ferguson most certainly off the board, the Bills probably won't reach for Justice. He has a few off the field issues that will not be looked at favorable by Levy. He values high character players over anything else, and look for that theme this weekend.

There are several second tier tackles that the Bills can try to get early in the 2nd round. One rumor, has the Bills looking to trade back up into the first round, so they can fill both offensive and defensive tackles in the first round. Eric Winston of Miami is a possibility if they trade up. If not, they may look towards Marcus McNeil or Daryn Colledge to fill the tackle spot in round number two.

Once they address both lines early, they will turn their attention to other needs. In the cover two defense the team will need a lot of cornerbacks. The clouded future of Nate Clements also figures into play here. I do think a long term deal with Clements will be worked out but they still can use more depth at corner, so don't be surprised if they pick one in the first three rounds. They also need to start developing a replacement for Troy Vincent at free safety. With that need in mind it wouldn't be a total shocker if the Bills pick a player that can excel at any defensive back spot. There is a good chance that Michael Huff will be available when the Bills pick in the first round. They may take him and plug up some needs in the secondary and wait for help at defensive tackle. I don't expect that to happen though since the need at tackle is so great but it is an intriguing option.

The team will also probably look to add depth at linebacker, fullback, and defensive end. London Fletcher and Jeff Posey are both free agents after this season. They have solid depth behind them now, but adding to it would not hurt. Halfback is one position that may have been filled just before the draft they signed Anthony Thomas. That deal fills a need behind Willis McGahee although they may still look for a young talent to groom for the future but it isn't an immediate need anymore. Fullback is a position that they can use a young, talented player. I love Wisconsin's Matt Bernstein if they can get him at the right time. They can always use more talent at defensive end as well and if he good wide receiver hits them at the right time that is possible as well.

The future of the team is being built now, when we look back in a few years on this draft class it will go a long way in telling how good the Marv Levy regime's rebuilding project is. If this draft class is a bust like many of Tom Donahoe's drafts, it will make the future as miserable as the last five years have been. If the Bills hit on most picks, and most of their young free agents, the future is very bright.


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