Draft Preview: 8. Buffalo Bills

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A year ago in this exact same space during this exact same exercise with Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings, I wrote about the the value of selecting a player at a certain position in the draft, and the role that value plays in determining whose name gets called, and when.

Now that concept of value will still highly influence the Bills’ draft plans, and it’s why they likely won’t be drafting a quarterback in the first round unless he’s named Geno Smith. Or maybe even if his name is Geno Smith.

The Bills are on the clock with the eighth overall pick, and with his scattered projections, there’s a chance — albeit maybe a slim one — that Smith will still be available. But as a likely top 10 pick, is he really that far ahead of, say, Ryan Nassib and E.J. Manuel, who will be taken at the very minimum about 20 picks later, and they could fall into the second round?

Maybe, but probably not, and that’s one element that could lead to the Bills passing on Smith, even if he falls. This year in the 2013 edition of our Bills draft prognosticating, Galliford thinks Nassib should be Buddy Nix’s primary target.

1. Let’s get the quarterback question(s) out of the way first. If Smith falls to eighth overall (which may not be too crazy, with his projections so widespread) that pick is automatic, right?

I don’t think it’s automatic at all that the Bills would pick Smith if he were on the board. Obviously there’s plenty to like about Smith as a prospect, but keep in mind that Buffalo’s new head coach, Doug Marrone, was 3-0 against Smith while the head coach at Syracuse. The Bills will be running a West Coast flavored offense, and they’d like to fold in a no-huddle element and some read-option, so that should be where the debate on whether or not Smith is a fit for the Bills begins. I still think that the best quarterback for them to target is Ryan Nassib, for the same reasons that Ryan Tannehill was a fit in Miami a year ago.

2. Will the Bills be aggressive enough in their attempt to land a franchise quarterback that Buddy Nix will trade up to secure Smith? Or will he wait until the second round to draft a passer who can be developed for a bit behind Kevin Kolb (likely Ryan Nassib)?

Nix has only traded one time in the draft, and that was in the third round last year, when he flipped a seventh-rounder to move up two spots for a receiver. He has not historically been the type to move around the board, instead preferring to stand pat and let the draft come to him. It’s possible that the team will move around in some fashion to get the quarterback they want — it would certainly earn the approval of the team’s fan base — but I wouldn’t consider it particularly likely.

3. If Smith isn’t targeted, a wide receiver to both complement Stevie Johnson and support whoever is starting at quarterback in Week 1 would be nice too, and some mocks have speculated about Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson. But are they really top 10 picks? Trading back should be the much more likely direction if a wide receiver is pursued early, and waiting during a deep draft at the position seems even more likely.

Patterson would be far more likely than Austin, as he’s a much bigger player, and Nix likes prototypical athletes from power conferences with good production and tape. He’s really the only receiver I think the team would consider in the Top 10, and I do think he’ll be somewhere on the team’s short list when the pick comes up, though there are prospects at other positions that seem likely to be ahead of him at this point.

4. Then there’s also the possibility of a guard early to replace the departed Andy Levitre. If the right name falls, could taking a guard become an ideal way to both address a need and draft the best player available? Eighth overall seems like the right value for either Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper.

In my opinion, it’s exceedingly unlikely that the Bills will be addressing the offensive line in the first round. If the team valued the guard position enough to take one in the Top 10, then they’d have just paid Levitre the going rate and been done with it, so I don’t think Warmack and Cooper will be on the short list (though Cooper’s potential as a center could change my mind there, given that Eric Wood is entering a contract year).

They won’t be taking a tackle; they like Cordy Glenn as the long-term left tackle and have solid options on the right side. If one of those top three tackles (Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, or Lane Johnson) were to be available, I’d think that the team would work the phones hard to try to trade down. They will probably draft a lineman at some point to add competitive depth in the wake of Levitre’s departure, but I seriously doubt that’ll happen at No. 8.

5. What other needs should be addressed in the mid-to-late rounds?

Linebacker is a huge need. They need a three-down linebacker or two, and they could even use a pass-rushing linebacker to slide into Mike Pettine’s hybrid defense. Names like Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, Jarvis Jones, and Alec Ogletree will absolutely be first-round considerations.

Don’t sleep on the safety position, either. The Bills loved Mark Barron last year, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they took Kenny Vaccaro in the first round. They’ll be adding a safety at some point, without question. They’ve also been sniffing around pass-catching tight ends (Rice’s Vance McDonald in particular), and could use another cornerback at some point too.