austin-run2

The Bills are connected to pretty much every quarterback in this draft. Expect for, of course, the supposed best quarterback in this draft. Don’t worry, we still love you Geno.

Along with the Jets and their two picks, the Bills will be one of the most intriguing teams tonight, mostly because if both of those teams pass on our boy Geno Smith, he’ll fall. And then he’ll fall some more. He could then have to wait for a team (likely the Jets or Bills, again) to trade back into the round, and take him somewhere in the vicinity of 25th overall.

If their reported draft board means anything (and as we all know, reported draft boards mean EVERYTHING eight hours before the first round), the Bills could be set to do their part and start Smith’s fall. But surprisingly, they won’t be doing it by taking a quarterback.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that Tavon Austin currently sits atop the Bills’ draft board. Does that smell like smoke? Sure, maybe.

Buddy Nix could be cackling while poking his rival GM voodoo dolls, and aiding his own desire to trade down. Doing so would give him the opportunity to accumulate more picks, but more importantly, both Nix and Doug Marrone could then justify making Ryan Nassib a first-round pick by selecting him in the middle of the round in a spot where his value is a little more appealing. The Rams are the most logical trade partner since they’ve been linked to Austin throughout the draft process after losing Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson during free agency.

Or maybe — oh, maybe — there’s some fire beneath this smoke. The Bills have been linked to Austin throughout the draft process too, and his name being called tonight at the No. 8 spot would be far from shocking. Yesterday in his mock, Mike Mayock — the godfather of draft guruing — gave Austin to the Bills, and his justification was simple:

The more I thought of Austin and the hole the Bills have at receiver — with nobody but Stevie Johnson — the more I said, ‘They’ve got to generate some touches for an explosive playmaker,’ and that’s who Austin is. Forget 173 pounds. It doesn’t matter.

There’s no debating Austin’s explosiveness, and the Bills’ need for said explosion from someone not named C.J. Spiller. He’s dynamic and versatile, and can be used in a wide array of formations, most notably out of the backfield. During his final year at West Virginia, Austin recorded 1,932 all-purpose yards, 643 of which came on the ground through his 72 carries.

The Bills had plenty of chunk yardage from Spiller and Fred Jackson this past season, with 15 runs of 20 yards or more. But stretching the field deep was difficult with the focus solely on Stevie Johnson, as the Bills record a mediocre-ish 44 receptions for +20 yards (22nd).

Currently beyond Johnson there’s T.J. Graham as the No. 2 wide receiver after he was a third-round pick last year, and he began to show some potential — a word you’ll hear once every eight minutes today — near the end of the season. But with a re-loading underway with a new head coach, both Kevin Kolb (or Quarterback X drafted tonight) and Johnson need support.

That’s why Austin makes a whole lot of sense, especially when there’s legitimate reasons to believe the tools that come with his athleticism will lower his injury risk.