2011 Draft Preview

A year ago this month, FTRP grew up from nothing – based almost exclusively on Bills draft coverage from the jump. You all liked it, you kept reading. It’s what I know best, it’s what I write about with the most interest. I’m a college football fan and a knowledge sponge – both of those qualities pour over into this blog for, hopefully, your benefit. I’d like to thank every one of my readers for taking their time to take in what I’ve put out over the past year – here’s to many more to come.

On to this year – we’re less than 48 hours out from the start of the 2011 NFL Draft. With the current labor situation still in question, even after courts ruled that the lockout is over, it’s yet unclear whether or not player trades and undrafted free agency (along with traditional free agency) will have any place in this weekend’s events, or if any of the players selected will be able to sign in the near future. Still, with uncertainty abound, there will be a draft and hundreds of former college athletes will be selected by professional clubs to take the next step in their careers and in life.

Buffalo holds the following picks at the moment to utilize this weekend – 3rd overall (1st Round – Thursday), #34 (2nd Round – Friday), #68 (3rd Round – Friday), #100 (4th Round – Saturday), #122 (4th Round – Saturday – Acquired in the Marshawn Lynch trade), #133 (5th Round – Saturday), #169 (6th Round – Saturday), #206 (7th Round – Saturday), and #245 (7th Round – Saturday – Compensatory Pick). That’s 9 picks at General Manager Buddy Nix’ disposal. That number could (and, in my mind, will) go up soon – especially if player trades are allowed before Thursday evening. I still believe that the team will look to trade back from the third overall selection unless they can nab who they, as reported, see as the best defender in this class – Alabama’s Marcell Dareus. Plenty of teams will be looking to move up to grab some talent from the top of this class, so if the pick becomes available, Nix may have some competitive offers to listen to before his time is up. At this point, there is no doubt in my mind that the first three players off of the board – in no particular order – will be Dareus, Auburn’s Cameron Newton, and Louisiana State’s Patrick Peterson. All three would be fits for the Bills, but if they are set on a certain player or position, it’s best to not reach and collect the extra picks if you are given the luxurious opportunity of trading back.

It wouldn’t surprise me one bit, say Newton were to land in Carolina and Peterson become a Bronco, if Nix spends less than ten seconds turning in his selection of Dareus – much like 2010’s draft day scramble to get the card in on his choice of runningback CJ Spiller with the 9th overall selection. Still, there are possibilities that Dareus is off the board by that point, and the Bills could look to move back into the 9-20 range to select another player that they covet. You’ve seen in my past mocks that the team really loves linebackers Robert Quinn and DaQuan Bowers as well as defensive end JJ Watt. I’d be surprised if they moved back into the 9-15 range and took anyone besides one of those three.

Then you have #34’s allure and mystique – where will they go here? A little hint, perhaps, was accidentally leaked out earlier this week by future Hall of Fame wide receiver Andre Reed, who is announcing the team’s second round pick from New York this weekend. Via Twitter, Reed told Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder – widely regarded as a late first, early second round pick – that he can’t wait to call his name Friday night, following that with a vote of confidence from the Bill’s brass. Reed was unaware that this message to Ponder was viewable by literally everyone with access to the internet, and the post was abruptly deleted and removed from the website – not before some Bills fans with keen eyes picked up on it and reported it to multiple outlets. I, for one, would be extremely happy with the selection of Ponder. Though I am a Miami Hurricane fan, the former Seminole is just what Buffalo needs and Gailey already has a strong relationship with Christian, which would help to bring him along in a much smoother manner. Also, don’t rule out the possibility of the team moving up from 34 – back into the first round – to select Ponder if they feel it’s necessary. In my mind, the second round will be spent looking for – either or both, depending on trade situations – a franchise quarterback and left tackle to build this team around.

The questions that many fans have revolve around which positions the team may target after these first two rounds – but really, what do you get for the team that needs everything? Why, everything, of course. There literally isn’t a single position that could not be upgraded in this draft easily by the Bills – so they have a very unique position to be able to go with the best player on the board every time they are up and still come out with needs being filled. In my opinion, the team will take a quarterback, tackle, defensive lineman, two linebackers, defensive back, tight end, and possibly a receiver and runningback – at the very least.

Here’s a few players to listen for when Buffalo picks over the next few days – I think the team has strong interest in each of these kids and will jump at the chance to draft them, when the time is right:

Alabama DL Marcell Dareus

Wisconsin DL JJ Watt

North Carolina LB Robert Quinn

Florida State QB Christian Ponder

Georgia LB Justin Houston

Florida Atlantic TE Robert Housler

Louisiana State LB Kelvin Sheppard

North Carolina LB Quan Sturdivant

Obviously, there’s many, many more that they’d be considering – but I’d be willing to bet that if they had the chance to draft each one of the aforementioned that they would in an instant.

Should be interesting, should be exciting, and as always, will be covered right here following each day. Keep your eyes peeled and enjoy draft weekend – see you all Thursday evening, when I evaluate our first round pick (picks?) and prepare for Friday. Until next time..

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