- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
So what direction should the Bills go in the first round?
Buffalo should focus on the defensive side of the football. You don't want to peg a team this early, especially since Buffalo could use upgrades in several areas. But I have a hard time seeing the Bills ignoring their defense early in the draft. Their 3-4 scheme hasn't worked all year. The Bills can't stop the run consistently or rush the passer.
I think the defensive line will be fine. Buffalo spent the No. 3 overall pick on Marcell Dareus last year and will have former Pro Bowler Kyle Williams returning from injury. What I think the Bills need most is an impact outside linebacker. Someone who can get to the quarterback and be a difference-maker against the run. Buffalo thought Shawne Merriman could return to form and still be that player, and that hasn't been the case.
The problem is finding a 3-4 outside linebacker always is a challenge. Often teams project college defensive ends to make the switch, which can be hit or miss. See Aaron Maybin in Buffalo.
Another option is to upgrade Buffalo's secondary. The Bills don't have a lot of impact players on the back end. I think they're OK but not great at corner, although former first-round pick Leodis McKelvin has been a disappointment. The Bills like 2011 second-round pick Aaron Williams and have high hopes for him. The team also could look at safety. I like George Wilson and Jairus Byrd. Wilson was having perhaps the best year of his career until his recent injury and Byrd makes plays but also has been hurt. If Buffalo targets another safety, perhaps Alabama's Mark Barron, to pair with one of those players or add depth next year, it might work.
A dark-horse option could be Okalahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Buffalo's top receiver -- Steve Johnson -- will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. It is not a lock that Johnson returns, and that could leave a big void in the passing game. The Bills just gave quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a $59 million extension and want to make sure he has enough weapons around him. If Buffalo doesn't want to use the franchise tag on Johnson and can't agree on a long-term contract, wide receiver could suddenly be a target.
The Bills are at No. 13 now, but there is a chance Buffalo finishes with a top-10 pick by season's end. They have lost five in a row and will be underdogs in most of their remaining games.
Here is Buffalo's schedule:
Dec. 11: at San Diego (5-7)
Dec. 18: vs. Miami (4-8)
Dec. 24: vs. Denver (7-5)
Jan. 1: at New England (9-3)