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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Bills draft preview: Linebacker

By Mike Rodak

Continuing a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:

Position: Linebacker

Current personnel: Kiko Alonso (signed through 2016), Brandon Spikes (2014), Keith Rivers (2015), Nigel Bradham (2015), Ty Powell (2015), Nathan Williams (2015)

Draft need: Moderate

State of the position: Alonso was the runner-up for the Associated Press' NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, while Spikes and Rivers were both strong, value signings by the Bills this offseason. That settles the top of the depth chart, but there is still significant uncertainty at the position.

Spikes signed a one-year, prove-it deal and could be playing elsewhere by 2015. Rivers has battled injuries in his career and must prove he is a durable, full-time player. Even with Spikes and Rivers, the Bills could use an athletic, fourth linebacker with good coverage ability who could step in this season in sub packages. That player could then compete for a starting role in future seasons.

Bradham probably isn't that player. He saw his playing time slip considerably in Mike Pettine's defense last season and it's not clear where he'll fit in Jim Schwartz's scheme. Bradham shouldn't preclude the Bills from drafting another linebacker.

Sweet spot: Second round or later.

Possible targets: Ryan Shazier (Ohio State), Chris Borland (Wisconsin), Telvin Smith (Florida State)