The Bills are finishing their preparations for the 2004 draft with some very specific needs. The club needs a quarterback of the future and Tom Donahoe has admitted that they will draft one, probably on the first day of the draft on Saturday. There more immediate needs include wide receiver, defensive end, and depth at tight end, fullback, and cornerback as well as possible safety help. The good news, is this draft appears to be loaded at the need positions especially quarterback and wide receiver.
The Bills pick 13th in the first round of the draft and my best guess is that they won't stay there. One player they seem to covet, and many fans agree, is North Carolina St. QB Phillip Rivers. He has an awkward throwing style but has all the intangibles to make it as an NFL signal caller. His stock has risen dramatically in the past month and it appears he won't get past the Steelers at number 11 for the Bills to land him. Tom Donahoe loves to stick it to Pittsburgh any chance he gets. A case in point is the only time he has traded up with Buffalo was to get Ryan Denney when the defensive end was on the phone with the Steelers waiting for them to pick him. Can Donahoe do it to his old team again? It is a very strong draft class at QB, but if you are looking for a future star you usually can't wait too long to take that QB. With the top two prospects definitely gone, Rivers is an ideal choice if the move up to the 10 spot doesn't cost too much. The Texans hold that spot and may be willing to trade down since their main need is a cornerback and they can easily get their man at 13. My guess is it may cost the Bills their third round pick to move up the three spots, is it worth it? We say yes.
If that doesn't happen we expect the Bills to trade down out of 13. Their next and most immediate need is a speed wide receiver. Experts are saying this may be the strongest receiver class in history. As many as a dozen receivers are expected to be impact players at this level with as many as six going in the first round. The Bills aren't looking for a number one receiver, but a number two as Eric Moulds is entrenched as the go to guy. They can stay at number 13 and take one of the many Williams candidates at the position. Roy from Texas, Mike from USC, or Reggie from Washington may still be around. They can get a burner that will have the same impact later in the first round and get an extra pick in the process. One player being talked about a lot in Bills circles is Lee Evans from Wisconsin. He will be their at 13 but probably gone in the 2nd round. A trade down a few spots will still net the Bills the burner. Evans has been quoted as saying Buffalo would be a perfect fit for him and the Bills have talked highly about the player.
Defensive end is another spot the Bills can go with the 13th pick. The top two prospects may still be on the board when the Bills pick, Kenechie Udeze of USC or Will Smith of Ohio St. could be the Bills pick. This position is the most likely one, which the Bills would take a player at in the 13th position. Tom Donahoe has said on several occasions however, that he is happy with the defensive end spot after drafting Denney and Chris Kelsay in the 2nd round the past two years. A defensive end pick in the first round would be admitting he was wrong in the past two second round selections. Look for the Bills to give Kelsay every chance to win the left defensive end spot and save the position for a later round selection.
If the Bills get Rivers in the first round, they would most certainly use their second round selection on a wide receiver and vice versa. A receiver I like in the 2nd round, or possibly the third round (if they don't trade the pick), is Michael Jenkins of Ohio St. If they need a QB in that round, the only real possibilities are J.P. Losman of Tulane or Matt Schaub of Virginia. Schaub may also be available in round three. We like Losman in the 2nd round if they don't get Rivers.
The draft is a crapshoot after that, the team will try to fill holes on the depth chart. They still need a backup fullback, if not a starter. Right now journeyman Daimon Shelton is the lone fullback on the roster and he was out of football last year. Our mock draft has the Bills taking Arizona St. fullback Mike Karney in the fourth round. If he were there, he would be a bargain. He is the classic blocking fullback and could start as a rookie considering Shelton was out of football last year. A backup tight end is needed with the loss of Dave Moore this offseason. There is a chance the Bills could use their first round pick on Florida's Ben Troupe. He is the second best tight end in the draft and Kellen Winslow Jr. will certainly be gone. A choice in the third round is Arkansas' Jason Peters like our mock draft indicates.
The team will round out the draft with some depth at cornerback and safety as well as possibly another defensive tackle and a return specialist. A guard or tackle is never out of the question either. Day two of the draft will definitely lean more towards the best available player regardless of position but the powers at be will still have the depth chart in mind when making those selections.
It will be an interesting weekend as the Bills can go in a myriad of directions, Tom Donahoe is known as a shrewd personnel man but his last couple of drafts have been suspect up to this point. He needs a homerun this year to get the Mike Mularkey era off to a good start.
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