2014 NFL Draft: Buffalo Bills Spotlight

2014 NFL Draft: Buffalo Bills Spotlight

This is the 25th of a team-by-team series, analyzing five prospects that each team should consider in the 2013 NFL Draft.

With the surprise selection of quarterback EJ Manuel a year ago, Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone quickly proved their willingness to make the gusty pick.

Gutsy doesn't necessarily mean smart. Manuel looked every bit the talented but raw and injury-prone quarterback that he was with the Seminoles. Though fans might be nervous about the position, the Bills aren't likely to invest a second high pick in the position in consecutive years. Nor are they likely to make the bold trade up that some have theorized, given the fact that Buffalo only has six selections in this year's draft.

Whaley sounded confident in the gains his club made in their first year and there is no question that the addition of free agents Chris Williams (OG), Brandon Spikes (MLB), Keith Rivers (OLB) and trade for talented wideout Mike Williams boost the talent on the roster. To make the jump out of the AFC East cellar, however, Manuel will have to show significant improvement in his second season in the NFL. The Bills could help him in that endeavor by giving him more weapons, as well as help along the line of scrimmage.

Buffalo Bills' 2014 draft picks: 9, 41, 73, 109, 149, 224

Primary needs: RT, DE, TE, FS, RB

General manager: Doug Whaley, second year

Five draft picks that clicked:
-- LB Kiko Alonso, 46th overall, 2013
-- OT Cordy Glenn, 41st overall, 2012
-- S Aaron Williams, 34th overall, 2011
-- S Jairus Byrd, 42nd overall, 2009
-- OG Andy Levitre, 51st overall, 2009

Five players who should be on the Buffalo Bills' draft radar:
Player, school (overall rating, position rating)

OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan (5, 2): Marrone is a former offensive lineman and offensive line coach, himself, and there is no question that he values big, athletic blockers in his scheme. He relied upon a run-heavy ball-control offense while at Syracuse and would like to do the same in Buffalo to aid in the developing of Manuel. The Bills appear set at four of the five positions up front with veteran right tackle Erik Pears being the weak link. Should any one of the top three offensive linemen (Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, or Lewan) still be on the board at No. 9, the Bills are likely to stampede. Lewan is ranked third on NFLDraftScout.com's board but could be rated first by some clubs due to his four years as a standout left tackle for the Wolverines. He's certainly athletic to remain in this role in the NFL which could push up his value on draft day. Lewan is a durable tough guy but doesn't always play with the physicality nastiness that the Bills might prefer. His ability to pass protect, however, is impressive and given how defenses now frequently target slow-footed right tackles (rather to generate pressure than relying on attacking quarterbacks' blindside, teams are finding that they need a tandem of tackles and not just an elite pass blocker on the left side, where the Bills already featured a steady young performer in Cordy Glenn.  

TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech (49, 2): Whaley spoke of the NFL's growing fascination with athletic, basketball types at tight ends and how they (along with running backs) can be "great friends to a quarterback." In shattering the FBS record for tight ends with 106 catches for 1,352 yards and seven scores a season ago, Amaro certainly has shown friendly qualities to quarterbacks. At 6-feet-5, 265 pounds with impressive straight-line speed (4.74 seconds), Amaro proved a matchup nightmare at the collegiate level. He is not a traditional in-line tight end and isn't as physical or competitive as a blocker as one might think given his size. He was split out wide on virtually all of his snaps, a role that the Bills have used veteran Scott Chandler. Amaro would be an upgrade due to his greater ball skills and athleticism.

DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina (73, 7): The Bills switch back to the 4-3 under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz could lead to improved numbers for defensive end Mario Williams and pass-rushing defensive tackle Kyle Williams. Right defensive end Jerry Hughes, on the other hand, previously struggled in this role and therefore it is far from certain that the 6-2, 254-pounder will be able to build upon his breakout campaign (46 tackles, 10 sacks) that he enjoyed a season ago at outside linebacker. Schwartz employs a highly aggressive attack which could draw out the talent in the enigmatic Martin, whose Combine numbers compare favorably to presumptive No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and showed steady improvement over his final three starting seasons at Chapel Hill.

RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona (104, 7): Running back could be a surprisingly high priority for the Bills given Marrone's preference to run the ball and the fact that incumbent standouts CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson are each entering the final year of their contracts. The Bills made a preemptive strike at the position by inking former 49er Anthony Dixon to a three-year deal but will likely be looking for a younger, quicker back to complement them. Carey's stock has been sliding during workouts due to slower-than-expected times in the 40-yard dash but he possesses good overall athleticism as well as the toughness and ability to handle third down duties that Marrone and Co. could value. He doesn't shy from contact and is a reliable receiver out of the backfield who will out-play his draft position if scouts fixate on his 40-yard dash time and allow him to slip out of the top 100 picks.

S Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin (133, 4): Whaley said that the Bills were looking to promote from within to replace star free safety Jarius Byrd, who was lost to New Orleans in free agency. Whaley specifically mentioned youngsters Jonathan Meeks, Da'Norris Searcy and Duke Williams as possibilities to start alongside Aaron Williams, who was rewarded with a contract extension during the off-season. Should the athletic, instinctive and durable Southward remain on the board in the fourth round, however, the Bills might have to consider him. Like Williams, Southward is a versatile athlete who could develop into a standout with some technical refinement. He showed unique coverage skills while with the Badgers, showing not only the range to play the deep middle but also the agility and competiveness to occasionally drop down and handle slot duties. Some scouts see him as a potential press-corner conversion. He only played one year of high school football but showed steady improvement during his time in Madison and therefore his best football may be ahead of him.

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