After the smoke cleared, the Bills will pick 3rd next April, behind the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. Anyone wanting QB Andrew Luck to be there at 3 is going to be sorely disappointed. I’m starting to think there’s a chance he’ll come out now that Harbaugh rumors are swirling, but he still won’t make it to the 3rd pick. Carolina will realize you can’t compound a bad decision in taking Clausen by making a worse decision in ignoring Luck for Clausen. Even if they fail to realize that, Harbaugh is being heavily linked to Denver. I’m sure the newly minted VP of operations John Elway would be very interested in bringing in a successful coach that is currently employed at Stanford, Elway’s alma mater. Even with Tim Tebow’s last stand these past few weeks, I feel there is no way that Harbaugh passes on the pupil he beams about when discussing in press conferences.
I feel the debate will come down to two players: LSU CB Patrick Peterson vs. Auburn DT Nick Fairley. I’m going to give my reasoning behind the pick and I’d like for some of the readers’ thoughts on the situation. I apologize if it’s too soon after a painful 4-12 season to be talking about the draft, but this is part of my grieving process.
This early in January, a lot can change by the time the Bills are on the clock. At this point, I have both players graded pretty close, with Peterson having a slight edge. Here’s where it gets tough.
Peterson is the safe pick. He has a rare combination of size and speed, with the hands of a wide receiver. He is also a sound tackler that can bring the heat as a blitzer. He really is the total package at corner and should lock down one side of the field for a decade.
Fairley is the risky venture. Nick has the ability to create chaos for offenses. He is so disruptive when rushing the passer and can be adept against the run. I feel he can make the transition from DT to the 5-technique in a 3-4 (For those of you wondering, the 5-technique is the DE of the 3-4. He lines up on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle, though differing schemes and play concepts can tweak that a bit). The problem with Fairley is his character concerns. I’ll be honest, I don’t really care that much about him having a reputation for being a dirty player. I’d rather have a guy on my team that’s physically wearing on my opponent than have him terrorizing my line instead. I’m not sold yet that he’s mentally ready to play professionally, though. He’s immature and that’s scary considering how much you’re investing 3rd overall. I just recently found out he has connections to the NFL’s worst work ethic ever in JaMarcus Russell (they went to the same high school, hung out together before, etc). I guess I really don’t know the extent of their relationship or if it really matters at all, it’s just something to keep in the back of your mind. That didn’t make me feel any better, to say the least. All I know is that I would definitely be picking his brain in the private workouts before the draft to see if all of these preconceived media notions of him being immature are more as a result of his reputation for ferocious late hits than off-field antics.
Fairley would by far make the greatest impact day one, assuming he becomes a model teammate and player. He would instantly improve our run defense and our ability to rush the passer. Lining him up with Kyle Williams and Marcus Stroud while rotating in Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson, Alex Carrington, and Torrell Troup is enough to make a fan of defense drool. Again, if he turns out to be a mistake, missing 3rd overall can set this team back another 5 years.
I can make the case for a corner, too. McGee is 30 and hardly plays anymore. Florence is 29 and is a looming free agent. Leodis is all raw talent, but he is yet to grasp the mental side of the game. Peterson has a high football intelligence and passion for the game. He is also a beast returning kicks, just as a bonus.
So do you take the best player available that is also eventually going to be a need or take the gamble and go for the slightly lower-rated guy that can improve two areas of need?
I’m the conservative type and I think I’m going to start printing my “Peterson in ’11“ t-shirts tomorrow. What would you do? Is anyone out there targeting someone else? Speak now or forever hold your complaints.