2013 Pre-Draft Visits: Why They’re Important

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Updated: April 19, 2013
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Every year, the NFL allows teams to have 30 prospects visit them so they can work out and interview them further beyond the confines of the NFL Combine or their Pro Days. This would normally be interesting because it is probably a good indication of what GM Buddy Nix and his gang of scouts are leaning towards. It’s especially interesting because in Buddy’s three years as Buffalo’s GM, eight of his nine (EIGHT OUT OF NINE) first, second and third round picks have come from these pre-draft visits (only TJ Graham did not). That doesn’t mean that this is the pool of players that the Bills will select from, but I believe that several high picks and a late-round player will be picked from this group. Buddy doesn’t always tell the exact truth about what he’s going to do, but he always shows his hand (you just have figure out which one is his).

Before I begin breaking the prospects down, the first thing that stood out to me is that Buffalo didn’t bring in a single offensive lineman, interior defensive lineman or cornerback. Offensive line and cornerback have both been discussed by fans and media as positions to target early in the draft. I don’t believe either position will be picked on Day One or Two unless a) Dee Milliner is available or b) Buffalo is absolutely in love with Chance Warmack and think he will go to the Pro Bowl for the next ten years.

 

Quarterbacks

Prospects: Geno Smith (West Virginia), Matt Barkley (USC), Mike Glennon (NC State), E.J. Manuel (Florida State), Tyler Wilson (Arkansas), Tyler Bray (Tennessee), Landry Jones (Oklahoma), Matt Scott (Arizona), Jeff Tuel (Washington State)

We have already written a wonderful article and recorded a stupendous podcast dedicated to the quarterback position, so I’m not going to dedicate too much time to statistics here. Read those. But the fact is that they had nine different quarterbacks visit, and that doesn’t even include Ryan Nassib, who the coaching staff clearly thought they knew well enough not to waste one of their 30 official visits on him. Buddy and the staff have brought in quarterbacks the last few years, as Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins and Brock Osweiler visited in 2012, and Cam Newton, Christian Ponder and the Blaine Train visited in 2011. Nix also said that 2011 was a perfect year to draft a quarterback, but alas, the Bills have not spent a draft pick on a quarterback since Levi Brown in 2010. So the Bills have hosted quarterbacks for these pre-draft visits in the past. But NINE quarterbacks is a lot. Considering that every highly-rated quarterback prospect has been brought in by the team, I still believe that the Bills will be taking one in the first or second round. Smith and Barkley are most commonly mentioned as the candidates to be first rounders, but those two along with Glennon, Manuel, Wilson and Nassib could all go within the first two rounds (Bray and Jones conceivably could as well). It’s really anyone’s guess on who the quarterback will be, but I think it’s safe to say that this year it’s going to happen, and probably early. At times, I feel like it’s going to be Nassib, but at the same time, why use up almost a third of your visits on quarterback if you’re confident in him?

 

Fullback

Prospect: Kyle Juszczyk (Harvard)

Juszczyk is ranked by many pundits to be one of the top fullback prospects in the draft. He played some tight end and H-Back at Harvard, but primarily worked out at fullback at his Pro Day. I’m not putting too much stock into this, but if the Bills do draft him, it will probably be in the fifth or sixth round. Considering that the Bills only have six draft picks right now, drafting a fullback might be more of a luxury pick for them when taking into account their needs. Fun fact: the last player drafted out of Harvard was Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2005. Yay.

 

Wide Receiver

Prospects: Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee), Justin Hunter (Tennessee), Da’Rick Rogers (Tennessee Tech), Ryan Swope (Texas A&M), Russell Shepard (LSU), Zach Rogers (Tennessee)

Receiver is the most interesting position to me in terms of who Buffalo worked out. I was expecting them to bring in more first round-type prospects for workouts, but it turns out that Patterson is the only player of this group who is projected to go in the first round. He could conceivably slip to the second round, as I’m not sure scouts and coaches are sold on him having the Randy Moss-type potential that some people were labeling him with early in the draft process. I think that label may have come with analysts betting that somebody was going to fall in love with his potential, but I don’t really see him as a threat to go in the top 10 anymore. Interestingly enough, Patterson’s teammate Justin Hunter is bigger and was more productive. He could go just about anywhere in the draft, but my guess would be early in the second, a la Brian Quick or Stephen Hill.

Da’Rick Rogers is also a former Tennessee Volunteer, who was essentially kicked off of the team for failing three drug tests (after getting arrested for disorderly conduct outside of a bar before he even began his career there). Rogers was an All-SEC second team receiver as a sophomore, but after those troubles he transferred to Tennessee Tech, where he registered 1207 yards and 11 touchdowns. Most consider him a third round prospect, but it’d be interesting to see where the 6’2 Rogers would be without the off-the-field issues. Zach Rogers is the fourth former Tennessee receiver they brought in. He was largely unproductive in college, but had showed good size and speed in his Pro Day and is probably a late-round prospect. Ryan Swope wowed everybody at the combine with a unexpectedly-blazing 40 yard dash time. I had my eye on him before that, as he served as a very competent receiver/security blanket for Johnny Football. Russell Shepard, object of at least one man’s affection, is a converted quarterback who also tried some defensive back at his Pro Day. He was not particularly productive as a receiver in college, and I’m beginning to think that LSU could never figure out the right position for him (much like Dorin Dickerson at Pittsburgh, or for the Bills, really).

So what does this all mean? I think the Bills are skipping wide receiver in round one. Although there has been a little bit of talk about using their first pick on Tavon Austin, based on the players they brought in, I think they are looking to spend a second or third round pick on receiver. Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers could both be classified as the type of ‘open when they’re not open’ receiver that Buddy has talked about. But just to play devil’s advocate to my own opinion, Buddy has said that he uses the interview to make sure guys check out personality-wise rather than physically. Considering the strange backgrounds and playing histories for some of these players, maybe he just wants to check out some of the more curious cases to see if they’re NFL-ready.

 

Tight Ends

Prospects: Vance McDonald (Rice), Ryan Griffin (Connecticut)

Another surprise of the visiting time period was that the Bills only brought in two tight ends. Tight end is a self-admitted need for the team a) because of the two tight end sets that Head Coach Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett frequently employ, and b) the questionable health of Scott Chandler. McDonald left mouths agape as he showcased a rare combination of size, speed and strength at the combine. Though he went largely under the radar as a college player for the Rice Owls, he had three consistently productive college seasons. Griffin was also productive as a two-time second team All-Big East player. I still think the Bills will go for a tight end in the first four rounds of the draft, but this might be where they go off the (pre-draft visit) board with a player like Gavin Escobar or Jordan Reed.

 

Outside Linebacker

Prospects: Dion Jordan (Oregon), Jarvis Jones (Georgia), Barkevious Mingo (LSU)

This is one position where the Bills essentially brought in exactly who I thought they would. From the beginning of this draft process (especially since defensive coordinator Mike Pettine got on board) I’ve believed that the Bills were either going to take an impact pass rusher in the first round or wait a while on one (or not take one at all). They brought in three of the best pass rushers in this draft, though they all have their negatives. Jones was clearly the most productive of the three players with 14.5 sacks (leading the nation), but many draft scouts have wondered if he has a real position on the field. Neither Jordan or Mingo was even close to as productive pass rushers as Jones, but both present ideal physical frames for a dominant pass rusher. I think the Bills would be satisfied with any of these players at number eight, but I’m not sure any of them are number one on their list.

 

Inside Linebacker

Prospects: Alec Ogletree (Georgia), Kevin Minter (LSU), Jamie Collins (Southern Miss), Ja’Gared Davis (SMU)

In my opinion, the Bills want an inside linebacker to compete in camp, but they don’t necessarily see it as a major need. I think this probably rules out the talented Ogletree (expected to go in the twenties) unless he falls to the Bills’ pick at 41. Minter could have improved his draft position by staying in school, but had an excellent 2012 season that will probably make him a Day Two selection. There is debate over what position Collins is going to play, but he had an excellent senior season with 92 tackles, 10 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. Davis was a peculiar player to bring in, considering some pundits don’t think he’ll even be drafted. He filled up the stat sheet at SMU, but is considered too small and slow by most.

 

Safeties

Prospects: Kenny Vaccaro (Texas), Phillip Thomas (Fresno State), Cooper Taylor (Richmond), Jonathon Meeks (Clemson), Malcolm Bronson (McNeese State)

This group here tells me exactly what I think the Bills are doing at safety. I’m completely ignoring Vaccaro here, who I believe will be taken somewhere between the Bills’ first and second round picks. Buddy (along with many other GMs) has come out and said that this is an extremely deep year for safety and you could draft one that you liked in just about any round. Considering how Buddy drafts pretty strictly based on value, I’m guessing that a round one safety is out of the question (especially when you consider Aaron Williams’ recent move to the position). The other four safeties are considered Day Three-type picks, and I think one of them may be a Bill by the end of next weekend. My guess would be Taylor, who was productive as a freshman for Georgia Tech before transferring to Richmond to continue a solid FCS career.

 

Possible Scenarios

I’m going to give two possible drafts that I think the Bills may do (really, depending on when they want their quarterback):

Draft One

1st – Matt Barkley QB

2nd – Justin Hunter WR

3rd – Gavin Escobar TE

Day 3 – one of the safeties we brought in, OL, Jamie Collins LB (in some order)

Here, they get Barkley (who I believe will be available), they get their ‘open when he’s not open WR’ in Hunter, and they get a tight end who could be an important key to their offense immediately.

 

Draft Two

1st – Barkevious Mingo OLB/DE

2nd – Ryan Nassib QB -> Tyler Wilson QB

3rd – Da’Rick Rogers WR

Day 3 – Ryan Griffin TE, one of the safeties we brought in, OL

The Bills would get a potential impact pass rusher in Mingo, a quarterback to compete with Kolb (Nassib unless he’s not available, then I would guess Wilson is next; I really don’t think EJ Manuel will be on the board here), and a big impact receiver with potential in Rogers.

Of these two drafts, I think the first one is the most likely. I change my mind every day, but today I’m thinking that the Bills like a quarter at 8, and my guess is that it’s Barkley considering who good of a fit he is with Head Coach Doug Marrone’s west coast system.