Prospect Profile: Marshawn Lynch
By Brian G
Posted on Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 03:47:10 PM EST

California RB Marshawn Lynch

We have been throwing around a lot of names in the past few weeks about prospects that the Bills may be taking in the first round of the draft. We talk about Patrick Willis, Paul Posluszny, Amobi Okoye, Leon Hall, Adam Carriker... even Darrelle Revis. The focus on defense in the first round is pretty consistent.

From what I observe, the consensus among the community members here is that defense has to be our priority at the top of the draft. When we talk offense at all, it's Brian Leonard or Robert Meachem or Antonio Pittman. Second-round talents.

Cal RB Marshawn Lynch was a hot prospect for the Bills after the Willis McGahee trade, but his name has cooled off in recent weeks. Let's bring him back up now - after all, we still need a RB, and Lynch is the consensus #2 available this year...

MARSHAWN LYNCH - RB - CALIFORNIA
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 218
40-Time: 4.46 seconds
Junior

STRENGTHS: Big-Play Back
- Versatile player who has a wide variety of skills... One of the most explosive rushers in college football the past three years... Plays faster in pads than he times in drills... Has good size and runs with a lot of power... Able to run inside effectively, though by no means is he a "pile pusher"... Has a nose for the end zone... Great instincts and very adept at breaking tackles... Has the elusiveness to hit the edges and the necessary speed to break off long runs... A good receiver out of the backfield with the ability to get even better... Has worked as a slot receiver for coach Jeff Tedford... A pretty complete back with growth potential, Lynch has the look of becoming the centerpiece of an NFL offense.

WEAKNESSES: Durability
- Has never carried a completely full rushing load, splitting time with J.J. Arrington and Justin Forsett... Runs a bit high at times, which results in a lot of shoestring tackles at his ankles... Is not the most elusive player, with just above-average agility... Timed speed is good but not great... Needs to improve his route-running as a receiver... Unproven in terms of blitz pickup... Can be over-fancy at times, allowing defenders to catch up... Has had some problems with the law, although all charges against him were dropped... May not have as high a ceiling as some scouts believe.

NFL COMPARISON: Fred Taylor, Jacksonville
- Don't worry. Lynch is not that frail - he does not have as severe a durability issue as Taylor has dealt with his whole career. But their running styles are very similar, and both backs have similar explosiveness. Lynch is a young Fred Taylor in his prime without the vast injury history.

DOES HE FIT THE "BILL"? Yes.
- Any running back that the Bills add through the draft will undoubtedly be used in conjunction with current back Anthony Thomas. Lynch's skill set meshes with that of the A-Train's very well - Thomas is a steady back who prefers to run between the tackles and pick up positive yardage. Lynch is far more explosive and is much more effective hitting the edges of a defense. He also has more ability as a receiver. Lynch looks like an ideal compliment to Thomas, and he has the ability to carry the full load once Thomas' days in Buffalo are numbered.

FINAL GRADE: 9.1 out of 10

What is everyone's thoughts on Lynch? Personally, he's another prospect that I would not be disappointed with - even at pick 12. Offense would not be my top priority in the first round, but it very well could be Marv Levy's. Would you prefer another offensive prospect over Lynch in the first round? Would you rate Lynch ahead of any of the defensive prospects we've mentioned recently (Willis, Okoye, Carriker, Hall, Revis, Posluszny, etc.)? I'd love to hear what everyone has to say on Lynch.

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Modrak Critiques Willis, Pittman
By Brian G
Posted on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 07:42:47 PM EST

SBN Mock Draft at Field Gulls.

In a sure sign that the draft is irritatingly close - and that the media and fans are oh-so-ready for it to begin - the Bills had a pre-draft press conference today to discuss, among other things, the draft and Michael Turner. (By the way, Levy doesn't see a Turner trade coming.)

Obviously, GM Marv Levy and Assistant GM Tom Modrak had their hands tied a bit and couldn't say much, but some of the things they were able to say were intriguing. For this blogger, I loved to hear what Modrak - who, for all intents and purposes, is the Bills' "prospect guru" - had to say about my choices in the SBN Mock Draft.

As you well know, I chose Mississippi MLB Patrick Willis in the first round. Here's what Modrak had to say about this draft's elite LB prospect:

"He's really fast. In his case his timed speed supports his ability to run on the field. He can run, he can get to the ball anywhere on the field. He'll cover the field. Just by his numbers he makes a lot of plays which sometimes on defense can be deceiving, but in his case it's not. He makes a lot of plays."

This is why I moved up to choose Willis. He makes plays. The Bills, more than anything, need an impact player with their first-round selection. Willis, to me, ranks among this draft's best defensive playmakers, with only elite prospects such as Gaines Adams and LaRon Landry in contention. He is a difference-maker, and Buffalo desperately needs that at the linebacking position. It was nice to hear some good words on Willis from Modrak.

The media also grilled Modrak about my second-round choice, Ohio State RB Antonio Pittman. In the words of Tom:

"We like him. He's a strong runner. He's a break tackle runner. He ran 4.4 at the combine which was a little surprising. He's a 205 or 210 pound guy. He's not that 235 (pound) break tackle runner, but he has that ability. He catches the ball well. He gives you a little bit of everything. If you put the check marks in the boxes he gets them all pretty good."

More good news! This was a bit more of a self-esteem boost for me than the Willis praise. Modrak seems intrigued by Pittman's potential (as are a lot of people drafting in the second-third rounds), and I love that the team sees him as a guy who gives you a little bit of everything. That's exactly what this team needs - but they don't need it right away with the A-Train in town. I am starting to truly believe that the Willis/Pittman 1-2 combo is really the way the Bills should go on draft day.

To read more player critiques (i.e. Brian Leonard, Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch), visit Chris Brown's blog. He's got some nice write-ups from the presser today.

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Levy's Drafts Drive Experts, Fans Crazy
By Brian G
Posted on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 12:30:21 PM EST

Buffalo Bills GM Marv Levy

I remember the Donte Whitner selection like it happened yesterday. There were the Bills at pick #8, sitting pretty with both of the top-rated DTs on the board - Brodrick Bunkley and Haloti Ngata. Talented USC tackle Winston Justice was there as well. If you had asked any Bills fan - literally, any fan - our top two pre-defined draft needs were DT and OT. Heck, even QB Matt Leinart was available - sure, we weren't going to take a QB, but still... it was Matt Leinart.

"With the eighth pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select... Donte Whitner, safety, Ohio State University. The Detroit Lions are now on the clock."

I sort of sat in a stunned, what-the-flip just happened state for a few minutes. Then I wrote down the pick, gazed up at the TV, and proceeded to watch the likes of Mel Kiper and Chris Mortensen trash the pick.

Hours later, the Bills moved back into the first round. Look! The Bills have the 26th pick now, and Justice is still on the board! What a move, Marv!

"With the 26th pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select John McCargo, defensive tackle, North Carolina State. The Carolina Panthers are now on the clock."

Wash, rinse, repeat. More Kiper bashing.

Day 2 was not much different - the Bills were getting quality, value-rich picks such as Ashton Youboty (Day 1), Ko Simpson, and Kyle Williams. But nowhere, according to the experts, had the Bills added an impact player. The Bills' draft was weak, and the team would suffer for it in 2006.

The scary part is, they're half right. We haven't gotten much playmaking from this group. But that's a topic for another discussion.

What is important is that while everyone outside of the Bills organization hated our draft last year, they did produce. Four of our rookies became full-time starters (Whitner, Simpson, Williams, Terrance Pennington), and sixth-round pick Keith Ellison saw significant playing time. The group is vastly intelligent, headstrong and were instrumental to the improvement the Bills showed last season.

Fast forward to 2007. The Bills have the #12 pick in the draft, and our needs are once again defined: LB, RB, CB, and then depth. Order the first three in whatever priority you want; the fact remains that in general, those are our consensus needs.

But Bills fans now know better. As draft day approaches, we scan first-round prospects, looking for the next Donte Whitner. We throw out once-obscure names of talented players who the Bills may consider with their pick. We do in-depth analyses of every player with even an outside chance of landing with the Bills. We don't like being wrong - and let's face it, we were wrong on a lot of the Bills' targets last season.

Marv Levy has made us paranoid. We and all the experts have cited Patrick Willis, Leon Hall and Marshawn Lynch as the "best" prospects for the Bills. Amobi Okoye and Paul Posluszny are becoming popular names as well. But based on last season, shouldn't we be aware that Marv thinks and builds teams differently than anyone can predict? Who could he be targeting as a surprise pick?

So we then throw out those grasping-at-straw names - Robert Meachem; Jon Beason; even Adam Carriker. More are sure to come over the next 10 days. Levy's draft strategy was so left-field last season that it has Bills fans covering their tails, hoping to get so obscure in their selection that - hey! - maybe they'll guess right.

Personally, I love this. As much as we or experts can speculate, no one knows what is going on in the collective minds at One Bills Drive. I love the advantage it gives us - I can guarantee that no team knows what's going on with our franchise; we are a black hole of information. Unpredictability can be used to an advantage in a draft setting. I also love that at the ripe age of 81, Marv is still outwitting GMs much younger than he.

I trust our GM with personnel moves more than any other front office in the NFL, except perhaps Mr. Polian in Indianapolis and Mr. Pioli in New England. I'm willing to put up with the criticism from national media, because I believe that Marv's "crazy" moves are building this team into a winner.

But it is driving me crazy. I still like being right.

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The Dark Horse: Adam Carriker
By Dock Ellis
Posted on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 04:41:17 PM EST

[editor's note, by Brian G] This piece was originally written as a diary for Buffalo Rumblings by esteemed personality Dock Ellis. Dock is among the best contributors here, and he offers a bit different perspective than most on the state of the Bills. This is his write-up on DE/DT prospect Adam Carriker, and how he would be the perfect fit for the Bills.

"That boy was our last hope."
"No.  There is another."
    - Yoda and Obi-wan, Empire Strikes Back

That's the passage that will inevitably play out in my mind on draft day, after Okoye gets picked. (By the `Skins? By his old coach at Atlanta? By - shudder - the Dolphins?) As I've made evident, I'm of the belief that the OBD staff is equipping this team to win the Super Bowl - nothing less - and that they are focusing on the core strength of the team - down the middle, and on the lines. Despite the trade for Walker, they are looking to have a defensive line in which pressure is ALWAYS being generated, and thus is not only talented in the starters, but in each of the (most likely) eight active D-Linemen on each game day. Such defensive line success leads directly to the linebackers and secondary behind them enjoying the same. Mike Brown, in the Bears' 13-3 season, won three games single-handedly (two picks and one fumble recovery for touchdowns in the closing minute of each) behind such an assembled line (and witness the Bears' stumbling down the stretch this last season due to Tank's "incapacitation", and inability to fill the void left thereby).

Okoye is who he is. He is not only is potential-laden, but has been constantly active and successful on the field as well. He's a high-motor guy, with great natural technique and fantastic physical skills, and he's an fantastically bright guy with a great story. He would fit the bill (cough) very nicely, and down the line, it's interesting to speculate how he might evolve - will he be a 3-tech? A NT? However, all such discussion is rather silly right now, as he'll likely be gone in the single-digits.

Branch is not really an option. He gets overwhelmed too often at the point of attack for being so big and nimble. He also lacks the focus on the field that OBD is making a cornerstone of this team. So, I guess that just about does it for premier DT options, huh?

No. As Yoda said, there is another...

"Carriker last season led the team with seven sacks and ranked second with 16 tackles behind the line. His 52 tackles led all NU linemen. He excelled with a rare blend of size, speed, strength and agility that allowed him run down ball-carriers despite constant double- and triple-team blocking."
   - Lincoln Journal-Star

Adam Carriker is a native to the Big Red state, but his family moved to Washington when he was three. He was a quarterback his first three years of HS, but just kept growing, and his coach at Kennewick, WA moved him to DE permanently his senior year. He looked at a few Pac-10 schools before deciding to go back home (most of his family is still in Nebraska). He red-shirted his first year there, and had a fairly quiet second year.  He got slightly dinged up that year (a high ankle sprain), which would recur his next year, causing him to miss a game. Despite that, however, he became a focal element of the `Husker rush, getting 7 TFLs and 4 sacks over 10 games (with 8 starts). In 2005, he had become one of the leaders of the Big Red, and was 1st Team All-Big 12 Conference and his team's defensive MVP. He led the Big 12 with 17 TFL.

He only topped this his final season, becoming the Big-12 Defensive Lineman of the Year, Defensive MVP for his team and 1st Team All-Big 12 again, and accumulated 53 tackles, 7 sacks and 16 TFL. And, to be clear, in this final season he almost never would be blocked by one player - in fact, my clearest memory of him is being the strong side end facing a weak side counter run by Oklahoma State late in their game last year (the Cowboys burnt the slow secondary of the Huskers over an over again in a Nebraska loss). He was double teamed by the guard and tackle, bulling inside the tackle and somehow slipping by their guard, and the H-back for Oklahoma State came back and just about clipped him. He was triple-teamed - and still came around to tackle the RB about a yard downfield. Just a stunning performance. He absolutely got entire offensive units to gameplan around blocking just him!

New Era Scouting (probably my favorite of the dubious online draftnik sites) indicated the following interesting tidbits ( for a fuller accounting click here - the following text is my own emphasized points):

Ideal Scheme Role: 4-3 or 3-4 End or Cover 2 Under-Tackle
Competitive Nature/Leadership Ability: Ability is consistently working to become better.  Gained weight in order to play a new position. Is a weight room junkie.
Football Intelligence: A very smart defensive lineman who has played three of the four positions. &Recognizes; and reacts well to screens and draws.
Work Ethic: An extremely hard worker who will sacrifice for the team. Is the first to practice and the last to leave according to his teammates.
Run Defending: Carriker has become a much better run defender since being asked to play tackle and adding weight. May suffer some if he does lose weight.
Strength: A very strong player in the weight room and on the field. Will not be blocked one-on-one for long in the NFL.
Tackling: A very aggressive tackler who uses his base and his arms well. Has true form.

It's no secret that Carriker's stock is soaring. He has played multiple positions at the college level, and to me is one those few NFL prospects that doesn't "need" to lose his versatility on Sundays (ie, Calvin Johnson's TE/WR aspects, Brian Leonard's RB/FB/TE, and so on). He is still capable of growth. He is among the very strongest of this year's prospects, is enormously fast over short distances and is intuitive in his gap penetration, and his biggest weakness is his hand work - something that can be taught much more easily than work ethic, strength, intelligence or schemata. He hasn't needed to push himself, frankly, at any level he's been at, and he most likely has a bundle of bad habits that will need to be cured by whoever drafts him.

But, as a potential mammoth anchor to our defensive line - who would be able to move over to DE if necessary and give versatility his first year, then would grow and develop as he ages - he would bring a ferocity and intelligence, a strength and an instinct, and the ability to make an impact immediately as well as grow over the next few seasons as a player. If we chose him at 12 (which is increasingly looking like a low place for him to go), we would get potential + immediate impact + outstanding work ethic + football smarts + instinct.

We'd also have to endure yet another first-round stretch of Kiper and the Monkey Boys yipping and ripping. But hey, we did that dance last year, and that turned out just fine with me. So when Okoye gets picked, I wouldn't pencil down Willis (or whoever) as a Bill just yet. There's the possibility Marv and the gang will get an even bigger uproar going this year - and it will be the "other" premium Tampa-2 DT.

And suddenly, next year, when our run defense starts reaching the highest echelons of the NFL, you'll be thankful...

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Hargrove, Anderson Sign Tenders
By Brian G
Posted on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 03:50:44 PM EST

DE Anthony Hargrove

Finally! Some solid, "for sure" news coming out of One Bills Drive. The club announced that defensive end Anthony Hargrove and defensive tackle Tim Anderson both signed their qualifying offers, meaning that both will be back with the Bills in 2007 on one-year deals. Both would also become unrestricted free agents after next season.

Hargrove, acquired in a mid-season trade with the St. Louis Rams last season, quickly asserted himself as an athletic presence - as well as a vocal leader. Anderson has been with the Bills for four years, but finds himself in a crowded tackle rotation that includes Larry Tripplett, Kyle Williams, Darwin Walker and John McCargo.

At this juncture, Hargrove will be counted on to be Buffalo's pass-rushing fourth defensive end. Hargrove played a lot of defensive tackle in passing situations last season, but should see much more time at end in that rotation now that Buffalo's depth is a bit more solid inside. Anderson, in my opinion, will not make the team in 2007 - although if anything were to happen to one of our four current players at the position, he would easily be the best free agent to bring in. We saw a similar situation last season when Jim Leonhard was signed after the Troy Vincent release.

Good to see Hargrove and to an extent Anderson back in the fold. The depth along the defensive line, with everyone now signed, is pretty impressive - we have four legitimate defensive ends and five legitimate defensive tackles.

The official story can be viewed at BuffaloBills.com.

Thoughts?

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Turner's Agent: No Trade Coming
By Brian G
Posted on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 09:21:36 AM EST

Chargers RB Michael Turner

Reports have surfaced this morning in The Tennessean that a potential trade for Chargers running back Michael Turner does not appear imminent. From the article:

Obviously it is not too early to close the book on a potential Turner deal. This may be Turner's agent pushing to get something done; it may also be Turner's agent spouting the truth. I have maintained all along that any trade involving Turner would not happen until draft day, and Turner's agent did say that something could still happen on the weekend of the 28/29th.

My belief is that the holdup on the Turner deal does not rest solely on compensation in terms of a trade - it likely has a large part to do with a potential deal between Turner's reps and either of these teams as well. I have a gut feeling that even if a trade were completed, it would be hard to get Turner to sign an extension and report to camp - the Turner camp is likely looking for overly large quantities of guaranteed money. I am guessing that this problem is just as much of a hang-up in negotiations as trade compensation between these franchises.

The Turner situation is well-documented. The Chargers have slapped the highly-touted RFA with the highest tender possible, meaning that any team that signed Turner to an offer sheet would have to sacrifice a 1st- and 3rd-round pick as compensation in the deal. This has lead teams to pursue trades in an attempt to save draft picks while still getting the solid young running back. For a full synopsis of the entire situation, read Geronimo's fantastic diary on Turner.

Take a look at the article and leave your comments here, Bills fans. Will Turner get moved this off-season? Do you see a draft-day trade coming? How hard will it be to get Turner to sign a deal should he be traded? I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this matter... very interesting developments this morning.

Here's the agent's quotes from the article:

"As of right now, it looks like Michael is going to be in San Diego," Cook said. "Things could change, and it could happen on draft day, too."

"I don't think that is going to happen either," Cook said of Buffalo. "I don't know what is going to happen. Nothing is happening right now, though."

Update [2007-4-17 11:48:18 by Brian G]:Nick Canepa has written an article on the Turner situation in the San Diego Tribune. Some interesting bits from this new article:

Anyway, the quest for Turner has not ceased, not by any means. But we might not know for certain until draft day. As Smith says, this is a three-way street between the Chargers, the suitors and Turner's agent.

This seems to refute the article mentioned above, and confirms the Dock Ellis opinion that Turner's agent was just blowing smoke. Although, I suppose this could just be Smith in denial about the willingness of Turner's suitors to part ways with too much ammo.

“It's still a 1 and a 3,” says Smith, now busy working with his scouts on the April 28-29 draft. “I'm flexible. What I mean is that I recognize that a 1 and a 3 would paralyze a team's draft. So work with us.

“Six teams are still very interested. I can only tell you two, Buffalo and Tennessee, because they don't care if it's known. I'm sworn to secrecy on the others. They're trying to stay under the radar. A lot of people are scared to death to let it out. I'm amazed this is going on, but I told them I'd only verify if you come out. Teams love me because of that. I tell them I'd like to have a 1 and a 3 in '07 or '08. You guys decide what it's worth.”

6 teams?! Buffalo is still mentioned as one of the front-runners, but wow - interest is much higher than I had expected. I figured there might have been one or two other teams in the mix; definitely did not see four coming. Anyone care to speculate which teams? Carolina, Philadelphia and the Giants come to mind for me...

Also, is it just me, or does A.J. Smith sound incredibly conceited? It's almost as if he's mocking the GMs who are in the running. It's great that he drives a hard bargain - he's doing what's best for his team; how much will his arrogance prevent future business, however? "People love me because of that." Seriously? Why does he even have to say that? I laughed at first at the outright arrogance there, but now it's just sort of perplexing.

Keep commenting, Bills fans - this story seems to be picking up a bit of steam.

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Tragedy at Virginia Tech
By Brian G
Posted on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 03:19:31 PM EST

Sometimes, world events put into perspective the rather irrelevant drab we speak of on a daily basis. This is a Buffalo Bills blog. We're here to talk about the Bills. In general, news events outside of the Bills franchise don't apply. But the tragedy at Virginia Tech applies to all. In what has been described as the worst school shooting in United States history, senseless violence has ended the lives of dozens of Virginia Tech students. Many more are injured. More innocent people may die.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the students, faculty and alumni of Virginia Tech University, as well as the families of the victims.

To track this horrific event, tune in to Sunday Morning Quarterback.

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Posluszny on Buffalo's Radar?
By Brian G
Posted on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:05:48 AM EST

Disclaimer: this report came from John Clayton at ESPN.com. So take this "story" with a grain of salt. Jay Skurski talks about this story in the Niagara Gazette:

In a recent item on ESPN Insider, John Clayton suggests Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny could be a good fit for the Buffalo Bills with the 12th overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

"The Bills could easily fill a need and take Marshawn Lynch to replace Willis McGahee, but linebacker is also a critical need, following the Takeo Spikes trade," the report reads.

Posluszny has been projected to go later in the first round in many mock drafts, but as the Bills showed last year in selecting Donte Whitner eighth overall, General Manager Marv Levy isn't afraid of taking a player the draft experts have graded lower.

Take from that what you will. In this blogger's eyes, Posluszny has always been on our radar - he is a blue-collar, Buffalo kind of guy. Not only would I not be surprised, I would probably be pretty happy if we ended up with Posluszny on draft day - even at pick #12.

SHOULD WE LAUGH AT MIAMI YET?
Miami's troubles at quarterback are well-documented; we all remember Ryan Denney absolutely owning Daunte Culpepper in Week 2 last season. Reports indicate that Miami is pursuing Trent Green harder than ever in case Culpepper isn't ready for the start of the season.

To me, Green presents more problems than solutions to Miami's quarterbacking problem. Instead of one rusty quarterback with injury problems, the Dolphins would have two if they acquired Green. I don't understand this move much - unless they can get Green cheap.

Miami has a chance to really solidify the position in the draft, however - if Brady Quinn falls to #9, we could be faced with a decade-plus of Marino-like headaches...

CHIEFS OG SHIELDS TO RETIRE
Sad to see one of the best offensive guards in league history call it a career. Shields has been a mainstay on the Chiefs line his entire career, which was highlighted by 12 Pro Bowl appearances. Guards such as Larry Allen and nowadays Steve Hutchinson have always gotten bigger pub, but Shields was better than either of them. KC now has a problem at guard heading into the draft - could Ben Grubbs be an option for them at pick #23?

THURMAN AND THE SABRES
Funny little story this morning on NHL.com about Thurman Thomas and his Buffalo Sabres connection. From the article:

Like many Sabres fans, Thomas has been enjoying the success Buffalo has been experiencing for the past two seasons. And he has his favorite player as well.

"I love Chris Drury," said Thomas, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 5. "Just with what I see of his leadership ability. His ability to lead a hockey team is great. He and Danny Briere (the other Sabres co-captain) have done a great job.

"When Chris got his a couple of weeks ago in their game against the Ottawa Senators, I almost jumped through the TV. I just wanted to go after the guy that hit him. With Chris Drury, he has been a winner every place he has played. He even won a Stanley Cup with Colorado.

"I think this is the year for Buffalo. The Sabres had a lot of injuries and they had guys come up from Rochester and fill in very nicely and have done an excellent job."

To that end, the Sabres face the Islanders in Game 3 tonight in their Best-of-7 playoff series. The game airs on Versus TV at 7:30 PM - so if you're a Sabres fan, be sure to tune in!

Also, if you watch the game tonight - you are more than welcome to use this post as an open thread to talk about the game in real-time. Hope to see a few of you here!

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SB Nation Sports Report: TONIGHT, 8PM EST
By Brian G
Posted on Sun Apr 15, 2007 at 05:43:24 PM EST

Looking to talk sports tonight? Figure you're going to be bored this Sunday evening? Or ideally, can't get enough sports - ever? Be sure to check out the SB Nation Sports Report, the absolutely spectacular podcast produced by SBN bloggers TheSportsGuru and BigBlueShoe. Tonight's topics of conversation include:

NBA Playoffs Breakdown, featuring Matt from Blog-A-Bull and Matt from Pounding the Rock.

NFL/SBN Mock Draft with Tim from Battle Red Blog.

Seriously, dear readers - this is something you won't want to miss. Click the link above - or here - to listen in! 8:00 PM eastern time!

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Assessing Buffalo's Veterans
By Brian G
Posted on Sun Apr 15, 2007 at 01:15:47 PM EST

A. Schobel

If history is a good indicator, Bills GM Marv Levy's draft strategy is a bit different than simply "drafting for need". Last season, despite apparent needs at OT and DT, Levy used his top pick to select (unexpectedly) S Donte Whitner. The pick, as everyone here knows, was trashed by the so-called "experts" - the Bills' need at safety was not as "pressing", due to the presence of veteran Troy Vincent and the recently-signed Matt Bowen. It was believed that depth was needed there - so while Winston Justice, Haloti Ngata and Brodrick Bunkley were the top mock draft choices for the Bills for a solid month, Whitner was Levy's top choice all along.

Levy had the foresight to realize that safety was going to be the biggest need for the Bills all along. Both Whitner and Ko Simpson became starters in Week 2 of the season due to injury, and their play dictated the release of both Vincent and Bowen in due time.

Levy then used his second pick to fill a need by trading back up in the first round to get DT John McCargo. Even while this filled a need for the Bills, the pick was hailed as a "reach" once more. But at the very least, it did prove that Marv was looking to add players at positions of current need.

The rest of Levy's picks were a mix of these two strategies - Ashton Youboty was viewed as a potential replacement for Nate Clements (and also the Best Player Available); Simpson was a depth addition with starter's potential (and also the BPA); Kyle Williams filled a position of need (BPA); Brad Butler was a position of need; Keith Ellison was a future depth/competition draftee; and finally, both Terrance Pennington and Aaron Merz were need/depth draftees. The rest is history with this draft class, as five became starters with two more (McCargo, Youboty) on the way.

We've been over and over Buffalo's needs countless times as draft day approaches - obviously, linebacker and running back are the two most common needs mentioned. But which positions will Marv target for future players as he did with the safety position last season? The following is an assessment of the positions at which Buffalo's veterans are on the verge of being considered "over the hill":

DEFENSIVE LINE
The Bills have four players at this position who will be age 29 or higher next season. All four are prominent names as well - Aaron Schobel will be 30 next season, as will Darwin Walker and Ryan Denney. Larry Tripplett will be 29. While the team has some younger depth players in Chris Kelsay (27), McCargo, Williams, Tim Anderson and Anthony Hargrove, it would not be shocking if Levy targeted some young defensive linemen to develop behind the "wave" of veterans we could be losing in 2-3 years.

OFFENSIVE SKILL POSITIONS
Three of our offensive skill starters will hit the pre-determined age plateau next year: RB Anthony Thomas (30 next off-season), WR Peerless Price (31), TE Robert Royal (29) and TE Ryan Neufeld (32). Take these four out of the equation and we are left with Lee Evans as our only consistent weapon offensively (not that he isn't already). Levy will likely focus on finding weapons for J.P. Losman at a variety of positions this off-season - especially considering two of our projected starters are nearing the end of their careers (Thomas, Price).

LINEBACKER
Believe it or not, our biggest need has a couple of veterans who could be out of Buffalo in the next couple years as well. Josh Stamer wil be 30 next off-season and Coy Wire (a converted safety) will be 29. The presence of these two players and their ages could only magnify the need at this position.

The full list of players and their current ages: RB Anthony Thomas (29), WR Peerless Price (30), TE Robert Royal (28), TE Ryan Neufeld (31), OG Jason Whittle (32), C Melvin Fowler (28), DE Aaron Schobel (29), DE Ryan Denney (29), DT Larry Tripplett (28), DT Darwin Walker (29), LB Josh Stamer (29), LB Coy Wire (28), CB Kiwaukee Thomas (29), K Rian Lindell (30), P Brian Moorman (31).

What's your take, Bills fans? How do you think the veterans on our roster will effect Marv Levy's draft strategy this off-season? My take: Much like last season, I think that Levy is going to target a position in the early rounds that have both need and a future depth issue. My early candidate: offensive skill positions. I expect 3 of the 4 first-day picks to be used on weapons for J.P.

Sound off, Bills fans! What's your take?

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Top-5 "Best Fit" Prospects for the Bills
By Brian G
Posted on Sat Apr 14, 2007 at 04:12:15 PM EST

NFL Draft: April 28-29

Every April it's the same - teams, media "experts", fans and scouts all break down information on NFL Draft prospects. Every year, each person who follows the Draft closely comes away with their "favorite" prospects. FreeSafety36, a valued Diary Writer here at Rumblings, wrote a great diary detailing Draft Prospect Infatuation. You should check it out, Bills fans - he makes a lot of very interesting observations.

To me, what a team does on draft day comes down to a lot of factors - in Buffalo's case, the Bills look for high-character players with good instincts and high intelligence. That's why players such as Keith Ellison and Terrance Pennington were able to hold their own as late-round starters last year. I'm sure there are other traits that factor in as well, but those are some of the big ones.

The biggest factor of them all, however, is fit. How often do you ask yourself, when analyzing a particular draft prospect, "Does he fit the scheme? Does he fit the team's direction?" Or, as I like to (wittily?) phrase it, "Does He Fit the 'Bill'?"

There are a lot of draft prospects who fit the character, intangible, and intelligence molds that the Bills desire that will be passed up because their athletic abilities do not fit the schemes that the Bills employ. Therefore, I thought it prudent to detail the Top 5 "Best Fit" prospects for the Bills.

The following five players made this list based on the following criteria: Fitting the Scheme, Intelligence, Intangibles, Character and any Miscellaneous items I could find. These players were chosen without regard to team needs or potential draft strategy.

1. Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville
In my humble opinion, there is no better fit at any position for the Bills in this Draft than Amobi Okoye. This kid is the real deal - he has adequate size with the frame to get bigger, fantastic speed for the position and the strength of a bull. What's more, he is such a young prospect that his ceiling is a bit higher than any other prospect to come along in a while. He has been described as a very hard worker and a bright kid. Regardless of how the Bills feel about their current DT situation, it is going to be very tough for them to pass on Okoye should he fall all the way to Pick 12.

(Props to Dock Ellis for touting Okoye so boldly in his most recent diary. Dock is another valued member of the Rumblings team, so be sure to check out his Diary series as well!)

2. Leon Hall, CB, Michigan
No cornerback is more perfectly-suited for the Cover 2 than Leon Hall. He has good size and plays a very physical brand of football. He proved doubts about his speed wrong by posting a 4.39 40 at the Combine. Cover-2 corners need to be good in run support, and Hall is second to none in that category among his peers. He is also one of the hardest-working players you'll meet, and appears to fit the mold of a "Marv Levy guy". This guy could be our #1 corner from the get-go.

3. Jon Beason, LB, Miami (FL)
Beason appears to be tailor-made for the weakside linebacker spot in a Tampa-2 scheme. His speed times have been somewhat disappointing in pre-draft workouts, but coming from Miami, there is little doubt that he is fast. He is a bit undersized, but the Buffalo brass does not worry too much about that - Ellison and Coy Wire are prime examples of that. Speed is the priority instead. Beason has more character issues than most prospects, but they seem minor and a professional job may iron those out. I think that Beason would be a very valuable asset to a young defense were he to be drafted.

4. Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee
Every day, I fall more in love with the potential that Meachem possesses. No receiver in this draft (other than a certain Johnson guy) has the elite size-speed combination that Meachem has. His size would allow him to make some of the underneath receptions that Lee Evans isn't best suited for, and could turn him into a good possession threat as well. His speed does not limit him to this, however. Meachem is a good kid, a hard worker and would be a huge weapon for J.P. Losman as the offense matures.

5. Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson
In a Cover-2 defense, the biggest fundamental need to succeed is pressure from your front four. Adams is by far the best pure pass-rusher in this draft. His size may be a bit of a concern to some people, but when has size ever slowed down Dwight Freeney in Indy's Cover-2 scheme? The Bills were among the league leaders in team sacks last season, but often recorded sacks as a result of superb coverage. With a younger secondary minus Nate Clements this year, a more consistent pass rush is needed. Adams would be a terror in Perry Fewell's scheme.

Anyone you'd care to add to this list, Bills fans?

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Prospect Profile: RB Antonio Pittman
By Brian G
Posted on Fri Apr 13, 2007 at 05:23:34 PM EST

Ohio State RB Antonio Pittman

In light of my selection of RB Antonio Pittman in the second round of the SB Nation Mock Draft, I thought I'd throw some information out there about Pittman as a prospect. To me, Pittman is by far the most explosive playmaker remaining in the draft, with the ability to take runs to the distance at any point. His 4.4 40-yard-dash at the Scouting Combine cemented his status as a first-day pick, and put to rest any questions about his explosiveness.

There are some obvious holes in his game. As a junior entry into the draft, many scouts feel that Pittman would have been better served returning for his senior season, where he would have certainly been the centerpiece of the Buckeyes' offense. However, with the emergence of young Beanie Wells at running back in Columbus, Pittman decided to declare early. The result is that while he has a higher ceiling than a lot of players at his position (including, in my opinion, Marshawn Lynch), he is more of a developmental prospect than the top-tier prospects.

To begin with, Pittman is a bit too small yet - his 207-pound frame isn't likely to withstand a full rushing load (although, at least initially, he will not have to worry about that with the presence of veteran Anthony Thomas). He is also underdeveloped both as a blocker and as a receiver. His small frame will likely make him a liability in pass protection and blitz pickup; however, this is again not an issue with Thomas likely to handle those responsibilities as Pittman develops. Ohio State's offensive scheme did not utilize running backs as receivers; Pittman will need to become more consistent and comfortable with running routes out of the backfield. He is underdeveloped in that area, but he certainly doesn't lack potential.

Obviously, the Bills have a huge need at running back with the departure of Willis McGahee this off-season. It is important to realize, however, that the team plans on using a two-back system; therefore, any running back the team brings in does not have to be counted on to "do it all". This is, in my opinion, the perfect situation for Pittman; without the pressure of carrying the entire load, he can help the team out on the field while simultaneously honing his skills to reach his full potential. This kid could be a star.

To display some of his speed and explosion, here is a video provided on YouTube:

Here's what people are saying about Antonio Pittman:

On The Clock Draft has the following to offer on Pittman:

Pittman is a powerful, north-south runner who does most of his damage between the tackles. He is always moving forward and rarely loses yardage. He is a patient runner who will wait for the hole to open up. Once it opens, he hits the hole hard and displays great vision. He runs through arm tackles and can be a difficult player to bring down, gaining a lot of yardage after initial contact. He doesn't shy away from contact and he does a good job of finishing his runs.

A nice article from Scout.com shows a good indication of Pittman's character:

Pittman: "First off this decision was made after talking with my family and it was made for them," he continued. "My girlfriend and I have a young daughter and I want to give them the best. It will be hard because we will have to move to a different city and maybe a new state, but I'm ready for that challenge."

HS coach Claude Brown: "As a player I think his speed gets overlooked. He'll go to the combine and run a 4.4 forty-yard dash and that will open some eyes. He's also a good inside runner. He loves to run inside, find a seam, and bounce it to the sideline. I see him as a first round pick. He'll show the scouts what they need to see and he'll do really well in the personal interviews too. He's the best running back I've ever coached and I've had some good ones."

The Sporting News, in their pre-draft manual, has Pittman ranked as the second-best running back available - even ahead of Cal's Marshawn Lynch, whom they have rated as a second-round talent. Here's their bottom line:

Although Pittman is athletic and has underrated toughness, his thin frame might cause him to slip from late Round 1 to early Round 2. If he adds bulk and improves as a pass blocker, he'll be a fine all-around back.

NFL Draft Countdown has good things to say as well.

What's your opinion on Pittman, Bills fans? If you'd like to rant about my pick in terms of "he should have picked someone else", please refer to the last post. This is a spot to talk about Pittman.

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