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Prospect value tight in mid-first round

Posted Apr 12, 2012

In any given year it would be considered a huge asset to possess a top 10 draft choice. An NFL club would be all but assured of landing a top prospect that figures to be on the field early and making significant contributions as a rookie. The Bills were the beneficiaries of that scenario last year with Marcell Dareus, whom they made the third overall draft choice. This year, Buffalo again has a very good opportunity to add a major asset with the 10th pick as well even though it will likely be outside the range of the elite group of prospects in this year's class.

"Generally speaking there seems to be six players that are at the top," said NFL Network analyst and former NFL GM Charley Casserly. "Then there’s a second group of players that goes on for a number of prospects."

In the eyes of most those half dozen elite prospects are Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Kalil, Trent Richardson, Morris Claiborne and Justin Blackmon. From pick seven to pick 20 there's a widely held view that the difference between the seventh best prospect and 20th best prospect is negligible.

"I agree with the premise that there might not be a lot of difference," said Casserly.

Buffalo at 10 is near the top of that range of second tier of prospects. Knowing the caliber of player the Bills can get at 10 is seen by many in the know as marginally better than what can be had at 20 leads some draft analysts to make the blanket conclusion that whomever GM Buddy Nix and his personnel staff target at 10 is seen as a reach. Casserly says that thinking is misguided, and that NFL clubs in a position like that of the Bills take a different approach to such scenarios.

“I think what you have to do is get into a mindset of this, first of all you want to take the best player on the board, however it is set up," he said. "You can’t get into a mindset where if you’re picking at 10 that there are six elite players and you’ll be disappointed if you don’t get one of those six. If you’re picking 10 think about if you’re picking 20 or 25 and you’re going to get a good player there. The point is take a step back and don’t be too critical of the players that are sitting there and say they’re not worth the 10th pick."

In addition to outlining the Bills' 'best player on the board' approach to the draft Nix has expressed the willingness before to sit just where they are and make the  pick rather than try to slide up or down the board in an effort to land the best overall value.

The best example of this was Nix's first pick as Bills GM when Buffalo took C.J. Spiller ninth overall in 2010 despite not having a pressing need at running back at the time.

"Personnel executives just try to keep it all in perspective, line the board up with the best player on down the line," said Casserly. "When it comes to 10 you take him or you try to trade back and get into a group.”

While trading back seems like a very sensible option, especially knowing the difference in player value is seen as marginal, that’s exactly why teams down at 18, 19 or 20 would be unwilling to move up. So finding a trade partner could prove difficult knowing teams at the bottom of the mid-first round range would not want to give up anything significant to get a player that isn’t seen as a whole lot better than what they can get where they currently sit.

With most outside observers seeing Buffalo's top two positional needs as offensive tackle and wide receiver are there any prospects fitting of the 10th pick?

“I think Michael Floyd to me is in that next group of players after the top six, so if you’re taking one of them in there then that’s what you have," said Casserly of the Notre Dame. "I think he can be a solid player.

“Riley Reiff is ideally a player you want to take in the middle of the first round, maybe a little lower than that, But if you have to take him what you have is a solid player that will play a long time. I’d start him out at left tackle and make him prove he can’t do it. He’s an excellent technician. He may have some trouble with the real top speed athletic people, but he’s an excellent technician and a good football player. And there are a lot of people that have played in this league with guys that aren’t quite as good as him that have won and gone to the playoffs.”

Reiff has been a popular pick for the Bills in several mock drafts, but using them as a definitive predictor for what Buffalo will do can prove foolhardy.

There really aren't any other receivers deemed mid-first round picks, though there are a few projected to be late first rounders. Other offensive tackles widely seen as mid-first round picks include, Georgia tackle/guard Cordy Glenn and Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin.

“Over time Martin can improve his strength because players should,” said Casserly. “Some players don’t have as much natural strength as other players, but I think he can improve his strength. He’s still a young guy.

“With Glenn I think you’ve got to know your system. If you’re going to play him at guard you can’t ask this guy to do a lot of pulling. If you’re a zone blocking team and you come off the ball and are basically are blocking an area and cutting off on the back side he can do that. He’s a massive big-bodied guy. He’s got 35-plus inch arms and he’s 345 pounds and 6’5”. So he’s not out of the question at left tackle because he’s got the long arms and the mass and the bulk that he can engulf people and the long arms can keep people off the quarterback.”

You can follow Charley Casserly on twitter @charleycasserly.