When an NFL club has a draft choice in the top five, it often dominates the discussion leading up to the draft. Buffalo's pick at three has been just that for the better part of the past two months. What's been lost in that discussion is the Bills also hold the second pick in round two. Drafting 34th overall is valuable in and of itself, and Buffalo's front office plans to make the most of it.
"We pick second in the second round. You ought to get a good player," said Bills GM Buddy Nix.
The question is what kind of talent figures to be there when the second round commences and what positions will offer the best value?
With the defensive line talent extraordinarily deep there could very well be first round talent that trickles down to the top of round two.
"I've got eight or nine defensive ends with first round grades. Typically four defensive ends go in the first round. So that gives you an idea as to how good I think the defensive ends are," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "The defensive tackles are going to be fascinating especially at the top end. I start looking at kids like Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson an underclassmen. He could be a defensive tackle or a defensive end and he could go anywhere from 25 to 40 and the kid is a heck of a football player. I think he would fit into the first round last year easily and he might get pushed into the second round just because of the quality and depth of the defensive line group."
More specifically Mayock sees quality defensive line talent for teams with 3-4 defensive schemes like the Bills.
"I think there are a bunch of guys, the defensive ends in the 3-4," he said. "You could pick a good one up early in the second round. I think some people are going to look at (Adrian) Clayborn at Iowa, a conversion guy at DE that could play OLB. The defensive tackle Jurrell Casey from USC looks like a late one or early two and reminds of the (Mike) Patterson kid from a few years ago.
"I wonder is (Ohio State's) Cam Heyward going to go in the first round? I don't know. He should. When he's healthy he's a five-technique that's wonderful, but he could slide into the second round."
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper sees additional values that could slip into the top of round two for Buffalo.
"Defensive linemen I have in the second round Brooks Reed the defensive end, outside linebacker from Arizona. I have him going in the late first, early second. Cameron Heyward is a borderline first, but more an early second. Stephen Paea the nose tackle from Oregon State a second. Christian Ballard an end or tackle from Iowa, second, maybe late first. Jarvis Jenkins from Clemson, second round defensive tackle. After that you have Phil Taylor the nose tackle from Baylor, second round."
With a defensive line class so steeped in quantity and quality one wonders if NFL teams at the top of round one with defensive line needs might look to fill other positional holes at the top of the draft feeling they could still get a quality player for their defensive line early in round two. Speaking generally, Bills GM Buddy Nix didn't dismiss that as a possibility for some teams.
"There might be a little drop off the way we see it now," said Nix. "But I really think people can take something else early maybe and then still get a good defensive player in the second round."
Of course if a team like the Bills takes one of the premier defensive line talents early it will lead to filling some other holes like quarterback or inside linebacker. Those two positions don't even come close to the depth of talent at defensive line this year. All told only a few quarterbacks could be off the board and possibly no inside linebackers at all when Buffalo is on the clock in round two.
"The quarterback thing is fascinating," said Mayock. "I don't think four quarterbacks are going in the first round. All I'm going to tell you is Blaine Gabbert is a top 10 pick. That's just my opinion. After that I'm going to try to figure (Jake) Locker out. I'm going to try to figure Cam Newton out. There are seven teams in the top 10 that have quarterback needs, then Minnesota at 12, Miami at 15 and Jacksonville at 16. Then you might not have another quarterback need until Seattle at 25.
"So if one of those quarterbacks doesn't go at 16 there's a chance he could be sliding down to Seattle or past Seattle. If that's the case one of those teams in the top 10 that didn't get a quarterback the first time around might trade back up into the first to get whoever they like. That's a way of saying that I'm guessing that three might go in the first round ultimately."
Quarterbacks that could slip past Seattle at 25 include some of what many consider the second tier candidates at the position.
"Andy Dalton and Ryan Mallett are options," said Kiper. "If you look at Mallett's numbers across the board they're pretty good. Understanding he's got that long stride and you want him in the pocket and when he leaves the pocket he has sloppy mechanics. Some not so good things happen. But he makes some throws every game that wow you. (Christian) Ponder would also possibly be in that second round mix."
"At that point teams are going to take their pick," said Mayock. "There are quarterbacks there who are different flavors that fit different offenses."
Inside linebacker is still another direction that could be taken by Buffalo at the top of round two, and they have a great chance of getting the best player at that position in the entire draft in Illinois' Martez Wilson.
"Clearly the best inside linebacker in this draft," said Kiper of Wilson. "He struggled at outside linebacker early in his career and then had the injury. One hundred tackles this year. Great workouts. He's going to be a guy that goes between 33 and 45 coming off the board."
One final consideration for the Bills sitting at the top of the second round is how much more valuable that pick is than it was just a few years ago. That's due mainly to the new format in which the draft unfolds over the course of three days instead of two.
With more time to formulate and present trade offers to other clubs, teams like New England at 33 and Buffalo at 34 are likely to hear the phone ringing a lot after round one comes to a close.
"With the way the thing is set up now, after the first round you've got all night and the next day before you go again so something could happen then," said Nix. "It's a lot easier to (trade) now with all that time than it used to be."
So whether it's moving back to accumulate more draft choices, taking advantage of a deeply talented defensive line class, adding a quarterback prospect or picking the best of the best at inside linebacker, Buffalo holds a valuable asset at the start of day two of the 2011 NFL draft.