After 24 sacks in 2007 and 26 sacks in 2008, improving Buffalo's pass rush is a high priority. With a thin free agent crop and more consistent pressure a must the Bills have to consider a pass rusher early provided the right value is there.
Bills Vice President of College Scouting Tom Modrak believes the defensive end class for a 4-3 defense is good, though he and his staff are still addressing what players are truly fits for their scheme.
"I think there are some good players there," said Modrak. "I know a lot of people have all the answers, but we don't at this point. I think there are some candidates for that (position). We want to see how they are here and learn a little more about some of them because they're underclassmen, but we think it'll be okay."
One of those underclassmen is third-year sophomore Aaron Maybin out of Penn State. Some wonder if he's capable of holding up as a 4-3 defensive end after he finished last season at 230 pounds. But Maybin showed up at the combine weighing 250 pounds on Saturday, so Modrak isn't ruling him out.
"Absolutely," he said when asked if Maybin could be a 4-3 end. "But that's yet to be determined for us at this point. (Weight) is an issue, no question. And there's also potential for additional weight because he's a young guy. You feel a little more comfortable with that. We're not afraid to play with quote-unquote undersized guys provided they do the job well. But it is an issue we'll look at."
Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo measured in at 6'3" and 263 so there are fewer questions about him as an edge rusher in a 4-3.
"(He's) not a speed rusher, but a pass rusher," said Modrak. "There's a difference. Sometimes I think of edge rushers as an undersized run-up-the-field rusher and he can do more than that."
Florida State's Everette Brown is yet another prospect that some project to a 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker. Modrak thinks he can be an edge rusher, but believes Brown could also be effective in a 3-4.
"I'm anxious to see him moving around here in the drill work," said Modrak. "I think he'll run fast enough and do all those kinds of things, he's quick enough. He's a 6'2" guy right now, under 6'2" actually, but he may wind up standing up for someone. Certainly in a 4-3 situation if he comes in and he can be a situation rusher and maybe more, maybe more."
All three of those prospects figure to be off the board before the middle of round one. Whether the Bills deem one of them a fit for their defensive scheme is an answer that won't be known outside the walls of One Bills Drive until draft weekend. But right now there at least appear to be options to give Buffalo's pass rush some added punch.