With the time before the draft winding down, predictions and speculation will only increase as to which way the Bills might be headed. There are obvious positional needs that could compel Buffalo to address them early. But the men at the head table with Bills owner Ralph Wilson have surprised the draft "experts" before. Could they have another surprise up their sleeve with pick 11 or 28?
In all likelihood Buffalo's brass at this point has mapped out their three or four most preferred scenarios, with three or four top choices for the 11th pick overall. The 28th pick however, has been mulled over for less than a week. A lot more variables are involved and a lot more changes can come before it.
While a pass rushing defensive end, strong side linebacker and tight end are all pressing areas to fill with new talent, there are other positions that may be more seriously considered if prospects at the more coveted positions are off the board. One of those could be defensive tackle.
Early on in the draft process it was thought that perhaps Boston College's B.J. Raji could potentially fall to the Bills at 11. But after a monster Senior Bowl and testing well at the combine, Raji likely won't escape out of the top eight picks.
"At the Senior Bowl he was ridiculous just blowing up stuff," said Bills scout Tom Roth. "In the one-on-ones he performed well. He showed quickness and power and was blowing up inside run drills. I was looking at running backs and B.J. is blowing up the whole thing. An excellent player."
Raji is clearly in a class by himself in this draft pool, which is why he'll be off the board early. But other defensive tackle prospects could make things interesting come pick 28 for Buffalo near the end of round one if still available.
Missouri's Evander "Ziggy" Hood is a defensive tackle that's been climbing draft boards due mainly to his strong work ethic. With a well-rounded game and a good body type for Buffalo's defensive scheme ruling him out of the equation might not be wise.
"He's got quickness and speed," said Bills scout Brian Fisher. "For an interior player he has a really good motor. He never quits on things. He shows some counter ability rushing the passer. He brings value as a rusher and a run defender. He's a three-technique in a 4-3. He's a quick gap penetrator and they slanted him into gaps. He shows that quickness on the snap and he makes plays."
Some mock drafts have Hood going as early as 23 to the Patriots. The only other first round consideration at defensive tackle is Ole Miss' Peria Jerry, who many have coming off the board before Hood. After a hamstring workout kept the three-technique prospect from working out at the combine, Jerry ran a sub-5 second 40 (4.98), got 28 reps on the bench press and had a 31-inch vertical.
He's not overly muscular, but takes advantage of a quick first step to penetrate and make plays.
Raji's defensive linemate at Boston College Ron Brace isn't quite the talent that Raji is, but he's no slouch.
"They're similar," said Roth. "B.J. is a little more powerful. Ron has a little more length to him, but they're similar in terms of strength."
Brace doesn't penetrate as effectively as Raji and as a result doesn't turn in as many game changing plays, but he's capable of anchoring a run defense and should be a second-round selection.
Overall the defensive tackle class is short on top flight talent. The dominant big men are hard to find. But with a handful expected to go in the top 50 picks, it could represent another option for a Bills club that might not see what it wants at their need positions when they're on the clock, particularly at 28 or 42.