Buffalo's defense made its share of strides in 2008 from the season before. Ranking 31st in 2007, the Bills finished 14th overall this past year and made big improvements in third down defense, pass defense and first downs allowed. But with the loss of Angelo Crowell and a second straight season with a subpar pass rush, the front seven could be addressed early come draft weekend.
"If it can help our football team, absolutely," said Bills COO/GM Russ Brandon. "We never get into specifics (publicly), but we're always looking to improve our football team, and if that's an area that we can improve upon we will."
Brandon believes they'll already be on the right track with the return of the team's top pass rusher in Aaron Schobel. After his Lisfranc foot injury healed well enough to avoid offseason surgery it's believed he'll return to form in 2009.
But is that enough? With 26 and 24 sacks the past two years the Bills need about a dozen more to make a significant improvement.
Finding an immediate impact player with the 11th overall selection is easier said than done knowing 10 teams are ahead of the Bills, with at least three in need of pass rushing help.
"I think some part of it is where people go," said Bills Vice President of College Scouting Tom Modrak. "Somebody might take a defensive end that plays a different kind of scheme or they might have talent already and he doesn't get on the field because they have talent at the position. How many have the capability (is) very hard to say. There's probably a couple in that group eventually, but it's not as easy as some might think. There are not a lot of guys that get to be stars their first year, even at defensive end. There are a couple that are capable."
One appears to be Penn State's Aaron Maybin. With a lightning quick first step Maybin was ultra-productive as a redshirt sophomore with 12 sacks and 20 tackles for loss, but it was for just one season.
Florida State's Everette Brown has better college production than Maybin, but lacks the measurables standing less than 6'2".
"It makes you talk about him more," said Modrak of players lacking measurables despite production. "I think that's a good thing and that's what we're doing now. If the guy doesn't run quite as fast as you had hoped for that position or whatever it might be. You better satisfy yourself the fact that he overcomes it with other things, whether it be instincts or toughness, all those things. That's when you go around the room and talk about those things as much as anything because you want to be sure."
The pass rush doesn't always need to come from the defensive end position however, and with a bounty of outside linebackers a pass rushing answer could exist there.
"I think it's solid," said Modrak on the depth of the outside backer position. "I don't know if you can point to three or four guys right at the top, but I think it's solid and there's some depth. I think linebacker is a good position."
With Wake Forest's Aaron Curry expected to be long gone before Buffalo picks, USC's Brian Cushing could be the next best option. With time spent at defensive end in his college career the top flight linebacker prospect has the potential to help with the pass rush as well.