Buffalo looks like they hit big time with the 11th pick in the draft last year with Leodis McKelvin performing very well as a rookie with a lot of ceiling left to go on his game. Armed with the 11th pick again it looks as though the Bills will be able to add another impact player.
Among the more pressing needs for Buffalo is improving their pass rush. With just 50 sacks over the last two seasons pressure on the quarterback has to be far more frequent than it has been. Last year's third-round pick Chris Ellis may factor into that equation more in 2009 as a second-year player, but it couldn't hurt to add a stud pass rusher at the top of the draft.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper on a national conference call Wednesday addressed the pass rushing talent that could fall in the range of picks from five to 15 come draft weekend.
"Aaron Maybin will draw strong consideration out of Penn State," said Kiper. "Maybin would be the guy that you have to think about. I'm very high on the kid in terms of the kind of player he can be. He's going to be right in that general area in terms of his rating. When he works out people are going to be wowed by him."
At 6'4" 248 pounds some scouting services see him ideally as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme in the NFL. But that's not necessarily a bad thing for the Bills who have a need at outside backer with Angelo Crowell an unrestricted free agent and Keith Ellison a restricted free agent. As far as Kiper is concerned Maybin is capable of playing outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme as well.
"He's versatile. He can put his hand down or he can play on his feet," said Kiper. "He's just a tremendously skilled athlete. He really fires off the ball and has a tremendous motor. The kid had an incredible year."
Maybin had 12 sacks in 2008 to rank fourth in the country, 20 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles as a third-year sophomore. And that was without playing in the first two games.
Another top pass rushing prospect expected to go in the top half of the first round is Florida State defensive end Everette Brown. Again, there are some NFL scouts that aren't sure Brown has the strength to hold up against the run in a 4-3 system at end and believe he's better suited to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
"People say he can play on his feet, but I look at Everette Brown as a defensive end in a 4-3," said Kiper.
Brown, who played left defensive end in 2007 and right defensive end in 2008 for the Seminoles had 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss this past season. And unlike Maybin and Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo, Brown can do more than just speed rush off the edge.
Scouting services like NFL Draft Scout report that he has a wide variety of counter moves for an underclassman and uses his hands extremely well.
Kiper also sees Orakpo as a 4-3 end and doesn't believe he has the versatility to transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker position. Brown may also struggle to make that transition having never played outside linebacker in a 3-4 in his college career.
Brown, Maybin and Orakpo should all come off the board before the draft reaches the 15th pick. Whether all three will be available to the Bills at 11 remains to be seen. Draft boards can fluctuate a bit with the NFL Combine on tap next week and Brown and Maybin are both expected to test very well.
As far as other position options go Kiper still maintains that one tight end offers a solid value at 11 for Buffalo.
"Brandon Pettigrew being such a physically imposing player at 6'6" and 252 he can block, he obviously will catch the football and provides a great target," said Kiper. "I think Pettigrew gives them another weapon for Trent Edwards and is going to augment the receivers and help them out and give defense a lot more to think about. He's certainly one of the top players in the senior class."