When the so called draft experts don't see elite talent at a position group at the top of a draft board they call it a class lacking depth. Such has been the case at defensive end this year, but Bills GM Buddy Nix believes the depth of the defensive end class isn't the problem.
"I think it is deep," said Nix. "I saw where somebody said it wasn't, but I think it is. I think maybe it's deep in the middle rounds or from the second round on more so than maybe in the top 10."
That leaves open the possibility that Buffalo might not see a pass rusher worthy of their 10th overall pick in the draft. When informed that several mock drafts had Alabama's Courtney Upshaw or South Carolina's Melvin Ingram going to the Bills at 10, Nix had the following response.
"Who says that," Nix asked. "I think Upshaw is a power guy. He's a power rusher, a bull rush guy. Very good against the run and he can set the edge for you. He's borderline on height. Melvin Ingram he's got pass rush ability. He's got quickness. He understands leverage and the game makes sense to him. He's instinctive, but again he lacks height. There are pros and cons to both of those guys and you've got to find a way to weight them all and we're still in the process."
Earlier this offseason Nix described the kind of defensive end he felt they needed in their new 4-3 base defense. It's a player that ideally was 6'4" or 6'5" and 255 to 260 pounds. Measurables are never an end all, be all for the Bills in their draft decision making, but both Ingram and Upshaw are 6'2".
Knowing defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt wants a pass rusher that can win one-on-one battles and get to the quarterback fast, power players like Upshaw and Ingram might not necessarily be deemed as can't miss fits at 10th overall.
Buffalo could search for a better fit in free agency come mid-March and then address the pass rush again later in the draft to further bolster the need position. The Bills have four picks in rounds two through four.
"There are a lot of good players that will be there in the third and fourth round, which normally is not the case," said Nix. "I think there are defensive ends and guys that can do what we want. Maybe not big name guys that are going to excite a lot of people, but that's beside the point anyway if they can play good."
Some examples of pass rushing defensive ends that have been forecast for rounds two through four include Marshall's Vinny Curry, Syracuse's Chandler Jones and Virginia's Cam Johnson.
As for the pass rushing talent available in the free agent market, that picture won't be clear until March 13th. "Nobody knows who the free agents are going to be," Nix said. "We think we do. This guy may come out, this guy might, but you never know. March 13th is when we'll know. Potentially it could be a good year for them, but we've got no idea who will be there."