AFC East draft focus: Bills looking at the line?

AFC East draft focus: Bills looking at the line?
April 28, 2014, 9:00 am
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In the days leading up to the NFL draft, we'll take a closer look at Patriots rivals within the AFC East and the directions in which they may turn with their selections.

We've already taken care of the Jets. Today we tackle the Bills.

2013 record: 6-10

Top-three 2014 picks: first round (9 overall); second round (41 overall); third round (73 overall).

Holes: OT; S; OLB
If your quarterback can't stay on the field, it's hard to give yourself a chance. The Bills got pretty good production from rookie EJ Manuel last season, but he wasn't healthy enough for long enough to help Buffalo mount any kind of threat in the AFC East. Three knee injuries for Manuel last season -- including two that required surgery -- may force the Bills to go with a tackle in the first round. Lucky for them, at pick No. 9, there should be a game-ready tackle there for the taking.

Top-three 2013 picks: QB EJ Manuel (16 overall); WR Robert Woods (41 overall); LB Kiko Alonso (46 overall).
Strong work by former Bills general manager Buddy Nix and current GM Doug Whaley (who served as assistant GM until last May when he was promoted). To pull a starting quarterback, a serviceable wideout (587 yards, 3 touchdowns last season) and a ball-hawking linebacker who placed second in the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year voting is a pretty good haul.

So far in 2014 . . .
The Bills continued to address the linebacker position this offseason even after Alonso's breakout campaign. In his second year, Alonso will be moved from inside linebacker to the weak side, opening up the middle for new acquisition Brandon Spikes. Buffalo also signed outside linebacker Keith Rivers but could choose to draft another OLB -- perhaps UCLA's Anthony Barr at No. 9 -- to strengthen that spot even further. The loss of safety Jairus Byrd to free agency is a big one, and Whaley could opt to go for someone like Louisville's Calvin Pryor in the first round or Northern Illinois' Jimmy Ward in the second in order to fill that void that Byrd has left behind.

No. 9 pick mocked up
Pro Football Talk: Jake Matthews, offensive tackle, Texas A&M

Rotoworld: Jake Matthews, offensive tackle, Texas A&M

Sports Illustrated: Eric Ebron, tight end, North Carolina

CBS Sports (Pat Kirwin, Dane Brugler): Taylor Lewan, offensive tackle, Michigan

WalterFootball.com: Jake Matthews, offensive tackle, Texas A&M