There is no question the Buffalo Bills need help at quarterback, but making Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen the No. 9 overall pick might not be in the Bills' best interest. An offensive tackle makes much more sense at that point because Buffalo needs to protect whoever is under center and only three teams gave up more sacks than the 46 allowed by the Bills last season.
My Scouts Inc. colleague, Todd McShay, and fellow ESPN analyst Mel Kiper both have Buffalo taking a tackle in their latest mock drafts -- McShay projects Rutgers' Anthony Davis, Kiper projects Oklahoma's Trent Williams -- and both picks make sense.
Things might not unfold that way, though, because character issues and inconsistent play on film make Davis a risky pick, and it's entirely possible that the top four tackles (including Davis and Williams) will be off the board at that point anyway. That brings us back to Clausen, but would he be a good fit for the Bills?
Clausen did put up good numbers in a pro-style offense and showed a great deal of toughness playing through a toe injury for most of the 2009 season, and he did not go into a shell after facing tremendous pressure from opposing defenses early in his career. All that makes a sound argument in his favor.
On the other hand, Scouts Inc. gives Clausen a second-round grade, and we think he would be a reach at No. 9. More importantly, he is not a great fit for the Bills. Clausen doesn't have elite arm strength, and after watching film we are concerned about his ability to attack the deep middle. In addition, his hands are on the smaller side (9 inches), which can affect his ability to grip the ball in bad weather. This isn't good given Buffalo's unpredictable weather.
Take a look at the 2009 Washington game for evidence, specifically a fourth-quarter slant route to WR Golden Tate. Clausen completed the pass but the ball fluttered badly, and he won't get away with those kinds of throws in the NFL. That makes for a legitimate case against Clausen going to the Bills.
What to do if the tackles are gone and the Bills opt not to take Clausen? Wide receiver is a possibility and Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant should be available, though he would be a reach, as well. A better option might be a true nose tackle to anchor Buffalo's new 3-4 defensive front and shore up a unit that finished 30th in the league against the run last season, which leads us to Tennessee DT Dan Williams.
At 6-foot-2 and 327 pounds, Williams is capable of eating up blocks and keeping offensive linemen off the linebackers behind him, and no one would benefit from Williams' presence more than RILB Paul Posluszny, who shows excellent instincts and closes quickly when he gets a clear path to the quarterback. Allowing him to run freely to the ball would go a long way toward improving the entire defense.
If Buffalo does take Williams, it should then look to target a tackle like Indiana's Rodger Saffold in the second round and perhaps a receiver like the Citadel's Andre Roberts in the third. The Bills could then look at a quarterback like Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour in the middle rounds, or a strong-armed developmental prospect like Fordham's John Skelton in the later rounds.