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Ponder, Fairley, Houston at OBD

Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley and Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston all are visiting the Buffalo Bills today.

Ponder could be an option for the Bills with the 34th overall pick, if they do not choose a quarterback in the first round and if he lasts that long in the draft. He went 21-10 for Florida State but had a better junior year than senior year. Fairley, the top defensive tackle in the draft, figures to be taken in the top eight, if not the top three. The Bills have two defensive tackles in Kyle Williams and Torell Troup, so Fairley is not viewed as a favorite to go to Buffalo. Houston is likely to go in the later half of the first round or maybe the top of the second. He played defensive end as a junior for the Bulldogs and had 7.5 sacks in 10 games. Georgia switched to a 3-4 defense last season, and Houston converted to outside linebacker. He had 10 sacks in 13 games.

---Mark Gaughan

The Road to the Draft: DE-OLB Ryan Kerrigan

THE ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Ryan Kerrigan, DE-OLB, Purdue
6-foot-4, 267 pounds
Draft projection: mid-to-late first round, early second.

Lowdown: Kerrigan had 33.5 sacks in 35 starts. He had 14 career forced fumbles. In 2010, he had 12.5 sacks and 26 tackles for loss, tops in the nation. He’s a team captain, with a good work ethic and intangibles. His nickname is “Superman.” Some compare him to Aaron Kampman. He played defensive end exclusively at Purdue. Could he convert to outside linebacker? He weighed 274 at the Purdue pro day. It’s doubtful someone with his production would drop to early in the second round, when Buffalo picks at No. 34.

 ---Mark Gaughan

Dareus, Kerrigan at OBD

The Bills have confirmed that Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus and Purdue pass-rusher Ryan Kerrigan are visiting One Bills Drive today.

Dareus is viewed as a top-five pick. Kerrigan is projected to go in the middle to later stage of the first round. Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert of Missouri and Christian Ponder of Florida State would be visiting this week as well.

Kerrigan, 6-foot-4 and 267 pounds, has been projected to go as high as 16th to Jacksonville or down at 28 to New England. It's not likely he would last to the Bills' second pick at 34. But the Bills could try to trade up to take him if he falls to the later part of the first round.

---Mark Gaughan

The Road to the Draft: DE Marcell Dareus

THE ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama
6-foot-3 1-2, 319 pounds.
Draft projection: Top five.

Lowdown: Dareus leaves college a year early after two good years for the Crimson Tide. In 2009, he knocked out Texas QB Colt McCoy from the national championship game with a big hit and was defensive MVP of the game. He started four of 14 games in ’09, had 6.5 sacks and 33 tackles. In 2010 he sat out the first two games due to an NCAA suspension tied to improper contact with an agent. Then he played the first part of the season with an ankle injury. He finished with 4.5 sacks, 33 tackles and 11 tackles for loss. He will be a consideration for the Bills at No. 3, if he's still on the board.

Hard Knocks: Dareus’ father, Juleus, died when he was 6 years old. His mother was left to support seven children. Marcell was the second youngest. “My mom she struggled with all seven of us to do the best she can,” said Dareus. “She was the head of our house. She brought us all up, six boys and one girl. She had to be the mother and the father. She really had to make our boys understand that they had to take care of our family and be productive in the community.”
Dareus’ mom, Michelle Luckey, developed congestive heart failure during Marcell’s high school years. A high school coach, Lester Reasor, became Dareus’ legal guardian. Dareus’ mom died last May.

Dareus on Alabama coach Nick Saban: “I learned a lot from coach Saban. He taught a lot of the little things, it’s the little things that matter. Finishing through the line, finishing up on your reps, follow through with your hands, follow through on your stunts, watching film, studying offensive linemen,
point of attack, which hand they like to hit with. There’s a lot of things he taught me along the way and a lot of things I already had in my arsenal, he brought more things to it. It was a good combination. He taught us all a whole lot.”

---Mark Gaughan


 

Woodhead d. Johnson

The EA Sports-Madden NFL people contrived a novel way to promote the release of the Madden 12 video game. It's running a 32-man "tournament" to pick which NFL player goes on the cover of the next edition of the game. New England role-playing RB Danny Woodhead scored another one on the Bills. Woodhead, who had a TD in each of the Pats' wins over the Bills last season, defeated Buffalo's Stevie Johnson in a first-round vote to advance to the round of 16. Why Woodhead as the Pats' representative? Obviously they didn't want Tom Brady on the cover again. This will be the last update from this blog on this "event." (We promise.)

---Mark Gaughan

The Road to the Draft: LB Dontay Moch

THE ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada
6-foot-1 3/8, 248 pounds
Draft projection: Third round.

Lowdown: Moch is a classic “tweener.” He started for three years, 40 games, and made 30 career sacks at Nevada. He had 11.5 sacks as a sophomore, 6.5 as a junior and 8.5 as a senior. His 63 career tackles for loss ranks sixth all-time in the NCAA. He played at 229 pounds. He was up to 248 for the combine and ran a 40 time of 4.44, the fastest ever for a defensive lineman. Moch reportedly ran a 4.18 as a junior at Nevada’s pro day, when he was much lighter. But he’s not a defensive lineman in the pros. He’s small, and he has only played going forward, not backward in coverage. It’s questionable whether he has the flexibility to cover. He’s a situational rush man for the NFL, but his speed will get him picked before the midway point in the draft.

 ---Mark Gaughan

Cast a vote on the No. 3 pick

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is in town today to visit with the Bills. Make your choice on which direction the Bills should go with the No. 3 overall pick:

---Mark Gaughan

 

Nix, Gailey address fans, talk Newton visit

Bills coach Chan Gailey and General Manager Buddy Nix addressed several hundred suite owners and premium seat holders during the annual "state of the team'' event at the Buffalo Hyatt Regency Monday night.

After talking to the fans, Gailey and Nix met briefly with the media and Auburn QB Cam Newton was the dominant topic. 

Heisman Trophy winner arrived Monday night, and according to some reports, had dinner with Bills coach Chan Gailey at a Buffalo restaurant. After taking a physical Tuesday morning, Newton will spend the day meeting with Gailey and the other coaches.

Bills General Manager Buddy Nix added that quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert of Missouri and Christian Ponder of Florida State also have scheduled visits. Newton and Gabbert are projected top-10 picks. Ponder is expected to go in the second or third round, but the Bills coaches got to work with him at the Senior Bowl. Nix also hasn't ruled out a couple more quarterbacks visiting One Bills Drive.

Gailey and Nix said quarterback is not the Bills' biggest need because they have veteran starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. But both men said the team has to strongly consider grabbing a potential franchise quarterback if they think he's available with the third pick in the draft.

"Let me just say this to you, and try not to read anything into this and try not to connect the dots, but if you wait until you do not have a quarterback to draft one, you're too late,” Nix said. "Now our greatest need is not quarterback. It's definitely not quarterback. Invariably, if there's going to be a franchise guy there and one we deem as a guy that can go eight or 10 years, be the face of the organization and take us to the playoffs and win every year, you can't pass him up."

Gailey echoed those thoughts: "I think what you’re trying to evaluate is if there is a guy at quarterback that you believe can be a franchise quarterback long term. You hope to never be picking three again and it’s your one opportunity to make that pick if that’s what you believe. If you don’t believe there’s a franchise quarterback for the future long term, we have other needs. It’s not like we don’t know we have other needs. We understand that. But you’re weighing what’s best for the franchise."

Nix joked to the fans that there's an unwritten rule that "it’s not a sin to tell a lie during pre-draft discussions. Everybody does it, it’s accepted. So everything you hear or read or see, you need to keep in mind that about 10 percent of it is the truth. Everybody tries to connect the dots.''

No doubt a lot of fans and media are trying to make a connection between the Bills and Newton. But just because Newton is in town doesn't mean he'll be playing here on Sundays this fall. The Bills bring in a lot of players they don't end up drafting. By the same token, they have drafted guys that never visited (Lee Evans for example).

Nix pointed out the Bills will be visiting with players at other positions, too. Outside linebacker Von Miller was in town recently and Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus will be here at some point as well, according to Nix. Both players are top-10 prospects. Several national mock drafts that don't have the Bills taking Newton or Gabbert believe Miller or Dareus will be the choice at No. 3.

Meanwhile, Nix indicated he has a couple of pro day visits lined up this week. On Thursday, he's headed to North Carolina to see defensive end Robert Quinn and linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter. Quinn didn't play last season due to an NCAA suspension for illegal dealings with an agent, but he's one of the top players in the draft and a likely top-15 choice.

On Thursday, Nix will be at Clemson to take a look at DaQuan Bowers, the No. 1-rated defensive end in the draft. Bowers is still recovering from knee surgery that reportedly caused him to fail some teams' physicals. 

Nix said this is an important workout for Bowers, who was seen as a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick before his knee issue was revealed. 

"It's big for him," Nix said. "I'm not sure that you'd write him off if he's not completely healthy Friday. But it's time for him to show he either is healthy or that he needs more work and more time."

---Allen Wilson 

The Road to the Draft: CB Ras-I Dowling

THE ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
6-foot-2, 198 pounds
Draft projection: Second or third round

Lowdown: Dowling could be a steal. He has excellent cover skills, and he ran a 4.40 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine. He’s big. The problem is he played only three full games last season because of a knee injury and then a fractured ankle. He appeared in 35 of a possible 37 games his first three years at Virginia. He had three interceptions apiece in 2008 and 2009. If he lasted to early in the third round, Buffalo might have to consider him.

Dowling does not like to show a lot of bravado. He's workmanlike. He ran a Christian leadership program for teammates at Virginia. He graduated with a degree in sociology in 3 1-2 years.

He has a thin - very thin - connection to Buffalo. His father, Larry Dowling, is a big boxing fan who liked former fighter Livingstone Bramble. Bramble changed his first name to Ras-I. Larry Dowling liked the name. The younger Dowling's middle name is Luis, after former world lightweight champ Jose Luis Ramirez. What does this have to do with Buffalo? Livingstone Bramble scored a technical knockout of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini to win the world lightweight title in Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium. 

Said ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “I like guys who are coming off an injury and drop, because if they showed talent and had a high grade before an injury, they're gonna come back from that and they're gonna probably be fine," he said. "History tells us that, and you can get 'em at bargain points. ... If you get him in the third or fourth round, you got yourself a pick worth taking.”

 ---Mark Gaughan

The Road to the Draft: CB Brandon Burton

THE ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah
6-foot, 190 pounds
Draft projection: second or third round

Lowdown: Burton is a corner with good size and pretty good speed. He ran a 4.5-second 40 at the combine. He’s a two-year starter who left college a year early. Is he tough enough? That’s a question scouts must answer.

The best part of his game? “I’d say my technique and my field awareness. Just being smart on the field, that’s probably my best attribute.”

What he needs to work on? “I’d say my eyes. I feel like I sometimes have my eyes in the wrong spot. That’s probably what I’ve been working on the most.”

 ---Mark Gaughan

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