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The Road to the Draft: CB Curtis Marsh

THE ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State
6-foot-1, 197 pounds
Draft projection: Fourth round

Lowdown: There are a slew of cornerbacks that will be taken by the end of the fourth round, and the Bills are very likely to take a cornerback at some point in the draft. If Marsh is there in the fourth round, they might have to think hard about him. He ran a blazing 40-yard time of 4.42 seconds, and he had a 37.5-inch vertical jump. The issue is he played running back at Utah State his first two years. He switched to cornerback as a junior, and made four starts in 2009. He came up with a strong senior season, starting 12 games and making 15 pass break-ups and two interceptions. He played pretty well against Boise State. But he didn’t see a lot of great competition. He made second-team all-Western Athletic Conference. He has long arms and excellent size. His father, Curtis Marsh Sr., played at Utah and played three seasons as a wide receiver in the NFL (with Jacksonville and Pittsburgh).

---Mark Gaughan


 

The Road to the Draft: LB Quan Sturdivant

THE ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Quan Sturdivant, ILB, North Carolina
6-foot-1, 241 pounds
Draft projection: Late second, early third.

Lowdown: Sturdivant is part of a thin pool of quality inside linebacker prospects. He started only seven games last season and was hindered by a hamstring injury. That’s likely a big reason the Bills had him in for a pre-draft visit. He made 32 starts for his career. Sturdivant has good lateral pursuit and tackling ability. He needs to gain more strength. He’s a former quarterback and safety in high school. He has good lateral pursuit and he’s pretty good in pass coverage. Is he good enough at shedding blocks to be effective inside in a 3-4 defense? He probably played at about 230 during the season. On the last play of his college career, he intercepted a pass on the final play of UNC's two-over time bowl-game win over Tennessee.

---Mark Gaughan

The Road to the Draft: OT David Mims

THE ROAD TO THE DRAFT

David Mims, OT, Virginia Union
6-foot-8, 331 pounds
Draft projection: Fifth or sixth rounds

Lowdown: Mims is a rising third-day prospect on draft boards because of his size. He’s a “sleeper” to watch. His arms measure 36 7/8 inches – massive. (The No. 1 tackle in the draft, Southern Cal's Tyron Smith, has 36 3/8-inch arms.) He put up respectable numbers at his pro day. He’s a Division II All-America. He played at 350 pounds most of his college career, but he got down to 331 for his pro day. He played left tackle in college but will have to shift to right tackle in the pros.

The best Virginia Union player ever? Consider yourself a doctoral candidate in NFL history if you remember Herbert Scott, a lineman who played for 10 years for the Cowboys in the '70s and '80s.

---Mark Gaughan

The Road to the Draft: NT Kenrick Ellis

THE ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
6-foot-5, 347 pounds
Draft projection: Second or third round

Lowdown: The proliferation of 3-4 will make this small-school monster too hard to pass up in the early rounds. Ellis dominated competition at Virginia's Hampton, one of the 126 Football Championship Series schools (formerly I-AA). Born and raised in Jamaica until he was 11, he was rated 12th in the country by Rivals.com coming out of high school. He picked South Carolina over Tennessee, Michigan and Michigan State, among others. But he ran afoul of team rules with the Gamecocks and left after two years. He’s huge but nimble, too. He had 15 tackles for loss as both a junior and a senior. He looked good in the Texas vs. Nation all-star game. He sat out the first game of 2010 for violating team rules, so teams will have to do their background checks on him. He said the one-game sit-down was due to the fact he did not submit some NCAA-required paperwork on time.

Ellis said he admires Hampton product Kendall Langford, now a starting defensive end for the Miami Dolphins.

"Every time when I used to be at Hampton, I'd watch Kendall Langford,” Ellis said. “He just gave us hope. Small-school guys, we're not on TV every week. Just with him doing it, it gave us hope that we could do it. Kendall was a good player. So I try to emulate what Kendall did, being strong in the weight room, working hard and trying to be just like him. … I try to emulate my game after Kendall. He was a much better athlete.”

On bouncing out of South Carolina and how he responded: “I had character issues. I had disciplinary problems. They did everything they could. It just didn't work out for me. I had to get out of there. … I had to look within myself and change a lot of things within myself and around me. And after I changed those things, it was pretty much easy after that. I had to realize that I had a problem, and I confronted it and overcame it.”

On the lack of quality nose tackles in the NFL: “I'm here to fill the shortage. Whatever they need me to do, I'm here to fill that void.”

 ---Mark Gaughan

Did Andre Reed reveal 2nd Rd pick?

There is so much information (and misinformation) leading up to the draft, it's hard to separate fact from fiction. That's why a lot of Bills fans wonder if there is any truth to what former Bills wide receiver Andre Reed wrote on his Twitter account on Thursday.

Reed, who will announce the team's second-round pick in New York City next week, suggested that the Bills would use that pick on Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder.

"@cponder7 Lookin forward to calling your name Draft Day!!!!!!!!!Bills brash like ur style" Reed said.

Interestingly, the tweet was removed quickly. But you know how Twitter works. Once something is put out there, however brief, someone is going to see it and run with it.

Don't dismiss Reed's tweet entirely. The Bills spent more time with Ponder this offseason than any other quarterback, beginning at the Senior Bowl when he played for the coaching staff. Ponder also met with the Bills at the NFL Scouting Combine and they brought him to Buffalo for another pre-draft visit. Also, Bills head coach Chan Gailey and Ponder go back to Ponder's high school days when Gailey tried to recruit him while coaching at Georgia Tech.
 
The most likely scenario still has the Bills taking a quarterback with the third overall pick, assuming Auburn's Cam Newton is available. If he's gone, the Bills might use their first pick on a defensive player. That means they could target quarterback in Round Two or use that 34th selection to trade into the back end of the first round, especially if there is a run on quarterbacks as some people suspect.

Since the Bills like Ponder, it's not that far-fetched they would pull the trigger if they have a shot at him late in the first round or early in the second.

---Allen Wilson

Von Miller's freakish skills

Most NFL personnel people and draft analysts agree that Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller is the best pass rusher in the draft. Most also agree he'd be the perfect fit in the Bills' 3-4 defense.

How good is Miller? This is how Bills regional scout Shawn Heinlen sized him up Thursday:

"A freak. His explosion and ability to change direction is very rare. In the 10 years I've been doing this I haven't seen anybody at that position change direction and have the explosion that he has. His ability to bend the corner, absorb contact and continue to progress around the corner is something that amazes. It's absolutely unique.''

It may be sacrilege to compare anyone to Bills great Bruce Smith, but Miller has the same ability to get low and maintain his balance rushing the passer as Smith used to become NFL career sacks leader.

"Von is the same thing, obviously in a smaller package,'' Heinlen said. "But he's got that same ability to be able to do that where he's low to the ground but yet he's able to maintain his power and leverage and his speed and take on the contact from the tackle and just continue to progress. It's a rare trait that I haven't seen in any linebacker that I looked at.''

Heinlen said Miller will have to get better against the run, particularly in setting the edge. Miller didn't do much pass dropping last season because of an ankle injury, so he'll need work in that area as well.

"But he's so good at rushing the passer, there's a reason why [Texas A&M] stopped having him cover guys instead of going and getting after the quarterback. The other things he's going to have to work on, but has the ability to do. He just has to hone those skills.''

---Allen Wilson

 

Bills scouts talk quarterbacks

Every year around this time, the Bills give the media a chance to talk with their regional scouts about draft prospects. Thursday was an interesting session because the two scouts available have seen most of the top quarterbacks in this year's draft.

Shawn Heinlen scouted Auburn's Cam Newton, Florida State's Christian Ponder, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and TCU's Andy Dalton. Brian Fisher evaluated MIssouri's Blaine Gabbert as well as Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.

Newton and Gabbert are prime candidates to be picked third overall by the Bills, so the reports Heinlen and Fisher gave to General Manager Buddy Nix will go a long way in formulating final evaluations.

Here is Heinlen's assessment of Newton:

"Tremendous athlete, tremendous upside. It's all in front of him. As far as being able to make all the throws and create matchup problems for defenses, he can do all those things. A tremendous leader. The guys on his team love him. All he does is win every where he goes. In four years in college he's got three national championship rings, and he was responsible primarily for two of them. He's got plenty of stuff under his belt. He's going to have a little bit of a learning curve. That offense at Auburn isn't quite as complicated as it is here. But his upside is tremendous.''

Heinlen added that anything Newton wasn't exposed to in college as far as complex schemes and terminology he'll work hard to learn it.

"He's a smart enough guy. He's got football intelligence. He's got football instincts. That part won't be an issue going forward. It's just a matter of having time on the job to learn those things.''

This is what Fisher had to say about Gabbert:

"He's an outstanding talent, size, arm strength, athletic ability. That's exactly how you draw up a quarterback. He's a very intelligent kid. A strong work ethic. He's going to do everything he can to improve. He's going to need to work on foot work. Playing in that offense, very seldom under center. That's going to lead to more consistency with the placement of his throws, particularly down the field. He has a lot of talent. He has the size, the physical tools and the want-to.''

Gabbert's production doesn't match how high he's rated, but Fisher believes Gabbert is the real deal.

"He was asked to do certain things in college. That's just the kind of system he was in. Some people criticized him saying previous quarterbacks had better statistical production. Stats don't tell the whole story, though. You see this kid getting better from his sophomore year to his junior year. With his attitude and drive, he's very well regarded as a leader, he's just going to continue to get better and better.''

Here is Heinlen's take on some other quarterback prospects:

Mallett: "Tremendous arm talent. When he's got time and space in the pocket, he can put the ball any where down the field with precision. He does need a little bit of room to operate because he's long-limped, tall quarterback. Great command of the offense there. But he's a football junkie. He's in there watching tape every day. The stuff off the field, there's a lot of speculation and rumors, but it's just that. There's no substance to a lot of the stuff that people are talking about. For some reason it just  kind of snowballs when it gets going. No one knows where it started and no one knows where it came from or how it got there, but it keeps on going. From the information that we gather, there really isn't much substance to that stuff other than the stuff that he's admitted to and what we've actually seen documentation on.''

On Ponder: "A very good field general. A very good talent, not top-echelon as far as physical ability, but he's a good athlete. He's got good arm skill and arm strength. He's just a shade below what you would consider tops for the position. He can get outside the pocket and he can create with his feet. Accuracy is probably the biggest thing with him. He's a very accurate passer when he has time in the pocket. This year he struggled with some arm things. We don't know how much the arm played into some of his passes this year or how healthy he was for every game, so you kind of discount that a little bit and just try to go back and see when he was healthy. He played well [in the Senior Bowl]. You see a guy who has all the tools to be a starting quarterback in the league. You just hope he can stay healthy going forward, just due to not being healthy during his senior year. But he should project well for us going forward and be a guy that should compete for a starting job soon.''

Heinlen had an interesting comment on Dalton, whose skill set is compared to a current Bills QB:

"Watching him play reminds me a lot of watching Fitz [Ryan Fitzpatrick] play. You see a lot of the same things where he is able to ad-lib and somehow find ways to make plays and lead his team down the field and convert drives and continues to make things happen. I don't think he's going to be pigeon-holed into one kind of system. He's got enough talent. Margin size, but he's got enough where he should be able to play in any system.''

---Allen Wilson

Nix on Brady the prospect

ESPN ran a show recently on Tom Brady when he came out of Michigan. The show talked about him being selected as a sixth-round draft pick while six other quarterbacks went ahead of him.

Bills General Manager Buddy Nix was asked during Tuesday's pre-draft news conference where the Bills had Brady on their board, but Nix wouldn't have knowledge of that since he wasn't in Buffalo at the time.

But Nix suggested Brady didn't scream future Hall of Famer coming out of Michigan.

"Have you watched his workout when he came out?'' Nix said, referring "You might have had him as a free agent.''

The workout Nix is referring to occurred at the NFL Scouting Combine, where Brady displayed a frail physique and had a 40-yard dash that was so slow it could have been timed with a sun dial. 

Brady proved that greatness can't always be measured in shorts. Nix suggested that being slighted may provide the fuel that drove Brady and others like him to succeed.

"I think some of that might determine how good a guy does,'' Nix said. "Some of those guys that have a chip on their shoulder and they feel like they got slighted in the draft, I’m talking about when [Joe] Montana came out, but I know if they’re hungry they tend maybe to do better rather than coming out with the first or second pick and feel entitled to a job. It could have something to do with it. Who knows, good is anybody’s guess.''

---Allen Wilson

The Road to the Draft: OT Kevin Hughes

THE ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Kevin Hughes, OL, Southeast Louisiana
6-foot-4, 302 pounds
Draft projection: fifth or sixth round

Lowdown: A New Orleans native, Hughes was forced to leave his home before his senior year of high school due to Hurricane Katrina. He had to move north and live with his grandmother. He didn’t even start playing football until 10th grade and didn't start until 11th grade. It’s no wonder he wound up at Southeast Louisiana, where started for three years, a total of 36 games. He played right tackle in 2008, left tackle in 2009 and 2010. He’s a tad under 6-4, not ideal for an NFL tackle and his testing numbers weren’t great. But his footwork isn’t bad. He might be able to handle the job. He has acceptable arm length for a tackle (34.3 inches). The question is how he deals with making a jump up to a much higher level of competition. He’s the first player ever from SE-LA to get a combine invitation. He will be the first player from that former I-AA school drafted since 1984.

“I feel I’m very versatile,” Hughes said at the combine on whether he can play guard or tackle. “When I come to the NFL, I’ll see where they want me.”

---Mark Gaughan

The Road to the Draft: OL Jah Reid

THE ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Jah Reid, OT, Central Florida
6-foot-7, 327 pounds
Draft projection: Second to fourth round

Lowdown: An intriguing right-tackle prospect who started for 3 1-2 years. Reid came to college at 370 pounds but got into good shape as his career progressed. He started 41 games, including the last 33 straight. Scouts will have to decide if he can bend his knees well enough in the pros. He helped pave the way for a power running attack last season. UCF rushed for 191 yards a game and three players had at least 10 rushing TDs. UCF beat Georgia, 10-6, in the Liberty Bowl. Reid showed better-than-average quickness in the short-shuttle and three-cone drills. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has him going in the later half of the second round.

---Mark Gaughan

 

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