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Road to the Draft: Dwight Bentley

Dwight Bentley, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette
5-foot-10, 182 pounds
Draft projection: Second or third round

Lowdown: Bentley, nicknamed Bill, is a small-school prospect who had a great post-season. He was a late add to the Senior Bowl and showed a physical style during practices for the all-star game at Mobile, Ala. Then he ran a 40-yard dash time of 4.43 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine, fifth best among cornerbacks. He started 45 games for the Ragin Cajuns, who went 9-4 in 2011. He had seven career interceptions. He comes from a famous high school program in Palm Beach County, Fla. Bentley helped Pahokee High win two state titles in a three-year span. Also on the team was Janoris Jenkins, a first-round cornerback prospect this year out of the University of North Alabama. Baltimore Ravens star receiver Anquan Boldin is a Pahokee High graduate. Bentley has quickness and athleticism. The question for scouts is whether Bentley can be physical enough to excel in the NFL. 

---Mark Gaughan


 

Road to the Draft: Shea McClellin

Shea McClellin, DE-OLB, Boise State
6-foot-3, 260 pounds
Draft projection: 30th to 50th pick.

Lowdown: McClellin’s versatility and edge rush ability makes him an attractive early second-round prospect. He projects as a pass-rushing defensive end in the 4-3 defense. He might be able to play strong-side linebacker in the 4-3, too. He dropped back some at the Senior Bowl and didn’t look too out of place. Overall his Senior Bowl showing helped him. At the NFL Scouting Combine, McClellin ran the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.63 seconds. He’s much better rushing with his hand in the ground as opposed to standing up at linebacker. He started 37 games over his last three seasons and had seven sacks as a senior, 9.5 as a junior. McClellin shows flashes that remind you of ex-Bill Aaron Schobel. While Schobel didn’t time as well in the 40, his explosiveness numbers (the vertical jump and shuttle) were better. Schobel also had more production in college. Nevertheless, McClellin is an option worth considering for Buffalo if he’s on the board at No. 41.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Road to the Draft: Michael Floyd

Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
6-foot-3, 220 pounds
Draft projection: First round.

Lowdown: Floyd is a big, physical, fast receiver with good hands. He figures to go in the top 21 of the first round, and he has the athleticism to creep into the top 10. He finished his college career with a flourish, closing his senior year with 100 catches for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns. That came after a super junior year in which he caught 79 passes for 1,025 yards and 12 TDs. However, he’s not quite as sure-fire an NFL prospect as A.J. Green and Julio Jones were last year. Floyd was arrested in March 2011 for drunken driving. He also was cited for underage drinking in separate incidents in 2009 and 2010. He said he has learned his lesson from those arrests. On the field, Floyd has great run-after-the-catch ability. He ran a surprisingly good 40 time at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.46 seconds). Nevertheless, he did not often show separation speed deep like Green and Jones. But Floyd does use his size and athleticism to go up and get the ball well. Comparing him to Green and Jones may be nit-picking. He’s a dynamic outside receiver, somewhat in the mold of Tampa’s Vincent Jackson. The question of whether the Bills should strongly consider him at No. 10 is worth debating.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper considers Floyd a middle-of-the-first-round talent.

“The quarterback play was less than stellar,” Kiper said on a conference call for reports. “I just want to see a little more want-to, to want to go get the ball, to want to be the guy, to take over games. I don’t know if Michael realizes how talented he is. … I think if he can do that, then he has a chance to be one heckuva player. … I don’t know if he had that mentality at Notre Dame, and I don’t know if the quarterbacks allowed him to because they weren’t that good.”

---Mark Gaughan

Road to the Draft: Tank Carder

Tank Carder, OLB, Texas Christian
6-foot-2, 236 pounds
Draft projection fourth to sixth rounds

Lowdown: Carder was a world champion BMX racer as a 10-year-old. He came back from a horrific automobile accident at age 13. He was the Mountain West defensive player of the year each of the last two years. Now he’s about to start a career as a run-and-chase outside linebacker in the NFL.

Carder is the kind of mobile outside linebacker who could interest the Buffalo Bills. He told reporters at the TCU pro day last week he will visit the Buffalo Bills April 1-2 and the Dallas Cowboys April 5. (Teams can host 30 prospects before the draft.) His real name is Ricky Carder Jr., but he was dubbed Tank because he was such a big baby. He told reporters at last month’s NFL Scouting Combine he started riding a bicycle without training wheels when he was just 19 months old. At age 3, he won his first BMX, off-road bicycling event. He went on to win numerous national titles and then won a world title in France in 1999. Then he gave up the sport. Three years later, he nearly died after being thrown from a one-car crash. A rod broke, and the vehicle flipped three times. Carder broke his back in two places and suffered seven broken ribs. As a freshman on the Sweeny (Texas) High team, he was allowed only to play kicker, and he had to run off the field with the tee to avoid any contact. It wasn’t until his junior year he was allowed to tackle.

Carder went on to a wonderfully productive career for the Horned Frogs. He started 39 games over three seasons and made 228 tackles. He helped lead a TCU defense that ranked No. 1 in the country in 2010 and No. 29 in 2011. In TCU’s 21-19 Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin in 2011, Carder made a leaping bat-down of the Badgers potential game-tying two-point conversion pass with 2 minutes left. The receiver was wide open at the goal line 5 yards behind Carder. Carder’s lack of size could be a question for some teams entering the draft. He also had two shoulder surgeries during his college career, but he was fully healthy his senior year. Carder showed better athleticism than some expected at the combine. His 40-yard dash time (4.69 seconds) was 11th best among linebackers. His 3-cone drill time (6.89) was second best. His short-shuttle time (4.18) was fourth best.

Carder was asked at the combine whether he missed bike racing. “Sometimes I think about what it could have been and what I could have done with it,” he said. “One of my good friends is like a brother to me I still talk to him this day. Bubba Harris, I raced him all through when I was growing up. His dad is actually my manager who owned Answer (racing team) and raced. He still does it to this day. He makes $80,000, $90,000 a year, a pretty good living for just bike racing. I always think about what it could have been, how good I could have been at it and what I could have accomplished. But it’s too far gone now. I would never go back to it. Football now is hopefully going to work out for me. That’s part of my near future right now.”

---Mark Gaughan

(The News is profiling 50 prospects in 50 days leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft.)

Bills to host DE Branch

Clemson defensive end Andre Branch is scheduled to pay a pre-draft visit to One Bills Drive Wednesday and Thursday, according to a source.

Branch is one of the more intriguing pass-rush prospects in the draft because of his ideal size. He's 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds. He had 10.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss as a senior last season. He was a two-year starter. He had five sacks as a junior in 2010. Branch has long arms (34 inches) and posted good numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.70 seconds, fifth best among defensive ends. He's likely to be drafted somewhere from the second half of the first round to the first half of the second round.

---Mark Gaughan

Anderson deal worth $19.5M

Free-agent defensive end Mark Anderson played his way into a giant increase in pay and a big contract when he signed with the Buffalo Bills. It's worth $19.5 million over four years, according to a league document obtained by The News.

That's less than what was attributed to sources in numerous media sites, including The News, last week. Anderson will get $8 million this year and $10.5 million over the first two years of his deal, as was widely reported. Initial reports had the deal totalling $27.5 million.

Anderson, who had 10 sacks for the New England Patriots last season, played on a on-year deal worth $1.37 million in 2011. The four-year average of Anderson's new deal is $4.875 million. He got a $6 million signing bonus plus a guaranteed base salary this year of $1.9 million, and a $100,000 workout bonus. His base salaries in subsequent years are $2.5 million, $4 million and $5 million.

The addition of Anderson is key for the Bills' defense. He gives the team a healthy speed rushing option opposite newly acquired free-agent prize Mario Williams. If veteran Shawne Merriman can recover from an Achilles tendon injury or the Bills add another young rush man in the draft, that will just add to their pass-rush arsenal.

---Mark Gaughan

Road to the Draft: Demario Davis

Demario Davis, OLB, Arkansas State
6-foot-3, 233 pounds
Draft projection: Third round

Lowdown: The Buffalo Bills looked to Arkansas State to draft Alex Carrington two years ago, and they could go back there if they want a play-making outside linebacker candidate for the near future. Davis dominated in the Sun Belt Conference. He’s an aggressive, run-to-the-ball defender. He was the leading tackler for the No. 20-ranked defense in the country last season. He did well at the Senior Bowl, and he showed his athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine. Among linebackers, his 40 time (4.61) was fourth best, and he was second best in the vertical jump (38.5), the broad jump (10-4) and the bench press (32 repetitions of 225 pounds). Davis started out at receiver in high school before switching to linebacker his last two years. He also was a high jumper. When he got to Arkansas State, the offensive and defensive coaches argued a bit about which side of the ball he fit best.

---Mark Gaughan

Bills add 7th-round pick

The loss of safety Donte Whitner in free agency last summer netted the Buffalo Bills a small bonus in the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft. Put the emphasis on the word small. The Bills got an extra seventh-round pick, the 251st overall, as a result of the NFL's compensatory picks system, the team announced. That's two picks shy of the end of the draft. Teams are awarded compensatory draft picks based on the net results of their losses and gains in unrestricted free agency from the previous offseason.

The Bills lost Whitner to San Francisco and Paul Posluszny to Jacksonville. Whitner started 15 games and played almost all the defensive snaps for his team. Posluszny started 16 and was on the field virtually the entire season. The Bills gained linebacker Nick Barnett, quarterbacks Brad Smith and Tyler Thigpen and linebacker Kirk Morrison in free agency. Barnett played 93 percent of the defensive snaps, according to News figures, cancelling out the loss of Posluszny. Smith made five starts, rushed 20 times and caught 23 passes. The other Bills' additions played very little.

The Bills now have two picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds. The extra fourth-rounder is from the deal that sent Lee Evans to Baltimore. The extra fifth-rounder is from the 2010 trade that sent Marshawn Lynch to Seattle. The Bills got an extra fourth-rounder in 2011 (which they used to take tackle Chris Hairston). They got a conditional pick in 2012. Based on Lynch's good play for the Seahawks last season, that pick rose from a sixth to a fifth-rounder.

---Mark Gaughan

 

 

 

Road to the Draft: Vinny Curry

Vinny Curry, DE, Marhshall
6-foot-3, 265 pounds
Draft projection: 25th to 50th pick

Lowdown: Curry has the production and size to project as a solid pro. He was the NCAA active career leader in tackles for loss at the end of last season, with 48. He had 12 sacks as a junior, 12 as a senior and 27.5 for his career. He also was a team captain. He’s a hustler. Curry ran a poor 40-yard dash time of 4.98 seconds at the combine. But he came back at his pro day with a good time of 4.64. He didn’t always play against the highest level of competition, and some scouts wonder about his top-end athletic ceiling. But he looked very good against top competition at the Senior Bowl. He’s a quality player who might creep into the bottom end of the first round. The Buffalo Bills would have to consider him if he lasts until their pick in the second round, No. 41.

“He's a lunch-pail guy that works his tail off,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock told the Huntington (WV) Herald-Dispatch. “He's got some talent but he's not supremely gifted. And he gets the most out of what he is. He's got some natural pass-rush ability and some toughness. And when you combine those things, you can be a really productive, good NFL player.”

---Mark Gaughan

(The News is profiling 50 prospects in 50 days leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft.)

Road to the Draft: Nigel Bradham

Nigel Bradham, OLB, Florida State
6-foot-2, 241 pounds
Draft projection: Third round

Lowdown: Bradham was a three-year starter and led the Seminoles in tackles all three years. He was a team captain. He has long arms and shows the toughness to be a capable strong-side linebacker in the 4-3 defense. He did well at the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Scouting Combine, posting good marks in the 40-yard dash (4.64 seconds) and the vertical jump (37 inches). He played mostly weak-side backer for the Seminoles but saw time inside, too. How fluid he is in space and how well he’d hold up in coverage in the NFL is a bit of a question. But he’s durable and fearless, and he can shed blocks and make tackles. The Florida State defense was ranked fourth in the country, second against the run. He's the kind of linebacker the Buffalo Bills might want to consider in the middle rounds. Bradham might fit better at weak-side linebacker. The Bills might have a slightly greater need for depth strong side. On the other, hand he's certainly heavy enough to play either side.

---Mark Gaughan

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