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POLLOCK: It’s too early to accurately assess draft

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Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 10:29 am, Mon Jun 21, 2010.

Some Buffalo Bills’ fans are already writing off this year’s draft because the team didn’t address its perceived needs with players they heard of.

How’s that for an incisive, well-considered assessment?

Of course those same folks never heard of Andre Reed before the 1985 draft, Don Beebe in ‘89, Phil Hansen in ‘91 or Marcellus Wiley in ‘97.

You want current.

How about Jairus Byrd last year?

All he did was pick off nine passes - eight in a span of five games - and make the Pro Bowl, though he wasn’t a “name” college player.

You don’t assess the draft the day after it ends.

Often you can’t do it after the first year.

Take Buffalo’s 2009 lottery. We still don’t know if it was a very good draft or a great one.

We know the Bills picked an All-Pro safety in Byrd, two guards for well into the future in Eric Wood and Andy Levitre , a potential starting tight end in Shawn Nelson and three contributors in linebacker Nic Harris and defensive backers Cary Harris and Ellis Lankster.

The question and the difference between very good and great?

First round pick Aaron Maybin.

The undersized defensive end from Penn State - he was considerably under his listed 250 - was a poor fit in Buffalo’s 4-3, persistently being overpowered in his infrequent appearances on the field.

He had bust written all over him.

But with the Bills switching to a 3-4 alignment and Maybin moving to outside linebacker where he can stand up rather than playing with his hand on the ground, he might turn out to be the pass rusher the Bills had hoped.

AS FOR THIS year, much of the controversy centers on Buffalo’s first-round choice, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller.

The logic goes, why make that pick with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch already on the roster, especially since it appears the Bills aren’t yet inclined to trade the latter, despite his persistent brushes with the law.

But the answer might be in the oldest of draft day clichés, “the best player on the board.”

Of course, you expect the Bills to fawn over their opening-round selection. But what got my attention was the assessment of Jon Gruden, the former Raiders and Buccaneers coach who has quickly become a star for ESPN. He called Spiller “the best player in the draft” and predicted the Tigers’ standout would be the league’s offensive “Rookie of the Year.”

That’s Gruden’s opinion, but you have to ask yourself, if a team knew a player had a chance to make the biggest impact of any rookie in the league, would it take him even if he played a position that was already deep on the roster?

Every time.

And while Spiller doesn’t seemingly play a position of need, consider this. Buffalo was 28th of 32 NFL teams in points scored last season WITH Jackson and Lynch. What the Bills NEED is somebody who can score. And if Spiller is the productive player  so many personnel people feel he is … maybe that fills the Bills’ biggest need of all.

THE NEXT issue is quarterback.

A certain segment of fans was convinced the answer to Buffalo’s problems behind center was to draft Notre Dame’s egomaniacal Jimmy Clausen, who one source said was trashed by his own teammates at the Combine.

All you need to know is that the Bills thought so little of him, they passed on Clausen … twice.

The oft-repeated rumor was that Buffalo coveted Florida’s Tim Tebow, a high-character player of uncertain passing skills, whom Denver traded back into the first round to take. But Bills’ owner Ralph Wilson who, at age 91 isn’t in the business of playing fast and loose with the truth, maintained his team was never interested in drafting Tebow.

Ultimately, Buffalo addressed its QB situation by taking Troy’s Levi Brown with the first of two seventh-round picks.

He put up great numbers at his level and general manager Buddy Nix, who so far has been truthful in a totally unNFL-like manner,  maintained he was the highest rated QB on Buffalo’s board.

Higher than No. 1 pick  Sam Bradford, Clausen or Tebow?

We don’t know, but it’s worth wondering whether the Bills would have taken Bradford even if he was available at No. 9. Remember, Gruden had Spiller No. 1 overall.

THE REST of the draft?

Who knows.

Fouth rounder Marcus Easley, the wide receiver from Connecticut, impressed me in several games with his ability to get deep. But does that translate to the NFL?

Is second-round nose tackle Torell Troup the second coming of Fred Smerlas … or John McCargo.

Is third-round defensive end Alex Carrington a fledgling Aaron Schobel or Eric Flowers?

Are offensive linemen Ed Wang (fifth round) and Kyle Calloway (seventh) the newest versions of Brad Butler and Jonas Jennings or will they become Jamie Nails and Mike Pucillo.

And are defensive end/outside linebacker candidates Arthur Moats and Danny Batten (both sixth round) the next Marvcus Patton or Mark Pike  or will they be Corey Moore and Brandon Spoon revisited?

We won’t know until they put the pads on.

And, even then, not right away.

(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at cpollock@oleantimesherald.com)

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