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BILLS WILL KEEP AN EYE ON THE BIG PICTURE

The Buffalo Bills are expected to look for the best big man available today when they get around to making a choice in the NFL draft.

Offensive line is the Bills' biggest area of need, followed by defensive line. A distant third on their list arguably is cornerback, where they are very deep but where Pro Bowler Nate Clements is entering the final year of his contract.

The biggest day of pro football's offseason starts at noon when the San Francisco 49ers go on the clock. A quarterback -- California's Aaron Rodgers or Utah's Alex Smith -- may be the pick top pick.

The Bills will have to wait until between 7 and 7:30 p.m. to make their first pick -- No. 55 in the second round. Of course, that presumes they stay at No. 55. Bills President and General Manager Tom Donahoe has made a draft-day trade each of the past four years. It's highly unlikely he will move into the first round this year. But the Bills will deal running back Travis Henry if they can get good value in return.

Arizona, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, three teams interested in Henry, each have two third-round picks. Philly also has two seconds and three fifth-rounders. Tampa also has three fifths.

At No. 55, the Bills might have the chance to pick one of the top two centers, Mississippi's Chris Spencer and Michigan's David Baas. But it's not a lock either will be available. Cincinnati, at No. 48, needs a center.

If one of the better defensive tackles falls to 55, the Bills will have to give them strong consideration. Southern Cal's Mike Patterson (292 pounds) and Northwestern's Luis Castillo (305) are expected to go early in the second. The Jets may want Castillo at No. 47. The Bills may be happy and a bit fortunate if Wisconsin's Anttaj Hawthorne (323) lasts to 55. He impressed Bills coaches in workouts. Next on the list probably are Iowa's Jonathan Babineaux (285) and Virginia's Chris Canty (280). But Babineaux is a penetrator more than a run-stopper. Canty, an end/tackle, has been hurt. There should be some good defensive tackles when the Bills pick 86th in the third round. They include the Missouri duo of Atiyyah Ellison (305) and C.J. Mosley (312), plus Oklahoma's Lynn McGruder (305).

If the Bills want a left tackle early, either Eastern Washington's Michael Roos or Syracuse's Adam Terry should be available. Roos may have more potential but is more of a project. Neither is rated quite as high as Hawthorne or the two centers.

"This draft is very good in the second through fourth rounds," said ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper. "There are a lot of undervalued guys in the middle rounds."
e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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