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Bills take own list into draft; Left tackle, corner may be top options

The Buffalo Bills' football executives said Wednesday they would like to add a couple of offensive tackles, a cornerback or two, a speed receiver, a linebacker and a quarterback in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Bills fans have one week left to debate where in the draft they might take them.

The No. 1 message from Bills General Manager Buddy Nix was, he will take who he wants to take, regardless of what the draft experts think.

"I don't care how many draftniks think that's where we're going and that's the best pick for us," Nix told reporters at the Bills' annual predraft luncheon. "If that's not the guy we've got rated there, we won't take him."

Reading between the lines of 45 minutes of talk from Nix and his aides, it seemed like left tackle and cornerback may be the top two options for Buffalo with the 10th overall pick.

"We need tackles," Nix said. "But I'm gonna make this clear. We think Chris Hairston can play left tackle for us and win. He did it. He went in there. Everybody says [Ryan Fitzpatrick] gets the ball out quick, and that's true. But we run a lot of empty sets. There's five blockers. If they bring six, he'd better get it out quick or he's gonna get hit in the mouth. In this offense, he's gotta get it out quick. Chris Hairston, he may not be the prettiest foot athlete, but he's got so much length that he can protect the back side. We feel he can do that."

On the other hand, Nix acknowledged: "We did all these studies on left tackles and where they were drafted. There's a high percentage of them that's drafted in the top 10 -- left tackles. Other guys you find. Again, don't read into that. But most of the starters in this league, especially Pro Bowlers, were taken in the first eight or nine picks."

Stanford's Jonathan Martin has been projected as a possible Bills pick for months. Iowa's Riley Reiff is considered a likely top-10 candidate. For what it's worth, Reiff doesn't have as much "length" -- long arms -- as some tackles. Another first-round tackle or guard who has amazing size is Georgia's Cordy Glenn, a 6-foot-6, 345-pounder. Martin's arms are 34 inches, Reiff's are 33 1/4 inches, and Glenn's are 35 3/4 inches.

Doug Whaley, the Bills' assistant general manager, was asked about the ideal attributes of a left tackle.

"One of the major aspects that we believe a left tackle has to have is length and range, not only body range but range with his feet to be able to get those fast guys that come off the edge," Whaley said. "Most of your predominant rushers are rushing from the right side, coming off to get the blind side of the quarterback. So you need a guy that's a foot athlete and that can make that arc a lot longer than the defender wants it to be."

As for cornerbacks, Nix and college scouting director Chuck Cook acknowledged the position is deep. Good ones can be found into the third, fourth and fifth rounds.

"We do need some depth in some places in the secondary, and you'd always like to have a shutdown corner that you could get and put over to start with and not worry about that side," said Nix. "We will try to add some secondary guys."

Cook was asked about the top corners expected to be available at No. 10 -- South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore and Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick.

"We think he's a good, strong, sturdy corner that can press, can run in a hip pocket, and he makes plays," Cook said of Gilmore. "We like his physicalness in coming up in support. I do think this is a good year for cornerbacks. I really think the depth is good."

"Dre, obviously, [is] from a great scheme in Alabama," Cook said. "They're known, they're so solid up front. That helps the corners. I think he's physical, he can support, and he's proven that. He can play the deep ball. Both of those guys are viable candidates for us."

Nix & Co. spoke glowingly of Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd, a top-10 candidate. In the same breath, Nix said: "Let me just say one thing: The wide receiver position is deep in this draft."

The Bills could use some insurance at linebacker. The starters are Nick Barnett and Kirk Morrison outside and Kelvin Sheppard inside. The prime backups are Arthur Moats and Danny Batten outside and Chris White inside.

Nix was asked about the difference between weak side (Barnett's spot) and strong side (Morrison's spot) in the Bills' new, 4-3 scheme.

"Very similar, very similar," Nix said. "You need a little more height at Sam [strong side]. You need a little better cover guy. But we think if a guy can play one, he can probably play the other. We need some more. We need some depth there."

Where could top-15 prospect Luke Kuechly of Boston College fit in Buffalo's scheme? "He could play all three for us," Nix said.

Nix's big-picture view of the impact of the 10th pick was similarly two-sided.

"You'd think at 10 you'd get a starter," Nix said. "With us, we'd like to get a difference-maker or a playmaker, an impact guy."

Was Nix suggesting left tackles are not difference-makers?

"I think they are," Nix responded. "I guess I was thinking a big playmaker, which a tackle is not. But a difference-maker is a guy that makes your team better and can do things to make you be able to do more, like throwing down the field more. So I think in that light, certainly a left tackle fits that need."

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com