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Will Bills call an audible? Niners or Broncos could alter plan to draft LB Willis

The Buffalo Bills are in the final stage of preparations for Saturday's NFL draft, but a number of things could happen that may alter their plans.

Most draft analysts believe the Bills have targeted Mississippi middle linebacker Patrick Willis with the 12th overall selection. There are two possible road blocks in Buffalo's way, though.

The San Francisco 49ers, who have the 11th pick, need an inside linebacker for their 3-4 defense. They know Willis well, having coached him at the Senior Bowl in February, and 49ers linebackers coach Mike Singletary is enamored with Willis' skills.

Defensive end is another need area for the Niners, who could take Adam Carriker of Nebraska or Jamaal Anderson of Arkansas instead.

Even if the 49ers pass on Willis, the Bills might have to worry about the Denver Broncos jumping ahead of them. The Broncos have a hole at middle linebacker after releasing long time starter Al Wilson. They see Willis as a good fit in their 4-3 scheme, and may attempt to move up from their No. 21 spot.

If Willis is gone, could the Bills have another option at linebacker? The Bills are among the teams contacted by Chicago to gauge their interest in Pro Bowler Lance Briggs, who demanded a trade shortly after the Bears designated him as their franchise player in February.

However, any deal for Briggs would cause the Bills to blow up their "cash to cap" philosophy because he is seeking a huge contract that wouldn't fit in the team's budget.

Linebacker isn't the only position the Bills are locked in on. They also desire a running back and Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson and California's Marshawn Lynch top everyone's draft board.

To get Peterson, considered a top-five talent, the Bills would have to trade up but that would be costly. A more likely scenario would be to stay put and select Lynch, a talented three-down player who can run, catch and block.

Bills General Manager Marv Levy said recently it is unlikely a trade for San Diego running back Michael Turner would happen. But a lot can change between now and draft day.

Another possibility for the Bills would be to trade down and select Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny, who is capable of playing in the middle or outside, and then they could choose a running back -- Ohio State's Antonio Pittman, Auburn's Kenny Irons or Arizona's Chris Henry -- in the second round.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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