Goodbye Willis McGahee and London Fletcher. Hello Marshawn Lynch and Paul Posluszny.
The Buffalo Bills added pizzazz to their offense Saturday by taking a home-run hitting running back in the first round of the NFL Draft. Then they traded up to the top of the second round to select a player they hope is the second coming of Shane Conlan.
By drafting Lynch, a big, fast running back from the University of California, the Bills got a player who they think is a bit more complete than McGahee, who they traded away to Baltimore last month.
The selection of Posluszny, the All-America linebacker from Penn State, was a surprise because he was expected to go in the second half of the first round. The Bills moved up nine spots, from 43rd to 34th, in a swap with Detroit to make the pick. The Bills also gave Detroit the first of their third-round picks, No. 74 overall.
"It was a little bit nerve-wracking waiting to see if he was going to be there for us," said Bills General Manager Marv Levy. "We were working the phones for quite some time with even higher choices [before the 34th pick] to try to get him."
The Bills hope Posluszny eventually will be an upgrade at middle linebacker over Fletcher because he is bigger and faster. In their dream scenario he's as good as the Penn State linebacker they drafted 20 years ago -- Conlan, who went eighth overall in 1987. Posluszny wore the same number as Conlan at Penn State -- 31 -- in honor of the former Bills Pro Bowler.
In the third round, the Bills drafted Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards, a 6-4, 225-pounder.
The No. 1-rated linebacker in the draft, Mississippi's Patrick Willis, went one pick before the Bills' first choice, to San Francisco at No. 11. But Levy said the Bills would not have picked Willis. He said they had two other players in their sights with the 12th pick besides Lynch, and Posluszny was one of them.
Lynch was the No. 2-rated back in the draft behind Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson. Lynch became the earliest running back selection in the first round by the Bills since they took Terry Miller fifth overall in 1978.
"We feel he has superb power and durability," said Bills General Manager Marv Levy. "He's a superb receiver, excellent in the passing game as well. He's the complete running back."
At 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, Lynch is a tough runner with speed. He gained a lot of yards in college after initial contact. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper called him "arguably the toughest runner in college football and a real brute to get to the ground."
"He's very tough," said Bills scout Marc Ross. "He never gives up on a run. He tries to punish tacklers. He's a physical runner."
Lynch, however, also ran a 40-yard dash time of 4.46. That's not as fast as New Orleans' Reggie Bush (4.39) or the Colts' Joseph Addai (4.40). But it's faster than recent first-round picks Lawrence Maroney (New England) and Cedric Benson (Chicago), and it's the same as St. Louis' Steven Jackson.
"I think he is elusive," said coach Dick Jauron. "I think he makes people miss. On top of that, he has speed enough to go the distance."
"He's a guy who can run inside and outside, and he has the speed to break the long one," said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. "He has unbelievable balance, and he gets to full speed very quickly. He can run very fast with a wide base, which accounts a lot for his balance. He has tremendous acceleration. He has great moves. He can run at full speed and make moves."
Lynch, who left college a year early, rushed for 1,356 yards and a 6.1-yard average as a junior. He scored 11 rushing TDs.
He also has superb hands. He caught 34 passes for 348 yards with four more TDs. Cal used him occasionally as a receiver in the slot.
The Bills never utilized McGahee much in the passing game. He caught 18 balls last season and 28 in 2005.
Posluszny, at 6-1 and 238, was a three-year starter for Penn State.
He played outside linebacker in his junior year and dominated all over the field, making 116 tackles. He suffered torn ligaments in his right knee in the Orange Bowl game at the end of that season but was able to recover in time to start his senior season in September. Penn State moved Posluszny to inside linebacker, and he was noticeably slower the first half of his senior year. Nevertheless, he again finished with 116 tackles. Posluszny is a little faster than Conlan, who was strictly an inside backer.
"He had to come back from a serious knee injury but in each game he kept getting better and better," said Tom Modrak, Bills assistant general manager.
While Jauron would not commit to a position for Posluszny, he is expected to play the middle in Buffalo, because incumbent Angelo Crowell is better suited to the strong side in the Bills' defense.
The Bills were expected to draft a quarterback in this draft, although not necessarily on the first day. Stanford's Edwards had been rated by some as a second-round pick.
"The reasoning was very simple," Jauron said. "At the time our pick came, there was a pretty big discrepancy between the grade we had on him and the grades we had on other people. We like competition at the quarterback position, particularly for the second spot. J.P. [Losman] is our guy. . . . We need some competition for Craig [Nall]. We couldn't pass this guy up."