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Modrak likes Bills' talent level College scouting head still high on past picks

Tom Modrak says he knows the Buffalo Bills need more talent but he believes the team has a strong core of young players.

Modrak, the Bills' vice president of college scouting, said Saturday there is reason for optimism in Bills nation despite the disappointment over last season's 7-9 finish.

"I think it is a good core," Modrak said. "In my mind, we are better than we've shown. Now we have to do it and prove it. I can say it all I want, but we have to show it with W's.

"I believe we're on the verge of doing something good. I think we're pretty good, but it has to be better. We have to get better with personnel, everything, and we will [get better] and we are [getting better]. I can say that until I'm blue in the face, and I'm sure that is not running real good in Orchard Park. But that, nevertheless, is how I feel."

Modrak is attending the NFL Scouting Combine this week preparing for his eighth draft as the head of the Bills' college scouting operation. It will be his fourth draft as part of the Bills' latest regime, since owner Ralph Wilson dismissed Tom Donahoe.

The Bills largely are a homegrown team, with 16 starters from last year's squad either drafted or originally signed by the Bills. Elite players, however, are lacking. Jason Peters is elite, although he had a subpar season last year. Aaron Schobel could be considered elite, but he was hurt last year. Lee Evans might be elite if he were playing in a more potent offense. Marshawn Lynch might become elite if he can overcome off-field troubles.

Asked specifically about Donte Whitner, Paul Posluszny and Trent Edwards, Modrak said he believes all three still have great promise.

"I think they have a lot [of upside]," he said. "There's not too many limits. Leodis [McKelvin], I think, has unlimited abilities. You win, and everybody looks a little better. They're playing good, and they can play better and they will play better. They have the want to, and I think that's a necessary quality."

This April represents another big draft for the Bills, because they have another chance to get an elite player, with a prime spot in the first round (the 11th overall pick).

Modrak said his role will remain essentially the same. He spends most of his time overseeing the college scouting operation. He provides input on most major football decisions. Wilson suggested late in the year Modrak's duties might expand some. But the draft remains Modrak's primary emphasis.

"I think it's similar," Modrak said of his role. "It's been talked about a bit differently. Certainly [Chief Operating Officer] Russ [Brandon] and [coach] Dick [Jauron] and the powers that be, I'm certainly in those meetings. I have a chance to voice [opinions], which I'm never reluctant to do. But there's certainly people specialized in that area. John Guy, [vice president of pro personnel], and his group do the pro things. They specialize in that with the coaches. But I'll have an opinion."

Modrak's base of operations remains Jacksonville, Fla. Modrak said he travels so much, it doesn't really matter where he's based.

"I don't see that [changing]," he said. "I don't even know if it's necessary. . . . I do travel. I'm gone. With cell phones and laptops and instant communications, it's not a hard thing to stay in touch."

While Modrak is optimistic about the Bills' talent level, he says Jauron has unfairly received the brunt of criticism in the wake of last season.

"I also think Dick taking all the heat, he's taking it for me and John Guy and everybody else that does the personnel work because we've got to get more players," Modrak said. "If you start thinking it's a one-man operation, I think you make a mistake. Personnel has to be good enough in all areas."

Asked about the late-season speculation over Jauron's job security, Modrak said:

"That's part of the business we're in. Certainly at the end of the year when you don't do what you expect to do, it's not a secure job for any one of us. I would have been very sad if it had happened. Dick is a good man. He's done a good job on a lot of things."

Meanwhile, Modrak was hopeful when asked about another of first-round picks, defensive tackle John McCargo, who has been hindered by various injuries and who almost was traded last year.

"He still has the physical talent," Modrak said. "It's not like he's gotten to be an old man overnight, or he's not as quick as we thought he was. He's still quick. He still has the talent. Obviously like all of us, he's got to do it. I've got to do it, too. This is a big time for him."

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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