Penn State's Aaron Maybin is an intriguing draft prospect at a big area of need for the Buffalo Bills.
Maybin is the kind of speed rusher the Bills desperately need. However, he is undersized and he only produced for one season in college.
"He's an intriguing guy, no doubt," said Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
Defensive end is a position for the Bills to consider with the 11th overall pick in the NFL draft because they are not likely to fill their pass rushing need in free agency. The Bills ranked tied for 28th in sacks in 2008, and there aren't any prime speed rushers available on the list of free agents who will become available Friday.
Bills Chief Operating Officer Russ Brandon stressed at the NFL Scouting Combine this week that the team is not going to let a need force it to draft a lesser player.
"We go in with a wide lens and stay true to our board," Brandon said. "Anytime you try to pigeon-hole certain areas, that's where you have a tendency to get in trouble. We're going to do the best job we can do to add quality football payers to our team. That's the same approach in free agency."
What are the odds the best player available fits the Bills' glaring pass rush need?
That may depend on how scouts evaluate Maybin and a couple other edge rushers the next two months.
The 6-foot-3 1/2 Maybin played defensive end at just 234 pounds for Penn State. He didn't start until Week Three, but he had 12 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and forced three fumbles. That great showing convinced him to enter the draft.
His ability to turn the corner and get to the quarterback with speed has drawn comparisons to Atlanta star John Abraham and Colts star Robert Mathis. Abraham, however, is bigger, at 6-4 and 255. Mathis is 6-2 and 245.
Maybin has bulked up since his college season ended at the Rose Bowl, and he weighed in at 250 pounds Friday.
"I feel really comfortable at this weight and I feel as though I can either go up or I can go down," Maybin said. "So I feel this weight is a functional weight for me."
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock thinks Maybin is better suited to outside linebacker than 4-3 defensive end.
However, Colts President Bill Polian, whose team runs the same defensive scheme as Buffalo, was unequivocal on his view of Maybin. Asked Sunday if the Nittany Lion could play end in a Colts-style defense, Polian said: "Yes he could."
There are questions with any undersized rusher, Fewell said, ticking them off:
"How much more growth potential is there? How much more weight can he handle? Can he be an every-down player or is he a situational player? Then how can you fit him in to what you do?"
Complicating the matter is the fact Maybin has produced for only one year. With the 11th overall pick, a team normally would like a longer track record of production.
Still, the Bills are in dire need of a Mathis-type rusher, someone who can "make himself small" in getting around the corner on offensive tackles.
"We're looking for a different type of talent, maybe a guy who can put some more pressure on the quarterback in a third-down situation," said Fewell, speaking in general, not specifically about Maybin. "He might not have to be a full-time starter, but if he can give us long-yardage situations or passing-down situations to increase our pass rush, that will work for us. Then we can work him into being an every-down player. Football right now is so much situational. It's a situational game. Sometimes you can just take a situational player."
ESPN's Mel Kiper currently has Maybin going 10th overall to San Francisco. Mayock did not have Maybin in his top 20 in his most recent overall ranking. Mayock's top-rated defensive end is Texas' Brian Orakpo, a 6-3, 263-pounder. Mayock compares Orakpo with Dallas' DeMarcus Ware, who plays rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Orakpo does not have the pure speed, say, of a Dwight Freeney of the Colts.
If Orakpo and Maybin are gone in the first 10 picks or don't fit the Bills' tastes, there may not be many other options at pass rusher.
"Because I took the college defensive ends that I think are going to be rush linebackers and moved them out of my list, the defensive end class for me this year is not real deep," Mayock said.
Another possibility is Florida State's Everette Brown, a 6-2, 258-pounder. Another is Northern Illinois' Larry English, who probably projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Mayock on Brown: "I think he could be a 4-3 guy, and he's not quite as explosive off the edge, I don't think, as Orakpo or Larry English or Maybin. I think he's a first-round pick."
Brown could boost his standing with a good time this week and has to be considered a top-15 contender.
"I feel that I'm the best pass rusher in the draft," he said.