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Bills go for playmakers at receiver, linebacker

The Buffalo Bills got the polished receiver they were looking for and added some much-needed help at linebacker in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday night.

The Bills picked University of Southern California receiver Robert Woods with the 41st overall pick.

Then they took University of Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso 46th overall.

With their third-round pick, the Bills selected a speed receiver, Marquise Goodwin of the University of Texas. He was the fastest player in the draft and placed 10th in the long jump at the London Olympics in 2012.

Woods, 6-foot-1 and 201 pounds, caught 252 passes for 2,930 yards and 32 touchdowns in a three-year career at USC. He’s a versatile receiver who can play outside or in the slot, and he projects as a quality No. 2 wideout in the NFL.

The Bills have a glaring need for a starter opposite Stevie Johnson, and Woods has the college credentials to step into the first unit on opening day.

“We’ve been talking about needing a receiver,” Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said. “The guys got intangibles, plus great ability.

“Obviously we wanted to get an outside receiver. We also wanted to get another linebacker. We got one we think can play mike and can play will. He’s a big guy who can run and cover.”

Alonso’s game is versatility, which makes him attractive to new Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

A 6-foot-3, 235-pounder, Alonso was labeled an inside linebacker for the Ducks. However, he played all over and had plenty of coverage responsibilities. Alonso has a big frame and long arms, which enhance his effectiveness in coverage.

Alonso comes with character question marks. He was suspended for the entire 2010 season because he was arrested on a driving under the influence charge. Another alcohol-related arrest caused him to miss the 2011 season opener.

Woods not a not a pure vertical threat. He ran a 40-yard dash time of 4.51 seconds, faster than Stevie Johnson ran out of college (4.58) but not in the T.J. Graham class (4.41). Woods, however, has exceptional hands and runs good pass routes.

“One of the leading lines on the reports on him was he was the most NFL ready of any of them,” Nix said of this year’s receiver crop. “And I expect that’s right.”

Woods was the first true freshman to start a season-opener at wideout for the Trojans in the post-World War II era. He caught 65 passes as a freshman in 2010. As a sophomore, he caught 111 passes for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns. His catch total was fourth best in the nation, and he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.

USC slumped from 10-2 to 7-5 in 2012. Woods’ numbers dropped to 76 catches for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns. Woods dropped to No. 2 in the passing game behind another top national recruit, Marqise Lee, who caught 118 passes

Woods has a lean build. He’s slightly bigger than former Bill Peerless Price but has a similar body type and running style.

“When I look at offense I try to look at playmakers,” said Bills coach Doug Marrone. “People that can make plays. People that can be productive. The whole thing in this league is how are you going to score? And I think that’s what we’re always looking for on the offensive side.”

Woods was clearly the top receiver available at No. 41. The Bills had other options at No. 46. A good cornerback (Boise State’s Jamar Taylor), an edge-rushing outside linebacker (Southern Mississippi’s Jamie Collins) and a capable tight end (San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar) were available.

However, linebacker was a clear-cut need, as well. The Bills have questionable depth behind strong-side linebacker Manny Lawson and behind inside linebackers Kelvin Sheppard and Nigel Bradham. They also needed another backup linebacker in the nickel defense.

It will be interesting to see if Alonso can take playing time away from Sheppard and Bradham as a rookie.

The Bills view Bradham as a three-down linebacker who can play inside in the 3-4 defense and the weak (or will) side in the 4-3. So can Alonso.

Alonso had a strong senior season, making 81 tackles, 14 for loss, four interceptions, seven passes defended and two forced fumbles. His signature game was the 2012 Rose Bowl at the end of his junior year. He had 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception in Oregon’s win over Wisconsin.

Goodwin ran a time of 4.27 seconds in the 40-yard dash, the fastest at the combine in the past decade. Goodwin was not a starter for the Longhorns. He caught 26 passes last season.

“One of the things in the report about Marquise that jumps out at you, for a guy his size, he’s a tenacious blocker, he’s a tough guy,” Nix said. “He’s a football player first, even though he’s had all that success in track. … He just needs reps and touches.”