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Rex gets another stud for his front seven

Doug Whaley, in keeping with franchise policy, reminded everyone that these are Buffalo Bills draft picks, the product of hard work and exhaustive research by everyone in the football department.

But if there was any doubt about whose vision is driving the operation at One Bills Drive, it was put to rest in the second round of the NFL draft Friday night. Rex Ryan is the head man, the face of the franchise and a man whose defensive chops took a serious hit in his first season in Buffalo.

Ryan is under pressure to win this season. So is Whaley, who realized that he needed to give his coach a significant talent infusion if the Bills expect to end their 16-year playoff drought in 2016.

So after grabbing a top defensive end, Shaq Lawson, in the first round on Thursday, the Bills moved up eight spots in the draft to snatch Alabama inside linebacker Reggie Ragland with the 41st pick of the draft on Friday.

That makes two defensive stars who were on opposite sides in the NCAA title game, two players who will be expected to step right in as rookies and help validate Ryan's reputation as one of the NFL's resident defensive geniuses.

Whaley was ecstatic about the pick. He said the Bills had strongly considered Ragland with the 19th overall pick the night before. Their singular objective on Friday was finding a trade partner to move up for Ragland. Unsurprisingly, he said Ryan was pleased as well.

"On a scale of 1 to 10,  I'd say a 10," Whaley said. "But not just Rex, but our whole staff. Our scouting staff pegged these guys early on. It's a Buffalo Bills pick. Everybody is excited and on board and ready to get this season started."

Whaley uttered the GM's stock expression on draft night. He said Ragland was the "best player on the board," as Lawson had been the night before. And once again, the words rang genuine. Ragland, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year last season, was projected to go in the 23-24 range in mock drafts.

Ragland was a much better value in the second round than any quarterback, Whaley said. He intends to grab a QB in this draft -- perhaps later Friday in the third round -- to provide insurance at the position in case Tyrod Taylor regresses or leaves as a free agent.

Presumably, that guy could one day be their franchise QB. But history says the chances of finding a long-term answer in the later rounds is remote at best. Sure, the Raiders got Derek Carr with the 36th pick two years ago, and the Bengals snatched Andy Dalton at 35 overall in 2011.

But once you get past the middle of the second round, it becomes a dicey proposition. Seattle hit the jackpot with Russell Wilson at 75th overall. The list of QBs selected 48th or later is a grisly gallery of failure.

Over a 10-year period from 2004-13, these QBs were in the late second or third rounds: David Green, Charlie Frye, Brodie Croyle, Charlie Whitehurst, Tarvaris Jackson, Trent Edwards, Chad Henne, Keenan Lewis, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Mallett, Nick  Foles and Mike Glennon.

So the odds are against you, which made Friday an intriguing night at One Bills Drive. With so much defensive talent on the board, it seemed unlikely the Bills would take a stab at a quarterback who didn't figure to make a big impact in a must-win year.

Rex and Whaley both need to win this season. In the end, the attrition on defense trumped any immediate needs they had at receiver or quarterback. It was hard to imagine Ryan being happy with a developmental QB with the 49th -- or 41st -- pick  in the draft.

He must be thrilled to add two likely starters to his defensive front seven,  NFL newcomers who can grow in a defensive system which ran afoul of Ryan's veteran players last year.

"One thing about this guy," Whaley said of Ragland. "He's a winner and he's a leader. These guys (Ragland and Lawson) have won nationtal championships and been in national championship games."

The Bills hope the new guys will make the playoffs in their first NFl campaign. You never can tell with rookies. Both have a medical issue that scared off some teams -- Lawson a shoulder injury and Ragland an enlarged aorta. And after years of bumbling, it's wise to temper your expectations with this franchise.

But the Bills' first two picks in this draft are reminiscent of what Seattle did four years ago. The Seahawks got defensive starters with their first two picks -- linebackers Bruce Irvin (at 15 overall) and Bobby Wagner (at 47).

Seattle, which had been 7-9 in 2011, went 11-5 in 2012 and began a four-year playoff run that included a Super Bowl title. Oh, and in the third round of that draft, the Seahawks took Russell Wilson.

So maybe they'll hit the jackpot on a quarterback, too. Bills  fans might as well dream. This is the time for it. The way this draft is shaping up, anything seems possible.

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