- Steve Muench, Scouts Inc.
Today's Buffalo Bills are about as far removed from the team's 1990s glory days as possible. The Bills made four consecutive Super Bowl appearances behind Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith in the mid '90s, but it's been all downhill since Buffalo lost to the Tennessee Titans in the Music City Miracle game during the 1999 season.
The Bills haven't made the postseason since, and they've finished last in the AFC East each of the past four seasons. Their record within the division during that span is 4-20, and Buffalo has lost its first three division games this season.
Still, the Bills had the New England Patriots on the ropes last week, and an optimist could argue that they are just few key pieces away from returning to relevance in a league where parity reigns.
Finding those pieces through the draft makes more sense than taking chances on free agents, and the team's last three first-round picks -- CB Stephon Gilmore (2012), DT Marcell Dareus (2011) and RB C.J. Spiller (2010) -- have the potential to give Buffalo a strong foundation to build on.
Here's a look at what the Bills might do in the 2013 draft to right the ship and return to prominence in the AFC East:
Round 1: Florida State DE Cornellius Carradine (Grade: 92)
Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick can put up big numbers, but he hasn't been able to take the Bills to the next level since arriving in 2009. Inconsistent decision making has translated into too many picks. The interception that sealed the win for the Patriots is the latest example.
Unfortunately for Buffalo, the 2013 class is not strong. West Virginia's Geno Smith (Grade: 94) is the by far the best on the board, but there's a good chance the Kansas City Chiefs, which are two games behind the Bills in the standings, could snatch Smith up before Buffalo goes on the clock.
With run defense being a big problem for Buffalo, a defensive tackle like North Carolina's Sylvester Williams (94) could be an option, but addressing the pass rush and adding a defensive end who can provide pressure off the edge makes the most sense in terms of value and need.
Carradine has the tools to develop into a productive edge rusher, and he is strong enough against the run to push for immediate playing time opposite Mario Williams.
Round 2: NC State QB
Mike Glennon (86)
The Bills get their quarterback here. Glennon's inconsistent footwork and below-average pocket mobility could cause him to slide into the second round, and there are questions about his ability to command the huddle. On the other hand, he is an accurate passer when his footwork is sound and has the arm strength to succeed in tough weather conditions, which is more important for the Bills than for most other teams.
Round 3: Rutgers OLB
Khaseem Greene (77)
Greene might not seem like a perfect fit because he doesn't have great take-on skills and the Bills need to improve the run defense, but he is a sound tackler who can slip offensive linemen and shows good upper-body strength taking on lead blockers. Greene is capable of matching up with backs in coverage, unlike current Buffalo LB Nick Barnett, who couldn't stay with New England RB Danny Woodhead on Sunday.
Round 4: Ohio State TE Jake Stoneburner (70)
Scott Chandler is one of the Bills' best offensive weapons, but backup Lee Smith is a far better blocker than receiver and is the only other tight end on the roster. Adding Stoneburner would give the Bills another tight end capable of making plays down the seam. His ability to line up in the slot and the traditional tight end spot would put Buffalo in better position to create favorable matchups when it picks up the pace and prevents the defense from substituting.
Round 5: Florida State S Lamarcus Joyner (Grade: 54)
The Bills should look to infuse more competition and youth at safety. Joyner's smaller frame (5-foot-8) hinders his ability to hold up in the box as a run defender and match up with tight ends in coverage, but he could be a steal at this point in the draft. He is a reliable tackler who fills hard when he reads run and a playmaker who rarely gets caught out of position in coverage. Joyner also contributes as a return man on special teams.
Round 6: Mississippi State DT Josh Boyd (42)
There's a lot to like about the Bills' starting defensive tackle tandem of Dareus and Kyle Williams, but there's not much depth behind them. Boyd needs to be more consistent, but he could quickly develop into an excellent No. 3. He would give the Bills some much needed bulk in the middle and has shown the ability to get after the quarterback.
Round 7: Georgia CB Branden Smith (40)
Teams can never have enough depth at corner, where the Bills have been hurt by injury and disappointing play. Smith is on the smaller side and comes with some character baggage, but he is a quick-twitch athlete with the skill set teams look for in sub-package corners.
476dTodd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl