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Top 5 Players Buffalo Bills Could Pick No. 9 Overall in 2014 NFL Draft

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The Top 5 Players The Buffalo Bills Could Pick At No. 9 Overall

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

For what seems like the 70th consecutive year, the Buffalo Bills will hold a top ten pick in the NFL Draft.

After another disappointing season in which the Bills finished 6-10, the team will hold the No. 9 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and have more than their fair share of options. But what will they look to improve?

On the defensive side of things, it’s hard to point out many areas that need improvement. The front four was dominant, getting a banner year out of Mario Williams (13 sacks), Kyle Williams (8 sacks) and Marcell Dareus (7.5 sacks). They also found a stud at middle linebacker in Kiko Alonso who should be the favorite for defensive rookie of the year. Not to mention the fact that the secondary, limited by tons of injuries to start the season, got together to help the Bills put together the fourth best unit in the league against the pass.

That said, they still struggle to stop the run (28th in the NFL) and could use an upgrade at the other linebacker spots. There’s also the possibility that Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd could depart if he and the team can’t come to an agreement on a long-term deal. In that instance, the Bills could use help at the safety spot.

Offensively, there isn’t much in the way of certainty. E.J. Manuel will be the starting quarterback and will get the chance to grow as a professional. C.J. Spiller will be back as well, but his role is unclear. Will he ever be the every-down back we’d all hoped for? Who knows at this point?

And those are where the certainties end. There are rumblings that Stevie Johnson could be let go which would create a huge void at the receiver position. Even if he’s brought back, the team could look to bolster that unit and give a little assistance to Johnson and rookie Robert Woods.

With so many directions to go in, here is an early look at the top five draft prospects the Bills could be targeting come draft day.

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5. Mike Evans

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It’s no secret that the Bills have been trying to upgrade their talent at the receiver position for a few seasons now. But outside of Johnson and Woods, they haven’t managed to find much. T.J. Graham has his moments, but is he anything but a speedster? The same could be said for Marquise Goodwin.

Enter Mike Evans. The Texas A&M receiver would be the exact opposite of most Bills receivers: a huge (6-foot-5 225-pound) target with good hands whose only question mark is speed. But the Bills have plenty of speed throughout the receiver corps, and they now need a huge, quality possession target. With Evans to pick apart defenses underneath plus Johnson and Woods to stretch the field it would give Manuel a bevy of options to work with, and a developing quarterback can never have too many options. Evans could be the difference-maker they’ve been looking for.

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4. Eric Ebron

Eric Ebron
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Staying on the offensive side of the ball, the Bills could opt to upgrade the tight end position. With all due respect to Scott Chandler, he’s an average-at-best receiving tight end who’s only real asset is that he’s 6-foot-7. As we saw on Sunday, Chandler’s hands are suspect in good times, and he doesn’t have the speed to really threaten defenses up the seam.

Though it may be unrealistic to expect the Bills to use a pick this high on a tight end, someone like North Carolina’s Eric Ebron could be the difference-maker they’ve been seeking. He’s a matchup nightmare with good speed and acceleration; some even feel he could be the next Jimmy Graham.

Either way, the Bills should be looking to make a move at tight end. In a league where tight ends have become huge matchup nightmares, the Bills should be looking to join the arms race. Besides, I’m sure Manuel would love a security blanket of that magnitude.

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3. C.J. Mosley

C.J. Mosley
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The one weak spot on the defense -- given the return of Byrd at safety -- would be the linebacker spot. Outside of Alonso, there is no one who can be an every-down player at the spot. Theoretically, it’s the biggest weakness and could seriously help shore up a run defense that again ranked near the bottom in the league.

If a team is looking to upgrade at linebacker, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley might be the prototype in terms of hard-nosed, smart linebackers. Plus, he would help the Bills add on to their league-leading total of guys with two-letter names.

Mosley is the solid run-support type who is also pretty good in pass coverage and could make the Bills defense an absolute nightmare to play against. Quarterbacks are already having a tough time doing much against them, but if they could shut down the run by adding someone like Mosley to the mix they could become an elite defense.

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2. Khalil Mack

Khalil Mack
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Sticking with the linebacker theme, the Bills could not only improve their team in a key area in need of improvement but get a hometown boy in the process. University of Buffalo’s Khalil Mack plays right in the Bills’ backyard and has shown that he is great against the run and can be an every down linebacker. The one concern is that Mack didn’t really play against an elite level of talent while at Buffalo.

Still, adding a linebacker of Mack’s skill set could give the Bills one of the best young linebacker duos in the league and could help the defense turn the corner and join the elite groups in the league. The Bills just need to be careful and make sure they’re as confident as they can be should they pick Mack. Being blinded into taking the hometown kid could wind up being a huge mistake if that becomes one of the factors in their selection.

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1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
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The elephant in the room that could shake the draft up is the status of Byrd. If the Bills don’t re-sign him, could they be looking to replace him in the draft? They aren’t likely to do it with the No. 9 overall pick, but if they aren’t thrilled with the options that are there they could repeat their 2013 draft tactic and trade down to get the guy they truly want.

Should they end up doing that, the pick could be Alabama’s star safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Like Eric Reid and Kenny Vaccaro last year, Clinton-Dix could step into the job and make a big impact from day one. Like Byrd he’s a ball-hawking safety, but he has the ability to come up and lay the wood.

Should the Bills lose out on their Pro Bowl safety, they could do far worse than to replace him with a rookie the caliber of Clinton-Dix.