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2014 NFL mock draft: Jimmie Ward to Buffalo Bills at No. 41

The Bills have bigger needs than at safety, to be sure, but the Jairus Byrd departure leaves a gaping hole in Buffalo's secondary.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Jairus Byrd is gone, leaving a considerable hole in the Buffalo Bills' deep pass coverage. Da'Norris Searcy, Duke Williams or Jonathan Meeks may not be the best players to fill that hole. Brian Galliford's choice at No. 41 on behalf of Buffalo Rumblings could be.

Team Player Pos. Ht Wt Class
41. Bills Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois S 5'11 193 SR

"There is little doubt that the Bills have bigger need priorities than safety. Problem is, worthwhile prospects at those positions (Antonio Richardson at tackle, Scott Crichton at defensive end, Jace Amaro and Troy Niklas at tight end) are not of the caliber of Ward, who but for his smaller stature might be widely considered a first-round lock.

Ward is definitely small -- he weighs in 14 pounds lighter than departed starter Jairus Byrd, who isn't the biggest dude, either -- but he has everything else you look for. Range, ball skills, fluidity -- it's all there. Buffalo prefers bigger athletes across its roster, but between Richardson (who is the athletic prototype the Bills prefer at tackle, and was therefore very nearly the choice) and rotational players (Crichton and the tight ends), I'll take the full-time starter at a need position and the better prospect every time, even if the projection is slightly out of character for the Bills. Ward is good enough to walk into Buffalo's starting lineup next to Aaron Williams."

Here are my thoughts on the choice of Ward:

If Buffalo is looking for an effortless replacement for Byrd, it's Ward. The Northern Illinois product is the best pure coverage safety in the draft this year, but is still capable of delivering a heavy hit. Where Ward struggles is supporting the run and getting off blocks to do so.

NFL Mock Draft

Coming up at noon ET: Jimmy Morris of Music City Miracles makes the second-round pick for the Tennessee Titans.

Top 5 players remaining

# Player Pos. College Ht. Wt.
12 Louis Nix III DT Notre Dame 6'2 326
35 Demarcus Lawrence DE Boise State 6'3 251
38 Jace Amaro TE Texas Tech 6'5 265
39 Antonio Richardson OT Tennessee 6'6 336
41 Scott Crichton DE Oregon State 6'3 273

2014 SB Nation NFL writers' mock draft results

Bills picks

Rd # Team Player Pos. College
1 9 Buffalo Bills Mike Evans WR Texas A&M
2 41 Buffalo Bills Jimmie Ward S Northern Illinois