Top tight end visits Buffalo

Scout.com has learned that Brandon Pettigrew recently visited the Buffalo Bills. Tight end is one of Buffalo's top needs heading into April's draft. What does this visit and say about Buffalo's draft plans? Is Pettigrew a legitimate option?

After throwing in the towel on Robert Royal, the Bills have reset the tight end position once again. And the best tight end in this year's draft class has already conducted his job interview.

Brandon Pettigrew visited One Bills Drive, Scout.com's Adam Caplan reported.

Caplan adds that Pettigrew is slated to visit the Philadelphia Eagles on March 30.

The needs are obvious this spring. Tight end and defensive end are Buffalo's two most gaping holes to fill heading into the draft. The Bills have already met with defensive ends Robert Ayers and Connor Barwin. For more on Barwin's visit, be sure to check out this BFR feature.

Yes, it can be difficult to differentiate legitimate visits from smokescreens. This current lull between pro days and draft weekend is one prolonged chess match. Many teams are ultra-liberal with their houseguests, never tipping off a genuine plan.

But this trio of visits piques my interest. The Bills have been aggressive here in the early stage of visits – and this current trend hints at a strategy. After pulling a he-did-what 4.4 in his 40-yard dash, the 260-pound Barwin is flying up draft boards. Once considered a mid-round pick, Barwin is easily a high second-round talent now. He's precisely what the Bills front four needs – a smell-blood pass-rusher with limitless potential. Barwin played only one year of defensive end at Cincinnati, posting the most sacks in the Big East. Tennessee's Ayers also highlights the second wave of defensive ends – after Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown, Aaron Maybin and Tyson Jackson. Our own Chris Steuber reported that Ayers was in Buffalo last week.

Despite sitting in the middle of the first cavalry of defensive ends, the Bills appear to be toying with the notion of selecting Pettigrew and then someone like Barwin or Ayers in the second round.

It's an interesting dilemma.

Jared Cook or Chase Coffman are both dangerous receiving options that could trickle to Buffalo in the second, but reaching for Pettigrew guarantees the Bills the most complete tight end in this year's draft…and possibly the most weapons in Buffalo's holster since the Kelly years. Terrell Owens, Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish and Pettigrew pose an array of matchup problems for defenses. After scoring three points or less in three of its last four games, Buffalo has an opportunity to secure (on paper) one of the best receiving corps in the league.

Pettigrew did not post astronomical numbers at Oklahoma State. In his senior year, Pettigrew caught 42 passes for 472 yards and zero touchdowns while suffering through a nagging ankle injury. As a junior, he posted 540 yards on 35 receptions with four touchdowns. He lacks the Herculean physique of Vernon Davis and downfield ability of Kellen Winslow, but Pettigrew is widely considered one of the most well-rounded tight ends to come out in years. He'd be a great extension off left tackle in the running game to spark Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson on stretch plays, and Pettigrew's enormous frame (6-foot-5, 263 pounds) is precisely what Buffalo has lacked at tight end all decade – Trent Edwards' game could take off with Pettigrew working between the hash marks.

A right hamstring strain held Pettigrew out of his pro day this month, but it doesn't appear to be anything serious. The tight end told the Oklahoman that he just "didn't want to push it." Pettigrew sustained the injury while working out at the Michael Johnson Performance Center. At the workout institution in McKinney, Texas, Pettigrew said he has lowered his 40-yard dash time into the 4.7-range after running a 4.87 at the NFL Combine.

"I was disappointed in my 40 time (at the Combine) because I had been running faster than that and I know I'm faster than that," Pettigrew told the Oklahoman. "Of course I was disappointed. But the overall experience was good, getting in with the coaches and some of the different players. I thought I did OK in the other stuff."

Whether or not teams are sincerely frightened by Pettigrew's sluggish time at the Combine won't be known until late April. But for now, the Bills are at least studying the possibility of taking Pettigrew in the first and either Barwin or Ayers in the second. Buffalo needs to nab two starters with these picks. Without any realistic tight end or defensive end options left in free agency, draft day is the team's last shot to replenish talent there.

And at No. 11, they're almost guaranteed to have the first crack at Pettigrew.

Be sure to keep tabs on the Scout.com Mock Draft Muncher. Out of 40 mock drafts, six have Buffalo taking Pettigrew as of now.

thdunne@gmail.com


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