In his most recent mock draft, ESPN analyst Todd McShay has the Buffalo Bills taking West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith with the eighth overall pick.
But if Smith’s not there, McShay was asked Friday on a conference call with reporters, should the Bills stay with a quarterback? Would Ryan Nassib, who played under new Bills coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett at Syracuse, make sense at No. 8?
McShay was far from sold on the idea.
“I’ll be totally honest, I gave them a quarterback just because it didn’t feel right to finish a whole first round and not have one,” McShay said. “Listen, I like Ryan Nassib a lot. I think he has a chance to develop into a great backup and there’s an outside chance he can become a solid starter. But to use the eighth overall pick on Ryan Nassib, I think, would be a big mistake.”
That’s because McShay is of the belief that the 2013 class does not contain elite quarterback talent. In fact, Scouts Inc. has just Smith among its top 32 prospects, at No. 30.
That leaves the Buffalo Bills in an interesting position heading into this week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, given General Manager Buddy Nix’s stated goal of adding a rookie to his team’s quarterback mix.
Nix will lead the Bills’ contingent in Indianapolis, joined by assistant GM Doug Whaley, team President Russ Brandon and Marrone. Workouts by position begin Saturday, with quarterbacks set to throw next Sunday.
“I think when it’s all said and done one or more wind up going in the first round,” McShay said. “There were a lot of people last year who had second-round grades on [Ryan] Tannehill, but still would have taken him just because of the nature of the position.”
With no clear pecking order among quarterbacks, several of the top prospects at the position – including Smith, Nassib and Southern Cal’s Matt Barkley – have declared in the last week that they’ll take part in every drill at the combine as they look to separate themselves.
That’s good news for quarterback-needy teams like the Bills, who have a lot of work to do in sorting out signal-callers. Also in the mix to be the first quarterback selected in April are N.C. State’s Mike Glennon and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, while players like Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, Florida State’s EJ Manuel and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones lead the second tier.
“We don’t usually change our mind about a guy, but the combine provides you with the opportunity to learn a little bit more about what he can do – maybe how good he can do it,” Nix told The Buffalo News, speaking of all players, not just quarterbacks. “Again, it is just a piece of the puzzle. The basis of our evaluations remains on playing and production.
“You also want to see how a guy handles himself under that kind of pressure and the combine provides that opportunity as well. That is a lot more than just the running, jumping and that kind of stuff.”
McShay’s advice to the Bills when their turn comes in the first round?
“Forget quarterback,” he said. “There’s just so many other really good football players to draft in this class, other players and positions that the Bills need.
“The Bills need depth and an upgrade at wide receiver, at linebacker, at guard, at cornerback. You can look at all those positions and say … that there are guys that are worth drafting, regardless of position, because they’re better football players.”
McShay mentioned Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree, Alabama guard Chance Wormack and his Crimson Tide teammate, cornerback Dee Milliner, as players he’d consider better picks at eighth overall than a quarterback.
“If Dee Milliner’s there, why not draft a really good cornerback coming out of Alabama where there’s a good track record and he’s well-coached and upgrade that position and then go in the second round and try and get your quarterback there,” McShay said. “That would be the way I attack it, but it’s awfully easy for me to say, because I’m not staring at another season with a quarterback that we’re not thrilled with.”
The schedule of workouts for prospects is as follows: Saturday – tight ends, offensive linemen, special teams; Feb. 24 – quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers; Feb. 25 – Defensive linemen, linebackers; Feb. 26 – Defensive backs. Workouts will be aired live on NFL Network.