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Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said Tuesday there is a quarterback worthy of being taken with the eighth overall pick in the NFL Draft.

“You know, I think there is,” Nix said Tuesday at the team's annual pre-draft news conference. “And also I've said from Day One this quarterback class is better than everybody thinks it is. It's better than the publicity they get. By that I mean there's about five or six of those guys, maybe seven, that do a lot of things good and do 'em good enough to win.”

Nix didn't guarantee the Bills would take a quarterback with the eighth overall pick. But he did nothing to quell the notion that the Bills are going to pick their “quarterback of the future” at some point early in the league's annual selection meeting, which starts on April 24.

None of the quarterbacks in this year's draft are as highly rated as the top two in last year's draft – Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Most draft analysts rate last year's third QB, Ryan Tannehill, over this year's candidates, as well.

Nevertheless, Nix said: “I said this from the start, that two or three of these guys will be franchise quarterbacks. I believe that.”

Many draft analysts rate West Virginia's Geno Smith No. 1 among quarterbacks in this year's draft. The obvious target for Buffalo could be Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, who played the last four seasons for new Bills coach Doug Marrone.

“Everybody assumes just because we have Coach Marrone that he became in the forefront,” said Doug Majeski, Bills coordinator of college scouting, of Nassib. “He was a good player as we go through our scouting process from beginning of his senior year all the way through. So he was a guy that we were aware of. We went to see him a couple times play just because it's so easy for us to get to Syracuse and to see him play live.”

Here were some other highlights from the 45-minute session, keeping in mind that NFL executives are especially guarded about their intentions leading up to the draft:

• Nix didn't seem to gush about Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel: “I've seen him make NFL throws. He made them at Florida State. He's maybe a little inconsistent with it, but he's got plenty of arm and great athletic ability. It's a matter of whether or not you can get him consistent in that part of it.”

• The Bills have six picks, having traded away their seventh-rounder, and Nix didn't sound like a man eager to trade up: “I hate giving up draft picks. I hope in some way we get that seventh back.”

• Nix on safety Jairus Byrd, whose rights have been retained with a franchise tag: “There has been some contact and we're making an effort to try to get a long-term deal done with Jairus. … There's nothing that we can do except try to get a contract done. If it doesn't work, then the ball is in his court. He comes basically when he gets ready.”

Nix said Byrd was the only player not in attendance for the Bills' three-day voluntary minicamp, which started Tuesday.

• On the fact Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, a top-15 rated talent, entered the draft after just one big year of production: “It scares you. You have to think those guys might not help you out immediately if that's who you take. Those guys are raw. You're going to have to groom them and be patient with them.”

• Nix said wide receiver, safety and tight end are among the positions that are especially deep in the middle rounds.

“There are more safeties, good safeties available this year in the draft than I've seen in 10 years,” Nix said.

• On the need for a guard in the wake of the loss of Andy Levitre in free agency:

“Our roster in house is better than I think we get credit for, especially offensive line. We're pretty deep there. We've got six guards, and we think a couple of them can play. Now having said all that before you write that we're not going to take a guard at No. 8, it's hard to pass up two players like the old boy at Alabama and the kid at North Carolina. Both of those are great players, so you have to give that a lot of thought when they come up.”

Alabama's Chance Warmack is the top-rated guard in the draft. North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper is next. The Bills have one incumbent starter at guard in Kraig Urbik.

Among the other guards on the roster are: Colin Brown, a fifth-round pick of the Chiefs in 2009; Keith Williams, a former sixth-round pick of Pittsburgh in 2011; and David Snow, undrafted out of Texas last year.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com