Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix told a group of fans at the Monday Quarterback Club in December:
“I’ll tell you this: If you like a quarterback, and like him in the third round, then you had better take him in the second.”
The question facing the Bills this week is: If you like a quarterback in the second round, should you take him in the first?
There’s a good chance the answer is “yes” when the first round of the NFL Draft is held on Thursday.
Nix said this week he believes there are two or three franchise quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. The trick is selecting him.
The Bills own the eighth pick in the first round and the 41st pick in the second round. Teams with a need at quarterback beside the Bills include Philadelphia, the New York Jets, Jacksonville and Arizona.
Jacksonville owns picks No. 2 and 33. Philadelphia owns No. 4 and 35. The Jets own No. 9 and 39. Arizona owns No. 7 and 38. They all pick ahead of the Bills in the second round.
Can the Bills get the QB they want at 41?
“I think Buffalo, the closer we get … they’re becoming the most fascinating team in the draft in terms of what they’re gonna do,” said Todd McShay, ESPN draft analyst, on a conference call Friday. “Because not only will they take a quarterback at 8? Will they move out of 8? If they go with a different position at 8, will they try to move up and get one of these quarterbacks in the first round?”
The obvious presumption is the Bills covet Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, whom Bills coach Doug Marrone coached the last four years.
“I think everyone assumes, and it makes all the sense in the world, that Nassib is their guy,” McShay said.
However, McShay thinks Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley makes a lot of sense for the Bills, as well.
What are the odds Nassib or Barkley still are available at No. 41?
“You have to view the chances as slim,” McShay said. “It doesn’t matter what percentage I put on it. If you’re Buddy Nix, you’re sitting there and thinking, ‘Man, we really want one of these two guys.’ And there are so many other teams that can move up ahead of you or have picks ahead of you … So it’s a huge risk, if they’re not planning on … trading up and moving into the bottom portion of the first round, which will be costly.”
Buffalo did just what McShay describes in 2004, when it addressed receiver early in Round One, then traded up from No. 43 to No. 22 to pick quarterback J.P. Losman. The Bills gave up their first pick in 2005, which turned out to be the 20th overall pick.
Teams that make that kind of move usually have to give up a No. 1 pick the next year. Cleveland had to trade a future first-rounder to move from 36 to 22 in 2007. New Orleans gave up a future first-rounder to move from 56 to 28 in 2011.
Would the Bills give away their first-rounder in 2014? Nix repeatedly has stated he hates to give up draft picks.
Another factor pointing to a QB at No. 8 is there aren’t a ton of great options at the Bills’ other positions of need.
The Bills could use a big-time wide receiver. But the most talented wideout in the draft, Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson, has just one year of production in college and is viewed as very raw; a risky pick in the top 10.
The top-rated guard in the draft, Alabama’s Chance Warmack, could be attractive to Buffalo, and the Bills could use a guard. But the guard position is far less important than quarterback.
There are three elite left tackles in the draft, but many think all will be taken in the first seven picks, and the Bills don’t have a need at left tackle. Every team needs pass rushers, but a pass rusher would not step in and start for Buffalo. A safety would be more of a reach than quarterback at No. 8.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock does not think West Virginia QB Geno Smith, who some regard as a top-10 pick, is a good fit for Buffalo because he has fared poorly in bad weather. Mayock thinks No. 8 is too high to take a QB.
“Do you want Matt Barkley or Ryan Nassib or E.J. Manuel at 8?” Mayock asked. “That’s way too high for me. Buddy can be sitting there going, ‘Hey, I don’t care what round I get my quarterback in, I just need to get him.’ And I understand that. But for me I’d rather get a positional player at 8 that’s gonna help me immediately. And hopefully its an offensive lineman.”
“I’m gonna get somebody that I can plug in to make our team better,” Mayock said. “Then I’m going to come back in. If I have to come back in and trade up and get to 26 to 32, I’ll do that.”
Says McShay: “I guess the question really is how willing are you to gamble? How willing are you to see Ryan Nassib or Matt Barkley or both on another team?”