With a new CBA deal seemingly only days away its time to start looking at some of the undrafted talent that remains from last April’s draft. First up will be the Quarterback position which has been a constant thorn in the side of Bills fans since Jim Kelly retired.
Lots of untapped potential remains in this class, but most of the options are rough around the edges and will need some time before being asked to take a snap in a game.
Bills current QB situation:
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick-Starter
QB Levi Brown
The Bills currently have only two QB’s under contract with Brian Brohm’s contract expiring making him a FA. The Bills will likely need to bring in at least one QB, if not two. One will likely be a veteran FA, but the other could be a high ceiling prospect who could get a chance to surprise in camp. Ryan Fitzpartick is the entrenched starter but is he the long term answer?
Best UDFA Prospects:
1. Ben Chappell-Indiana
6’2, 224 lbs.
A patient QB who relies on his big arm to make plays all over the field. Chappell is your prototypical pocket passer, he does a good job reading the defense and delivers catchable balls to his WR’s with room for them to operate. He has a classic gunslinger mentality, and isn’t afraid to attempt any throw. He’s also not afraid of making mistakes and quickly forgets bad throws. He is a gamer who is willing to take a team onto his shoulders and carry them.
The main concerns with Chappell are with his ability to adapt to a pro-style NFL offense. He played in a shotgun based spread system in college, so his ability to take snaps under center and smoothly drop back is going to be vital in terms of his development. His arm strength is also a concern, but not because its weak but rather because he’s too willing to trust it and will force throws can result in turnovers. He also needs to learn how to better control his pass velocity, he delivers too many fastballs to targets that are within the short area zone (5-10 yards).
Chappell is the strongest arm prospect of three and he is cold weather tested. The question becomes can Gailey and Co. reign him in and teach him the finer points of being a professional QB? I think Chappell is the most likely to succeed of this group.
2. Pat Devlin-Delaware
6’3, 225 lbs.
A smart and savvy prospect who has shown the ability to play QB both at the FBS and FCS levels, he is accurate with the football and makes sound decisions with the ball. Rarely will he force a throw and he seems to have a good grasp of the spread style option he ran at Delaware. Was the unquestioned leader of the Blue Hens guiding them into the national championship game this year. Mechanically speaking Devlin has a solid base to work from, he sets up well in the pocket, stands tall and sees the field well.
The issues with Devlin’s game revolve almost exclusively around his arm strength and his decision making as a result of it. His arm strength is adequate, he excels at working the intermediate zone in the middle of the field. He struggles with his arm strength when working down the field and toward the sideline. He can make the traditional 15 yard out route throw but the throw will not have the zip that many talent evaluators crave. The other issue to take with Devlin’s game is his decision making, he will routinely check through his reads too quickly settling for a short completions or dump offs over allowing a longer route to develop and giving his WR a chance to get open.
Devlin is probably the safest prospect of this trio. He doesn’t make poor decisions, he won’t turn the ball over a lot, but can he win you a game. His team needed him to make some big passes in the FCS National Title game and he couldn’t do it. It’s not fair to say that falls solely on him, but he needs to step up more consistently with big throws.
3. Josh Portis-Califonia(Pa.)
6’3, 211 lbs.
The most athletic of the three QB’s listed above Portis has everything you want in a QB prospect. He has great size, a strong arm, and has that swagger to his game that you want to see in your leader. He sees the field well and is willing to trust his arm when needed to fit a throw into a tight space. Is creative enough to make something happen with his legs, if the play breaks down, ran a 4.59 40 at the NFL Combine. Portis was considered an elite recruit coming out of HS and some believe he is only now starting to finally tap into his potential.
The inconsistency in Portis’s game is what frustrated so many scouts. Even after transferring down the Division II level, many expected Portis to be a dominant force and at times he certainly showed that, however it was the times when he didn’t that may have led to him going undrafted. In addition to these on the field concerns, there are a few off the field concerns regarding him transferring twice before landing at Cal (Pa.). Portis had served a suspension while at Maryland due to being caught cheating, and then in 2010 Portis was arrested for receiving stolen property and for fraud from using a stolen credit card. To be fair, Portis, stayed out of trouble all of last year, but with the NFL crack down on players conduct his past must be considered.
Portis is the highest reward prospect of the three listed, yes you take on a big risk in him staying out of trouble, but people I’ve spoken to say they think he is finally maturing and starting to get that this really is his last shot.
Other QB options:
Who do you like as a UDFA QB option? Who did I miss? Leave me a comment and let me know!