By BBD Editor Anthony D. Macari
To once and for all get off the treadmill of mediocrity, the Bills need to find a franchise QB in the draft. Recent history shows the odds of finding such a player are drastically better in the first 2 rounds than later.
A look around the league’s young starting QB’s shows that most were 1st and 2nd rounders. Looking at the past 5 drafts, there were 61 QBs drafted, 22 in the first 2 rounds. Of those 61, 17 will start for their team on Sunday. Of the 17 starters, 14 were drafted in the first 2 rounds and only new and likely nothing more than stop gap starters Ryan Lindley and Greg McElroy, assuming he is named Jets starter this week, were taken after the 3rd round. Russell Wilson is the lone starting 3rd rounder from the past 5 drafts. So 14 of the 22 QB’s (64%) taken in the first 2 rounds are currently starters and only 3 of the remaining 39 (8%) are starting this week.
The facts are that the amount of scouting and careful consideration the vast majority of teams make before drafting a QB early has taken some of the risk away compared to years past. Of course not all of the current young starters will turn out to be franchise QB’s, but there are some truly promising young signal callers in the league and the Bills currently do not have one on their roster.
While looking at the numbers from the recent drafts is helpful, each draft is different. The upcoming draft is not strong at the top or very deep at the QB position. However there are a few intriguing prospects that currently project to come off the board in the late 1st round to early 2nd. That is probably going to be the sweet spot in this draft for QBs. Ideally the Bills go best player available with their first pick and then are able to come back either with their second round pick or with a move back up into the bottom of the first to grab their QB of the future.
Despite his recent drop in production, I still believe the raw potential that Geno Smith posses will be enough to get him drafted in the top 10, likely the top 2 or 3. He has elite arm talent and athleticism that will have a team like the Chiefs hoping they found their own version of RGIII. Assuming the Bills manage another couple of wins down the stretch, Smith will be out of reach. Even if a “sell the farm” scenario emerged to move up for Smith, given his recent struggles, it probably best not to make such a bold move.
Going into the season, Matt Barkley was the undisputed top rated QB prospect and he still is widely considered one of the top 2 rated QBs in the class, but he too has struggled and his stock is dropping. While a warm weather or dome west coast style team may still see him as a 1st round talent, he does not have the arm strength to be a fit for the wind and cold of Buffalo in December and January, where hopefully the Bills will soon be playing meaningful games again.
Taking both Barkley and Smith off the board for the Bills, that leaves 3 prospects with top 2 round grades on my board currently. Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib and Mike Glennon. Like Barkley and Smith, Wilson’s stock is headed the wrong way given both his and his team’s struggles this season. However he has faced top competition his entire collegiate career in the SEC, has elite arm strength and while he is no RGIII, does posses escapability and can make quality throws on the run. His arm strength alone makes him worth a late 1st round pick and would give the Bills a deep threat option to their offense to help open up the rest of the field. He has prototypical size, although a slight side arm delivery does reduce his effective height in the pocket. He likely will not drop to the Bills 2nd round pick and the price might be steep to move up enough to assure getting him. If he is the Bills target, they probably would be best served by just pulling the trigger on him with their 1st pick.
Mike Glennon is an interesting prospect. At 6’-6” he has ideal height and he has more than enough arm to slice through the Buffalo wind. However, his frame is slight so he would need to add some bulk to build durability. He has some signature moments and while he hasn’t lit the world on fire this season from a production and team win stand point, unlike Wilson, Barkley and Smith, his stock is not on the decline. Glennon can thread the needle through tight windows and given a clean pocket is accurate and makes good decisions, working through his progressions. He has played in a pro-style offense, so the transition to the NFL will not be as great as some of the others in the class. However, Glennon’s accuracy and decision making falls off the cliff when pressured. He lacks the athletic ability to escape pressure with his legs and the quick release and decision making to burn a blitz. This is a major concern moving forward since the speed of the game only gets more intense at the next level. While I think Glennon may be high on the Bills list right now considering their familiarity with the NC State program, having drafted Glennon’s #1 target last year in TJ Graham, I do think he is a bit boom or bust and I am leaning bust.
Ryan Nassib may be the best value available at QB this year and from the neck up, the most NFL ready. He has spent the last 4 years, 3 as starter, in Coach Doug Marrone’s pro-style offense, all be it different versions. His high football IQ, prototypical size, flawless over the top delivery, solid intangibles and strong arm make him an intriguing prospect. The road to the draft has not always been smooth for Nassib, especially after a rocky and disappointing Junior season. His lack of touch and propensity to turn the ball over put him in the middle to late round area on most draft boards coming into the season. However, this year, especially down the stretch, he has shown a poise under pressure and flashed true NFL quality ability on throws to every level. He has thrived in the up tempo system installed just days before the season began. Of the 5 top QB prospects discussed here, his stock is rising the quickest and he will have one more opportunity to put up some gaudy numbers in what promises to be a shootout vs. Smith and the West Virginia Mountaineers at the Pinstripe Bowl. It will be interesting to see if he is invited to the Senior Bowl and how he performs in the pre-draft workouts.
EJ Manuel and Zac Dysert may rise up into 2nd round consideration, but right now I have them graded as 3rd rounders, so just out of range of this discussion. Aaron Murray, should he declare, would also be a 2nd round consideration, but I think he would be best served with another season in Georgia under his belt. He could emerge as the #1 QB next season with another year of development.
The Bills need to find a QB in this draft and I believe one of the five discussed here should and will be a Bill come the 2013 season. Smith, Barkley, Wilson, Glennon and Nassib all posses the ability to succeed at the next level and offer Bills fans something sorely lacking right now, hope for the future. Of the five, I think Wilson and Glennon are the most likely Bills targets.