2012 NFL Draft: Buffalo Bills Have Eyes for Brock Osweiler
His name is Brock Osweiler and he is one of the youngest and most inexperienced quarterbacks coming out of April's college draft. But if he's available past the second round, the Buffalo Bills should pounce on the Arizona State star and take the appropriate time to develop him.
So who is Osweiler? And why would the Bills have an interest in him?
Please allow me to introduce him and you can be the judge.
A Leader to Look Up to
Osweiler's height is his most noticeable trait. He's not just tall. He's gigantic. And he was easily the tallest quarterback in the nation in 2011.
During college, Brock was listed at 6'8", 240 pounds and most opponents thought he would have trouble getting out of his own way. But to their surprise, Osweiler has above-average athleticism for his size. He also has very good arm strength, but his critics say he's "raw" from a skills standpoint and can use another year in college.
Osweiler started just 15 games for Arizona State and only won eight of them, but the talent around him was not very stellar. It's also true that he was rarely asked to complete two or more progressions to find an open receiver.
Inexperience like that is common for quarterbacks that come from spread offenses, but it is not always insurmountable, as Carolina's Cam Newton proved last year.
If you're tall, have a cannon arm and can run, your chances for success can be good in today's NFL.
Big Ben Twin?
Ben and Brock have a lot in common.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Another tall quarterback that proved naysayers wrong was Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. Osweiler is actually two inches taller than Big Ben, but the two are similar in their ability to escape pass rushers with good instincts and lateral movement.
Osweiler apparently "shrunk" at February's NFL combine, when he was measured at a hair under 6'7". But an inch or two will not deter teams that are enamored in his potential and the Bills are one of them.
Buffalo was among four franchises that met with Osweiler at the combine, despite the fact that he could not participate in the event because of a sprained foot.
Even more telling may be the four visits that Buffalo's scouts made to Tempe, Arizona last year. ASU has some NFL caliber defensive prospects, but my guess is that the Bills saw something special in Osweiler.
In addition to signing Mario Williams, GM Buddy Nix re-signed Stevie Johnson. AP
Bills general manager Buddy Nix is the talk of Buffalo, since the signing of defensive end Mario Williams, but it may not be the shrewdest move he makes this year.
At the combine, Buffalo also met with Robert Griffin III, which surprised some experts. But the Bills discussion with the Heisman Trophy winner may have been Buffalo's way of distracting teams from their pursuit of other quarterbacks like Osweiler.
There is not a lot of tape on Brock because he decided to skip his senior season with the Sun Devils to enter the draft early. The fact that he started just one full season also puts him into the category of quarterbacks who will carry a clipboard for a couple of years in the NFL.
Mallet Clone with Wheels
New England's Ryan Mallet played well last year as a rookie in preseason.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Osweiler's size and arm strength are similar to former Arkansas star Ryan Mallet. But the similarities stop there.
Mallet was actually ahead of Osweiler at this time last year because he played in a pro-style offense and had more game experience with the Razorbacks. But Mallet is a statuesque pocket-passer, with a quick release.
In contrast, Osweiler is a former high school basketball standout, who is unafraid to run through, around and past opponents.
A Commitment to Football
Osweiler was a Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year in 2008-09. GUnation.com
Osweiler has had his share of decisions to make in the past and they were not easy ones.
As a high school sophomore, he was recruited by Gonzaga to play Division I hoops and committed to the program, only to have a change of heart to play football at ASU.
In 2010, the Sun Devils' basketball team approached Osweiler and asked him to consider playing both sports. He agreed, but changed his mind again after a breakout game against UCLA.
"Thank You, Bruins!"
Brock was the first true freshman QB to start for ASU since Jake Plummer in 1993.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Osweiler's game against UCLA served as "a calling" to leave his basketball career behind. According to YardBarker.com's Hod Rabino, "every quarterback can point to one game early in his career, as the proverbial coming out party or turning point," and this one was Brock's.
Against the Bruins, he erased a 17-0 deficit by throwing for 380 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for another score in a 52-34 win.
With his focus solely on football, Osweiler re-wrote ASU's record books in 2011. According to the team's website, he became the first signal caller in school history to pass for more than 4,000 yards (4.036). He also set new school records for completions (326), attempts (516) and completion percentage (63.2 percent). In all, Osweiler tossed 26 touchdowns and threw just 13 picks.
Goodbye College, Hello NFL
Brock won't admit it, but the firing of coach Dennis Erickson was devastating. AP
So why come out now? Why did Osweiler decide to forego his senior season?
Speculation points to a change in ASU's coaching staff and a certain change to the team's offensive strategy.
Osweiler learned a lot under Dennis Erickson, who coached in the NFL with Seattle and San Francisco. But Erickson was fired after five seasons at ASU and replaced by former Pitt head coach Todd Graham.
Graham has a history of running complex, hurry-up systems, which could have hurt Osweiler's draft stock in 2013. Graham also drew criticism for "quitting on the Panthers", after just one year with the Pitt program.
Rolling the Dice
Brock and Andrew Luck (left) share a moment at the 2012 NFL Combine. NFL.com
This year's NFL Draft is chock full of intriguing quarterbacks. The "can't miss" ones are presumably Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. I say presumably, because for every Peyton Manning, there's a Ryan Leaf (1998) and for every Tim Couch, there's a Donovan McNabb (1999).
Most teams will admit that after the top two quarterbacks are gone, it's a crap-shoot to find a gem.
Unfortunately, competition could be fierce and Osweiler's draft stock could rise into the early rounds.
ESPN's Todd McShay had this to say:
"Brock Osweiler. The more tape I watch out of him coming out of Arizona State, the more impressed I am with him. He's got a unique delivery and he's not very fundamentally sound yet, but he's got unbelievable physical tools and he's a very good leader. I think he could move into that first round."
McShay's draft-guru counterpart Mel Kiper disagreed.
A Diamond in the Rough
Osweiler's side-arm delivery is similar to San Diego's Philip Rivers. Matt Martin
So can Osweiler be Buffalo's "diamond in the rough?" The answer is yes, because the Bills have all the time in the world to develop him.
First of all, Buffalo confirmed their faith in starter Ryan Fitzpatrick on March 19. On that day, the Bills agreed to pay him a $5 million bonus, which officially kicked in the remainder of the contract's terms.
The bonus also assures Fitzpatrick a guaranteed $24 million of the six-year, $59 million deal he inked last October. That makes Fitz the sure-fire starter and a perfect mentor to a kid who will not challenge him for his job anytime soon.
Meanwhile, the Bills are set at backup with veteran Tyler Thigpen. Thigpen, who signed a three-year deal last July, would also be an excellent mentor for Osweiler because he has played in coach Chan Gailey's offense in Buffalo and Kansas City.
A Good Fit?
With two picks in 4th round and two in the 5th, Buffalo has draft ammunition. AP
How is a quarterback of Osweiler's size going to fit in coach Chan Gailey's offense?
Gailey doesn't care how tall his quarterbacks are, as long as they're smart, mobile and can get the ball out of their hands. Last year, Osweiler worked hard with former offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone to improve his footwork and touch. They also changed Brock's over-the-top throwing motion to a three-quarters motion, like San Diego's Philip Rivers. The change noticably helped Osweiler's accuracy in 2011.
Buffalo also runs a spread-style offense, like the one Osweiler ran at ASU. Gailey has always enjoyed using "gadget" players in his offense, but it's clear that a mobile quarterback does not have to be featured in the "Slash" role that the coach made famous as Pittsburgh's offense coordinator in the 1990's.
In Buffalo, that role goes to Brad Smith, who was one of the team's top free agent acquisitions in 2011. If Gailey wanted a quarterback for the wildcat-style offense, he probably would have pushed the Bills to acquire Tim Tebow after Peyton Manning signed with Denver.
Worth the Risk
Osweiler is a natural leader, with a work ethic that earned him praise at ASU. Getty
The Bills are no strangers to courting quarterbacks. Since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season, seven starters have tried to fill his shoes. Some have flirted with success, but most have been mediocre at best. Collectively, they have all come up short.
When asked in January if the Bills would consider a quarterback, Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix refused to rule it out:
“Maybe so, yeah,” he told BuffaloBills.com. ”If there’s one there at the right time, I don’t mean that to be that vague an answer but yeah, we’d take one.”
With all due respect to Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills need to get back to the drawing board on a franchise quarterback. Drafting a quarterback of the future is never a sure thing, but attempting it now can be better than saving it for later.