Every year since Jim Kelly retired, Buffalo has had some type of incumbent starter plugging up the quarterback spot. Todd Collins, Drew Bledsoe, JP Losman, Ryan Fitzpatrick—the list goes on and on.
Losman was the 22nd overall selection in the 2004 draft after the Bills traded their 2005 first-rounder to the Cowboys to select him. He was drafted only nine spots after Buffalo had selected wide receiver Lee Evans with their own first-rounder. The team was hoping that the two would start a great new era of Bills football, but the results never transpired on the field.
With Drew Bledsoe aging, the team was in a quasi-search for a rookie replacement but many fans were surprised that the team traded back into the first round to grab a workout warrior like Losman. He had dazzled many with his electric arm playing at Tulane, but the head never quite caught up with the arm.
The only other first-round quarterback to be drafted by the team in the last 30 years is none other than the guy who led them to four straight Super Bowls.
So will a team with so little success in drafting signal-callers decide to do so in a year with no guaranteed prospect?
Let's take a quick look.
Reasons Why Buffalo Will Draft a First-Round Quarterback
- New coaching staff.
- New hierarchy in the front office.
- Supposedly new philosophies on building a team.
All three things will be major factors on how this team is shaped over the next few seasons.
Doug Marrone is a first-time head coach at the NFL level and will want to make a good impression from the start. He reshaped a Syracuse program that had been middling in mediocrity since Paul Pasqualoni and Donavan McNabb left the Orange's sidelines.
He has brought over a young and somewhat inexperienced staff, especially on the offensive side, to try another reclamation project. Only this time he will be competing against the AFC East and not the Big East.
New coaches around the league have tried to put their stamp on a team by drafting a rookie quarterback early, signaling a fresh start for a franchise.
Three teams with new coaches last year—Indianapolis, Cleveland and Miami—all drafted quarterbacks in the first round, but the results were mixed. Obviously Andrew Luck looks as advertised and Ryan Tannehill played better than expected, but Brandon Weeden is already being talked about being replaced.
Such is the life of an NFL quarterback.
There is no exact science to drafting a quarterback, and the position has defied conventions of pre-draft gradings. Guys like Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker all went higher than they would have a year earlier because newer coaches wanted to get their guy.
Buffalo has a chance to do so this year.
Just because a quarterback has a late-first-round or early-second-round grade does not mean that a team is going to pass on him earlier. If a team likes a guy enough then it is better to reach on a guy and hit than pass and miss out on a starter (Russell Wilson, Drew Brees).
Of course this philosophy can backfire if a team reaches and the player flames out after two seasons.
Coaches and general managers are on higher alert in terms of job security than they were even a few years ago. If you take the risk of investing a ton of money into a quarterback in the first round and miss, it means a few more years of bad football and the end of your term as a head coach.
The Bills have had the unfortunate luck of needing to draft a quarterback during years when the draft class is not nearly as developed.
Geno Smith would probably be a late-first- or early-second-round type of quarterback in strong drafts, but the lack of true top-tier talent has him pushed up to a top-10 guy.
Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib are in the same boat.
All three players have had private workouts with the Bills' front office in the few weeks leading up to the draft, but will any of them be on the team's draft card at pick eight?
The Kevin Kolb signing gives the team a veteran presence that they desperately needed after the release of Fitzpatrick, but I am not so sure that it discourages the Bills from drafting a quarterback early.
Kolb's career has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride, now in his third NFL stop, but there are some who believe he can thrive in the quick-tempo Buffalo offense under Marrone. He said as much in an interview with Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News last week.
Marrone and Hackett like an up-tempo, no-huddle style. They ran it with success at Syracuse University. Kolb has operated out of a shotgun-spread attack much of his career. He thinks it fits his strengths.
“Without giving away too much,” Kolb said, “the unique style of offense that these guys run and what they bring to the picture as far as their knowledge of the game and their creativity and their ability to be open-minded, it really excited me.”
-Courtesy of Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News
Despite his confidence, Buffalo will be looking for a quarterback at some point in the draft, and it could still very well be in the first round.
Reasons the Bills Won't Draft a First-Round Quarterback
The competition between Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson is the most logical answer, but this probably won't end up being the case. No first-year head coach wants to have their career defined by a stopgap at the most important position on the field.
Another philosophy is that Buffalo should continue to add top talent regardless of position and possibly they can make a playoff run with the quarterbacks they have on the roster.
Unlikely? Yes, but not impossible.
Frankly speaking, Buffalo has holes all over the roster and could use some upgrades in other spots.
Linebacker and wide receiver are two of those positions that need drastic improvements if they want to compete sooner rather than later. Luckily for the Bills there are a handful of players at those positions that meet the value where Buffalo is selecting in the first round.
Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarvis Jones have been popular selections in recent weeks because each would fill a need left by the old regime.
Buddy Nix has shown the propensity for drafting a first-rounder regardless of need—i.e. C.J. Spiller and Marcell Dareus—but he may not have that luxury this year. The need for a quarterback can often trump the biggest of needs at other spots.
Buffalo is in the cat-bird seat to drafting a quarterback at No. 8 because of what the teams drafting in front of them have done in free agency. Oakland and Arizona traded for starting-caliber quarterbacks, while the Philadelphia Eagles surprisingly retained the contract of Michael Vick
Smith could still realistically be on the board when Buffalo finds itself on the clock in the first round.
Is Smith or Nassib really the answer for the team in the future? Maybe, but the Bills cannot pass on a player they feel will be their future just because of Kolb.
Even if that means a highly drafted rookie sits on the bench with a clipboard for a year.