When the 2013 NFL draft kicks off on Thursday night, the quarterback position will be the talk of the first round.
At the middle of that talk will be the ultimate place of highly touted QBs Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, the last of which has a great chance to land somewhere within the first 32 picks after his performance in college and subsequent workouts at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
Lucky for Nassib, he has an inside track to being a top-eight pick.
Nassib's coach at Syracuse, Doug Marrone, was awarded the Buffalo Bills' head coaching job over the offseason, and with it the No. 8 pick in Thursday night's opening round.
The Bills decided to part ways with Ryan Fitzpatrick during the first part of free agency (h/t ESPN), and despite the addition of former Arizona Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb in recent weeks, the Bills are still very much in play for a new signal-caller with their only first-round pick.
Nassib could join his former college coach in Buffalo about an hour into the draft.
As a spread QB for the Orange, Nassib had a very good college career at Syracuse. He was passed over for former Duke basketball player Greg Paulus during the 2009 season, but then spent three straight years as the starter and wound up throwing for over 9,000 yards and 70 touchdowns during that span.
He finished his collegiate career with a 3,700-yard, 26-touchdown performance, in which he only tossed 10 interceptions and completed 62.4 percent of his passes.
With Marrone in place in Buffalo, Nassib is clearly on the Bills' board as an option at QB. Because this year's draft is devoid of a clear-cut signal-caller who has asserted himself as the No. 1 option to be taken at the position, you have to give Nassib a leg up on the other two to three candidates the Bills might be reviewing.
Of course, the connection between Marrone and Nassib doesn't strike everyone's fancy.
Tim Graham of The Buffalo News reported the following on Wednesday:
If the Bills do that, then they didn't hitch their wagon to Doug Marrone nearly four months ago; they essentially would have decided in January the organization's future would hinge on Syracuse's quarterback.
And, to me, it doesn't matter if they've earmarked Nassib to pick in the second or third round. Entering this week's draft with the intention of getting Nassib still means they've allowed that decision to dictate the rest of their draft philosophy.
Depending on your perspective, Graham has a clear point.
If Nassib is a Bill by the end of the night, that means the powers that be have targeted him as a potential replacement for quite some time—maybe even factoring Marrone into the head coaching talk because of it.
As Graham clearly states in his piece, the Bills also hired Marrone to jump-start the offense, and he's not going to cede the selection of a franchise QB to general managers because he's in a good mood and is just happy to be in Buffalo.
Logically, Nassib would be at the top of his list.
Who should Buffalo take with the No. 8 pick?
He's familiar with Nassib's strengths and weaknesses, knows what he can bring to the table as a QB and won't have any learning curve with picking up the offense. This gives him a leg up on the other QBs on the roster heading into training camp, even though he'll be a rookie.
Then again, it's not a forgone conclusion that Nassib heads to the Bills at No. 8.
While I do think the move makes the most sense, there are other needs to address on the team, and other QBs that could fill the void and be productive.
Smith and Barkley are among those that could be the pick at No. 8, or the Bills could elect to take a QB in the second round. They could even move into the bottom of the first round with some of their other assets if they don't feel comfortable with the board at No. 8.
Matt Miller is one of many reporters intent on telling us that there are other options at the position for the Bills, and Nassib might not be as high on Buffalo's board as well all think:
Three sources I trust very much are saying the #Bills prefer Matt Barkley over Ryan Nassib.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 24, 2013
In any event, the connection is there.
It would be just as foolish to ignore it, as it would be to go ahead and order a Nassib No. 12 Buffalo jersey. Part of this process is putting together the pieces of what those in positions of power think about when making selections in the NFL draft.
One of those pieces is as big as the actual puzzle in the Marrone-Nassib connection, and Bills fans should go ahead and embrace the reality that a reuniting of the coach and his QB may be inevitable after the Arizona Cardinals make their pick at No. 7—like it or not.
The NFL draft has surprised us before and will surprise us again—make sure to tune in tonight to see if the 2013 draft changes the NFL landscape in a way we'll never forget in Buffalo.