Buffalo should still draft a quarterback third overall. I don't think much will change my mind on that. I've outlined in various posts that 80% of playoff teams have franchise quarterbacks, and that 60% of those franchise quarterbacks are taken in the first round. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a franchise quarterback in my opinion, though I do like his game a great deal.
Now and again, the random football thoughts swirling around my coconut come together, and a story pops out. This is one of those stories. After watching the Tim Tebow film "Everything in Between" tonight (dvr'd), I starting looking back at some thoughts that I've had recently. Who is the best quarterback in the draft? Who best fits Buffalo? Who would Buddy Nix like? Who would Chan Gailey like? Those thoughts came together for me tonight, so here's "everything in between" my ears.
To compare players, I used the Buffalo Rumblings grading system, which was refined by the scouting team on this site, but derived from Dan Kadar's list from Mocking the Draft. I then considered the Buffalo decision makers themselves to further narrow down who I thought Buffalo would pick.
Quarterback Evaluation: I limited the scope to Blaine Gabbert (my going in favorite), Jake Locker (another favorite), Cam Newton, and Ryan Mallett. It's a simple 1 through 5 grade, with 5 being the highest. 1 is poor, 2 is below average, 3 is average, 4 is above average and 5 is elite.
Accuracy/Touch (25% of the ranking)
Arm Strength (25%)
Mental Acumen (Decision making/field vision/pocket awareness/poise/intelligence) (30%)
Mechanics (throwing motion/footwork) (10%)
Intangibles (leadership, character, competitiveness, work ethic) (adjust final grade up or down by .1 or .2)
The formula works by multiplying by the percentage, adding grades, and then adjusting for intangibles. For comparison's sake, the scouting staff here at Buffalo Rumblings rated Sam Bradford a 4.45 out of 5 last February.
Blaine Gabbert, Missouri 4.3 out of 5
Accuracy/touch: I give Gabbert a 4 here. He's not elite like Tom Brady at this point, but he's very good and can get better.
Arm Strength: 4. Very good but not in Stafford-land.
Athleticism/mobility/size: 5. At 6 foot, 5 inches, Gabbert is the prototype pocket passer. And he can run fairly well.
Mental Acumen: 4. Gabbert needs to work on pocket awareness, due to some wide line splits at Missouri. He's also made some questionable decisions.
Mechanics: 5. Really clean and about as good as their going to get in college. Compact release.
Intangibles: adjust up .1. But most accounts, Gabbert is past some early immaturity (fighting) and is a leader for the Tigers.
Jake Locker, Washington 4.3/5
Accuracy/touch: 3. As I've been saying for a while, Locker's completion percentage is down. His ball placement has been fine, though. 41 drops on the season. By comparison, Andrew Luck has 19.
Arm Strength: 5. Lost in this season's talk is his very strong arm.
Athleticism/mobility/size: 5. Tim Tebow clone in terms of body composition. Except that he's a better athlete.
Mental Acumen: 4. Locker has made some questionable decisions, but watching the Oregon State and USC games, the poise and decision making were good. May be a question of inconsistency.
Mechanics: 4. Good but could use work on feet. Very quick release.
Intangibles: up .2 for great character, playing hurt most of the year which didn't allow him to practice much before games.
Cam Newton 4/5
Accuracy/touch: 3. Not asked to make a ton of throws into tight coverage, so this grade could come out different after a Pro Day. Hits receivers but isn't accurate in the strike zone, which is essential in the NFL. Footwork isn't clean, which could effect it.
Arm Strength: 5. Can really fire the ball.
Athleticism/mobility/size: 5. May not be as fast as Locker, but Newton is also four inches taller and heavier by 20 pounds. And he runs much better.
Mental Acumen: 4. Tough to grade Newton on decision making in a system where most of his throws are predicated prior to the snap, or easy half field reads. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Mechanics: 4. Very inconsistent footwork. Arm throws a lot, instead of transferring weight from back foot to front, and getting his hips behind throws.
Intangibles: down .1. Could easily be .2 if character flaws are confirmed during the draft process. This will cause a firestorm, but even Newton's intagible grade broke even here, he's still graded lower than Gabbert and Locker.
Ryan Mallett 3.95/5
Accuracy/touch: 4. Issues are in inconsistency, and that's from terrible footwork.
Arm Strength: 5. This could have been a six.
Athleticism/mobility/size: 4. Tremendous height, terrible mobility.
Mental Acumen: 4. Poor decisions in clutch moments have overshadowed mostly good decisions.
Mechanics: 2. Horrible, horrible footwork.
Intangibles: down .1. Footwork is easy to improve with work. Mallett hasn't. Indicates lack of worh ethic.
Buffalo Bills Tendencies
Chan Gailey indicated recently that Buffalo might select a quarterback, and could look long-term over short-term, making a project quarterback possible. If Buddy Nix's grades are similar to mine, the discussion on One Bills Drive is going to be Gabbert vs. Locker. Nix likes pocket passers (Rivers), which would indicated Gabbert. Buffalo liked Tebow (per Tebow's agent in the film) which would indicate Locker, who also fits Gailey's type of scheme. Gabbert needs some time to develop from a spread, system quarterback. Locker needs to continue to develop as a pro style passer, but has two years running a pro scheme. He probably needs about a year on the bench. Gailey indicated that developing a player could be the right thing to do.
I think if Nix makes the pick in a vacuum, Gabbert's name is on the card. However, I think Gailey would prefer Locker.
Overall: Early in the running, I think Gabbert is the pick, but wouldn't be surprised if Nix picks for Gailey's preference and takes Locker. I feel that Locker is going to have a tremendous Senior Bowl and will do well in the draft process. While both quarterbacks seem reaches now, remember that Tebow was once considered a 4th round pick in January of the draft process. Quarterbacks rise in the draft process, though, and by late February, Tebow was being considered as a first round pick on Buffalo Rumblings. He was ultimately drafted 25th overall.
The line between Gabbert and Locker is so thin to me, that I could see either one going to Buffalo 3rd overall.
Author's Note: My rankings are as of January 9, 2011. These grades will, not might, change through the draft process. I intend to revisit this argument and my rankings as the situation warrants.