Now that USC's Matt Barkley has completed his pro day and cemented himself as worthy of first-round conversation in the 2013 NFL Draft, it's worth our time to re-focus the quarterback conversation as it pertains to the Buffalo Bills.
Let's assume that Greg Cosell is right, and that three or four quarterbacks will be taken in the first round. Let's also assume that the four most buzzworthy quarterbacks, at least as it pertains to the Bills, are Geno Smith, Barkley, Ryan Nassib and E.J. Manuel. (Those are the four hottest names at the moment; Nassib for obvious reasons, and the other three are currently Mike Mayock's top three quarterbacks - and Mayock is just one of many.)
By this point, any Bills fan paying attention to the draft class will have his or her favorite among that group (or they'll be ambivalent/apathetic to the point of not caring and saying "any will do"). Wherever you stand, there is a clear and fascinating dichotomy dividing that quartet of potential Round 1 quarterbacks down the middle.
Immediate contributors: Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib
Neither of these players are considered elite physical talents, but both could walk into Buffalo and start from day one because of those elusive intangible factors. Both guys are considered high-character players with good leadership and locker room traits. Barkley is the most pro-ready quarterback in this year's class, with polished technique, accuracy and experience in a pro-style system; Nassib, of course, has a high degree of familiarity with the offense the Bills will run thanks to his playing for Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett collegiately.
With either of these players, you're not banking so much on long-term upside, but you're getting a player that can grasp a pro offense quickly, command a huddle as a rookie and potentially (if you're lucky) lock down the job for the foreseeable future.
Big-talent projects: Geno Smith, E.J. Manuel
Sure, a case can be made for either of these guys starting immediately in Buffalo, too - that's how bad off the Bills are at the position right now. It would, however, be a significantly higher risk to do so; that's true of Smith, who is still raw, and it's especially true of Manuel, who is clearly the most inconsistent player among our featured quartet.
Smith is the consensus top quarterback in the draft because of his athletic ability and arm talent. Manuel might even have more athletic ability and arm talent, but he was far less productive and consistent on tape, and also played in a more simplistic offense. With either of these players, you're swinging for the fences rather than trying to hit doubles for a decade. But in swinging for the fences, you're playing a longer game - and perhaps sacrificing some immediate efficiency.
Forget about which prospect you like most for a moment, and focus instead on those two camps. Are you more interested in seeing the Bills try to plug a hole with a starter and sacrifice some long-term upside (perhaps with the idea of swinging for the fence in a future draft class with better quarterback prospects), or would you rather see the team take a high-upside project and play a guy like Tarvaris Jackson until he's ready?
When a quarterback class is as debated and muddled as this one is, it's these types of factors that can play a role in how a fan approaches evaluating prospects. This should be an interesting discussion; I'll be hopping in on the action soon, as well.