"Which quarterback should we select?"
Plenty of NFL war rooms are working through that question. It's the toughest question that I've come across over the past four years blogging about the Buffalo Bills and covering the NFL Draft. Everyone has their favorites, and everyone has the guys they've discounted. Is anybody really sure? I think all nine quarterbacks we've profiled on Buffalo Rumblings could become solid starting quarterbacks. All of them have a bust factor associated to them, too. There are no clear-cut future starters in this draft class.
Many drafts have a tiered breakdown of their quarterbacks. Past drafts featured a top layer of quarterbacks considered "sure fire" future starters. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Sam Bradford count in that group. Predicting their futures wasn't that hard. Then came the layer of quarterbacks not quite "sure fire," but with enough talent to reasonably predict success - Ryan Tannehill, Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert. They were followed by a set of quarterbacks very similar to this year's entire class. That layer featured quarterbacks that had significant potential, but also significant risk.
Over the past three drafts - 2010 to 2012 - that layer featured Jimmy Clausen, Tim Tebow, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Mallett, Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler. Clausen put up great numbers in college, but was he the result of playing for Charlie Weis? Could Tebow and Kaepernick transition their physical and intangible tools to the pro game after playing in gimmicky college offenses? Could Ponder and Dalton overcome physical limitations and succeed on their intelligence? Could Mallett harness his huge arm and overcome maturity issues? Would Weeden have time to mature into a starter? Could Osweiler transition his unique physical abilities to the pro game after receiving poor college coaching? Teams that picked these players had to consider the upside and risk of every one of these quarterbacks.
This draft alone features nine such players - essentially the entire 2013 quarterback class belongs in that third tier of high-risk and high-reward prospects. Can Geno Smith adjust to the pro game and let his natural quarterbacking talents shine through? Will Matt Barkley's intelligence and leadership overcome limited athletic ability? Can Zac Dysert put all his tools together after an average college career? Will Tyler Bray mature and harness his immense passing abilities? Will Tyler Wilson's leadership and rhythm passing abilities overcome average athleticism? Will E.J. Manuel learn to play the pro game and harness his intelligence and athletic abilities? Can Landry Jones become consistently great? Will Mike Glennon put everything together after an inconsistent college career? Is Ryan Nassib's upside as a vertical passer high enough to be a franchise starter?
Every single quarterback in this class could end up being a franchise caliber starting quarterback in the league - every one. Some need to be in different environments with different progression rates, but given that, they all could succeed - and they all could fail. This draft could turn out to be epic in terms of failure if none of these quarterbacks develop properly in a situation suited to their development. The answer lies somewhere in between. It's up to quarterback needy teams, like the Bills, to figure it all out.
What would I do if I were a GM in the 2013 draft choosing a quarterback? Glad you asked.
- Ryan Nassib: already developed in many ways, he has significant upside as a vertical passer to go along with the physical skill set desired in an NFL passer and a throwback mentality.
- Mike Glennon: a Tom O'Brien passer with many developed skills and a very high ceiling if given the time to develop behind a starter, honing his mechanics and growing into a leader.
- E.J. Manuel: immense physical and intellectual skill set, but needs significant development time (years) to learn how to read and progress through coverages at the required tempo to play quarterback in the NFL.