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Quarterback remains Buffalo Bills biggest need heading into 2018 NFL Draft

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Regardless of whether team trades up or stays pat, QB position must be addressed

As the NFL inches its way towards the annual NFL Draft — held April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas — fans of the Buffalo Bills have been caught in a heated debate.

Should general manager Brandon Beane leverage his draft capital (six picks in the top 96) and part with many of these high-value picks to move up and draft one of the top college quarterback prospects in Josh Allen (Wyoming), Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), and Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)?

Or should Beane stand pat and address the team’s glaring needs (long-term answer at quarterback, plus wide receiver, left guard, middle linebacker, and slot cornerback)?

Free agent signee AJ McCarron is viewed as the veteran bridge quarterback, and while he signed a two-year, team-friendly contract, McCarron is still an unknown, having only three career starts in his four-year career, and 11 career regular-season appearances.

Although McCarron has started a playoff game in his career, an 18-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers when McCarron replaced an injured Andy Dalton down the stretch of the 2015 season, McCarron is seen more as giving Buffalo a veteran presence at quarterback than being the team’s long-term answer at quarterback.

Nathan Peterman, Buffalo’s fifth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, is even more of a question mark with four career regular-season appearances and one historically bad NFL debut (five first-half interceptions in his first career start vs. the Los Angeles Chargers).

Without addressing the QB position via the draft, the Bills possess the least experienced quarterbacking duo in the league with only 15 regular-season appearances. The Los Angeles Rams (29 regular-season games), San Francisco 49ers (30), Dallas Cowboys (34), and Houston Texans (42) round out the bottom five least-experienced QB teams in the NFL.

With the draft fast approaching, Beane said the team has done its homework on the top quarterback prospects, but that nothing is set in stone.

“Yeah, I mean, were pretty close [to finishing our quarterback board], but nothing’s finalized at this point,” Beane said to reporters during a pre-draft press conference. “You’ve got to have a franchise quarterback. That’s one of the main jobs of a GM is to find a franchise quarterback, it’s a quarterback league, I’ll say it every single time. You have to have one.”

Regardless of where you fall in this trade up or stand pat debate, the Bills SHOULD address the quarterback position, either in the draft or when roster cuts are made, because the team is so thin and inexperienced at the most important position on the field.

McCarron (174) and Peterman (49) have attempted a combined 223 passes in the regular season and playoffs since 2015. Among the 79 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 49 passes over that span, McCarron ranks 37th in Total QBR (48.0) and Peterman ranks 78th (10.8). Relying on passer rating, McCarron (87.6) ranks 28th and Peterman ranks 79th (38.4) of the qualified quarterbacks.

So how often does Beane field a question about whether the Bills will select a quarterback in the upcoming draft?

“When I go home, every day,” said Beane, acknowledging that there is constant chatter from Bills fans over the direction the team will take in the draft. “That’s why you love this fan-base is the passion. I get it, [and] I respect it. Some of the conversations, some of the comments, they’re not even necessarily asking for my opinion, they’re just giving me there opinions. ... It’s part of the process. Yes, we have met with them all (the QB prospects). At this point, we know them pretty well and as I was alluding to back in Senior Bowl and Combine, it’s a big part of the process. All I really would say is that they’re all great young men and there’s a reason they’re all being talked about.”

Beane was asked if it was possible to consider the 2018 NFL Draft a success if the team did not emerge with a franchise quarterback. Beane said it was possible.

“There’s a lot of good players in this draft and that was the big thing from moving from 21 to 12,” Beane said. “The natural assumption, I get it, is [that] they’re moving up to get a quarterback, yada-yada. No.”