When the Buffalo Bills released Ryan Fitzpatrick on Tuesday it might have set the stage for a rush, or a reach, for quarterbacks in a draft that allegedly is weak at that position.
“Our focus remains on adding another quarterback to our roster and we will continue to explore every option available to us,” said Bills general manager Buddy Nix, whose team does have Tarvaris Jackson under contract.
That task is made more difficult because not only is this year’s draft considered below average at that key position, but there are no free agent quarterbacks who have the potential to be a franchise quarterback, or close to it.
That list includes Jason Campbell, David Carr, Drew Stanton, Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn.
However, the Bills do have an ace in the hole in new assistant coach Doug Marrone. No, he doesn’t play quarterback, but he has unusual insight into some of the best players in this year’s mediocre draft class of quarterbacks.
Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com points out that, as head coach of the Syracuse Orangemen the last four seasons, Marrone faced or coached some of the top quarterbacks in this draft.
West Virginia’s Geno Smith, USC’s Matt Barkley were opponents and Ryan Nassib started 38 games for Syracuse.
With the No. 8 pick in the draft, most draft analysts believe the Bills should be in great shape to take any of those quarterbacks.
However, because the Bills have the biggest need at quarterback, other teams might use an earlier pick than otherwise warranted so as not to lose a desired player to the Bills.
Among the teams ahead of Buffalo in the draft are Jacksonville (No. 2), Philadelphia (No. 4), Cleveland (No. 6) and Arizona (No. 7).
Two schools of thought that have been discussed are that the Bills might use their second round pick (No. 41 overall) to take Marrone’s former college quarterback or pull the trigger with their first pick to take Smith.
This is where Marrone’s insight might come into play.
He certainly must note that although USC boasted significantly better overall talent than West Virginia, the Trojans’ 2-0 record against Marrone might be devalued.
However, in those games, Barkley completed 71 percent of his passes for 511 yards and 11 touchdowns against only one interception in the two games.
But scouts are saying Barkley doesn’t have great arm strength, which is reminiscent of the problem they faced with Fitzpatrick playing in the cold, windy Ralph Wilson stadium.
Barkley will get a chance to impress scouts, and the Bills, at his Pro Day on March 27.
Or, depending on their own reports, the Bills could use their first pick to take Smith. Another possibility at some point is Florida State’s E J. Manuel, who created a great deal of buzz at the Senior Bowl and the combine.
Down the line, Tyler Wilson of Arkansas and Mike Glennon of North Carolina are “interesting fits,” according to Rang.
What seems to be reasonably clear at this point, however, is that barring a shocking trade for a veteran quarterback, the Bills will be drafting a quarterback early and perhaps not one others anticipate.
And this uncertainty will surely cause other teams seeking a quarterback to consider a more aggressive approach in the draft.