Sports Football


Buffalo Bills should draft QB with team’s first pick

John Kryk

By John Kryk, Toronto Sun

Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley addresses the media following a press conference announcing Rex Ryan's arrival as head coach of the Buffalo Bills on January 14, 2015 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images/AFP)

Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley addresses the media following a press conference announcing Rex Ryan's arrival as head coach of the Buffalo Bills on January 14, 2015 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images/AFP)


Attempting to read an NFL team’s pre-draft tea leaves sure is fun. I like to do it as much as anyone.

But let’s be real here. It involves far more guesswork than detective work.

Outside of rare slipups, nowadays if a comment from a GM, coach or scout prompts you to go, “Really? How about that,” then it’s a plant.

To that point, on Monday at the Buffalo Bills’ annual pre-draft press luncheon, GM Doug Whaley all but wore a sign announcing, “WE’RE WILLING TO TRADE DOWN FROM 50th OVERALL.”

He wants more draft picks, y’see. So that’s a great way to get the message out.

Or maybe he’s bluffing. Then again, maybe not.


The Bills’ first pick in next week’s draft comes at No. 50, on Day 2, almost halfway through Round 2 -- after having traded away their No. 1 pick last May to the Cleveland Browns, to select wideout Sammy Watkins fourth overall.

Why would the Bills -- owners of the NFL’s longest playoff drought (15 years) -- even consider trading down? Because they feel they now possess a roster with few holes. Or at least no screaming needs.

Well, outside of that one position nobody even thinks about. What is it again? Oh yeah. Quarterback.


In the words of Daffy Duck, let’th-th-th-th try that again.

OK, if one of 10-year veteran Matt Cassel, third-year second-chancer EJ Manuel, career bench-warmer Tyrod Taylor or perennial practice-squadder Jeff Tuel can become more than mediocre at quarterback, then this Bills team truly does appear capable of not just getting to, but doing damage in January.

Buffalo enters 2015 with one of the league’s fiercest defences.

Quarterback notwithstanding, Whaley’s right. That old draft-day bromide might actually apply for the Bills: pick the best player available regardless of position.

“We feel comfortable that we can come into this draft,” Whaley said, “and look at (the Bills’ players ranking) board and whoever is the name at the top, we can pick and be comfortable with.”

He kept underscoring the point, and all but dismissed the idea that the Bills might try to trade up into the first round.

“We’d be more prone to listen to offers to move back from 50 and pick up more picks,” Whaley said, “but, again, I will never say never. Like (Buffalo Sabres GM) Tim Murray says, ‘It’s free to listen.’”

If the Bills somehow do wind up with a first-round pick, it won’t be because they picked up the phone first, Whaley said.

Implausible scenarios aside, no team talent-wise is even across the board, no matter how well-stocked it might be in some areas. So what are the Bills’ most pressing positions of need after QB?

Offensive line, for starters. In one of new head coach Rex Ryan’s least talked-about but most impressive moves, he hired Aaron Kromer as offensive line coach. Kromer is widely regarded as one of the best at his job in the NFL.

Among the most disappointing things from the two-season Doug Marrone era -- which ended on New Year’s Eve when he quit -- was the awful performance of Buffalo’s offensive line, especially last season. Offensive-line coaching was said to be Marrone’s specialty, and he himself helped coach the tackles.

Kromer ought to be able to get more out of those men.

Add to that free-agent signee Richie Incognito – yes, of 2013 bully-gate infamy -- who if he returns to form brings a sizable talent upgrade to one guard spot. Expect the Bills to draft at least one guard to raise the talent level at the other.

The Bills also need to add depth at tight end (behind free-agent signee Charles Clay, the former Miami Dolphin), at linebacker, at defensive end and at cornerback.

But what about using their second-round pick on a quarterback?

I asked that of Whaley, and he agreed that the argument can be made.

Last month at the NFL annual meeting in Arizona, Whaley said he believes there isn’t nearly as much of a dropoff in this year’s QB class after Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota as most people think.

“Our job is to put the right value on those quarterbacks,” Whaley said Monday, “and if we don’t feel that value is that second-round pick then, again, we don’t want to do that -- because then it’s overdrafting a guy … And that’s not to say it won’t happen.

“Our job as personnel people is to have a situation (where) your late-round guys are going to have trouble making (the team), and if they do that’s great … That makes our job easier, and it makes our chances of succeeding a lot higher.”

So does having an effective quarterback.

If that position remains the Bills’ most pressing overall need -- and who can argue otherwise? -- then why draft a sixth- or seventh-round longshot?

Unless a gem of a tight end, guard or linebacker remains available at 50th overall, and if it’s true the Bills see better quarterbacks after Winston and Mariota than others do, then they should go ahead and pick the best available passer a week from Friday night.

Because the team, otherwise, is ready to win now.

Whaley said so.


The NFL announces its 2015 schedule on Tuesday at 8 p.m. EDT.

Home and away opponents for all 32 teams already are determined; it’s just a matter of slotting the order.

The defending Super Bowl champion now traditionally kicks off the season on Thursday before the first Sunday of games. This year, that’s Thursday, Sept. 10.

Who will the New England Patriots open against that night? Probably the Pittsburgh Steelers. But don’t be surprised if it’s the Buffalo Bills and new head coach Rex Ryan. 

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