Head coach Rex Ryan has the tall task of revamping a Buffalo Bills offense that ranked 26th in total offense last season. His first responsibility will be to decide on the future of running back’s C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson but at the same time he, along with newly hired Greg Roman, will need to decide what they’re going to do at the quarterback position.
E.J. Manual was drafted in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. After two year’s of indecision from previous head coach Doug Marrone, no one really knows exactly what the future holds for Manual at the pro level so it’s almost a certainty that Buffalo will look at both free agency and the draft to bring in competition at the quarterback position.
Say free agency passes and Buffalo decides to pass on signing a veteran. The draft will be the next spot that Ryan and company will look. With only six draft picks (currently) in the 2015 NFL draft, Buffalo will have to decide exactly how much confidence they have in Manual. They could either use their second or third-round pick or wait until day three before choosing a quarterback.
In a rather weak quarterback class to choose from, here are five players they should hone in on before the NFL combine comes around in late February.
Going into the 2014 college football season, Mannion was a guy very high on draft boards. He had just come off a terrific season that consisted of throwing over 4,600 yards and 37 touchdowns. Production dropped off immensely this past season after losing first-round pick Brandin Cooks to the NFL draft. As of right now, Mannion is projected to be a fifth-round selection in May.
Mannion has the great height that NFL scouts covet. His large body frame allows him to see over the tall offensive lineman at today’s pro level. His experience playing in a pro offense under head coach Mike Riley throughout his tenure as a Beaver will allow an easy transition and make him much more valuable.
Have you ever seen the movie Happy Feet? You know, the one about the dancing penguins? Well, if they were to make one featuring NFL quarterbacks, Mannion would be the star. One of his biggest flaws is the fact that he fails to set his feet while going through progressions and often drifts back when making a throw. Another flaw is his speed; if I had to choose Peyton Manning, Mannion or a turtle in a footrace, I’d choose the turtle.
The reason why I have Grayson at two opposed to one is due to the fact that Buffalo would more than likely have to use their second or third round pick to snag him. With that being said, the Bills may be willing to make that move; rumor is scouts love what they’ve seen. Those scouts, including many others, believe that the two-year starter for Colorado State could be the third-best quarterback in this year’s draft. While he did play in conference USA, Grayson put up an impressive 37 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in his senior year.
Grayson has the size and arm strength to be a successful quarterback for an NFL team. He’s not too tall that he can’t run and he’s not too small that he can’t throw from the pocket. Actually, his pocket mobility is one of his best traits. He has the ability to miss the first pass rusher, roll out of the pocket and keep his eyes down the field while doing so. His arm strength is also solid as he has the ability to hit a receiver on the fly 55 yards down the field.
As stated above, Grayson didn’t play against “elite” competition. While I believe any collegiate athlete is no joke, conference USA is certainly no power five conference. Even against the competition he face, when under pressure you often saw Grayson have too much confidence in his arm strength and throw the ball up for grabs.
Hundley was a three-year starter for the UCLA Bruins. During his tenure he threw for just under 10,000 yards, 75 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. The 3:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is a very attractive statistic for NFL fans to look at but can always be deceiving. For Buffalo to have a shot at bringing Hundley in, they’ll more than likely have to use their second-round pick.
Hundley is a solid all-around prospect. He has a solid all-around body frame that can sustain a lot of hits (sacked 125 times in three-year span). He senses pressure well when the pocket starts to break down and his speed allows him to be a dual-threat quarterback in today’s league. He often ran the read option in college, something that will translate well over into Roman’s offense.
While at UCLA, Hundley rarely threw a deep ball in the west-coast offensive scheme. Thus, the offense consisted of throwing short passes such as curls, crossing patterns and swings out to the running back. Hundley struggles mightily with his ball placement, often throwing behind receivers which then hinder’s their ability to run after the catch.
The former Oregon Duck quarterback transferred to Southeastern Louisiana after losing in a quarterback battle with Marcus Mariota in 2012. As you all know, that was a tough competition and ultimately played out for the best of both players. After impressing his dual-threat abilities in two year’s as a starter for the Lions, Bennett was a late addition to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. There, many scouts got a great look at him and he was able to use that week as a stepping stone to get an invite to the NFL Combine.
Today’s game features a lot of dual-threat quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton. Something those three guys do very well in the offenses they run is use the read option to their advantage. Bennett did exactly that, running for over 1,700 yards. He also has the arm strength and quick release needed to get the ball into tight spots
The offense Bennett ran at the FCS level well hurt his draft stock. The one-read approach never helps a quarterback at the professional level where players are much, much faster and better at reading the quarterbacks’ eyes. With a couple years of development, you may be able to give the keys to Bennett to showcase what he has. Until then, he’ll be a project with great upside.
If you’re looking for a raw prospect with a ton of upside then Bridge is your kind of guy. After only starting one year for South Alabama, Bridge has very little tape to look at. And what tape there is, there’s nothing other than a few traits that warrant any reason why teams should draft him. With that being said, Bridge will more than likely be taken on day three or picked up as an un-drafted free agent.
The athletic ability of a large, young player is always appealing, especially when that guy has as much zing on his passes like Bridge. The combination of both ability to work out of many different formations as well as great of arm strength as you’re going to find is going to make scouts rave. If he doesn’t have a future at the quarterback level, his athleticism will allow him to be a very versatile player, especially when it comes to the scout team.
If you’re going to be a great quarterback at the next level then you need to be accurate. As stated above, Bridge is extremely raw and it all starts with his mechanics (especially foot work) inside the pocket. Many throws are either behind receivers or sail above their heads. Depending on the offense Ryan and Roman decide to run, either Bridge will be a solid or horrible fit in Buffalo. Like Bennett, you’re looking at at least couple years before you’d be comfortable putting him on the field before he can effectively run an NFL offense.