Based on the way most NFL teams think, Nathan Peterman will make the Bills roster but that thought process is flawed.
The consensus amongst Bills experts is that fifth round draft pick Nathan Peterman will make the Bills roster while Cardale Jones and T.J. Yates will battle it out for other spot assuming the team keeps three quarterbacks on the 53 man roster.
While I agree with the assessment of most Buffalo Bills experts, I strongly disagree with the underlying reason why the Bills will keep Peterman and believe it’s one of the biggest flaws in the way NFL teams think today.
Before I get into my reasons, let me first break down why most experts think Peterman will make the roster. Most teams keep either two or three quarterbacks on their roster. Sure the New York Jets kept four last year, but striving to be the Jets is not something I would recommend for any franchise looking for sustained success.
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With Tyrod Taylor a lock to make the roster, that leaves Yates, Jones and Peterman to compete for the last spot or two depending on how many quarterbacks the team keeps. Most people believe that T.J. Yates will win the backup role because he has the most NFL game experience. It also doesn’t hurt that Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was his offensive coordinator during his first three years with Houston. Heck, Yates even has a playoff win as a starter on his resume, which is something most Bills fans would give a limb for if the team could achieve that feat.
That would leave the Bills with a choice between Cardale Jones and Nathan Peterman for the last slot should they choose to keep three quarterbacks on their roster. The reason why I believe the Bills will keep three quarterbacks [unless they cut Yates] is that Jones and Peterman were drafted in the past two seasons and most teams have issues cutting young players because they are afraid of admitting to making a mistake in the draft. At the very least the Bills should keep one if not both of them.
What teams fail to realize is that Peterman was a fifth round selection and Jones was a fourth round pick. Most fourth and fifth round picks don’t start often during the beginning of their NFL careers. According to an analysis by Forbes.com, since 2010 players who were drafted in the fourth round started just 6.3 percent of games, while players who were taken in the fifth round only started 4.4 percent over that period. So taking a flyer on a quarterback with upside in the later rounds of the draft shouldn’t translate into a long term commitment to that player.
This is where teams go wrong. What they don’t understand is that once you use a draft pick on a player, whether it be a first round pick or a seventh round pick, that draft pick is a sunk cost. A sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred but cannot be recuperated. Rather than thinking about a player as a 4th round pick or as a 1st round pick, once a player is drafted they should be judged based on their on field performance and nothing else. The round they were drafted in should no longer be relevant to roster decisions.
In the case of Jones and Peterman, the thought is if everything else is equal, that Peterman will make the roster because he was drafted under Sean McDermott’s tenure and he is “one of his guys”. Meanwhile, Jones was drafted while Rex Ryan was in town and therefore McDermott should feel no loyalty to him.
While this is how teams operate, it’s not the proper way to approach the situation. The only thing worse than whiffing on a draft pick is making further roster decisions where you keep that player on your team in order to “defend your draft pick” rather than keeping a more talented player who might have been brought in by a previous coach or general manager. By keeping a less talented guy to save face, the organization is compounding the draft mistake and further hurting the teams long term chance of success.
McDermott does not strike me as the type of guy who is afraid of admitting to his mistakes. Having said that, I still can see him feeling the pressure to keep Peterman since this was his first draft as a head coach and he has largely gotten all the credit, and therefore will get all the scrutiny, for it.
I hope the first time head coach is as meticulous and methodical as he says he is. If he truly is that guy, he will keep the best player whether it be Cardale Jones or Nathan Peterman. He should not feel loyalty to either one. In fact, if anything, Peterman should feel loyalty to McDermott and not the other way around. By drafting Peterman, McDermott gave him a shot in the NFL and he should be eternally grateful for that chance. It shouldn’t be that McDermott took a chance on Peterman and then has to spend the rest of his coaching career trying to justify that decision as long as he can by keeping him on the roster.
One day NFL teams will check their egos and realize that the current practice of keeping players on a roster because they are “your guys” over keeping a player from a former coach who might be better is not a sustainable way to build the best possible roster.
Eventually, general managers and head coaches will probably wise up to their flawed way of thinking but in the meanwhile, Cardale Jones may have to move mountains if he wants to find his way onto the Bills roster this season. My only hope is that logic prevails and that the best player ends up on the roster no matter who it is.