( Since we’re growing tired of talking about who the Buffalo Bills may take with the third overall pick, this is the ninth in a 10-part series about who the Bills are most likely to target with their second round draft pick. The Bills hold the second pick of round two, 34th overall)
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (QB)
While we can debate the majority of the upcoming NFL draft from here to eternity, there’s one thing that’s nearly universally agreed upon. Bar none, Ryan Mallett is the single-biggest enigma in this entire crop of incoming collegiate talent. Depending on who you speak to, Mallett either has top of the draft board caliber proficiency or has been reported by others, off a team’s draft board entirely.
Let’s first touch on the positives. This guy can sling the football like no other prospect in this draft and like few active gunslingers in the NFL. Mallett has the physical tools to literally make all the throws and often looks effortless in doing so. Statistically he had a monster junior season at Arkansas, throwing for 3,869 yards and 32 touchdowns in 13 games last year. This came off the heels of a 3,627 yard, 30 touchdown campaign as a sophomore in 2009.
I don’t buy too much into college statistics as a whole, but one thing I tend to do is put heavier stock in stats compiled against elite competition. In that regard, Mallett fared pretty well in games last year against Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Ohio State. In those four contests, three of them losses, Mallett went 72-for-123 for 1,050 yards and seven touchdowns against six interceptions. Statistically and physically, he’s categorically NFL starting quarterback worthy.
Plus, many NFL coaches dream about having a 6-foot-7, 238 pound quarterback under their center.
But then there’s the irrefutable factor of perceived character defects and horrific athleticism. Without knowing Mallett personally, we’re not going to pile on much into his personal life, but it’s impossible to dispute the accuracy of so many published reports which openly criticize everything about him ranging from maturity to overall character. I’ve personally talked to a few people and read many reports that claim at least a handful of teams wouldn’t touch Mallett with a draft pick if he were there in the seventh round. Some people think he’s really that unstable emotionally.
The other big knock is athleticism that verges on appalling. He has heavy, ultra-slow feet and can’t run to save his life, as evidenced by his 5.37/40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine. He doesn’t have the ability to play in a West Coast type offense and if stuck behind a struggling offensive line on any team, it could turn into a nightmare.
This guy makes Drew Bledsoe, who Mallett’s often compared too, look like Randall Cunningham.
Why He’s A Fit For The Bills: Although it hasn’t been discussed much, if at all this offseason, what more than anything is usually cited as the main criteria for a quarterback being successful in Buffalo? The answer is having a strong enough arm for the cold, windy Orchard Park winter. Mallett positively has the arm strength to cut through any blustery conditions on the football field. Buffalo doesn’t currently possess many strengths on their football team, but one is a solid core of receivers. With guys like Lee Evans, Stevie Johnson, Roscoe Parrish and David Nelson among others, Mallett would have plenty of tools at his disposal.
In fact, despite a porous 4-12 record, the Bills have enough weapons offensively for a quarterback to be eager to join the Bills.
Another advantage, which will be the case with any quarterback they select, is the benefit of getting to learn behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. If nothing else, Fitzpatrick is one of the sport’s most ardent preparers and Mallet wouldn’t be pressed into immediate action. Perhaps given his perceived character concerns, Mallett could be well served to learn the ropes from Fitzpatrick. While the incumbent Bills quarterback may not be the most physically gifted in the league, he’s a consummate authority on and off the field and perhaps some of that professionalism could rub off on Mallett.
Why He’s Not A Fit: The Bills could put Torrel Troup under center and he’d be better at escaping pressure than Mallett. That’s not a good sign for a team clearly still trying to establish an identity on the offensive line.
Mallett also has proven to not be terribly accurate and his decision making at times in college left something to be desired. Those are two areas head coach Chan Gailey continually emphasizes as the most important traits of a good quarterback.
While Gailey is considered a strong quarterback coach and could probably work with Mallet, his cup of tea throughout his NFL coaching tenure has been quarterbacks with at least average mobility. While the strength of Mallett’s arm will never come into question, his accuracy on the run certainly is. Unless Gailey is willing to change some of his offensive philosophies, there’s no way to say Mallet is an idea fit.
Chances He’s Available At Pick 34: Most analysts think there’s no chance that Mallett goes in the first round, but I don’t buy it. There’s a lot of teams desperately in need of quarterbacking in the NFL and it only takes one team out of 32 to like him enough to pull the trigger. I’d be surprised at this point if a team doesn’t try to trade up into the late first round to grab him and if by some chance the Bills secretly are in love with this kid, may have to do so themselves.
Chances He Gets Drafted By Buffalo: Definitely not good. However, never say never when it comes to this franchise. You can buy into the team being happy with Fitzpatrick hype all you want and to some extent, I do too, but I have little doubt if Buddy Nix identifies someone as a franchise quarterback kind of guy, he’ll make a move to get him.
As far as big, perceived cocky and immobile quarterbacks coming out of college, let’s all remember Jim Kelly was similar many years ago. Kelly had an arrogance about him that bothered some, and was never a threat to win any track and field competitions, yet he turned out quite alright in Buffalo. There’s little denying Mallett has a lot of the physical tools it takes to succeed in the NFL and if the organization believes the immaturity concerns are behind him, they just may be willing to roll the dice.
One last thing of note I’ve found very intriguing— neither Gaily or Mallett have said much, if anything at all about Mallet. Maybe they simply have no interest. Or perhaps, they’re hoping he falls to them in the second round.
BSD STORY SPONSORED BY