While a preponderance of draft pundits feel the Buffalo Bills had a winning three days of obtaining new college talent in New York City, critics have swiftly turned to the fact the team aborted their plan to select a quarterback in any of the seven rounds.
According to things I’ve heard, this is a breakdown as to why no quarterback was taken.
♦ There were only three quarterbacks in the draft Buffalo had a high grade on: Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder. Their grades on Andy Dalton, Ryan Mallet, Colin Kaepernick and Jake Locker weren’t nearly as high as speculated by the media.
♦ Of the quarterbacks, Newton was ranked the highest. In fact, he was the top ranked player on their big board overall. If the Bills had the first pick of the draft, Newton would’ve been the pick. If you read between the lines of recent Buddy Nix statements, he basically confirms as much.
♦ Once Newton went to Carolina, Buffalo had Gabbert ranked with an identical grade as cornerback Patrick Peterson. Neither, however, were graded higher than Marcell Dareus. Had Denver taken Dareus with the second overall pick, Nix would’ve had a big decision to make; either Gabbert or Peterson. It wouldn’t have been an easy decision. As the draft played out it became obvious cornerback was a high priority. Speculation that Nix would draft Von Miller with the third overall pick was completely wrong. Had he been available with Dareus going to Denver, he would not have been the pick.
♦ Ponder would’ve only been a consideration had he fallen near the end of the first round. At that point Nix would’ve strongly considered a trade up into the mid 20s. As it turned out, Ponder went off the board to Minnesota with the 12th pick.
♦ Locker was not a consideration at any point of the first round. Ponder was rated much higher than him on Buffalo’s board.
♦ Everything I’ve heard indicates Mallett was completely off their board.
♦ The Bills didn’t have early second round grades on either Dalton or Kaepernick, which is precisely why they passed on both in favor of cornerback Aaron Williams.
♦ Buffalo had no interest in Ricky Stanzi at all; evidenced by them passing on the Iowa quarterback and taking running back Johnny White in the fifth round.
To put things in the simplest of terms, Nix was aware the Bills needed a quarterback but concluded the only thing worse than drafting one was taking a guy he wasn’t confident in eventually becoming a solid starter. If you think about it, it’s a sensible approach. Let’s say hypothetically the team took Dalton in the second round and groomed him for a year before getting his chance to start in 2011. He struggles and is inconsistent for two years, much like Trent Edwards and J.P. Losman were before him. The organization has now wasted a second round pick, two years of mediocre play and finds themselves back at the drawing board with the 2014 draft all over again trying to find their next great quarterback.
Instead, Nix decided the team would be better off signing a veteran free agent to back up Fitzpatrick for 2011. If Fitzpatrick continues to evolve and improves on last year’s performance, great, the team has their guy going forward. If he doesn’t, they make finding a guy from a seemingly ultra-talented crop of 2012 class a top priority. If it takes moving up to land Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley or Landry Jones… so be it.
They also would have the option of exploring the free agent or trade market next winter for an established veteran; someone along the this year’s Kevin Kolb or Donovan McNabb.
Bottom line— Nix flat-out didn’t think most of this crop would pan out to be quality starters and he refused to reach merely to silence critics who’ve since bad-mouthed the team’s failure to draft one.
Of course, there will be plenty of second guessing and it’s possible Nix will end up looking foolish, especially if Dalton or Kaepernick go on to become a franchise quarterback.
But for now, it’s hard to find any fault in Nix’s mindset.
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