The 2017 offseason is an incredibly peculiar time for the Buffalo Bills and their fans.
The team has yet to make an official decision on the future of starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, which has also paved the way for numerous rumors to pop up regarding their interest in some other players at the position.
The Bills don't have their answer yet on Taylor, but even if they do bring him back, most anything is on the table -- including drafting a quarterback as early as the first round.
On Day Three of the 2017 NFL Combine, the top quarterback prospects are due to meet with the media. With that in mind -- and with opinions all across the board on how to rank the top quarterbacks this year -- here's a look at my initial projection of the top 5 quarterbacks:
1) Deshaun Watson, Clemson
- There is a lot to like with Watson, and even how inconsequential it might be in the grand scheme of things, showing up and measuring in at 6-foot-3 will be helpful to some NFL evaluators out there. A lot of Watson's charm stems from how well he shows up in big games -- and that's a factor that cannot be overlooked as teams try to figure out if he can be a potential franchise quarterback. Watson has an incredibly strong arm, showing off some velocity and hitting some tight window throws with anticipation. He's elusive in the pocket and can make plays with his legs, and he's not afraid of giving his great receivers a chance to go up and make a play. On the downside, his accuracy in the intermediate areas at times is worrisome, and he's really hit or miss as far as the deep ball is concerned. Still, there is a lot to like, and with how heavily valued quarterbacks are, he won't last long. For the Bills to get their hands on him, it would likely need to be in the first round. Some will put Watson in the same box as Tyrod Taylor, but there are clear differences in their games. Watson will stand tall in the pocket and take a hit. He doesn't get nervous in the pocket and leave it prematurely. He also has shown the ability to throw it with anticipation, something Taylor doesn't do much of. Of the top four guys, Watson -- in my opinion -- has the best skill-set to potentially start early, though he'd be best served to get a year to learn the NFL game. He'd be a solid fit with the Bills, and if Taylor stays around, he'd also likely get the time to learn.
2) Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
- If someone asked, "Which of these guys do you think could end up being the best of the bunch," my answer would be Patrick Mahomes. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound quarterback is a little more thickly built, but as far as patience, arm strength, and accuracy is concerned, all three of those boxes are checked for me. Now, Mahomes is raw. He's got to get some of these dirty little habits out of his game. For instance, he doesn't always commit to looking off the safety, and that has cost him in the past. I've also seen him throw from the right side of the field all the way to the left, which is just a major no-no even at the high school level. That play is an example of how the term "backyard football" is being used with him, and invoking the name of Johnny Manziel. However, I don't see a ton of Manziel in his game. While he does move around in the pocket, it's most always in a controlled, collected, and relaxed manner. Due to his frame, he can also shed off contact. Now, don't misrepresent this point: I don't think he's anything close to being as finished a project as this person, but he's got some Ben Roethlisberger to his game. Mahomes makes some jaw-dropping deep throws. He just needs a year or two to learn the position the right way, and get rid of those fixable tendencies of his. If he is somehow available in the second round for the Bills, I would jump all over it. I would even consider trading down in the first round, picking up an extra selection, and taking him. There's no guarantee he'll work out, but if he's given the necessary time to learn -- and that he takes to it, I think he could turn into something special. It is a risk, though.
3) DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
- DeShone Kizer, like Mahomes, is more of a projection than a finished product. Kizer is more of the prototype when it comes to height and weight, checking in at the NFL Combine at 6-foot-4 and 233-pounds. However, his arm strength is what keeps people coming back. He's got -- from what I could see -- the top fastball in this draft, he can get it down the field in a hurry, and he makes it look easy while doing it. He can, and isn't afraid of, threading a needle in between defenders to complete a pass -- which is an essential quality to become a great NFL quarterback. However, he needs some definitive work with a quarterback coach on his footwork and needs to develop a bit of a better feel for the pocket -- at least from the games that I've seen of his. He has first round talent, but will some team be willing to overlook his weaknesses and take him in the first round anyway? Like Mahomes, and really all the quarterbacks in this group, he needs some time on the sidelines and in practice. As far as the Bills are concerned, his mix of mobility and a live arm would certainly fit in, though 10th overall might be a tad too early, while their second-round pick is probably a tad too late. If he could land in a situation with a late-first round, winning team that has an older quarterback, that's ideal.
4) Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
- Over the last few weeks, I've watched five of Trubisky's games. While I can see the pieces within his game that teams can gravitate toward, a thought that kept popping into my head was this: "I just don't see it." He has good enough size (6-foot-2, 222-pounds) and he can fling it, but I have legitimate concerns about his intermediate-to-deep accuracy, except on post-corner routes, which he excels at for some reason. He settled for the short stuff quite a bit. He does have many workable traits in his back pocket: mobility, the ability to keep his eyes downfield while scrambling, and he can really drive the ball outside the numbers on the short stuff. That said, and again, this is only one man's opinion, I haven't seen enough discernible characteristics to his game that makes me he believe he has better potential than either Mahomes or Kizer. Like those two, he needs some time to learn -- after just one year of starting at North Carolina. I'd feel much more comfortable taking a chance on him in the second or third round, but that doesn't appear to be the price of admission. It appears, at least at this point, that he'll likely be gone by the time the Bills are on the clock at 10th overall.
5) Nate Peterman, Pittsburgh
- Beyond the top four, Nate Peterman is a realistic option at some point on Day Two to early Day Three. The best quarterback prospect from the Senior Bowl in January, Peterman (6-foot-3, 226-pounds) is a solid developmental type that provides a strong arm, toughness, and an ability to manipulate a defense with his eyes. Peterman's timing and accuracy is very good when he's got some time, and he's willing to step into a throw -- even if it means he's going to take a huge hit from the defender. Now, he can get a little better at maneuvering in the pocket, but you have to like how he just doesn't settle for the underneath throws during a game. That can get him into trouble, but the short stuff was usually the last of options. His accuracy tends to dip when he really gears up, but there's a lot to like out of a player that you could get outside of the first round.