Every year around this time, the Bills give the media a chance to talk with their regional scouts about draft prospects. Thursday was an interesting session because the two scouts available have seen most of the top quarterbacks in this year's draft.
Shawn Heinlen scouted Auburn's Cam Newton, Florida State's Christian Ponder, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and TCU's Andy Dalton. Brian Fisher evaluated MIssouri's Blaine Gabbert as well as Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.
Newton and Gabbert are prime candidates to be picked third overall by the Bills, so the reports Heinlen and Fisher gave to General Manager Buddy Nix will go a long way in formulating final evaluations.
Here is Heinlen's assessment of Newton:
"Tremendous athlete, tremendous upside. It's all in front of him. As far as being able to make all the throws and create matchup problems for defenses, he can do all those things. A tremendous leader. The guys on his team love him. All he does is win every where he goes. In four years in college he's got three national championship rings, and he was responsible primarily for two of them. He's got plenty of stuff under his belt. He's going to have a little bit of a learning curve. That offense at Auburn isn't quite as complicated as it is here. But his upside is tremendous.''
Heinlen added that anything Newton wasn't exposed to in college as far as complex schemes and terminology he'll work hard to learn it.
"He's a smart enough guy. He's got football intelligence. He's got football instincts. That part won't be an issue going forward. It's just a matter of having time on the job to learn those things.''
This is what Fisher had to say about Gabbert:
"He's an outstanding talent, size, arm strength, athletic ability. That's exactly how you draw up a quarterback. He's a very intelligent kid. A strong work ethic. He's going to do everything he can to improve. He's going to need to work on foot work. Playing in that offense, very seldom under center. That's going to lead to more consistency with the placement of his throws, particularly down the field. He has a lot of talent. He has the size, the physical tools and the want-to.''
Gabbert's production doesn't match how high he's rated, but Fisher believes Gabbert is the real deal.
"He was asked to do certain things in college. That's just the kind of system he was in. Some people criticized him saying previous quarterbacks had better statistical production. Stats don't tell the whole story, though. You see this kid getting better from his sophomore year to his junior year. With his attitude and drive, he's very well regarded as a leader, he's just going to continue to get better and better.''
Here is Heinlen's take on some other quarterback prospects:
Mallett: "Tremendous arm talent. When he's got time and space in the pocket, he can put the ball any where down the field with precision. He does need a little bit of room to operate because he's long-limped, tall quarterback. Great command of the offense there. But he's a football junkie. He's in there watching tape every day. The stuff off the field, there's a lot of speculation and rumors, but it's just that. There's no substance to a lot of the stuff that people are talking about. For some reason it just kind of snowballs when it gets going. No one knows where it started and no one knows where it came from or how it got there, but it keeps on going. From the information that we gather, there really isn't much substance to that stuff other than the stuff that he's admitted to and what we've actually seen documentation on.''
On Ponder: "A very good field general. A very good talent, not top-echelon as far as physical ability, but he's a good athlete. He's got good arm skill and arm strength. He's just a shade below what you would consider tops for the position. He can get outside the pocket and he can create with his feet. Accuracy is probably the biggest thing with him. He's a very accurate passer when he has time in the pocket. This year he struggled with some arm things. We don't know how much the arm played into some of his passes this year or how healthy he was for every game, so you kind of discount that a little bit and just try to go back and see when he was healthy. He played well [in the Senior Bowl]. You see a guy who has all the tools to be a starting quarterback in the league. You just hope he can stay healthy going forward, just due to not being healthy during his senior year. But he should project well for us going forward and be a guy that should compete for a starting job soon.''
Heinlen had an interesting comment on Dalton, whose skill set is compared to a current Bills QB:
"Watching him play reminds me a lot of watching Fitz [Ryan Fitzpatrick] play. You see a lot of the same things where he is able to ad-lib and somehow find ways to make plays and lead his team down the field and convert drives and continues to make things happen. I don't think he's going to be pigeon-holed into one kind of system. He's got enough talent. Margin size, but he's got enough where he should be able to play in any system.''
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