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Buffalo's better QB option: Geno Smith or adding a veteran?

By Tim Graham

The quarterback-needy Buffalo Bills were among the teams that went to West Virginia University today to watch Geno Smith work out. Afterward, Smith announced he will visit the Bills on March 22.

Smith is considered the best quarterback in this year's draft. When the Bills are on the clock with the No. 8 pick, there's a decent chance Smith still will be on the board.

Given the Bills' decision to release Ryan Fitzpatrick on Tuesday, leaving them with no quarterbacks who wore an NFL uniform last season, analysts are scrutinizing Smith as the Bills' franchise guy.

NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks and ESPN Insider columnist Chris Sprow (in separate pieces) examined the Bills' best options: draft Smith; wait until the late first round or early second round; pick up a veteran via trade or in free agency.

The Kansas City Chiefs cut Matt Cassel today (update: he signed with the Minnesota Vikings), and the Arizona Cardinals are expected to dump Kevin Kolb. Jason Campbell also is a free agent. The Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks might trade Matt Hasselbeck and Matt Flynn.

But if the Bills had their druthers, they would draft a franchise quarterback they can groom and count on for years to come. Whether this is the year to make that commitment is debatable. Next year's draft class looks more appealing.

Tuesday on the Press Coverage blog, I posted a video in which ESPN draft magnate Mel Kiper muses whether Smith is deserving of top-10 attention.

Brooks made a case for Smith as being worthy of Buffalo's hot pursuit.

"He is an efficient pocket passer with the arm talent to make all of the throws in a pro-style offense. Whether it's the deep comeback thrown from the hash to the opposite sideline or the go-route tossed down the boundary, Smith has shown he can make accurate passes with zip or touch. Additionally, he's shown he can throw comfortably from the pocket following traditional three-, five- and seven-step drops, or catch, reset and fire after fielding a shotgun snap."

Brooks also urged Bills General Manager Buddy Nix to do whatever possible to get ahead of the Cardinals at No. 7.

"Critics definitely will take the Bills to task for giving up valuable draft picks to make a trade up the board," Brooks wrote, "but at this point, can Buffalo risk missing out on the top quarterback in this year's draft class?"

Sprow went the other way. He advised the Bills to eschew a quarterback with the eighth pick and go with a veteran.

"There's plenty of presumption Buffalo will take a QB at No. 8 overall in the draft," Sprow wrote. "But they shouldn't, and should instead borrow a method quietly used all over the league.

"It's called locking in some assurance and saving some money."

Sprow explained that young quarterbacks work best for teams that have a solid fallback option, as the San Francisco 49ers, Seahawks and Miami Dolphins had last year. Sprow also pointed out quarterbacks drafted outside the top 10 are about the 20th highest-paid player on a team's roster.

The best plan, he claimed, is to draft the best available player in the first round and get a quarterback in the second -- or even the third. His column includes breakdowns of Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, North Carolina State's Mike Glennon, USC's Matt Barkley and Arizona's Matt Scott.


2013 draft | Buddy Nix | Geno Smith | Mike Glennon | Ryan Fitzpatrick | Ryan Nassib | Tarvaris Jackson
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |